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FISH LICE (Argulus)

What is it?
Luckily, Fish Lice are not all that common. However, they are nasty when they do occur. They are often left unnoticed, which can be quite detrimental to the fishes health, they can be mistaken for algae or dirt. It reaches up to 5 mm in diameter. (0.2 inch)

The free swimming parasite is usually brought in on new fish or plants. They will multiply and attach to the fish, burrowing in slightly so they can feed off the fish. The feed by using a straw-like structure into the fish, injecting digestive enzymes (similar to a spider!) and then sucking out the liquefied flesh. This causes great irritation to the fish, and may cause dangerous bacterial infections.

The harm comes from major tissue damage (that can cause scarring) or as a secondary infection. The fish also become very stressed, and become quite susceptible to other parasites such as white spot.

Being the largest fish parasite, it is quite obvious to the naked eye (if you're looking for them). They often reside in protected areas, such as behind the fins or near eyes and gills. The louse will appear clear and somewhat transparent and may be seen moving around. There may also be red markings, ulcers or inflamed areas where the lice have previously been.

The fish will scratch against aquarium objects and flash in an effort to remove the parasites.

As the fish becomes more stressed it may exhibit clamped fins and appear restless.

The traditional method of removing fish lice was by holding the fish in a damp cloth, using tweezers to remove any lice viewable. This is not always preferable, so medications that treat whole tank have been developed. With the first mentioned method, it is advisable to treat the whole tank with medication as well to kill any free swimming parasites. Organophosphates are often suggested as a excellent cure. Removing the lice with tweezes does offer some temporary relief, however. It is not essential, so it's up to you.

After treating with the medication, treat with a mild antibiotic to ensure secondary infections will not occur. And make sure water parameters are optimal!

Remember, water quality is always extremely important- so always check that first as it is often the cause of disease in aquarium fish. When treating sick fish, try to put the least amount of stress on them as possible, as stress will hinder the heeling process. Another thing is to remember is that generally, a healthy fish is a happy fish.

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