Arowana Injuries, Diseases, & Treatments

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Wiggles92

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Cloudy Eyes

This ailment can be caused by an eye injury as a result of bad handling as well as contaminated water.

Symptoms:
Initially, one eye may appear cloudy then become moldy as if a membrane is hanging over it. Eventually, the eyes may swell and get covered with bluish-white foreign matter; blindness or death may result if the arowana is not treated at this stage.

Treatment:
  1. At the initial stage, 1/3 of the water should be changed, and salt should be added. Water temperature should be increased to 30-33°C (86-91°F).
  2. Observe the arowana for 2 days.
  3. If condition improves, water should be changed every third day (1/4 of water) and more salt may be added until complete recovery.
  4. At the intermediate stage, medications may be needed in order to treat the condition; such medications will have their own instructions that need to be followed for proper treatment.
  5. Medication may be stopped or reduced if the swelling subsides.
  6. Recovery may take three to five months if the arowana's eyes have become moldy. After recovery, the eyes may appear smaller, but they should be at their normal size.
 

Wiggles92

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What Is Drop-Eye, and How Can You Prevent It?

To start off, I want to state that drop-eye is not a disease because it can't be spread or caught. Drop-eye is the condition that causes an arowana's eye(s) to look down. Some arowanas get very light DE, e.g. the eye is slightly angled down, while there are some very extreme cases in which the eye looks as if it will fall out at any given second.

There is currently nothing that can prevent or cure DE. The only "cure" is to put your arowana in a huge pond, but this procedure has not been proven and may not work considering that wild arowanas have DE too. It has also been said that floating ping pong balls in your aquarium will solve DE as your arowana will look up at them. However, your arowana will be interested in the balls for all of 10 seconds and will then go back to doing what it always does; it might even be hazardous if you have a big arowana that can swallow the ping pong ball. In short, there are no proven cures for DE as of now.

Which Arowanas Are Most Prone to Drop-Eye?
  • Silver Arowana: The silver arowana is the first arowana that people think of when DE is mentioned. There has yet to be a picture of a silver arowana without DE over 20", and DE typically starts developing after the arowana hits 16".
  • Jardini & Leichardti Arowanas: Jardinis and Leichardtis are both Australian arowanas; they are not the same species but will be grouped together for this post. Jars & Leis do not develop DE as often as silver arowanas, but the majority of them do after hitting 16"-18".
  • Asian Arowana: The Asian arowana has a very low chance of getting DE. DE typically only occurs in bigger Asian arowanas (24" or larger), and is rarely, if ever, found in a smaller Asian arowana.
  • African Arowana: African arowanas cannot or will rarely ever get DE. There has yet to be a photograph of an African arowana with DE.
  • Black Arowanas: Like the African arowana, the black arowana cannot or will rarely ever get DE. To my knowledge, there are few, if any, photographs of black arowanas with DE.
What Causes DE?
So here's the important question: If there are no cures for DE, then what causes it? There is no definite proof as of now to answer this question as we still have no idea what causes DE, but we do have many theories.

Below is a list of the most common myths & beliefs on how DE is formed. There are probably many more beliefs & myths, but there are far too many of them thus only the most common ones will be listed. I will refer to each belief by number after listing them.

Beliefs:
  1. DE is caused by excess fat.
  2. DE is caused by head trauma.*
  3. DE is the result of tank reflection.
  4. DE is caused by strong light.
  5. DE is the result of the arowana looking down.
  6. DE is caused by genetics.
Meaning:
  1. DE is caused by an arowana eating too many fatty foods, e.g. feeder goldfish. As a result, the fat builds up behind the eye and pushes it down thereby causing DE.
  2. DE is caused by an arowana hitting the sides of the aquarium too hard. The trauma and/or shock from the impact loosens the eye from its socket, and the aro develops DE as a result.
  3. DE is caused by the aquarium reflecting light. The light reflects into the arowana's eyes and causes DE.
  4. DE is caused by strong lights. The arowana is bothered by the light thus it has to look in a different direction, so it looks down and DE develops.
  5. DE is caused by an arowana looking down. Regardless of the cause (light, food, etc.), when the arowana looks down, it starts to get used to this behavior and eventually this behavior becomes permanent thus it develops DE.
  6. DE is caused by genetics.
What Doesn't Makes Sense?
  1. If DE is caused by fatty foods, then why do only some arowanas get it? Why can't we prevent DE by feeding lean foods if it is caused by excess fat buildup? Why don't black arowanas or African arowanas get DE even if you feed them feeders?
  2. If DE is caused by head trauma, then why would Asian arowanas be less prone to developing it than silver arowanas? Why would they have DE in the wild if there is really nothing for them to ram their head into in the wild?
  3. If DE is caused by light reflections going into the eye, then why can't it be cured by simply turning off all the lights and not letting any light get to the arowana?
  4. If DE is caused by the arowana looking in a different direction due to lights, then why can't we just cure it by turn off all lights and wrapping the tank in black?
  5. If an arowana gets DE by looking down, then why can't we just take away all factors that make it look down?
  6. If DE is caused by genetics, what makes most, if not all, silver arowanas get DE while only a selected number of Asian arowanas able to get DE?
What Makes Sense?
  1. When you think about it, when humans gain weight, they get bigger and bulkier. If an arowana worked the same way, then there could be fat build up behind the eyes thus pushing them out.
  2. As popularized by movies, someone gets hit in the back of the head, and their eyes come pop out, so this may also apply with an arowana when the arowana rams into the tank glass. This would also explain why silver arowanas and Australian arowanas are more prone to developing DE than Asian arowanas. Consider the fact that silver arowanas and Australian arowanas are skittish arowanas and will dart when they get scared (which is very often) and is not surprising if they hit the side of the aquarium when they dart; Asian arowanas are more calm and do not get scared as easily thus this behavioral difference explains why Asian arowanas are less prone to DE. African arowanas are the calmest out of the arowanas which means that they will rarely dart into the side of the aquarium thus they rarely ever have head trauma.
  3. Lights are harmful, especially to the naked eye. If human eyes can be hurt by light, the arowana eyes might also be the same.
  4. It is a basic reaction that you either block your eyes from it or move your eyes elsewhere when something is shot at your eye. Arowanas have nothing that can shield their eyes, so they would need to look elsewhere.
  5. Humans have habits and so do fish. If we start to slouch for a long period of time, then we will become accustomed to it; the same can be said for an arowana looking down.
  6. Genetics would explain why silver arowanas are very prone to DE while black arowanas are virtually immune to it even though they are closely related. This would also prove why you cannot prevent or cure DE.
 

Wiggles92

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Parasites

Most of these parasites are transmitted to the arowana from the live food that they are fed. The two parasites that most commonly affect arowanas are fish lice and anchor worms.

Fish Lice:
Fish lice are approximately 3-5 mm long and can be seen with the naked eye on the external body. They have a flattened body (shell) and have a needle-like structure for a mouth. Said needle-like structure is used to suck out the body fluid of the fish which causes the fish to lose its luster while also causing the fish to be uncomfortable; the fish may scrape the side of the aquarium or the substrate in an effort to ease its discomfort.

Anchor Worm:
The head of the anchor worm is forked, and it sucks the nutrients directly from the fish; these worms are around 1 cm in length. Anchor worms are mainly found around the fins or within the body of the fish; the affected region is often red & swollen with traces of blood, and decay may occur in the affected area if the fish is not treated. An affected fish may appear to be irritable and may scrape and rub against the sides of the aquarium; it may also lose its appetite.

Treatment:
The previously mentioned parasites can be killed by using copper sulfate medications. Fish lice can also be eliminated of by keeping the arowana in a concentrated salt solution; oxygen content should be increased in the aquarium during this soaking period. Please note that the aquarium must be sterilized once the arowana has been infected by parasites in order to remove any other parasites that may be in the aquarium.
 

Wiggles92

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Protruding Scales Disease

This disease often occurs when the arowana is young, and adult arowana seldom are affected by this disease.

Cause:
Extreme temperature changes as well as contaminated water can cause this disease.

Symptoms:
Initial stage- Scales tilt at every 5th to 8th scale. Blood traces may be seen at the root of scales. If not arrested at this stage, scales will gradually tilt, redness may appear and the scales will not be able to protect body causing bacteria attacks to the body of the Dragon Fish. The scales may all drop off causing the body to decay and the fish to die.

Treatment:
  1. Add salt and increase the water temperature to 32-34°C (90-93°F); be sure to also increase the oxygen content of the water.
  2. Change 1/4 of the water every 3 to 4 days; be sure to match the water temperature to that of the water in the aquarium.
  3. Add copper sulfate medication to the water.
 

Wiggles92

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"Red Spots" Disease

This disease is often regarded as a terminal disease, and it mostly affects young fishes.

Symptoms:
Red spots occur on the lower back portion of the body. Patches of red spots form during the early stages and swelling will develop as the disease progresses; late on, the scales become upturned. Finally, the fish may slowly rot to death if it does not receive treatment.

Treatment:
Try increasing the water temperature to 36°C (~97°F) and add the proper medications to the water as well.
 

Wiggles92

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Rotting Gills Disease

This highly contagious disease is caused by a parasite that cannot be seen by the naked eye. These parasites hide in the gills and suck & absorb nutrients from the arowana, and the cells of these parasites multiply rapidily at 25°C (77°F).

Cause:
This disease can be caused by polluted water or water that has not been changed for a long period of time.

Symptoms:
Symptoms include rapid breathing & dull coloration.

Treatment:
  1. 1% salt & 0.8 grams of Quinine in every liter of water; use a commercial preparation that is sold in aquarium shops.
  2. Increase the water temperature by 2-3°C (~3-6°F) and increase the oxygen levels in the aquarium.
  3. The arowana should be fed nutritious food during treatment in order to build up its physical resistance.
  4. Upon recovery, it is advisable to disinfect the entire aquarium.
 

Wiggles92

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Stomach Ailments

This condition tends to occur when fish is very young and is mainly due to eating stale food and can also be caused by an injury to the internal wall of the stomach.

Symptoms:
Initial symptoms include a swollen stomach and a red swollen anal region. Advanced symptoms include a loss of balance that results in the arowana dipping its head downward.

Treatment:
Commercially available fish medications may be given; water changes and an increase in temperature by 2-3°C (~3-6°F) are also recommended.
 

Wiggles92

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Tilted (Overturned) Gill Covers

Cause:
This condition can be caused by fouled water which results from rotting food particles and excretions. The strong presence of ammonia (NH[SUB]3[/SUB]), nitrite (NO[SUB]2[/SUB][SUP]-[/SUP]) and nitrate (NO[SUB]3[/SUB][SUP]-[/SUP]) can reduce the content of oxygen in the water.

Space constraint:
The arowana is needs plenty of nutrition & space while it is growing, or the gill covers may be affected and may tilt over.

Change in temperature:
The water in the aquarium should always be maintained at a stable temperature as the sensitive gills of the arowana can be affected when there are large temperature swings.

Symptoms:
Initially, the movement of the gill covers is irregular and breathing becomes abnormal. Next, the gill covers may become concave, and the edge may curl upwards causing the gills to be exposed in the water. Finally, the fish will constantly push its head up to the surface for air and will lose its appetite; this means the internal gills have become damaged and may even be infected with bacteria which affects the arowana's ability to breath which can lead to death.

Treatment:
  1. Initial stage:
    1. Perform a 20% water change immediately as well as every two to three days.
    2. Increase the oxygen levels in the water and add coral sand to the filter media.
  2. Secondary Stage (slight gill cover curl):
    1. Follow the previous steps as well as create a strong current. There may be 50% chance of a cure without the need to operate.
  3. Final Stage (tilted & hardened gill cover):
    1. Surgery is required at this stage; it is recommended that you have a professional perform the surgery.
    2. If you are doing the surgery yourself, then you will need to acquire & sterilize scissors, surgical spirits, gloves, a plastic bag, a rubber sheet, and waterproof fine sandpaper.
    3. Transfer the arowana to a smaller aquarium that is filled 1/3 of the way full with water.
    4. Fill the bag with the water from the smaller aquarium and place the arowana in it.
    5. Administer anesthesia and ensure that the arowana is completely unconscious before operating; be sure to keep the arowana wet during the operation in order to avoid dehydration.
    6. Use the scissors to trim the edge of the gill covers; use the sandpaper to smooth the edges.
    7. Apply antiseptic medication to the edges; later on, reapply as need be in order to prevent infection.
    8. Turn off all the lights on the arowana's aquarium.
    9. Place the arowana back in its aquarium and allow it to regain consciousness.
    10. The operation is considered to be a success when the cut portion of the gill cover regrows properly.
 

Wiggles92

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"White Spots" Disease (Ich)

This disease is very common among fishes and is caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a.k.a ich, which is a species of protozoa; the affected region looks like white powder. It can multiply alarmingly fast and can go from a single cell to over 3000 cells in a hour when the fish has a body temperature of 25°C (77°F); at higher temperatures, it tends to stop multiplying and will eventually die off.

Cause:
Ich only attacks fishes with low resistance and is present in most aquariums thus is able to strike when the time is right.

Symptoms:
At initial stage, the disease mainly affects the fins. A fish that has been infected with this disease tends to scratch itself against the sides or bottom of the aquarium in an attempt ease the itch caused by the infection; its appetite will greatly deteriorate, and the fin ends may start to rot. Lastly, the fish may die if the infection spreads to the gills, and this illness should be stopped at once because it is highly contagious.

Treatment:
  1. 1% salt & 0.8 grams of Quinine in every liter of water; use a commercial preparation that is sold in aquarium shops.
  2. Increase the water temperature by 2-3°C (~3-6°F) and increase the oxygen levels in the aquarium.
  3. The arowana should be fed nutritious food during treatment in order to build up its physical resistance.
  4. Upon recovery, it is advisable to disinfect the entire aquarium.
 
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