View Full Version : Hole-in-the-head...Please help my beloved Oscar!

11-27-2005, 2:41 PM
Hello, it's been a long time since I posted here.

I am so worried about my pet Oscar. I am afraid he has HITH!
Oswald my Oscar has lived in a 29 gallon aquarium since he was about 4 inches long, I've had him for a bit over a year now and he seems to have matured to about 11 inches or so. Now he did fine the entire time, he has never been sick, he grew quite fast and was always a happy boy. But recently he has developed what I am positive of is Hole-in-the-head spots. It's definately not the Sensory pits that are often mistaken for HITH. Now before I get a critized for keeping an Oscar in a 29 gallon I must say that I got this advice from a excellent fish book. Not out of date and with the best information I have ever read about fish keeping. It's the simple guide to freshwater aquariums. It noted that ONE oscar and only ONE with no other living creatures can live in a 29 gallon for his whole life provided you change 50% of his water once or twice a week. And have a excellent filter. Now the author had much experience with Oscars and he knows what he is talking about--so I followed the simple guide's advice and I guess this is how it turned out--Oswald has hole in the head. :cry:

Here is my maintanance routine I do for his aquarium---
Every day- I feed him of course, Hikari brand Cichlid pellets... Actually I feed him twice a day usually. Usually he always gets a treat of Krill, shrimp pellets, or algae wafers every day. He ever has never lived consistantly on Pellets. He always gets variety very frequently...
He gets ZERO feeder fish but I do have a healthy stock of guppies that he occasionally gets a few fry but that is not a consistant food source either.

Twice weekly- a 30-50% water change with a gravel siphon of course. His filter is also cleaned about once a week or sometimes twice if it is very dirty.
Aquarium Temperature- 80-82 F consistant.
Sorry I just ran out of Ammonia tests. pH is about 7.6 or so.

Remember I have had him for about a year and half and he is by himself in a 29 gallon aquarium. He has a Whisper 30 power filter as well.

Please if anybody has any advice on treating HITH please help. I would prefer people whom have had experience in treating Oscars themselves please.
I will do all I can to help Oswald out. I am commited to my animals and only want the best for Oswald. :(

Thank you guys for any help.... If I knew how to post pictures I would try to get a pic of Oswald's head.
Thank you again....

Happy holidays.... ;)

11-27-2005, 3:18 PM
I'm going to disagree with the author and say go with a bigger tank. I have also heard and read that carbon may be a cause of HITH but I dont know if there is any truth in that. I believe that a lot of it is contributed to stress, and he may just be getting stressed somehow. My oscar developed HITH and the only way i can get it to heal (slowly) is move him to my 300 which has no carbon in the filtraton. You may even try to go with a bigger filter such as an AC 50 or something along those lines. I'm sure you will get replies better than mine, but good luck with your fish.

11-27-2005, 4:19 PM
try aquarium salt and take out any carbon,i would also look into getting atleast a 55g,but if you want to keep him in a 29g get a bigger filter

11-27-2005, 4:24 PM
i think the carbon thing is :bs:

11-27-2005, 5:28 PM
the fish would love a larger tank. take out carbon and try a medicine called CLOUT. i have had good luck with that in the past.

11-27-2005, 5:46 PM
when my oscar started to develop hole in the head i cut his food in half and only fed him the best food i could for awhile.. i had 2 in a 45 for awhile.. you might want to look into a bigger tank. because the water can foul much faster in that small area for that big animal.. you might be able to get by with a bigger filter, but my advice is any size bigger tank..

11-27-2005, 8:35 PM
Hello, thank you very much guys! The information was well appreciated!
I'll take out the carbon and be extra extra careful with feedings.
I really feel bad now for keeping him in a 29 gallon. He is a very big animal both in length and width. I do have a 55 gallon with a large Severum and two Tinfoil barbs, I thought about switching these fish around somehow so my Oscar could have their 55 gallon but I don't know what to do with the other fish. I should probably give away my Tinfoil barbs, I raised them since they were very small and now they are almost the size of my Oscar and I am kind of attatched to all of them so I don't know what to do. Would it be too much for my Oscar to live with the two Tinfoil barbs? I know I'm am probably right about it being too much of an overload. It's hard when you have cichlids, you get so attatched to their unique personalities and behavior.

Buy anyway, I am working on figuring out how to get him into my current 55 gallon that houses a large (about 6 inch) very territorial severum and two probably about 8-9 Tinfoil barbs. I know these fish can't all live together so I think somebody will have to go.........to the petstore...... :(

Thank you very much guys! I will look into all your suggestions........
Happy holidays~
Peaches~* :(

11-27-2005, 9:03 PM
Try doing a massive water change and dechlorinate your water with prime or someting that helps restore the fish's slime coat. And dechlorinate your water every water change.

11-28-2005, 5:52 PM
There is a thread in the "frequently asked questions" forum that will help walk you through posting a picture.
I have not had many fish develope HITH but from reading and past postings here it seems they have covered the treatment, It heals very slowly.
The main points were to try to get rid of stress from crowding, increase filtration, get rid of the carbon, keep up your water changes and use a good dechlorinator/conditioner every time (Amquel and Amquelplus are very good), keep up a high quality varied diet (possibly add garlic juice or a fish vitamin mix), be careful not to over feed, and possibly use CLOUT (I have not used it but I hear good things). I would also keep an eye on the ulcers for secondary infections and fungus, Iodine swabbed onto the ulcers early enough will stop most of those.

11-29-2005, 4:52 PM
Thank you all fellow aquarists! :grinyes:
Is Amquel best because it removes Ammonia? I do use water dechlorinator everytime I do a water change but I use Stresscoat. I always wonder if the Aloe vera ingredient in water conditioner is bad and very unnatural to the fish. But I guess any water conditioner all together probably puts Osmotic Stress anyway of some sort! But I know it is an absolutle must when changing and adding water.

I am so afraid of using a medication in the water. I have had so many problems when my Severum and Tinfoil barbs got ICH years ago (from heater failure) and they had a secondary infection from the ICH as well. I used medication and they are healed now but my water went cloudy like London streets and you couldn't see into but just a few inches. I knew it killed off the good bacteria and it took quite a while for everything to get straight and during that time I lost one of my dear little gold Severums.. These fish are highly prized and I almost feared the medication was worse than the ICH itself.
From what I have read, HITH is mainly a intestinal tract disease, so what good does medication in the water do? Would the medicated foods I've seen for HITH work better? My oscar eats his pellets but sometimes does have spurts of loss of appetite. Overall today Oswald is doing just fine, in pretty good spirits! :)

Would a 100 gallon aquarium be large enough for my Oscar, two 5-6 inch severums, and two tinfoil barbs? This is an idea I had for combining some of my bigger fish. Thanx for any input! Remember, water changes are like a ancient ritual for me!

Thank you all for your patience, time and help!!!!!!!!! You all are great! :headbang2

(sorry for all the off the main topic questions)

:stingray: Happy Holidays! :stingray:

11-30-2005, 11:15 AM
Hole in the Head often occurs in aquariums with under gravel filters, and sometimes in aquariums with canister filters, but rarely in aquariums with a BIO-Wheel filters.One large Oscar 8 inches in length needs at least 80 gallons of water hope this help HITH sucks

11-30-2005, 1:33 PM
I just saw a listing inthe Big Als catalogue for a product designed the take care of HITH, it is Jungle Hole in Head Guard, I have never used it but most Jungle products work pretty well.

11-30-2005, 2:38 PM
Straight up the oscar is showing stress from an inadequate tank.Your fish needs a bigger tank,can he even turn around in there?He doesnt need meds he needs a suitable environment.Sure an oscar can live his entire life in a 29gal tank except its going to be a short disease filled life. :swear:

As for the author of the book you have :nutkick:

Sorry to sound so angry but I love oscars and hate that so many get mistreated like this.

Go with your plan to get a 100g or so tank you know you want to :naughty:

12-01-2005, 3:21 PM
:thumbsup: i have to second gomezladdams as i said One large Oscar 8 inches in length needs at least 80 gallons of water and they do say 2 require 150 as i always say the biger the tank the easier it is to look after big fish require big tanks !!!!

12-01-2005, 10:17 PM
Thanks everybody!
I feel really guilty for keeping Oswald in a 29. I was mislead by bad info I guess. But why does the famous aquarist author suggest and recommend it? Maybe he doesn't know what he is talking about for real. I don't think 29's are good for a large bodied fish that needs room for exercise...

I don't want my big Oscar to be sick and miserable. I will do my best to get at least a 55-80- or (I wish) a 100 gallon aquarium. It's so much money though..I am not the wealthiest person.......But I will do something right away.
wHY DID THE AUTHOR SAY you can keep one in a 29?????????? It almost makes me mad thinking about it. He is a well-known aquarist and has written lots of stuff in fish care. Ohhh.......... Maybe I should have been the one to be blamed for? I should have known. I don't really have the money and space right now for a new 80-100 gallon aquarium even though I would love that more than anything for my Oscar. But would a 55 gallon be OK? Say if he was the only fish in there? What sort of filter should I have? Extra large HOB filters? How many and what percentage of water changes should be made in a 55 gallon with one Oscar?

I only want the best for all my animals........ :confused:
Peaches~ ;)

12-01-2005, 11:47 PM
a 55g would be fine for 1 oscar and for a filter a aquaclear 70 would be good,i would do a 25-30% water change a week

12-02-2005, 1:33 AM
Ok lets try and save Oswald!!! I'm quoting Dr. G. Bassleer author of "Colorguide of tropical fish diseases", D. Untergasser author of "Handbook of Fish Diseases" and a few more I won't reference here. Hole-in-the-head disease is caused by a flagellated parasite found in the intestinal tract. When a mass infection occurs the parasite spreads over the whole body. The holes in the head can only be found in the adult Oswald, cuz the young could not stand the mass infection and thus are dead already. HitH are usually caused by an accumulation of factors which affect the lateral line organ; bad water conditions, unbalance diet and parasites. As a result, holes from which worm-like dots of rotten tissue could protrude, are formed in the lateral lining in the head area. Signs related to this disease maybe dark body color, emaciation and white stringy excrements. With advanced infection, reddish or pale patches on the skin may be formed, and secondary bacterial infections may occur.
When treating HitH, better results can be obtained with metronidazole. We can administer the dose in the food or mix it directly with the aquarium water, if Oswald has no appetite.
to be continued...

12-02-2005, 1:55 AM
Saving Oswald!!!
To control secondary bacterial infection, use anti-bacterial drugs like Nitrofurazone.
Metronidazole (FLAGYL) is used as a long bath in the already setup aquarium. the tablets are crushed and first dissolved in luke-warm water, then distributed over the surface of the water in the aquarium. The temperature can be raised to 30-33 degrees celcius to support the treatment. After 3 days , change 1/3 the of the water and gradually lower the temperature. Put new carbon in the filter to remove the remaining drug.
Or u can administer in feed. Crush a 250 mg tablet of metronidazole into powder. Opps this is too complicated. Lets just forget this part.

P.S. Hole in the head has been attributed by cichlid breeders to be associated by the use of activated carbon. They claim that the problem is avoided when they deleted activated carbon from their filter. I believe the carbon traps the parasite until they multiple enuff to escape and infest the whole tank!!!

Good luck i hope Oswald will be ok!!!

12-02-2005, 2:14 AM
Oh u may not be able to get metronidazole (Flagyl trade name use in women to treat yeast infections) in ur country. It maybe only availiable by prescription from ur vet. or if u have a nice family doctor. I get it in canada cuz I'm a Pharmacist.
I would be happy to mail u some, but Oswald will probably not survive that long.

Don't let the guys bother u about the tank size now. U just have to increase Oswalds effective volume of water. U can use a make-shift sump but not under the tank!!! Got get the biggest rubbermaid garbage container u can get. Drill a hole slightly under the rim of the container thats the top. Now place this container slightly ABOVE ur tank. Run a hose from the hole in the top of the container into ur tank. Now cut another lenght of tubing put one end into the container and the other end of the tube attach a powerhead. Put the power head into the main tank, plug it in. Now water will flow from ur main tank into the container located above the tank. Over flow from the container should now flow back to the tank from the container. SO IN fact this will increase Oswalds volume by the volume of the container. this should be fine till u save the money for a bigger tank....
Again good luck!!!

12-02-2005, 12:09 PM
Most excellent ideas from you all! thanks!
What I am really striving for now is to somehow get him into my resident 55 gallon. The problem is--it already has 1 large severum, 2 big tinfoil barbs, and one striped river catfish. This seems to be the obvious thing to do for him. I am wondering if he will get over his HITH by extra clean water and the addition of vitamins to his food? Should I feed medicated foods designed for HITH? Medicated foods seem better because from what I've read HITH is mainly an intestinal tract infection of some sort like that.
I wish I knew what to do with my current severum and tinfoil barbs, they themselves have almost outgrown their aquarium! :eek: I am really attached to them all and dread the fact that the best thing to do is to take them to the petstore. :cry: Most of the petstores around my area seem to neglect their fish half the time. One petshop once had all their angelfish infected with fungus, so much that one of poor angel's tail was completely eaten away by infection. No sign was posted either that these fish were sick or not for sale. It was sad...And I fear that's how they'll treat my fish if I take them there. :cry:

*If I could get just an 80 gallon that would be perfect. Lots of turn around room too..... :grinyes: Is it Ok for an 80 gallon to be run by a HOB power filter? Or does that size of a tank need a canister or something?


12-02-2005, 2:45 PM
Hiya peaches, sometimes even a knowledgable source can make a typo or an error and not catch it before printing, Chicken Teeth's idea about the sump sounds good as a solution until you get a bigger tank. I know they are a bit hard to find but a 50g tall or a 50g long is a better choice than the 55g standard, they are 36"x 18"x 17" and 48"x 18"x 13" instead of the 55g's 48"x 12 1/2"x 21", the extra 5 1/2" in width is good for larger fish like your oscar.
HOB filters work fine though they have less room for biomedia than do canisters, I use more than one on larger tanks and like the gph to be 3-4 times the tank capacity. I remove the charcoal from the filter pack and replace it with either filter batting or small pieces of lava rock for a little more growth space for the bacteria. Using two or more HOBs also lets me alternate which one I clean so it helps keep the water parameters stable.

12-05-2005, 1:13 PM
Thank you Guppy and everybody else...... Friday I attempted to move my oscar into my current established 55 gallon. It was quite a procedure, first I moved my Striped River catfish into another 30 gallon of mine so he would be safe from the Oscar... Then I moved my big severum out of the 55 into a 5 gallon bucket as a holding area until I can swap the Oscar to the 55 and the Severum to the Oscar's 29 gal. I worked for about 3 hours trying to catch fish. When I finally got around to trying to scoop my Oscar up in a 1 gallon pitcher.... That's when it got bad. I carefully had the pitcher aimed at him in the tank, I slowly pushed him into a corner to try and herd him into the pitcher (didn't have a net big enough), as I expected and dreaded, Oswald panicked--- flipped this way and that and nearly jumped completely out of his aquarium, he scraped his whole side on the edge frame of the tank in his attempt to get away. I stopped there and gave up. This just wasn't going to work out. He was too stressed and I think my pitcher was really too small. Luckily now, with a 50% water change and a dose of Melafix, Oswald's wound healed nicely and he is back to normal. My Severum was put back into his 55 gallon and now I don't know what to do.
How do you move large Oscar without hurting him really badly? Is an extra large net like a Koi net best? My petstore does carry them. I fear trying to move him again, he got so battered because he was so scared. I wish I knew of a better way. And also, is it worth even adding him to my 55 gallon because without the Severum and Catfish of course he would still live with two large Tinfoil barbs. Does this amount of fish put the same bioload as if he was alone in his 29 gal and would it even be worth it? I hope this makes some sense. Trust me, I would get him a huge tank, but I really can't afford it right now.

I heard early stages of Hole in the head can be cured by the addition of Vitamins in their diet. Where do you get these fish vitamins? Or does he need a good quality high nutrition pellet? He already eats Hikari Gold cichlid pellets.


12-07-2005, 5:20 PM
sound like youre having a lot of trouble : to catch him remove all ornaments from the tank drain down the water so hes got a inch of water above him and use a large net to catch him do it slow with the lights off in the room to if u can- transfer him to a large tub or bucket dont carry him in the net he could flop right out or worse .addresing the hith although hikari is the best add some liquid vitamines to his pellets for a week
and once a week for weekly mantances that combined with the other great info posted here should cure your hith problem be patient its a long process there are a few articles on the net regauaarding hith and vitamins and your oscar

12-07-2005, 5:25 PM
i belive bigalonline.com has liquid vitamines for fish i use vitamines from the health store with all natural base additives crushed and added to his pellets i make my own or add water to the powder and soak the pellats drying well under a heat lamp good luck.........

12-07-2005, 8:55 PM
Thank you very much Fishnut!!!! My Oscar is actually faring quite well.... I have been changing 50% of his water every other day or so until I can manage to move him to a bigger tank. I will look for those liquid vitamins right away on Bigal's.com.........

I must say I don't think I've ever had so many people be so very helpful and patient with my problem. Thank you all very much!

:asianarow Merry Christmas! :asianarow
~Peaches ;)

ps: will update soon..... :thumbsup:

12-09-2005, 4:27 PM
Plastic trash bags work well for quick transfers or fisk like oscars, you can scoop up the fish and however much water as it takes then just return the unwanted water back into the tank, you also don't risk the fish jumping out like with nets and buckets.

12-12-2005, 12:20 AM
Well, I have tried Aquarium Pharm. Anti-parasite medicated food for my Oscar. Since it contains Metronidazole which seems to be the most recommended treatment medication. It specifically says it treats HITH and works wonderful and all that lovely stuff :screwy: .... Well, it says to spread the food across the surface and magically watch your fish gobble it up. LOL (just kidding) I knew my big Oscar wouldn't eat the tiny pellets so I hide a couple inside a canned cricket... dropped it in his tank, he gobbled it up, blew cricket juice everywhere.. :confused: And spit out the pellet. I tried three times to hide the medicated pellets mashed into crickets. I hid the pellets well. But he always managed to sort out the cricket from the pellet in his throat and, everytime after blowing cricket juice he would spit out the pellets. Smart boy he is. But now what do I do? I guess extra water changes and ensuring an excellent diet is best for now until I Manage to get him in at least a 55 gallon or 75gal (I wish) :drool:

If I can figure out what to do with my big Severum and two tinfoil barbs, there is a established 55 gallon right there for him. Even only several feet from his tank! I dread the idea of giving up my fish to the horrid pestore!

Anyways, Tanks a lot you all! :headbang2 Nobody has to bother with replying back to me. I am basically just babbling on about my problems.....

Happy holidays~

12-12-2005, 12:46 AM
You could try powdering a couple pellets and mixing them into some minced beefheart.

12-12-2005, 7:02 PM
this works for my O he loves krill so i dry it real well and cover it with Gel - Tek ultra cure px
and hand feed him sucks them right in, i feed him as much as he can handle since this is a gel he most likly will get 50% into him and i'm persistent on the vitamin thing oscars suffer from vitamin loss in closed sytems something is missing from their diet that they get in the wild sadly not enough is known about oscars and their feeding habits in the wild and high nitrates contribute to hith problems

12-13-2005, 4:20 PM
Thank you for the advice....I will try tricking him again into eating his medication. I hope I don't overdose. The directions don't mention anything about the AMOUNT you are supposed to feed but to just sort of--feed it.

And I will certainly try giving him a vitamin supplement. Strange how people don't know an wild Oscar's natural feeding behavior in nature. You'd think that would be well studied. It's just another thing we don't know yet.....

Updates soon :thumbsup:

12-13-2005, 4:27 PM
my friend i think you might want to try this, its an antiparasite food

and buy a vitamin suppliment called "Vita-chem"

add it too the food as well

i dont think there a recommended dose( for the food that is) for this.

just like anyother food with an added benifit

so fed till his heart contents :thumbsup:

12-13-2005, 4:32 PM
you fish shouldnt refuse this

the secret ingerdient is garlic which destroys and controls parasite

and garlic is a well know flavor and appitite enhancer :woot:

12-13-2005, 5:19 PM
you fish shouldnt refuse this

the secret ingerdient is garlic which destroys and controls parasite

and garlic is a well know flavor and appitite enhancer :woot:

from what i unstand ubout garlic it is thought to be a preventive and could elimate some parasites but there is no postive prove of this ---no harm in using it though love the stuff myself and use it in my diy food if you know of some info correct me if i'm wrong i would love to be educated on it

12-13-2005, 5:30 PM
from what i unstand ubout garlic it is thought to be a preventive and could elimate some parasites but there is no postive prove of this ---no harm in using it though love the stuff myself and use it in my diy food if you know of some info correct me if i'm wrong i would love to be educated on it

your right

i wasent spcific on that part, some but not all but i think HITH is one of them

12-14-2005, 2:10 PM
Thank you DeLgAdO! I will look into this food......

Does anybody know if a Osar could live in a well-filtered 55 gallon with either one almost equally sized Severum OR two large tinfoil barbs. What size tank should I have for my Barbs? They are probaly like 8 inches and very crowded in my 55 gal, and the worst part is they are nipped and chased by my Severum. And they are so big they can't hardly get away like a smaller fish could. I know I should probably just give them away to the pet shop but how I dread this! :(



12-14-2005, 2:26 PM
Thank you DeLgAdO! I will look into this food......

Does anybody know if a Osar could live in a well-filtered 55 gallon with either one almost equally sized Severum OR two large tinfoil barbs. What size tank should I have for my Barbs? They are probaly like 8 inches and very crowded in my 55 gal, and the worst part is they are nipped and chased by my Severum. And they are so big they can't hardly get away like a smaller fish could. I know I should probably just give them away to the pet shop but how I dread this! :(



your oscar and will be ok in a 55 given he is by himself ( i suppose the severum could be in their too)

tinfoils should have much swimming space to move around as their not designed to just hover of move slow like the oscar or severum

at least 180 gallons

02-28-2006, 10:04 PM
i think carbon is the worst thing to use in any tank. you have gotten great advice,but i know one trick left for you to try.its called mirical mud...by ecosystemaquarium.com..i use it in my discus tank.i have been using it for a couple of years now and wouldnt go without it..my discus had hole in head to the size of a pea..i first treated with hexamit,as directed..with intensive care.on first and third treatments.then i added the mirical mud...not only did it stop but i had complete reversal..now my babys are unscared!! and they are breeding in 8.2 water! i dont use a reefugium,by same comp. i just put it along the back of the tank..works great after the filter cleared the water...i still havent had to change it ,it is good for 3 years.every so often just loosen it up,with your fingers..and you wont ever have this problum agien.good luck :thumbsup: