What is it?
Nitrite is toxic to fish, and can cause death when in high levels in an aquarium. See "new tank syndrome" for information on how nitrite is produced, and how to eliminate it.
The danger often comes when fish get weak as a result of being stressed from the nitrite. They are more susceptible to parasites, bacteria and other diseases.
Fish may sit at the bottom of the aquarium, without much movement. They may also go to the surface of the aquarium, gasping for air. The may appear lethargic and off colour. Burning to the skin may occur, if so the skin will appear red and excess mucus may be produced. Their gills may appear brown of lilac in colour. They may also 'flash' and scratch up against aquarium objects.
As Nitrite poisoning produces very similar symptoms to many other diseases certain diagnosis can only be made with a nitrite testing kit.
See "New Tank Syndrome". In this situation, change about 50% of the water. Then everyday after that change another 30% of the water until the problem calms down. Test the water for ammonia and nitrites, and keep changing water until the levels are at 0. Eventually the 'good' bacteria will win and the tank will be safe again, changing the water everyday prevents the ammonia and nitrites getting way too high for the fish.
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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