koi septicemia


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This is a story that would usually start with "A friend of mine..." but I'll fess up. I made a major bone-head mistake and fed my koi while the water was still too cold. The weather was warm and they were obviously very hungry, but I didn't think to check the water temperature. Now I have some very sick koi, including two that are near dead. They're behaving strangly, some are losing scales, and a few even have blood streaks in their fins.

They've always been very healthy, and all of my goldfish appear unaffected, so I was baffled. After testing the water (all normal levels) and some serious googling I think it's septicemia caused by the food rotting in their digestive tracts. I'm now trying to warm up the pond and running to the store for some salt. Any other recommendations for this emergency case? As always, thanks in advance!
 
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I'm not too sure of what I'm fixing to say, so hopefully some other real life koi folks will come along - but I read sometimes of people giving their koi green peas with the skin removed to help with digestion?
 
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It may well be too late for that but peas are a good diretic and an even better one are earth worms.
How are you going with your temperature you need it up to above 10c more like 14c to feed them safely.
Septicemia will need to be sample swabed and the swab sent of for testing when the strain has been identified a visit to the vet is recomended to be prescribed a good antibacterial drug.
The aflicted koi should be injected , anethatising is recomended before administering an injection , get your dealer to do this for you if your unsure how to go about it
We can only wish you good luck but I will fore warn you, that you may get losses sadly.....

rgrds

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I'd be interested how long ago the feeding took place. The duration of food rotting to a point of causing septicemia would not be fast. Certainly not under a week, and probably not under a month. But I don't know your local conditions. If the duration was short and this is food from last fall I might consider the food itself as a problem before I'd be concerned about rotting in the gut. Many web sites go a little insane about feeding fish in cold water. While not a great thing it isn't certain death either.

That said...if water temps are so low to be a concern I don't think I'd feed more food, whether peas or even medicated food.

Since high ammonia and nitrite is a much more common cause of septicemia I have to ask, what are your test results? Ammonia, nitrite, water temp, KH and pH. Terms like "water was still too cold" can be more misleading than helpful. I'd also be interested in the color of the gills if you know the differences between what healthy gills look like opposed to pale.

I wouldn't add salt unless it was to treat something specific like nitrite. As you increase the salt you also lower the water temp before ice forms so fish can end up in 30F water which I assume is possible in N Idaho. Salt can also interfere with other medications you might need later. Once added to a pond salt is not easy to remove. Plus most salt treatments are better done in QT where you have more control. Most people new to this are unwilling to add enough salt to get the desired result. It just doesn't seem right to be adding so much salt. So the result is not enough salt to fix anything but enough to mess up other parameters.

If you wanted to raise water temp I suggest moving the fish to QT. Easier to raise the water temp enough to make a difference. I don't know your pond size, water and air temps, but generally trying to raise a pond temp and maintain it isn't reasonable. Once raised the temp should be maintained. Raising it for a few days, even a week, and letting it go back down could do more harm imo.

Not sure why aeromonas infection isn't a possibility. Very clean pond? Water has been below 42F?

Bottom line if it really is a bacteria infection the proper treatment is antibiotic injection since this is internal, and far along (losing scales). The Catch-22 is if you had the experience to properly do this you would have already known to do it. So I don't suggest this unless you take the fish to a Vet.

Adding an antibiotic to the water, especially the entire pond, would be like a person taking a shower using anti-bacterial soap to cure pneumonia. But in the case of a pond the only result would be dead bio filters.

In general I suggest not doing anything unless you have a good understanding of what you're doing and how some of these things interact. Fish can handle some abuse but throwing a bunch of "cures" at them after reading a few web sites is not something they can always handle. Better to start with step 1, good old boring water quality.

Really not enough info given for any kind of reasonable guessing imo. For all I know all of this could be as simple as from spawning.
 
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The water perameters have come back as normal, however we dont know what state his filtration or bottom of his pond is in but both could be a vector for an areomonas infection to take place.
Hence us saying maintenance of both prior to winter and then again in spring greatly reducess the risks of areomonas infection, maintenance of the pond over the winter with partial water changes reduces this risk even further..
It will take time for the results of the swabs to come back again, time these koi may not have.......
Personally I'd bring the vet to the QT tank/unit, as in their weakened state the stress of catching them then transporting them to the vet de-bagged being anethatized injected re-bagged then being taken back to the (QT tank/unit if he has one) then de-bagged brought up to temperature etc could prove fatal.
Not only that we assume the Vet knows about koi (not many vets do) believe it or not not many do ( in our case of Septicemia) "we acctually had to tell the vet what to do".
Far better to bring either vet or better still his dealer to him, allowing for much less stress.
Catching a koi properly using the large flat net to guide the koi to the surface allowing the koi to be scooped up into a sock net takes some skill even if he has the right nets (which I doubt) no offence to jaydog.
The trick is not to touch the koi until the last minute without touching the koi with the guiding net.
So in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, stress levels are kept to an absolute minimum.
A salt dip could be benificial rather than salting the pond as you correctly state, keeping salt out of the pond allows for any further treatment.later on.
Sadly I've a feeling it may already be too late for these koi "a tough lesson Learned"....
With koi or in reality other fish a dedicated QT tank/unit is a must it really is I think you'll agree?


rgrds


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Thanks for all the advice; it’s a lot to take in. I’ve tried to compartmentalize and address the questions/suggestions below:

TESTING – Here are the approximate test results (based on matching the colors):
  • pH – 8.2, this is higher than I first thought (I misread the chart initially). Is this a possible problem?
  • KH – I don’t know how to test for this as it isn’t part of my kit.
  • Nitrate – 0
  • Nitrite – 0
  • Ammonia – 0
TEMPERATURES – It gets very cold here in North Idaho. I do use a de-icer to keep the pond from freezing, so the water temperature stays in the mid-30's during winter. It was probably around 45oF (7oC) yesterday before I did anything. Last night I raised the temperature to 58oF (14oC) and it’s now holding at about 54oF (12oC).

FILTER & BOTTOM – I decommissioned my 55-gallon biological filter for winter to prevent freezing (it’s above ground with exposed pipes), so the only filtration right now is the pad in the skimmer and around 30 gallons worth of scrubbies in the waterfall weir. The bottom is clean with only a very small amount of debris. The walls of the pond are lined with large rocks though, which may be harboring some waste.

FEEDING – I think the 'cold weather feeding' in question took place around three weeks ago, but it could have been as much as a month. The water temperature at that time would have been in the high 30’s or low 40’s. The food was actually brand new (not left over from last season) and of the “low waste” variety.

MORE INFO – Here are some more details I didn’t mention in my original post:
  1. The koi all seemed to show these symptoms at the same time and very quickly.
  2. I also have several goldfish, and none of them are showing any symptoms. I think this would support both the ‘too-cold-to-feed’ and ‘pH-too-high’ hypotheses.
UPDATE – Last night I drained approximately 15% of the pond and refilled with warm water. Given the size of the pond, this is a very slow process and the temperature change was gradual (several hours). I also slowly added 40 pounds of salt, which I believe to be insignificant given the size of the pond.

The two fish that were near-death have now died (of course they were the most colorful and my kids’ favorites). The rest seem to be doing better; they’re more active and definitely hungry. Is it recommended to feed them peas, wheat germ, or antibiotic food?

Unfortunately, I can’t use a quarantine tank for all the remaining fish. These are large koi and I just don’t have a container big enough for all of them. I also looked into treatment from a vet or specialist in the area and couldn’t find anyone local. Koi just aren’t popular in my area.
 
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JayDogg said:
pH – 8.2, this is higher than I first thought (I misread the chart initially). Is this a possible problem?
KH – I don’t know how to test for this as it isn’t part of my kit.
Testing pH only tells you what it is at that moment. Could be different in an hour. Could be very different in 12 hours. Measuring KH tells you how stable pH should be expected to be. So KH and GH are needed if you want to understand and control pH. Most pond keepers never test these things. Just depends on what parts of the hobby a person wants to do. You can Google "pond pH buffering" if you want more info on pH-KH-GH.
JayDogg said:
TEMPERATURES – It gets very cold here in North Idaho. I do use a de-icer to keep the pond from freezing, so the water temperature stays in the mid-30's during winter. It was probably around 45oF (7oC) yesterday before I did anything. Last night I raised the temperature to 58oF (14oC) and it’s now holding at about 54oF (12oC).
When the water is under say 60F the fish's immune system is not working very well. The bacteria aeromonas and others don't grow very well at temps below say 45F. So when the water is below 45F the fish can't fight off the bacteria but the bacteria can't really attack either so life is good. As temps increase above 45F the bacteria gets going and can attack while the fish's immune system still isn't up to speed. So what you've done is create a perfect temp for harmful bacteria while leaving your fish without a decent immune system. Google "aeromonas alley koi" for more info.
JayDogg said:
FILTER & BOTTOM – I decommissioned my 55-gallon biological filter for winter to prevent freezing (it’s above ground with exposed pipes), so the only filtration right now is the pad in the skimmer and around 30 gallons worth of scrubbies in the waterfall weir.
The bio does not convert any ammonia and nitrite at below 39F and not much at below 50F. Plants like algae would still be consuming ammonia directly.
JayDogg said:
FEEDING – I think the 'cold weather feeding' in question took place around three weeks ago, but it could have been as much as a month. The water temperature at that time would have been in the high 30’s or low 40’s. The food was actually brand new (not left over from last season) and of the “low waste” variety.
Difficult to say. Being it's kind of rare imo and that's it's effecting multiple fish, if I had to bet I'd bet it wasn't food rotting in the gut. However I don't really think it matters at this point.
JayDogg said:
UPDATE – Last night I drained approximately 15% of the pond and refilled with warm water. Given the size of the pond, this is a very slow process and the temperature change was gradual (several hours). I also slowly added 40 pounds of salt, which I believe to be insignificant given the size of the pond.
I have no idea why you would do either of these things. I can't help and this is difficult for me to watch, so I will just wish you good luck.
 
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Waterbug said:
Testing pH only tells you what it is at that moment. Could be different in an hour. Could be very different in 12 hours. Measuring KH tells you how stable pH should be expected to be. So KH and GH are needed if you want to understand and control pH. Most pond keepers never test these things. Just depends on what parts of the hobby a person wants to do. You can Google "pond pH buffering" if you want more info on pH-KH-GH.
I'll look into this, thanks. I have tested the pH a few times and it has been stable at around 8.2. I also tested straight tap water and it's very near the same. After doing some reading elsewhere, it doesn't sound like this level of pH is even an issue for koi.

Waterbug said:
When the water is under say 60F the fish's immune system is not working very well. The bacteria aeromonas and others don't grow very well at temps below say 45F. So when the water is below 45F the fish can't fight off the bacteria but the bacteria can't really attack either so life is good. As temps increase above 45F the bacteria gets going and can attack while the fish's immune system still isn't up to speed. So what you've done is create a perfect temp for harmful bacteria while leaving your fish without a decent immune system. Google "aeromonas alley koi" for more info.
Let me see if I'm following your logic correctly. Since the temperature was below 45F when the fish got sick, I can rule out bacteria as the cause since it "can't really attack" when it's that cold. I'll do my best during the coming weeks to keep the temperature as close to 60F as possible so their immune systems have a chance. Fortunately, we're having a warm spell and temperatures are on the rise.

Waterbug said:
I have no idea why you would do either of these things. I can't help and this is difficult for me to watch, so I will just wish you good luck.
I found other sources that recommended treatment of septicemia by (1) raising the temperature, (2) a partial water change, and (3) adding salt. These all seemed like fairly benign steps, and I'm trying to make small and gradual changes to avoid shocking the fish. Another piece of advice was to use "triple antibiotic" food but I was waiting for some feedback before attempting that one. The best recommendations, including injections and having samples tested, just aren't realistic for me. I actually took these fish from another ponder who lost his house and couldn't keep them. Unfortunately, I'm forced to learn as I go and am not comfortable standing by doing nothing while the fish suffer.

The remaining fish generally appear much more stable now. I won't contribute this to any measures I've taken, but so far I don't seem to have hurt anyone. Thanks everyone for the help.
 
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I don't think you're understanding the water temp issues. Yes at below 45F the bacteria are slow to reproduce and therefore less likely to cause problems. Exactly why food in a freezer lasts longer than in a refrigerator which lasts longer than left on the counter. The dynamic is can bacteria reproduce faster than the fish's immune system can kill it.

When you say try to keep water at 60F you're still playing a dangerous game. These numbers are not digital, it's not like at 60F the fish's immune system flips on and is 100%. 60-65F is only the range where it is expected the immune system is just good enough to fight off these bacteria. But there are many other factors. Chiefly in your case is that sick fish may not be able to generate any kind of an immune response at any temp.

I totally understand about reading stuff and hearing different things. What I'm saying is that is very dangerous without a good understanding of the subject. It's very helpful to read many sources in order to learn, but dangerous to take action based on limited reading and understanding. It can only be your call on when you feel you know enough to take action.

Don't confuse fish being able to survive through cures as being the same time as the cure being the reason the fish lived. While possible it is far from a certainty.
 
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Waterbug said:
I don't think you're understanding the water temp issues. Yes at below 45F the bacteria are slow to reproduce and therefore less likely to cause problems. Exactly why food in a freezer lasts longer than in a refrigerator which lasts longer than left on the counter. The dynamic is can bacteria reproduce faster than the fish's immune system can kill it.

When you say try to keep water at 60F you're still playing a dangerous game. These numbers are not digital, it's not like at 60F the fish's immune system flips on and is 100%. 60-65F is only the range where it is expected the immune system is just good enough to fight off these bacteria. But there are many other factors. Chiefly in your case is that sick fish may not be able to generate any kind of an immune response at any temp.

I totally understand about reading stuff and hearing different things. What I'm saying is that is very dangerous without a good understanding of the subject. It's very helpful to read many sources in order to learn, but dangerous to take action based on limited reading and understanding. It can only be your call on when you feel you know enough to take action.

Don't confuse fish being able to survive through cures as being the same time as the cure being the reason the fish lived. While possible it is far from a certainty.
Jaydog I agree with what waterbug is telling you you really have to know what you are doing, this comes with experiance and over time you say your pond is 3,000- 3.500 gallons that isnt good enough as you have a descrepancy of 500 gallons to effect a treament you have to know prescisely the amount of water you have.
Our own pond is 1,000 gallons imperial we know this because we metered in that exact amount of water , so as treatments go we know exactly the right amount to use (its important to know as overdoses can and do kill) you also say your adding warm water to the pond, I explained the trickle method of filling a pond after a waterchange using the ambient temperature of the ponds water to warm any colder water coming into the pond , if done correctly you'll loose .1c of a degree tops.
You added 40lb of salt to your pond (yikes) did you mot read the bit about salt dips and a dedicated Qaurentine system , not only have you lowerd the temperature still further through this but you have now buggered yourself when it comes to treating the pond with anything else , some treatmments and salt do not mix one can become toxic to your fish if you have a PH of 8.5.
Did you at least disolve the salt ?
Salt will stay in a pond and can only be removed slowly through waterchanges that why we do salt dips or salt the QT system at least it can be gotten rid of by just pouring it down the drain but it'll take forever in a pond your size,
What size filtration is used on your pond please jaydog ?
This is important we need to see if the system is man enough for that amount of water what media are you using ?
Is there a koi dealership near you who could perhaps come out to see you and help you through this as waterbug says he wishes he could just pop round and help you out , so do we this is the only problem with helping online.
One thing you havent done which would help us all are photos at least we could then take a look at what is afflicting your koi .


rgrds

Dave
 
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Dave 54 said:
you say your pond is 3,000- 3.500 gallons that isnt good enough as you have a descrepancy of 500 gallons to effect a treament you have to know prescisely the amount of water you have.
Our own pond is 1,000 gallons imperial we know this because we metered in that exact amount of water , so as treatments go we know exactly the right amount to use (its important to know as overdoses can and do kill)
If I could do it again, I'd fill the pond using a meter. Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to do that. Good work on your part doing it right! If I ever empty and refill, I'll follow your lead. In the meantime, my pond is an irregular shape with large rocks around the perimeter. I'm pretty dang proficient with a calculator, but this one would be tough. I'm confident it's close to 3,500 but tend to be conservative with estimates. For the benefit of others, I learned you don't actually have to meter the water as the pond is filled. Here's a cool little article on how to use salt to do the volume calculation. Maybe I'll take this on next week. Since I haven't undertaken any treatments, I'm not too concerned about overdoses.

Dave 54 said:
you also say your adding warm water to the pond, I explained the trickle method of filling a pond after a waterchange using the ambient temperature of the ponds water to warm any colder water coming into the pond , if done correctly you'll loose .1c of a degree tops.
I didn't catch your explanation of the "trickle method". Did you inadvertantly post it to a different topic? To be more clear, I first drained 10-15% of the water volume (not a precise calculation, I know). Then I ran a hose to the sink in my garage and SLOWLY added WARM water to the pond. The result was a very gradual increase in temperature over the course of several hours. I didn't have a thermometer in the pond before the water change but I do now. The temperature is now hanging around 55F. At no time during the water change did the temperature drop. The water added INCREASED the ambient temperature - sorry if this wasn't clear from the start.

Dave 54 said:
you added 40lb of salt to your pond (yikes) did you mot read the bit about salt dips and a dedicated Qaurentine system , not only have you lowerd the temperature still further through this but you have now buggered yourself when it comes to treating the pond with anything else , some treatmments and salt do not mix one can become toxic to your fish if you have a PH of 8.5.
Did you at least disolve the salt ?
I think you can save the "yikes" - 40 pounds of salt in a 3,500 gallon pond equates to a NEGLIGIBLE increase in salinity. One pound in 100 gallons equates to 0.125% (that's just a little over 1/10th of 1%). The increase in my case is between 0.137% and 0.16% (given my gross volume estimates). Based on this handy chart, I'm well below the level advised "to maintain a stable salt concentration level in the pond". I understand there was salt content in the water before the addition, and that there are differing opinions on salt treatment, but I'm still confident stating it's negligible.

I did dissolve the salt as it was added. In fact, the bag had handy little holes in the sides and it took a full day for it all to dissolve. I had the two worst fish in a QT and used a higher level of salt, based on advice from another source, to treat them. Unfortunately, they're dead now and as I said previously it isn't realistic to quarantine the rest.

Dave 54 said:
What size filtration is used on your pond please jaydog ? This is important we need to see if the system is man enough for that amount of water what media are you using?
This has been addressed in a previous post. The biological filter that currently isn't in use is 55 gallons. Other than that, it's just the filter pad in the skimmer and approximately 30 gallons worth of scrubbies in the waterfall weir.

Dave 54 said:
Is there a koi dealership near you who could perhaps come out to see you and help you through this as waterbug says he wishes he could just pop round and help you out , so do we this is the only problem with helping online. One thing you havent done which would help us all are photos at least we could then take a look at what is afflicting your koi.
The only dealership in the area doesn't open until next month (they close down during the winter). I have reached out to a local koi club though, and believe they'll be my best resource for in-person assistance. I'll try to take some photos later today. Unfortunately, I'll be traveling for several days after that.

I haven't lost any more of the koi, and the survivors are looking better everyday. It's amazing how fast the recover, whether my ill-advised steps helped or not. I really do appreciate the help you guys provide! It's great to have a resource where knowledgeable people share their expertise just out of kindness.
 
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The concept of the trickle metod is to slowly trickle the water into your pond during the winter months as I said the ambient temperature of the pond will warm the colder water coming through your hose.
You have to be spot on with your gallonage hence the meter my yikes to the 40ib was thats one hell of alot salt that has to be removed which will take some time, personally I wont put it in the pond it goes in the QT tank only or if a salt dip that goes into a messuring bowl.( koi are fresh water fish not marine)yet people swear by salt why I know not.
The koi club is a spot on idea Val and I are founding fathers to our own koi club here in Plymouth.
In the UK membership opens you up to be able to ask for the Health standards Committee to send out a health official to see you, these guys are really well trained in the job that they do, we have the former chairman of that committee in our club , hopefully it'll be the same with the AKCA, they know their stuff and will travel to your pond membership of a club has other benefits including social evenings pond visits dealership outings shows etc.
Our own club was founded in 1991 and is still going strong with over 50 families unlike other clubs we are acctually bucking the trend and taking on new members.
Best of luck for the future

rgrds

Dave
 

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