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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11070
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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Help! Treating tank 3 mos-no go. Began after broke foot, cd

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Help! Treating tank 3 mos-no go. Began after broke foot, cd only top up for 1 mo- 0 gal./week. Param. great, no new equip. Exactly like velvet-started Coppersafe. Now every water change flicking, gasping in 24 hrs. Mela & Pima intermittently; mo. w & mo. w/out carbon. All alive. Tank: 75 gal-90 gal can, 60 gal HOB & 1/2-size UG. 2 loach, 1 featherfin, 2 siamese alae eaters, 1 angel, a Betta, 2 bristlenose & 4 platies-fry regularly removed; handful of plants-no CO2-have had tank 2 years-no trouble. Thx!

I'm sorry to hear that you are having such problems with your tank. The limit on characters has made your post a bit difficult, but I've tried to gather the information from it. Some clarification will help, and I think when you reply there should be no limit on characters.

After the time when you could only top up, once you could finally do a water change, how much did you change?

When do you test the water? Have you done it when the fish are actually gasping and flicking? What numbers do you get for ammonia and nitrites?

Do all of the fish exhibit symptoms, or only some of them?

How long do the symptoms continue once they start?

Am I correct that no fish have died?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.



Thanks for your quick response. I have researched this intensively but made few changes.


Water top-up was only in Jan. when my foot was broken. I left both covers open to increase evaporation so top-ups were well oxygenated. I checked the parameters weekly and they remained excellent.


Since then 15% weekly water changes, heavy UG vacuuming, and two 50% water changes. (copperSafe replaced religiously for the first month -- February. Needed religiously after each water change since then, including 15% yesterday. Level is 1.5.)


My ammonia and nitrite readings have been zero the entire time and nitrates well into the safe range. I've checked readings weekly before and after water changes/symptoms. (My filtration is massive -- 75-gallon tank with a 90-gallon eheim canister, a 60-gallon HOB, and a 24 x 18-inch under-gravel with one uptake and one power-head. The eheim was a Christmas present -- the only change and six weeks before symptoms. I have cleaned the media three times with no change in parameters.)


All fish experience the symptoms within a day -- even the angel and plecs.


Extremely rapid gill action takes about 24-hours to develop fully and subsides gradually in roughly the same time. (To be clear, there is still coppersafe minus the water change volume at all times.) Flicking takes place on day two and very occasionally with the siamese algae eaters and featherfin at other times.


Regards XXXXX XXXXX lost a clown loach before treatment (two remain despite quite a battle). The lost one went head up as did the other two - not at surface - with the heavy breathing. Then featherfin got a little grey and flicking was universal so I suspected velvet. Since then I've only lost an ancient platy female. She didn't die until this week. Probably natural.


BTW, my overstocked 20-gallon is completely unaffected.


Thanks again,



Thank you for getting back to me, Lisa. You have an extremely puzzling situation. If the fish are sick or parasite-infested, we would expect to see symptoms most of the time, not just after the weekly water change. If it's all right with you, I'd like to take some time to study all your information and look for clues, and to do a little research. I hope I can figure out something for you. You'll receive an email notification when I post again. Does this sound agreeable to you?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Any help will be great. Thanks.
I'll see what I can do. There's no need to respond to this. I'll be back when I have any information for you.

Thank you for your patience. I've been doing a great deal of reading on various fish forums. I suspect the CopperSafe is the problem. I'll explain why. People who specialize in loaches will not use copper, whether it is chelated or not. Loaches are extremely sensitive to it, and your clown loach is the only fatality, while the other two do continue to struggle. The main symptom of copper toxicity is rapid breathing, often accompanied by gasping, splashing at the surface, and poor color. Gill damage often occurs. leading to more breathing problems.

While CopperSafe is one of the safer copper solutions, it is supposed to be used for only one month. Longer than that isn't safe. Any parasites it treats would have been destroyed in the first month. You've replenished the CopperSafe with each water change. Within 24 hours, the fish exhibit symptoms. I recommend that you discontinue the CopperSafe at once. The fish may continue to exhibit symptoms for some time because copper is very difficult to remove from water.

If you have more questions about this, let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope this will remedy the problem.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Sorry, I think I've not made something clear. I haven't been adding Coppersafe before symptoms - it has relieved them after they start.

I am aware of the issues with loaches (and featherfins). I tried melafix, pmafix and ich-cure first. Coppersafe was and is the only thing that has worked. Paradoxically even the scaleless fish respond positively.

I tried to discontinue after one month. The scaleless declined severely for a week - same as when I started. Tried melafix and pimafix thinking I might be dealing with a secondary issue.By then everyone was pitiful. Also have had no mortality of snails or plants, which is expected with coppersafe. Hence my dismay.
I'm sorry. Yes, I did misunderstand. I am perplexed, too. I've read everything through again, and I can't see anything that would give us a clue. Even the positive response to CopperSafe makes no sense. It should have long ago wiped out any parasites. A water change shouldn't stimulate symptoms that are relieved by CopperSafe.

Here is a hypothesis for you to consider: the symptoms are also consistent with gill flukes. As you probably know, they aren't visible to the naked eye. There have been reported super resistant strains that aren't wiped out by copper medications and even by formalin. I suppose it's conceivable that the CopperSafe barely keeps them under control. The water change dilutes the CopperSafe and the flukes surge, causing symptoms. More CopperSafe destroys enough of them to alleviate the symptoms. If this is what is happening, a different treatment for flukes would have to be tried. Praziquantel has been effective against some of these resistant flukes. Formalin dips where each fish is taken out and placed in a short dip of pure formalin for a short time have also been effective. However, formalin doesn't kill the spores, which take 7 days to hatch and cause trouble. The praziquantel for three weeks would be a lot easier and it does kill the spores. Your thoughts on the possibility of gill flukes?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Great to know! I was actually shopping for praz/mitro this morning but was afraid to overmedicate. It's very reassuring to know I havn't been leading myself astray. (Other than a five-year spell with my daughter's goldfish, freshwater experience is only four years. Had four tanks at one time!)

Can you suggest the best way to proceed considering there is copper in the water. Also, would you recommend Prazipro or Parasite Clear given the scaleless? (My featherfin was the whole reason for going from 20- to 75-gallons. Really anxious to save him. :-)

Thanks so much,

For only 4 years experience, you've certainly learned a lot. Most people come nowhere near that in a few years. Both medications are supposed to be safe, but the Parasite Guard has other active ingredients in it. I don't like to use any more than necessary, so I'd probably go with the Prazipro.

The copper does pose a problem. I've tried to find a product that will remove it, but those made for regular copper sulfate don't do the trick with chelated copper. Carbon doesn't remove it, either. Water changes seem to be the best method. and that will cause symptoms in your fish. I suppose you'll have to decide if you want to continue CopperSafe withe very water change, or if you want the fish to suffer with symptoms until you can get the copper out. I had another thought, too. You could set up a hospital tank. It doesn't even need to be an actual tank. a RubberMaid tote will work, too. That would have its own set of problems because you'd have to deal with cycling. You'll have to think it all over and decide on which option will work best for you.

Anna and other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
What a
Only two words of what you posted came through.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
See that. Grrr! Switching to PC.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Keep trying to reply. Will have another go.


I'm keeping an eye out.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Seems blocked. Will try again.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.



I have a 20 and a 10-gallon plus four five-gal. buckets without fry. Problem is I've only got one medium filter and eight 6-inch fish. Even if I break out the clove oil for fry I only get a 10-gallon internal.


So, how about a 75% water change? My fry do just fine with a handful of gravel so bio-load will likely not be a problem.


Thanks again,


What an ordeal that was for you to post.

That sounds like a good solution. The only reason I didn't recommend a massive water change was concern about the bio-load.

You're welcome, Lisa, and thank you, too. Your problem was quite a challenge, and I hope we finally hit the nail on the head. If you need anything else, you can always come back and re-open the question. I wish you success with treatment.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I'll keep you posted ;-) In the meantime, happy to pay for specifics but would love to join a site for enthusiasts. Any suggestions? You can friend me if that's easier. I've obviously caught the bug!


Lisa Rukeyser Burn

Sorry, Lisa, but JustAnswer doesn't allow any contact between experts and customers other than on this site. There are so many fish forums out there, I hardly know where to start, but here are a few:

There are also a lot of Yahoo groups. You can take a look here to see if any interest you:

There's no need to rate this answer - if you do, you'll be charged a second time. Just didn't want you to have any surprises.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thx very much. Sounds perfect. Take care.

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