By Jim E. Quarles
What is this thing called discus plague? Were does it come from? Do my
fish have it? If they do how do I cure or treat it? Will the same fish get
All the above questions come rushing to your mind when you first think
your fish are infested with this disease. You worry you will lose all the
fish because this Plague when if first appeared in the United States
generally wiped out entire populations of both Angelfish and Discus in
hatcheries across the entire U.S. and Canada.
Like most new forms of disease this one hit with a bang. Little was
known about it. Most hobbyists and even professional breeders were caught
flat footed by this new problem.
First let me state clearly I am not a fish pathologist. The only thing
I really can speak to is my personal experience with this disease. So bear
in mind what I have to offer is nothing but one man's personal results and
method for dealing with the DISCUS PLAGUE.
About five or six years ago I was hit in the discus hatchery for the
first time by what is commonly called discus plague. It was not a fun
event let me tell you! For those of you who have not had it or seen it I
think it best to describe what it looks like at its onset in the fish.
The first thing I noticed was a general darkening of the fish, they
started showing signs of stress. They would hide if possible, or go to the
bottom of the tank and remain there. Some would lay on their sides
Then in a few hours I noticed a problem with the slim coat developing,
it looked like pealing snot on some areas of the skin. At that time a
sickening odor of decay was noticed coming from the tank. Massive water
changes helped with the stress somewhat but did not reduce the progress of
the disease much. If it is really discus plague you will notice that the
area under the pectoral fins will remain pretty much clear of the peeling
of the slime coat.
With time the fish will lose all interest in feeding. Then other
effects of disease start to appear. Fin rot is noticed as the fin edges
turn whitish and become ragged. As this progresses you will lose a lot of
the fin to rot.
This is I believe, a secondary infection of a different disease, so now
you you have at least two diseases working at the same time, both are
external parasites or bacteria thank goodness and will respond to
If treatment is not started quickly another disease factor may come in
to complicate the problem even more. Columnaris is likely to come into the
picture at this point. These factors are why the plague is a wipe out
What starts the process? Who knows for sure, I have seen dozens of
ideas expounded some sound good others are silly. But none of that matters
as long as you can treat and cure the problems.
First let me state that a lot of people confuse Columnaris with true
discus plague, also some do the same thing when they have advanced Fin
Rot. If you think you have discus plague, it is a judgement call as to
what the true disease is with your fish.
While there are different treatments for the control of Columnaris and
Fin Rot, the same treatment for Plague will cure them as well. I have
tried just about all the suggested cures or treatments, some work fairly
well but take to long, others don't work at all and the fish die. I would
be the last to tell you that any one method is proven to be better than
others. Yet I prefer the one I developed and has become the rave to some
who would use it to cure discus hang nail, which was never my intent for
My treatment involves the careful use of Potassium Permanganate Powder.
Warning this is a powerful chemical and if not used properly can damage
or kill your fish as well as blind you if you get it in your eyes. So
great care when using it is called for. This product will also stain your
skin and anything you may be wearing at the time of it's use. Be careful.
In my book "Success With Discus Vol.1. On page 62 you will find
the treatment detailed below.
I mix 1/8 teaspoon of potassium permanganate powder with one pint of
water. I then pour this mixture into a 20 gallon thank which is empty of
everything other then water at 86 degrees and an air stone turned on full
air supply. After the mixture is added, I catch one or two diseased fish
in a rather large soft net. The fish remain in the net and are dipped in
the tank for no more then three minutes. For half grown fish I would cut
the time to two minutes. I would never use this treatment of any discus
less then 3 inches in total size.
Once the fish have been in the net in the mixture for the required time
span I transfer them to a clean tank, that has not been infected. It does
little good if any at all to do the dip and return the fish to an infected
I proceed to treat all the infected fish with this method until all the
fish have been dipped and placed in clean tanks.
I then add one teaspoon of rock salt to each five gallons of water in
the new tanks. In addition I also add one drop per gallon of Malachite
green zinc free.
If you would prefer you can leave out the Malachite green and replace
with 1/4 teaspoon of Gentamicin Powder to each 20 gallons of water.
Then wait at least 24 hours and check the results on the slime coat. If
it still shows signs of peeling a whitish slime you can repeat the
treatment using fresh mixture of P.P. I would reduce the time on any
second treatment to 2 minutes in the dip bath. Once again return the fish
to a clean fresh new tank.
Do not return them to an infected tank. This is a very effective treatment
for Discus Plague along with the other diseases that generally develop with
It has no lasting effect on the fish, and they will return to normal
health and their spawning efforts will not be involved.
One interesting note. Once the fish have been cured once, the same fish
will never again be subject to discus plague. Other diseases perhaps but
not the plague.
Timing in the dip is very important, do not go beyond the max time in
the dip of more then three minutes. If you do, your fish will suffer gill
damage and may die.
Use this treatment at your own risk. I know it
works but can not warranty your application of it.