BEEF HEART ---TAPEWORM AND OTHER NONSENSE.
By Jim E. Quarles
Let's put this intestinal worm
business in perspective.
If you're new to the hobby or even been in it for a while one of the
great dangers you and your fish will face is Mis-information. And I can
think of no greater area to be concerned about than the nonsense
information generally being passed around dealing with intestinal worms.
I speak here primarily of the misguided over use of medication of
discus fish for tapeworms and the old wives tale that if you feed a
beef-heart formula you are feeding your fish tape worm cysts.
I will go on record here, Few discus fish will ever require treatment
for tapeworms. It's just not necessary. And should the case arise it
certainly will not be from feeding the fish beef heart.
When someone tells you to medicate for tapeworm you should
automatically assume that that person does not know what he or she are
talking about. Such advice must be taken with not a grain of salt but an
entire box full. Unless and until a microscopic examination proves the
presence of a tapeworm don't even worry about it.
Intestinal worms are perhaps the most misunderstood areas in our hobby
today. Day in and day out you surf the web to talk forums about not just
discus fish but most other tropical fish types and read endless chit chat
and advice being given by those who have no concept of the actual facts
about worms that infect fish or when or how to treat them. Yet here they
are, giving you bum information that can damage or kill your fish.
WORMS IN THE BODY CAVITY AND
INTESTINES OF AQUARIUM FISHES
We need only be concerned with two general types or orders of parasitic
worms in our fish. Cestode, There is about 1500 hundred species. And all
these species are parasites. The second group or order is Nematode worms.
This group is commonly referred to as round worms. This order contains
more then ten thousand species of free living and parasitic thread like
WORMS ARE INDEMIC TO FISH AS A
All fish have worms in the their systems in one way or another. It is a
natural state. Most are parasitic and affect the host in one way or
another throughout the lifetime of the fish. It is only when they are able
to multiply in such numbers due to a weakening of the fish that they
become a menace to the life of the host. Parasitic worms are found in
three main areas of the fish's body. ( A ) The gills. ( B ) The fish's
body cavity, which includes the intestines and other vital organs ( C )
The meaty tissue of the fish. In most cases when worms are found in the
meaty tissues it is in the form of a cyst or larval stage. However some
worms are capable of attacking the tissue directly as adult parasites.
THE DIGESTIVE TRACT
The function of the digestive tract is absorption of three major types
of nutrients and water. Well that sounds simple enough, but if you were to
understand parasitic worms and pathogens perhaps a little information
about this process would be helpful.
First the food is masticated to some extent by the teeth although in a
fish it would appear that the teeth primarily hold the food just before it
is swallowed since few fish have teeth designed for ripping or tearing of
solids. Fish have stomachs, which produce hydrochloric acid and digestive
In the fore-gut, bile and pancreatic enzymes -- lipases, anylases,
trypsin are released which emulsify and reduce fats to smaller fatty acids
and simple sugars and proteins to amino acids all of which are then
absorbed across the intestinal mucosa.
Of course when parasites of any type enter the picture the entire
process is caused to go out of balance and the fish's health will start to
THE FIRST STEPS OF DIAGNOSIS
Before we give our attention to specific examples of parasites it is
important to remind ourselves of some general principles that can effect
the degree to which such parasites will become a problem. First, in
nature, it is rare to find any fish species which is parasite free. Fish
almost always carry a parasite or a population of them without apparent
signs of disease. Most have developed a system of immunity to a given
A PARASITES LIFE IS NOT EASY
The life of an intestinal parasite is not an easy life. First, they
must live in an acidic environment with the fishes immune system attacking
them their entire life. Second, while some parasites can be transferred by
direct extension through the water, over crowding will increase the chance
that a host will be found. However, most parasites require a second or
third intermediate host. For example, free-living invertebrates such as
Daphnia and Cyclops, which in turn are eaten by other fish, or snails that
eat nematode eggs passed from fish. If such intermediates are not found in
the aquarium system transmission is impossible. It should be remembered
also that when a fish dies it should be removed as quickly as possible
from the tank since your other live fish will eat the dead one and acquire
the still viable parasites in this way.
In any fish disease situation, one must begin with the history of the
fish in question. Also, before establishing a diagnosis of parasitism, one
must initially exclude other problems by reviewing basic aquarium
practices such as water quality management, nutrition, and the possibility
of noninfectious problems.
PARASITES, INCLUDING WORMS,
DON'T APPEAR BY MAGIC THEY ARRIVE FROM SOMEWHERE
Generally form other fish or food present to a disease state. The
general rule of quarantining all new arrivals should be automatic. New
fish and plants should never be added with out being quarantined for at
least three to four weeks. The longer the better for safety sake. The
parasitic worms you will encounter will be roundworms; it will indeed be
rare to find a flat worm such as a tapeworm in discus or other tropical
fish. Feeding tubifex and black worms or any type of live worms as food
will increase your chances of importing disease factors to your tanks.
While I do not believe that these live worms are carriers of tapeworms,
they can be the hosts for many bacterial disease parasites which is easily
avoided by the use of----
You will hear that beef-heart contains the parasite tapeworm. This is
possible for a tapeworm that would effect cattle. But since parasites are
generally host specific it is highly unlikely that even if tapeworm cysts
could be found in beef-heart (which is very doubtful to start with) it
would not be able to infect fish. There has never been a documented case
of tapeworms being transferred from beef-heart to fish of any kind. Yet
you will be told this is happening in Discus. When you hear such garbage I
would demand some documentation or proof of such an event. While beef
cattle are fed foods that have a hormone content this does not seem to be
a factor in the culturing of discus. It has no effect on the breeding
process in these fish.
While you will find that certain infections of round worms occur in all
fish they can become a disease problem of major proportions and should be
treated only if they are effecting the general health of the fish in
question. Otherwise it is best to let the natural immunity of the fish
deal with the problem.
REMEMBER PARASITES DO NOT APPEAR BY MAGIC THEY
ARE INTRODUCED IN SOME MANNER
PREVENTION IS THE BEST ANSWER TREATMENT IS THE LAS