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I would add that in general, Mycobacteria are not very infectious, and the
fish most likely to come down with it are old fish. The immune system
deteriorates with age, and that's why they are the first to show it, even
though it may be in the environment. Once you leave it untreated, then the
infected fish eventually produces a large number of the microbes. Because
they are not very infectious, small doses seldom affect healthy fish in the
same tank, but large doses can overwhelm even healthy immune systems and
bingo, you have an outbreak. This is the reason to immediately dump any fish
that MIGHT have mycobacteria, and that includes old fish that have surface
gray lesions or are skinny and wasting (even though they might have something
else - don't take chances).
Consider also that even if the fish has something else, just the fact of its
being old means it is too weak immunologically to resist other microbes, so
it will probably succumb to something else anyway. Just killing off the
microbes or flagellates or whatever with medicaments won't solve the problem.
If the immune system is weakened, then wiping out one microbe will only open
the fish to infection with something else not affected by that particular
medicament (such as a Gram positive opportunist taking advantage after a Gram
negative microbe is killed by an antibiotic that only targets Gram negative
Bottom line is this. Watch your fish and at the first sign of something
wrong, remove the questionable fish to isolation (if not the trash can) and
do a water change on the tank, with a healthy dose of chlorinated tap water
(perhaps 20% tap water that has not been dechlorinated). This reduced
chlorine exposure will probably be well tolerated by the fish, but go a long
way in reducing the microbial population in the tank.
I can't promise it won't kill your fish (don't know what kind of chlorination
your town uses or the final dose at your tap), but it's a rule of thumb
that's worked for me.
Robert J. Goldstein, Ph.D.
Robert J. Goldstein & Associates, Inc.
8480 Garvey Drive
Raleigh, NC 27616 USA
tel (919) 872-1174
fax (919) 872-9214
e-mail rgoldstein at rjgaCarolina_com
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