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PostPosted: Wed Apr 30, 2014 5:23 am 
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Hi Everyone,

In recent years there has been a new wave in discus keeping in Germany in which discus are raised for one generation artificially after freeing the eggs of parasites after which the fry are raised in water completely free of parasites. Once free of parasites the fish are allowed to raise their fry normally, but through the single cycle of artificial raising all parasites are eliminated for once and for all. By parasites, I mean all gill and skin flukes, internal tape worms and Capillaria and all flagellate organisms such as Hexamita are included and are specifically eradicated. It is however important to note that bacteria are not excluded in other words these fishes are still raised and kept in normal aquaria in which biological filtration occurs in the filter and the aquaria are exposed to the normal atmosphere. After spawning, the eggs are washed with three washes of dilute formalin (5 ml per litre) and then allowed to hatch normally in water in which no fishes have been kept before. They are then raised artificially in completely separate tanks from their parents and away from any other fishes that may carry the abovementioned parasites. This technique was developed by Gerhard Rahn, who stays near Paderborn in Germany and whom I had the pleasure of visiting in January 2014. He had some massive red turquoise discus and some equally large Curipera discus which were parasite free. I have never seen such large and healthy discus before. This is a pic of a pair of his Curiperas:

Image

He explained the procedure to me and how with many months of trial and error and lots of microscope work he had finally managed to raise fishes that were parasite free and were freed of the scourge of parasites. I think many of us have seen discus go down slowly to what are collectively referred to as “internal parasites” and that repeated treatments of worm treatments (Praziquantal, flubendazole and others) and/or anti-flagellate treatments (metronidazole and others) have not worked, until finally the affected fish dies in misery.

After much thought and now witnessing parasite free discus first hand, I am also firmly convinced that this is the way to go with keeping discus. I also visited Oswald Hanke in Germany in 2012 and last year imported 15 of his so-called Curipera Royal discus which are parasite free and I am absolutely thrilled with the growth and development of these fishes. I got the fishes last September at an age of six weeks by which time they were 5-6 cm in size. They are now 9 months old and most range between 9 to 11 cm in size. They have a voracious appetite, I am feeding them 5-6 times per day and they produce perfect brown droppings indicating good intestinal health, with no stringy white faeces. Gerhard explained to me that the white stringy faeces were as a result of gut injury and subsequent production of slime in the gut. Parasite free discus show none of this, only short chunky brown droppings. Here is a pic of these fishes, please excuse the somewhat milky water after a water change:

Image

I have always kept angels and discus together, which I have found works perfectly with regard to the character of these fishes. Both altum and scalare angels make good companions for discus. However much has of course been written about the fact that angels can infect discus with flagellates and I am sure this is the case. So my argument is, why can’t we make angelfishes parasite free? It should almost be easier than with discus. The eggs can be treated with formalin and then artificially raised in a separate uninfected tank, checked for parasite free status using a microscope and could then be added to the parasite free discus without any concerns. I want to see if I can’t do this with my angels so that I can add them to my discus again.

I also want to add that we have seen many beautiful pictures of Simon Forkel’s angels on this forum, and when I visited him in 2010, he told me that he raises his fishes away from the parents and that through microscopic examination he had found that they were almost parasite free. His fishes are also massive and maybe the reason is again the parasite free state.

I actually think we can all gain massively from this.

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 2:21 am 
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I perfectly agree Dirk. As you know I have been a promoter of deparasiting wild fish for over 20 years now since I started combining metro and prazi composites on my discus and altum.
Now, as to this new concept of parasite free discus and raising the F1 artificially away from the parents... How is this different from Jack Wattley's work in the 70's?
Isn't this an adaption or implementation of his (Wattley's) methods? or is there something distinctly different that i may have missed in your explanation.
BTW, those fish in your pictures are simply, out of this world...
Did you see Pat's new greens?
Regards
Ed

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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 12:00 pm 
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Hi Ed,

I think we are agreed that management of parasites is the key to successful discus and altum keeping.

There is no difference between the concept that Jack Wattley developed with regard to raising discus artificially and this approach, but the objectives are different. Jack Wattley was frustrated by discus parents eating their eggs and fry as a result of which he decided that artificial raising would eliminate these uncertainties. In the process he may have eliminated parasites, but this was not his primary objective, as a matter of fact I have never seen that he has made any comments about managing parasites through artificial raising. I think that any of us that have kept discus will have experienced the frustration of endless egg eating episodes by some Discus parents and will have thought along the lines that Jack did.

The objective with the parasite free approach is not to solve the egg eating problem, but rather to get rid of the parasites. The approach is also to do a minimum of artificial raising. Once a first generation has been raised artificially and the parasite problem has been solved, the objective is to actually get the parents to raise the fry normally. The idea is to try to get parents to raise their fry normally as far as possible and to only use the artificial raising as an emergency measure to get rid of the parasites and then to try to get the fish to continue with natural raising.

Ed, Gerhard's Curiperas are absolutely breathtaking and the female of this pair is the reddest discus that I have ever seen (see pic). In my visits to Germany, I have noticed a clear tendency in Germany to rather keep wildcaught discus or offspring of wildcaughts and far less hybrid strains. This is exact opposite of what one sees in Malaysia and Singapore where the tendency is to keep highly specialized strains such as albinos rather than natural strains.

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 9:17 pm 
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Yep, that is RED my friend!

And your are certianly right... I don't remember any reference made by Wattley as to parasites when talking about his artificial raising method... that is why I asked?

Good moment for Dennis and Mike to consider this concept as they are right in time to begin to apply these strategies on their altum offspring.

Regards
Ed

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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2014 10:35 pm 
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Hi Ed,

I think that if one takes the eggs of altums away from the parents, one obviously immediately removes the fry away from the source of parasites which are the parents, of course. However, if one moves the eggs into an aquarium in which there have been no fish before, in other words a parasite free environment, then one has a good chance of getting the youngsters entirely parasite free. I am not sure whether the formalin treatment is really necessary if one were to flush the eggs a few times with clean preconditioned water.

Using medications, one is reasonably assured of keeping the worms at bay, in other words the flukes, the tapeworms and the capillaria, but it is the flagellates that do the real damage from what Gerhard showed me. He has taken videos of the flagellates in the gut of fishes that he has dissected. They constantly irritate and injure the gut of the fish and this niggles away at them all the time. So this is not only damage, but is actually also causing a poorer absorption of food and therefore nutrients. It is very logical to me that if you remove the gut injury, that the fish will absorb food better and therefore grow out better. Curiperas in general, tend to stay a little smaller than other discus, but these fishes that Gerhard Rahn had were massive, the male is at least 18 cm long and 2 cm thick. I would actually like to know if this would not allow scalare angels to grow out much larger as well. I want to try to do this now with some of my domestic x Peruvians.

I have attached another pic of Gerhard Rahn's parasite free red turquoise discus. They were about 20 cm long, the biggest discus I have ever seen. Note the nice brown droppings that the fish is producing on the right indicating perfect gut health.

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 5:11 am 
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very interesting thread, I presume too that once you have parasite free fish you would not feed them live foods only prepared?


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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 5:34 am 
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Hi Joe,

the parasite free discus community are not quite in agreement about this and there is some debate about this.

I was advised and do feed prepared foods in the form of a prepared frozen crab meat and vegetable mix, beefheart can also be used. I also feed frozen brine shrimp, krill and mysis, but because these crustaceans come from salt water sources they cannot carry freshwater parasites and should therefore be safe to not contaminate the fishes with parasites again. I also feed dried foods, specifically granulates which are obviously free of freshwater parasites.

The debate is about the feeding of bloodworm, and white and black mosquito larvae. They could transfer freshwater parasites in the form of flagellates from fishes were they were caught to the aquarium, but this may be incorrect. However, no one wants to take the risk of contaminating expensive parasite free fishes with these foods and for that reason they are just simply not used.

My experience with feeding the foods that I have mentioned in the second paragraph is that there are no shortages in this diet, they are growing very well.

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2014 5:37 am 
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Sorry Joe,

Haven't answered your question directly:

One would not feed live food coming from freshwater sources, in other worms bloodworm and mosquito larvae, but one could feed live brine shrimps.

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 9:05 pm 
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joemc wrote:
very interesting thread, I presume too that once you have parasite free fish you would not feed them live foods only prepared?


I see Dirk covered very well your question. Some saltwater invertebrates can be fed and I would add even some freshwater and terrestrial invertebrates that can be successfully cultured in a controlled environment (i.e. fruit flies, mosquito larvae, mayflies/mayfly larvae, among others).

Metronidazole is traditionally the first line of defense against flagellates, which as Dirk explains, is considered by most discus breeders as the major group of culprits we have in wild caught cichlids. While praziquantel along with products like febantel, pirantel and some others alone or combined are the most generally used to combat tapeworms, pinworms, ringworms and hookworms, all problematic GI parasites in a higher or lesser degree.

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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 9:12 pm 
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And reading Dirk, I will emphasize "cultured in a controlled environment"... I don't mean netting freshwater live foods from streams or catching crickets and fruit flies in your backyard. I mean invertebrates cultured in special media (agar-agar, oatmeal, and specially formulated foods, etc.), but them let's come to being practical... most of us won't want to go through the trouble of keeping these food cultures.

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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2014 9:17 pm 
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Dirk, I know through your topics regarding Simon Forkel and also from himself that has a virtually parasite free environment at his facility, does he feed live morsels to his altum? or is it frozen?

We have that some suppliers of frozen and freeze dried foods offer parasite free foods (i.e. Hikari) that are supposedly treated (radiated) to eliminate parasites... but how to know to what point this is true or the treatments effective?

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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2014 3:42 am 
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Hi Ed,

Simon feeds frozen brine shrimps, but interestingly, he also does feed white mosquito larvae. From what he informs us, and from the growth that he achieves, I get the impression that his fish must be parasite free, and that they appear to remain so in spite of being fed the white mosquito larvae. However, if I were to compare bloodworm, black mosquito larvae and white mosquito larvae, I would also think that the white mosquito larvae would have the lowest chance of being infected with parasites as they will only occur in water which is very clean.

However, the question is whether the parasites would survive in the food if they are frozen. I have checked the scientific literature and I have read that you can freeze away flagellate organisms if, for example in a study, you may require a live culture of the flagellate at a later stage again. So flagellates appear to be able to survive being frozen. However, I would also have to add that one would have to freeze them rapidly and keep them at a constant lower temperature in order to survive and normal freezing as is used for frozen food, may not be "good" enough to allow them to survive.

In deciding whether such foods would be parasite free, the source would be very important and cheap sources would be the ones that I would definitely not use.

With regard to your comment about irradiated food from Hikari, one would have to actually find out from them how they irradiate their food, and what they are aiming to achieve with the irradiation they are applying. If they want to eliminate bacteria it may be good enough to irradiate at a certain rate, but if true parasites have to be eliminated then maybe this is not adequate. Does anyone know about how they irradiate their food?

I also think that a lot has been written about the nutritional value of bloodworm and mosquito larvae, so some persons are convinced they have a high nutritional value, others say they are like sweets and only contain roughage. I am not finding that the lack of these in the diet that I am feeding at the moment, have had a negative effect on their growth at all. My fishes are growing at an absolutely amazing rate, and I have no reason to think that they are missing any nutrients because they are not being feed bloodworm or mosquito larvae. Mysis do have a carapace which is not digested and maybe this is supplying enough roughage.

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2014 8:02 pm 
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With today's commercial fish foods from companies like Tetra, NLS, Sera and others, I believe there is little to worry when it comes to covering the nutritional needs of aquarium fish. Especially the higher end foods being produced, are formulated with such care, or that they have us understand, that there is little need to take the risk of bringing outer pathogen into the aquarium environment. This said, one reason I have always used as a good excuse to provide live foods (and I insist, very carefully selected/cultured) is the prey instinct in those wild specimens of species that are so hard to breed (such as P.altum). To put is someway, live food for a wildcaught fish is something "they understand", it's the zest of life, like a hunter's adrenaline... in addition, there needs to be a certain exposure to pathogens (hopefully not the nasty ones that cause trouble) for the benefit of the immune system. Species that come from the dark black waters of the tropics, which live in those moonlike environments at a pH averaging 4-5 (not infreuently into the 3's), have such specialized immune systems (due to minimum exposure because of the narrow spectrum of pathogens that live in those waters), that once they are taken from that environment, most anything they encounter means trouble, an enemy their immune system does not recognize. So here we may have the other side of the coin which I may be more adept to, and that is the controlled exposure to certain pathogen to fortify these very specialized immune systems. Of course, I am not affirming that this is better or worse that having a parasite free environment and for sure it is s lot more complicated. Just food for thought.
Ed

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