Fish Dying - white peeling slime


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I have a fish disease problem that I would love your input on.

Background:
  • 2m diameter round pond, 1m deep. About 2800 litres.
  • Mature pond, no issues for 6yrs
  • Just found hole in pond liner so had to drain and fix. Fish moved to paddling pool. After fix, half filled pond with tap water. Let sot for a week. Put fish and plants back in. All seemed fine and after another 5 days filled rest with tap water.
  • Fish acting and eating normally.
  • Bought 3 more Fish from local shop.
  • All fish in pond are standard goldfish.
  • I live in UK and temps here are c20degC
The Problem
Went out yesterday to see that Fish had developed a strange covering on their skin, which looked like we do when we get sunburnt and our skin peels off. Photo:

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One of the new fish was dead. And later in the day two more were dead. This morning 4 more dead. Other than the new fish, all other dead ones have been young goldfish not yet turned gold. I have no idea why they are dying nor what this is?

I treated the pond with pond conditioner for tap water and also used this fungus treatment:
Screenshot_20220626-204616_Chrome.jpg


I have taken water testing readings, which don't look like anything too unusual:
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ETA: Is it possible that the new fish brought in a disease? Or just coincidence, and more likely I allowed it to happen by por water change management?
 
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This looks like a water quality issue to me. Your test results are really, really bad, with too much ammonia and way too much nitrite. The fish are swimming in toxic water and are growing excess slime coat to try and protect themselves from the water in the only way they possibly can.

They don't need treatment. They need good healthy water.

If I were in your shoes, I would get some Prime to protect your fish from those toxins. It will also dechlorinate the water. But for protection from ammonia and nitrite you need to use it every 48 hours, without fail, until the system stabilizes.

Also, I would do some serious water changes to get those test results down to a more reasonable level. Treat with Prime after each water change.

Unfortunately, when you drained the pond you removed the beneficial bacteria that processed those ammonia and nitrite toxins into less harmful nitrate. There is evidently some that remains, since you have measurable nitrate, but there is not enough. It will take a little time for those to regrow. In the meantime, you need to do what you can to protect your fish. Do water changes and use Prime. Hopefully, the rest of your fish with make it through with some help.
 
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Thanks for the help! OMG I feel terrible that I've caused this. The pond shop guy seemed to think it was fungal and gave me some latin names which I couldnt remember, so that is why I've focussed only on the fungal treatment so far.

Given that 50% of the pond water is fresh from the tap only a couple days ago, I'm confused as to how the bad ammonia and nitrite has occurred. If I put in yet more tap water, am I not just going to be replacing bad water with bad water? I'm not 100% sure what 'Prime' is, but I do have, and have already used yesterday, a tap water conditioner such as in the photo below. I've also got some pond pro-biotics but not used that, is that worth a go?
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Prime is made by Seachem. You can probably find it online. It does a lot more than dechlorinate the water. It bind the toxins and protects the fish from those elevated amounts of ammonia and nitrite that you have.

Changing the water will help to lower those numbers, assuming that your tap water doesn't have high amounts of those. But you have to dechlorinate the water every time you add your tap water, if the tap water contains chlorine as most municipal water does. As long as you remove the chlorine, the water is safe for the fish. But never add chlorinated tap water without using something to neutralize that chlorine

Please read up on the nitrogen cycle. It is everywhere and your pond goes through that cycle constantly. If you have sufficient beneficial bacteria in the pond, on the hard surfaces of the pond and on media in your filter, they will process the ammonia to nitrite, then to the less harmful nitrate and your fish will be safe. Cleaning the pond has removed a lot of the beneficial bacteria that was growing so you don't have enough to take care of the ammonia that your fish are producing by their waste and by just breathing.

Ammonia builds up very quickly when there is not enough beneficial bacteria. So you have to do frequent water changes, as in every other day, at least. If you can get Prime, you can do a water change and dose with Prime every 48 hours. That will have to be done until the bacteria has a chance to get re-established. That can take weeks, but since you still have some, it might not take that long.

I don't know what your dechlorinating product means by stating that it conditions the water. Is there more information on the bottle about that?

You can also use plain salt, not table salt, to help with the nitrite poisoning. Here we can buy large bags of plain salt for water softeners in large home improvement stores. Maybe a hardware store would carry it. Be sure there are no additives and dissolve it first in a bucket before adding it to the pond. There is plenty of information online on how much to add.

Personally I prefer Prime. It's just easier and it binds ammonia as well as nitrite. Salt will only help with nitrite.

As for the bacteria in a bottle. That doesn't work. The type you need has to have air to survive, and it must be alive to work, so sealing it up in a bottle would kill it. What you have is usually a completely different type of bacteria that won't help your situation.

Don't beat yourself up about this. You had no choice but to repair the liner. You just didn't have the right tools on hand to deal with the aftermath. Get some Prime and dose the water. Do regular water changes and keep dosing with Prime. Once the bacteria colony grows large enough again, the problem will correct itself.
 
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Thanks again. I found the Prime (on Amazon Prime!) and ordered that as well as a bio bacteria boost powder.

I have been reading the nitrogen cycle again. I'm sure I used to know this stuff, but 6 years of trouble free balanced pond made be ignorant. So I was stood there feeding the fish thinking that full tummies means happy fish, when infact I was causing the toxicity due to the fresh new sterile water conditions.
 
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The bacteria boost powder is useless. I edited my response to include that but I guess you might have missed it. Dry, powdered bacteria is dead. It won't help. Maybe you can cancel that unless you just want to try it.

Your pond has everything it needs already. It just needs some time to grow more bacteria. The fish, though, do need the Prime for some extra help.

Yes, please stop feeding the fish until the water tests improve. They will be fine without food for a while.
 
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The bacteria boost powder is useless. I edited my response to include that but I guess you might have missed it. Dry, powdered bacteria is dead. It won't help. Maybe you can cancel that unless you just want to try it.

Your pond has everything it needs already. It just needs some time to grow more bacteria. The fish, though, do need the Prime for some extra help.

Yes, please stop feeding the fish until the water tests improve. They will be fine without food for a while.
Oh, the bacteria tablet firm said that they are dormant and wake up once in water and presence of 'food'. At this stage if it does no harm I'll just give it a go.

I have now changed 50% of the water, topping it up from the tap. I tested the tap water, which has zero ammonia and zero nitrate, but as 50mg nitrate. I thought this was odd, but then a quick google says this is the standard level for UK & EU. So the water change will help the ammonia and nitrite but not the nitrate. I added some more of the Clorine treatment, and will add the Prime when it arrives tomorrow.
 
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The type of bacteria that is needed for the nitrogen cycle cannot be dried. It will die forever. Those bacteria need water, food, oxygen, and the proper temperature to survive. There may be bacteria in those tablets, but it can't be the same ones needed for the nitrogen cycle.

There are a couple of companies in this country that will ship you live, beneficial bacteria, but it is very expensive. And it has to be shipped overnight, since it will die in transit if it sits around for long.

The 50% water change should reduce the ammonia and nitrite by that same 50%. I hope that will help your fish. Since the fish are constantly producing more ammonia, it will start to climb again. I hope the Prime arrives on time and that things will soon be back on track.
 
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Quick update.

Yesterday I changed 50% of the water, refilled with tap water, added the chlorine remover, added the Prime.

This morning the test results are as below. I've got the ammonia down to zero, but nitrite is still at 0.25ppm, and nitrate at 20ppm. I can't really do any more water changes as the nitrate level in my water is actually higher than the pond, at 40ppm. But i did another dose of Prime.

I think this is positive on the whole as the ammonia is down. Unfortunately another dead goldfish this morning, a 3inch youngster (still half black). Unfortunately a couple of my larger goldfish are looking a ropey, with blotchy mucus, and spend time sort of lying on the bottom gulping, but do move around still. So as the mucus looks like the fungus disease pictures I've applied another does of the fungus treatment just to cover all bases. It might well still just be the water quality issue, but I don't think the treatment can make things worse.
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You don't need both the chlorine remover and Prime. Prime removes chlorine, too. I suppose it won't hurt to use both if you want.

The tests show all the ammonia and nitrite in the water, the bound and unbound. So even with using Prime, the tests will continue to show what is in the water. But being bound those won't be available to the fish.

Be sure to use Prime every 48 hours without fail. After that time all that bound nitrite will be released back into the water so you want to avoid that.

It will take some time in good water for the fish to heal. And the water is not there yet. Getting better though and the Prime is helping protect the fish. But damage has been done that may take a while to show up in some fish. And you only posted this on Monday. There hasn't been enough time for improvements to show up.

To me, this does not look like fungus. It doesn't look fuzzy the way fungus does, but I can't see it in person. In the photos, it looks like an overabundance of slime coat. But this is your pond and your fish. You need to do what you feel is right.

Just please keep up the water changes and Prime dosing. It will get better with good water, but it will take time for that bacteria to grow. The bacteria that converts nitrite to nitrate takes longer to establish than the bacteria needed for the first phase, converting ammonia to nitrite. Hopefully there is still some of that bacteria in the pond and in your filter and conditions are such that it will reproduce quickly.
 
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Ah right I was wondering about how often to repeat prime, as the bottle doesnt say. Didnt realise that it doesnt 'fix' the nitrate/nitrite as thought it being 'bound' meant it had been dealt with permanently but it makes sense what you say.

Regarding the fungus, some of the fish look very different to the earlier picture above, and is more blotchy/spotty white mucus. So I thought maybe this was more fungal. But mainly I thought can't harm to double-up do a fungal fix as well as the water fix. Its not changing my approach to monitoring the nitrate situation.
 

Mmathis

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Oh, the bacteria tablet firm said that they are dormant and wake up once in water and presence of 'food'. At this stage if it does no harm I'll just give it a go.
Yes, they will say anything to sell a product. Maybe “no harm,” but also, “no benefits.” Check out this article…..

 
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Hi again. A quick update.

I've added Prime 48hrly and taken water tests daily. Below is the latest today. The ammonia is reading zero, nitrite I think means quite low, between 0 and 0.25ppm. The nitrate is again lower than it was, now reading 5ppm. The pH is concerning me. Its difficult to read from the chart but its looking like 8.4ish.

My available tap water is much lower pH, but is toxic for nitrates at 50ppm. So I am not sure whether a water change is advisable.

I recognise of course that Seachem says that readings can be affected when using Prime, so not sure if this is the genuine environment, but it is what the test says for now.

Unfortunately my fish continue to die, and I've lost my biggest two, along with a variety of others. Perhaps half my stock has gone now. I am hoping that those fish are dying from damage by the original toxic conditions, rather than continuing to succumb anew to the current environment.

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There is a bacterial disease of fish known as Columnaris that can be fatal and outbreaks occur during warm weather. The bacteria is very common and only sometimes causes disease, usually when nitrite is present, fish density high, and the water is warm. Some strains are more virulent than others. The fish can die without signs, or can have skin, mouth or gill erosions. Sometimes it looks like a fungus but is actually bacterial. With your high continued mortality I would recommend that you contact a veterinarian or diagnostic lab to get a definitive diagnosis. The next fish that is sick or dies could yield valuable information if a necropsy is done and samples collected. Of course, I’ve never known anyone to actually take this advice. :)
 
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There is a bacterial disease of fish known as Columnaris that can be fatal and outbreaks occur during warm weather. The bacteria is very common and only sometimes causes disease, usually when nitrite is present, fish density high, and the water is warm. Some strains are more virulent than others. The fish can die without signs, or can have skin, mouth or gill erosions. Sometimes it looks like a fungus but is actually bacterial. With your high continued mortality I would recommend that you contact a veterinarian or diagnostic lab to get a definitive diagnosis. The next fish that is sick or dies could yield valuable information if a necropsy is done and samples collected. Of course, I’ve never known anyone to actually take this advice. :)
This is good advice. It’s certainly possible at this point the fish are simply so injured and stressed from the earlier nitrogen cycling water quality crisis that they are continuing to succumb to opportunistic infections, but having an expert take a look could guide you as to whether you need to provide addition treatments or support to save the rest. Sorry you’ve lost so many :(
 
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Your pH is fine. It's not too high. Goldfish will thrive in pH from 7 to 10 as long as that level is stable and consistent. A fluctuating pH is dangerous, not one at the level of yours.

I don't understand what you mean about the nitrate being toxic at 55. If that were the case, all my fish would have died years ago.
 
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I don't understand what you mean about the nitrate being toxic at 55. If that were the case, all my fish would have died years ago.
The API test kit said it needs to be under 40ppm, and this seemed to be repeated in brief googling, hence my concern. Perhaps I mistook the advice and it should have been "recommended" under 40ppm, but not "toxic" marginally above.
 
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There is a bacterial disease of fish known as Columnaris that can be fatal and outbreaks occur during warm weather. The bacteria is very common and only sometimes causes disease, usually when nitrite is present, fish density high, and the water is warm. Some strains are more virulent than others. The fish can die without signs, or can have skin, mouth or gill erosions. Sometimes it looks like a fungus but is actually bacterial. With your high continued mortality I would recommend that you contact a veterinarian or diagnostic lab to get a definitive diagnosis. The next fish that is sick or dies could yield valuable information if a necropsy is done and samples collected. Of course, I’ve never known anyone to actually take this advice. :)
Thanks! I did seek advice initially, albeit the expert also runs a shop so maybe conflicted interests. He diagnosed and suggested the anti fungal/parasite treatment, which is what I've been using thus far. I can go back to him this week as now the course of treatment has finished I (and water quality now at levels which shouldn't be fatal) would expect no more deaths. If there are I will see what else he suggests. I did look briefly into necrospy in my area. There is a vet college about an hour drive away that take any pet for autopsy for 150bucks. But they said its not a quick turn around, say 4-8 weeks!
 

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