We lost our first discus

Last Monday night, Sarah and I lost our first discus. It was Lloyd, one of our favorites. We’re pretty bummed.

Lloyd had been sickly from almost the time we got him last August at 2.5 inches, but he was feisty and full of personality. His symptoms were stringy poo, hiding and lack of appetite. When he first started showing symptoms, we dosed with Metronidazole. It was before we really knew much about discus health and it didn’t help.

I then posted on Simply Discus and after getting some useful feedback from the board we decided to try Angel Plus De-worming flake. We were also informed that all of our fish were stunted and probably wouldn’t grow. We didn’t see worms expelled during the treatment, but we chalked that up to the fact that we were treating in a planted display tank. The treatment seemed to increase all of our guys appetites. Lloyd still wasn’t growing as fast as his siblings and we noticed that his coloring was much more developed than the other pigeon bloods in our tank.

Some time after that we noticed ongoing flashing behavior around bedtimes and some gill clamping in all of our discus. We were afraid to use strong medicines, so we decided to give PraziPro a try. We did two weeks of 3 days on/4 days off treatment. During each day of the “on” portion we did a large water change and re-dosed our big display tank. The discus all looked really bad and didn’t eat during “on” days, but the clamped gills went away in a day and they were ravenous whenever we got to the “off days”.

We noticed a big improvement in Lloyd. He went back to being bossy and fighting with everyone and he ate much more aggressively than he ever had before. He was as expanded as we’d ever seen him, so we felt really great! He hadn’t really grown much at all, so it was kind of cute to see him trying to fight with his much larger siblings.

Unfortunately, over the course of a few months he slowly began to go back to being clamped, hiding and not eating. Finally, about two weeks ago, we decided to move him to a hospital tank. He hadn’t been eating at all for about a week and really spent all of his time hiding. We bought a new 10 gallon tank, stuck it right in our living room and moved him there. We weren’t sure what to do and we really don’t want to deal with medication more than we have to, so we just raised the temperature and added salt at 1 tbsp/gallon. We did 90% water changes every day and turkey basted out the worm-like poo he expelled once in a while. We fed him a few colorbits a few times a day and he seemed to be getting a little bit better. He wouldn’t touch any other food but colorbits. As the days passed he seemed to be hiding less and he seemed less clamped. Unfortunately, he was still only eating a few colorbits a day.

After a week in the hospital tank, we decided to stop the salt and try PraziPro again. I know that it’s best not to medicate without knowing exactly what you are treating. At the same time, we really didn’t want to risk strong medications and we had had great results with PraziPro, so we went for it. We figured that it was safe enough that it was worth trying before moving onto something more dangerous. I also made the unfortunate decision to double dose, because I had read some threads on SD about people trying that to combat really strong fluke infestations.

Things went ok for the first two days of treatment. Lloyd stopped eating, but we weren’t concerned as we had seen that behavior before during “on” days of treatment. I started getting hopeful that Lloyd would start being back to his old self this morning, the first “off” day of the latest treatment. He started hiding a bit after yesterday’s water change, but I wasn’t concerned. It didn’t seem much different that how he had been behaving.

Then last Monday, while watching TV, Sarah expressed concern that Lloyd seemed to be hiding in an uncomfortable position behind the sponge filter in his tank. I wasn’t concerned. Maybe an hour after she spoke, I saw him swim out from behind the filter for a few moments, before he returned to his little hiding spot. Sarah checked on him once more an hour or so later and he was gone.

I did a 50% wc on our display tank at the same time as I changed the water in the hospital tank, so I don’t think there was anything toxic in the water. At this point, I’m not really sure if:

  • Our treatment extended his life for a few weeks, but he was going to pass anyway.
  • Double dosing the PraziPro was toxic to him and killed him.
  • We were negligent in not trying something more powerful.

Considering the fact that he was still at around 3 inches while his siblings are over 5 inches, and the fact that he never really ate aggressively, I tend to believe that he just wasn’t going to make it. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better.

To be honest, we started out raising poor stock juveniles in a planted tank with our only previous fish keeping experience being raising goldfish a decade ago. As we learned about what it takes to raise discus successfully, we accepted the reality that there was a good chance that none of our fish would make it and we would have to look at this as a learning experience. Seven months into the process, I think we started to get a bit more cocky about things. This was a bit of a wake-up call.

I’m sure future passing’s won’t affect me as much, but this was pretty sad.