Like all fish, cichlids are going to be susceptible to various types of diseases. Some of them are more problematic than others.
If your cichlid appears to have hole in the head disease, it’s not something you’ll want to ignore. If left alone, the fish could easily die.
What is hole in the head disease? Is this something that you can treat and help the fish to get better?
Read on to learn about this condition so that you can know what to do for your fish. It’ll help you to make the right decisions when your fish show signs of being sick.
What Is Hole in the Head Disease?
Hole in the head disease is actually a very common type of freshwater fish disease. It can impact many different types of cichlids.
It’s a condition that is said to be caused by a parasite known as Hexamita. Some people even refer to this condition as Hexamita because of the parasite.
This parasite infects the intestinal tract of the fish. It will then spread to various other parts of the body such as the kidneys, spleen, and abdominal cavity.
Eventually, the disease gets worse and you’ll see lesions start to appear on the heads of the fish. This is why the disease is called “hole in the head” disease.
You’ll see these lesions open up, and they will look unsightly. You might even notice white threads that have parasitic larvae in them.
It’s pretty common for fish to die when they get this disease. They actually wind up dying due to secondary infections, though.
When the lesions open up, they’re going to open the way for other types of bacteria to infect the cichlids. If you don’t act fast, your fish could wind up perishing fairly soon after the lesions start opening up.
What Are the Symptoms of Hole in the Head Disease?
There are many symptoms of hole in the head disease that you can look out for. You already learned about the lesions that appear on the head.
They can also appear along the lateral line of the fish. These lesions will become larger over time if you ignore the issue.
Fish will stop wanting to eat when things start getting bad. Your cichlids might become sluggish as well.
Severe infection can and will kill your fish. This is why it’s imperative to take action as soon as you recognize that there is a problem.
If you’re a proactive fish owner, it’ll be more likely that you’ll notice the signs early. You might even notice that your fish seems unwell before you spot any lesions.
How to Treat Hole in the Head Disease
Treating hole in the head disease is easiest when you catch things early. The treatment plans will be designed to rid the fish of the Hexamita parasite that causes the condition.
Before doing anything else, you should know that it’s recommended to treat sick fish in a separate tank. This method is often called putting fish in a quarantine tank.
Set up a second tank for the sick fish and put them in there when it’s ready. This allows you to treat all of the sick fish without having to impact any other fish that might be in the tank.
If all of the fish in the main tank are sick, it isn’t necessarily something you need to worry about. The idea is to try to keep the sick fish from spreading the disease to uninfected fish.
Typically, fish owners will give cichlids antibiotic treatments to try to get rid of the infection. You want to treat the water in the tank so that all of the fish can receive treatment.
It’s also going to be important to closely monitor the water quality during this time. You want to keep the water parameters right where they need to be for the cichlids.
Keep the fish as healthy as you can by giving them high-quality meals. During this time, it’d be wise to give them more meaty foods than usual to try to keep their strength up.
Of course, you’ll be feeding the fish appropriate food based on what type of cichlids you’re caring for. If you do a good job looking after the fish, they should be able to recover and get back to normal.
Can This Disease Be Prevented?
It would absolutely be better to prevent your fish from having to deal with Hexamita at all. Fish are more likely to get infected with this parasite if they’re stressed.
Cichlids become stressed when there are problems in the fish tank. The water might be too dirty or you might not be feeding the fish well.
Even forcing the fish to live in a fish tank that is too small will cause them stress. These issues can make it so the fish will be susceptible to infection.
If you do this, it’ll be more likely that your fish will thrive under your care moving forward. Even if you made some mistakes in the past, you can endeavor to turn things around.
You’ve read about how serious hole in the head disease can be. This is a truly terrible thing for fish to have to deal with.
Cichlids are hardy fish that can survive hole in the head disease. You have to give them treatment before it’s too late, though.
What often kills fish that get this disease is secondary infections. Bacteria will infect the lesions that form on the head of the fish.
Doing your best to treat the fish as soon as you notice the issue will give it the best chance of survival. If you pay attention to your fish, it’s likely that you’ll notice the problem before it gets too bad.
Trying to prevent the fish from ever getting sick like this is a good idea. You should do a good job of monitoring water parameters and keeping the fish tank clean.
Start doing weekly water changes and be sure that you feed the fish well. Don’t put them in an overcrowded fish tank with too many other fish either.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.