It’s frustrating when your discus fish get sick. You put in so much effort trying to keep these fish in good health.
Discus fish can be a bit delicate, and they’re susceptible to many types of diseases. One disease that will prove to be problematic is known as hole in the head disease.
Fish that have hole in the head disease will look rather gruesome as the disease progresses. It’s a type of infection that you’ll want to recognize and treat right away.
Keep reading to learn about hole in the head disease so you can help your fish get better. Knowing what to do will make you feel significantly less nervous, and you should be able to prevent this problem from occurring again as well.
What Is Hole in the Head Disease?
Hole in the head disease is a common disease that impacts several types of freshwater fish. Aside from discus fish, you’ll find that Oscars and other types of cichlids commonly deal with this affliction.
Sometimes this condition is referred to as lateral line erosion. This is because it truly does cause the lateral line area of the fish to erode.
It’s going to cause hole-like wounds to appear on your fish in various places. These spots will get worse as the disease continues on.
Sadly, discus fish can die when they get hole in the head disease. Many discus fish will die fast unless you treat them right away.
So you want to look out for this condition so you can take action immediately. It’s always best to regularly observe your fish to ensure that all is well.
What Causes This Disease?
There are many potential causes of this disease. Many say that this condition is caused by parasites such as Hexamita.
Know that people are still researching this disease. At the time of writing, it’s believed that the disease is caused by parasites and that problems in the tank contribute to the fish becoming susceptible to the disease.
Poor water quality is the number one problem that people point to as a contributing factor. Not feeding your fish a good diet can also play a role in them getting sick.
Overcrowded fish tanks seem to be more likely to have issues with this disease as well. So you need to be careful to put your discus fish in a good environment.
Discus fish will become stressed when placed in tanks that are too small or ones that are overcrowded. They also won’t remain healthy if the water quality isn’t as good as it should be.
You need to feed these fish regularly as well. If you haven’t been feeding the fish often enough or if you’ve been feeding them the wrong food, it’ll be easier to make them sick.
What Are the Symptoms?
You can expect many symptoms to present themselves when your fish has hole in the head disease. Of course, you’ll see wounds appear on the head of the fish.
The wounds are lesions that will look rather pitted. Sometimes the wounds will be bloody, but the wounds can also be bloodless.
Expect to see the wounds on the head and down the lateral line of the fish. If the disease progresses you might notice lesions elsewhere on the body.
Fish that have this disease might be sluggish and will lose their appetites. The first thing you’ll notice will be the lesions, though.
Usually, the fish don’t die from the lesions themselves. The lesions continue to grow and they can become infected.
Secondary infections are what usually wind up killing the fish. So treating this condition fast is the best way to help your discus fish survive.
How to Treat Hole in the Head Disease
Treating hole in the head disease involves doing a few different things. You need to solve any problems in the tank that are stressing the fish and then treat the fish with medication.
So address problems in the tank with water quality. Make sure that the water parameters are right for the discus fish and that the water is very clean.
Feed the fish well and make sure that they’re being given the right mix of nutrients. Follow a specific discus fish diet plan if you need to.
If necessary, you might need to get a larger fish tank. Or you might need to separate the discus fish and give them their own tank if you’re keeping them in a cramped community tank.
Medications such as metronidazole can treat the fish. This antibiotic medication should help to clear things up.
If you catch things in time your fish will have a chance to recover. Since discus fish are a bit delicate, there’s always a chance that you might lose some fish when they get sick.
How to Prevent It
Preventing hole in the head disease is simple enough. It mostly involves providing good care to your discus fish.
You want to ensure that you’re giving the fish the right environment where they can thrive. Make sure that you keep the tank very clean and do two water changes per week.
Monitor the water parameters by testing the water regularly. This will make it easier to make adjustments if something is off just a little bit.
Ensure that your fish have more than enough room to thrive. These fish prefer larger aquariums where they won’t be cramped.
Remember that these are schooling fish that need to be kept in groups. To keep discus fish very happy and healthy, it’s wise to keep them in groups of six or more.
You might want to go with a 75-gallon fish tank to be on the safe side. If you only have room for a small tank perhaps buying discus fish won’t be the most convenient choice.
They can fit in smaller tanks, but you want the group of fish to have plenty of room. Focus on feeding the fish well and give them nutrient-rich foods that contain everything they need.
If keeping the fish in a community tank, be sure to quarantine new fish for two weeks before bringing them into the tank. Quarantining new aquatic plants is also good.
This makes it less likely that you will introduce the parasite that is thought to cause hole in the head disease to the tank. It’s simply a good precaution to take.
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.