Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): Bare Bottom Is The Answer To Your Ich Problems


Terrible Advice Tuesdays: If you don’t use sand in your saltwater tank, your fish will never get ich.

The rest of the story: There’s a bit of grey area on this one. Part of ich’s life cycle takes place off the fish. In this phase, ich is known as a “tomont” and spends its time reproducing while attached to a solid surface like sand. However, it can attach to any solid surface including rocks or even the sides of your tank.

Therefore, not keeping sand in your tank will reduce the areas ich tomonts can attach.  No sand = less surface area = less places for tomonts to attach. However, relying on the absence of sand to prevent ich is a terrible idea as there are still plenty of great places for ich tomonts to attach and to prepare for the next stage in their life cycle. Take for example all the live rock in your tank. There is way more surface area on live rock than there is on the top layer of sand.

Also, as discussed in my quarantine guide, ich tomites hatch at night. Most saltwater fish sleep in one place which means when the tomites hatch, your fish is in close proximity and probably holding still. Can you say “infection”?
Bottom line: Run sand if you like it and QT all incoming fish for at least 30 days to help prevent the spread of diseases like ich.

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Comments for this article (9)

  • Kyle Neville says:

    Great idea for you and a friday quick tip Mark! Quite simply, stray voltage in aquariums! A lot of controversy, and every tank has it.

  • RICH says:

    HI MARK
    IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO USE THE GROUNDING ROD OR NO AS I READ THIS IS A GREY AREA, AND FOR THE ICH I HAVE A HARD TIME TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WERE THE THIS HOBBY SEEMS TO BE JUST NOT UNDERSTANDING THAT IT IS A MUST!!! TO QT THERE NEW ADDITIONS I GUESS THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE INFO DIRECTED TOWARDS THIS UNKNOWN
    THANKS
    RICH

  • Steve Dodd says:

    every fish has Ich on them like we have the cold sore virus in our mouths all the time , they are both usually kept down by the immune system , but occasionally flair up , with us and fish in times of stress and ill health.
    Therefore dont get your fish stressed and the chances on getting Ich and low

  • Carl says:

    Kyle,
    See Friday morning quick tip #53 of November 3rd, 2011

    RICH….WHAT??

  • Steve…fish can or cannot have ich on them. If you treat a fish properly then it won’t have ich. Stress won’t make ich appear out of thin air, it has to already be present in the system.

    Keep in mind that simply relying on not stressing fish is nearly impossible. Fish can get stressed when you put your hand in the tank to place a coral or if you approach the fish too quickly.

  • Andy says:

    Steve Dood,

    Completely false. Ich is a parasite that requires a host. If it doesn’t have a host within a few weeks, it dies. It isn’t magically floating through the air. If you cure the ich using copper, it is not coming back, provided your quarantine procedures are correct.

    A “cold sore” virus is actually herpes, and is spread through direct contact via bodily fluids. It is not always present. That is why 80% of people never have one!

    Assuming you meant cold virus, well there are about 200 of them. And some of them can live a long time without a host. But HIV is also a virus, and cannot be exposed to air at all!

    The comparison is totally invalid.

    Mark,

    Wouldn’t the tank glass be a surface area as well?

  • Andy…you are correct that the tank’s surfaces are a place where ich can attach. They aren’t as ideal as a nice rough rock or sand, but tomonts can attach to the smooth surfaces of the tank. That’s one reason Steven and I talked about scraping down the smooth surfaces of the tank while fish are in QT to help prevent the attachment of any tomonts.

  • JasPR says:

    True enough, qtank is not a luxury, it is a necessity and would, if used, stop 90% of all ecto-parasite problems.
    No gravel in the base along with frequent small water changes ( daily -5-10%) is ideal if you use good water. And sucking the bottom when draining off that water is another good idea.
    I also believe that coping with problems associated with new purchases is a two prong attack– reduce or eliminate parasites and also BUILD the immune system of the fish suffering from G.A.S. warmish water ( 79F), low light ( forget state of the art lighting on a qtank– its counter productive! Even moon light would be better! Lots of hiding places, no sand but make the floor dark so the fish does not see its own reflection.
    Keep S.G. low at 1.018 and feed very good food– live of possible, or frozen that is thawed and infused with a vitamin product. Try freezing a clam and feeding it, use nori seaweed. And leave the fish alone as much as possible. three weeks of that and you have a very sturdy fish G.A.S. free. JasPR

  • Nickie says:

    My saltwater tank is having a huge nitrate problem. I have been doing water changes as you’re supposed to but still can’t get the level down. I’m not sure what to do. I only have 2 fish and some inverts, snails and crabs so I don’t think that it’s too many fish. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, I’m getting desperate!!

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