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Ongoing Ich Debate

On the subject of well water, it's been said that "[w]ells vary even more
than Aquatic Plants folks have opinions".  Judging from the exchanges on
something as simple as Ich I can sympathize - even empathize - with the

After all, it's not like _Ichthyophthirius_ is a recently-discovered malady,
or that it's life cycle isn't adequately described in just about *any*
aquarium reference (in particular those aimed toward the tank's health), or
anything. Shoot, looking in a book certainly takes all of the fun out of
guessing, doesn't it?

Ich occurs in three stages -

Its parasitic stage is virtually untreatable as most compounds proving
effective against it also do considerable damage to the host fish.

Its cystic stage is virtually untreatable for the same reasons almost all
known bacterial, viral and parasitic cysts are so difficult to affect - the
cyst is a well-designed tool in the protection of the enclosed life-form.

Its "free-swimming" stage is the only effective entry point to a viable
treatment. Under "average" conditions, the free-swimming stage is barely
able to sustain itself for up to 48 hours. If it doesn't find a host by
then, it basically "starves to death" much like a fry whose yolk sac has
been exhausted and isn't replaced with a food source. It is also the most
prone to environmental vagaries:

Are the currents too strong for it to find a fish and attach itself? By the
time it finds a fish, does it have enough energy left to overcome the fish's
basic protective measures - slime coat, immune system, etc. - before it

Raising the temperature of the environment has the same effect on the
free-swimmer as it does on the rest of the inhabitants - metabolism is
increased, and along with it come energy expenditures. Working from its
limited reserves, this proportionally decreases the time available for the
free-swimmer to find a host and "establish" itself.

The addition of salt to the tank has the same effect on all of its
inhabitants, but the results become a little more personal with Ich. There's
the shift in osmotic pressures that affect all exposed tissues - and in
something the size of Ich (measuring in at a whopping 0.05 mm!), that pretty
much involves the entire organism. But remember, there are Ich organisms in
*hard* water too, so you'd better make that shift a little on the drastic
side to be effective (oops, there go the fish and plants again!). Plus the
shift in salinity will cause the fish to react as if irritated, thickening
the slime coat and all. Oh hell, more obstacles for the free-swimmer to

Light? Well, there's not one mention of light in conjunction with freshwater
Ich that I can find outside of any *UseNet/Internet* postings. Seems that
somewhere along the line a few people got confused with things like
anecdotal evidence, other diseases or simple misinformation. (I suppose you
could make a limited case for lighting if you were to argue the effects of
sufficient UV exposure, though.)

The books will also tell you that the simplest, safest and most effective
addition one can make to the tank, if appropriate, are compounds made from
or containing combinations with Malachite Green - the "active ingredient" in
things like Wardley's "Ick Away" or Jungles' "Ick Guard", etc. It's just too
bad that Malachite Green is listed as a carcinogen for people and may be
removed from the market before long. At standard, recommended dosages, the
only lingering after-effects I've seen from its use is green silicon
sealant. It's never affected fish as sensitive as Dicrossus filamentosus,
Microgeophagus ramerizi or Julidochromis ornatus, and hardier fish
apparently don't even notice its addition to the tank.


Substitutes for Malachite Green is the only opening I can discern for
"anecdotal evidence" in the discussion concerning Ich. Descriptions of the
organism and its life cycle are so well documented that I'm personally at a
loss as to why so many people must "guess" at such things.

Just keep the catchphrase "RIF" in mind - although it should probably be
changed to "RRIFF" for emphasis (Reading Really Is Fundamental, Folks)...


David A. Youngker
nestor10 at mindspring_com