Although unpleasant, discussing disease with any animal is an important part of pet ownership. Knowing what to look for and what to do will (in the long run) keep everyone healthy and happy. Before we get into the cichlid diseases, make sure you have a back-up plan in the form of an aquarium that you will use for quarantine purposes. This is most important as sick cichlids will need to be placed away from the other cichlids (kind of like a hospital).
Here are the top 4 cichlid diseases to watch out for:
1. Cotton Wool Disease (fungal infection) can be identified by erratic swimming, damaged fins,
coating of the scales (grayish in color) and patching in the gill area.
Cotton Wool Disease can be easily prevented by simple tank cleaning and maintenance. Make sure all foods (and carcasses if any) are removed and the aquarium is kept clean.
Cotton Wool Disease is contagious so quarantining will be necessary and your cichlid moved as soon as possible.
2. Hexamita ("hole in the head") can be identified by weight loss, appetite loss and indentations in
the head area (hence the term "hole in the head"). The best preventative is proper diet and good water quality. If you suspect Hexamita, immediately quarantine your cichlid (when in doubt; separate).
3. Swim Bladder Disease is a disease that interferes with buoyancy. This disease will cause your cichlid to swim erratically at or near the top of the aquarium. The # 1 cause of this cichlid disease is poor diet or over feeding (which can and often does cause bloating and gas).
4. Cichlid Fish Tuberculosis is the worst of the worst when it comes to cichlid diseases! Cichlid tuberculosis can destroy (wipe out) an entire population very quickly! This is highly contagious and symptoms of this highly contagious cichlid disease include loss of appetite (which is a sign of most cichlid diseases) and especially a stomach that is sunk in. If you notice (or even suspect) these, quarantine your cichlid immediately and if another aquarium is available, quarantine the other cichlids as well until the situation is under control!
It's unfortunate, but ALL life gets sick from time to time and the real secret is knowing how to identify the problem and then what to do. Always remember that the # 1 prevention of sickness and disease is in fact knowledge. without it, you'll never know what to look for or how to treat it. To your happy cichlids!