White spot is one of the most common diseases in aquarium life. White spot disease exists in two forms: marine white spot which is caused by a ciliate parasite called Cryptocaryon irritans and freshwater white spot (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis). Both diseases have similar symptoms but the parasites are not the same and need different treatment approaches to prevent and resolve an outbreak. Prevention of this disease is encouraged, as prevention has been and will always be better than a cure. The following are some common measures to cure white spot disease.
It must be noted that if white spot breaks off in an aquarium, the entire aquarium life must be treated – even those not showing any signs or symptoms. Marine white spot treatments fall into three categories: chemical, environmental, and the unproven methods.
The unproven methods include the use of garlic or tea. Garlic or tea is mixed with the fish food and then the fish are fed. It is, however, claimed that garlic and tea don’t actually cure the disease, but boosts the immune system of the fish so that they become resistant to the parasite that causes it. These methods are claimed to work by many who have tried them.
The common chemical treatments are copper based treatments. Copper kills all invertebrates and the dosage must be exact and accurate, otherwise you may kill all of your fish. Copper treatments should be performed in a quarantine tank and it is essential that the copper levels are monitored daily to be safe. The copper levels should be maintained within a 0.2 to 0.3 ppm range. For reef tanks Fuscidic acid and quinine can be used, as they are moderately safe. They can also be used with fish species that cannot tolerate a copper treatment, such as sharks. Copper charcoal can be used to purify the water of the two drugs.
Dye based chemicals are also used and are known to be reef safe. The dyes work by binding the parasites’ genetic material.
Environmental treatments of white spot include fresh water baths for the fish. Fresh water baths are, however, not effective with marine white spot since the parasite is embedded in the skin of the fish. But it works well for fresh water white spot. Fresh water white spot can be treated by rising the temperature in the aquarium but this method is not an option with marine white spot because the parasite dies at higher temperatures (32 to 35 degrees Celsius) which would prove lethal to the fish.
Increasing the water temperature will increase the replication rate of the marine white spot parasite. Reducing your aquarium temperature will actually help by slowing down the replication rate, giving you ample time to react to a marine white spot outbreak.