What is ICH ?
Ich whose scientific name is ichthyophthirius multifilis is also commonly referred to as freshwater ick and white spot disease. It is a disease that can affect both fresh and sometimes salt water fish. It is one of the most persistent diseases your fish could get. Ich is caused by protozoa which is an ectoparasite. The disease causes white nodules similar to white grains of salt or sugar to appear in the gills, fins and body of your fish. Each one of these spots is in fact a parasite. It can easily be introduced to the home aquarium or salt water reef tank by equipment or fish that came from an area that was already infested.
How Your Fish Are Affected By Ich ?
Once the organism makes has infected your fish tank, it becomes quite difficult to control because of its unique life stages and speedy reproductive cycle. If the disease is not controlled all your fish may end up dead. However with our Ich treatment it is easy to get rid of. Ich is highly damaging to the skin and gills. Fish that are infected are under considerable distress, fast loss of the condition and ultimately death. Except for the most noticeable signs of infection which include white spots on the gills and skin of your fish, the irritation may also make them produce a lot of mucus.
White spot normally causes the most damage when entering and while leaving the skin. This can lead to development of ulcers and loss of skin. The wounds can be quite dangerous as they can cause the fish to lose control of the regular movement of water, in and out of the body. This may lead to the development of respiratory problems where the fish have difficulty extracting oxygen from the water. Your fish will then become less tolerant to the low levels of dissolved oxygen (common to most tanks) when your fish/tank is infected by Ick.
Ich Life Cycle
Feeding stage – this is the most active stage of its life. It feeds on nutrients and blood from its host in a nodule that is normally formed in the gill epithelium or skin.
Dividing stage – after it has had enough feeding from the host, it normally leaves the host and falls to the bottom of the tank. There it goes into the dividing stage also known as tomont. The stage adheres to nets, plants, gravel or any other ornamental objects in the fish tank.
Binary fission – here the organism makes use of binary fission to divide up to ten times producing numerous parasites that normally divide very fast and disperse to go and look for fish to attack.
It is important to note that the life cycle of ich is highly dependent on water temperature. The parasites thrive at temperatures of around 24 degrees Celsius and can complete a life cycle in approximately 7 days. At lower temperatures of around 6 degrees Celsius it may take up to 8 weeks for the ich parasite to complete a life cycle.
They do not just lie there waiting to infect weakened fish as there is no dominant state in their lifecycle. However there are some factors that may reduce their immunity such as changes in water quality and temperatures. Studies have also shown that abiotic factors like increased levels of UV-B radiation and predatory cues can increase the susceptibility of tadpoles and fish to ich.