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Thread: Whirling Disease

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    Silver Member Bizarro252's Avatar
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    Default Whirling Disease

    Hello everyone!
    I accidentally replied to an old thread without noticing with this info so instead posting here. I hope that these videos will at least spark up some conversation about this as the more I dig into it the more random cases I seem to find of this happening.


    I just lost a fish to what I believe is whirling disease - or something similar... - I have many videos because I set up a webcam to record the tank after I caught him myself several times. I also was standing there when he finally freaked out so badly that he killed himself. Hans was trying to help me diagnose and also seems suspicious of the water as he seems to get more reports from customers of this in winter - which would elude to a microbubble problem, however I always age, as do I think most Discus folks do. I contacted my water company but all the info I got was that they do source from different wells depending on the season because demand changes.

    I bought my group of 6 in April 2017 at 3" they are currently 5-5.5", the checkerboard, who died was probably the second largest in the group.


    Here is one of the videos from middle of the day, I would not have even been home when this happened so nothing 'changed' that triggered him...
    https://vimeo.com/244775454


    This is when he actually died, caught it on camera because i saw him being weird and recorded (as was becoming a habit since he was doing this once or more per day) trying to gather evidence to help figure this out for myself as well as others!

    https://vimeo.com/249269557



    check.jpg
    Last edited by Bizarro252; 12-31-2017 at 08:04 PM.

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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    Pre-heating the water does more to remove dissolved gases than aging. I have a 125 gal tank and 60 gal barrel for water preparation. The first batch is often aged quite a bit as it has leftovers from the last water change. The 2nd batch is only aged long enough for my battery of heaters to bring it to aquarium temperature, usually just a few hours. I do refill in stages though rather than blasting it all in there at once.

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    Silver Member Willie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    My water changes are 100% daily and come from tanks that have been aerated and heated for 20+ hours. Under these conditions, I have lost my share of discus to the whirling disease. But I can't recall a single instance where whirling occurred immediately after a water change. So I have no evidence that microbubbles contribute to this problem - assuming, of course, that there is a single cause.

    I also have no evidence that this disease is transmissible - whether it's bacteria, virus, or something else. Only one fish per tank gets it and it does not spread through the rest of the population. Most of the time, I assume that the whirling behavior happens when I'm not there so any pathogen would have plenty of opportunity to spread.

    I'm with the vet who believes its a relatively rare infection of specific parts of the nervous system, Willie
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    Registered Member 100fuegos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    The more I read and see peoples experiences, I had my share five years ago, I am more and more convinced that it is not an illness by itself, more a symtom than a disease.

    In my case I narrowed it down to mussels. At that time I used to feed a ton a mussel flesh, boiled mussels. Suspected the mussels after loosing a fish and few others had symtoms and stoped feeding mussels for a few months. Symtoms disappeared, resumed feeding mussels and within a week few fish started with the wirling behaviour again.

    So in my case I am pretty sure it was not water related, since then no more mussels for my fish.

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    Registered Member smsimcik's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    My water changes are 100% daily and come from tanks that have been aerated and heated for 20+ hours. Under these conditions, I have lost my share of discus to the whirling disease. But I can't recall a single instance where whirling occurred immediately after a water change. So I have no evidence that microbubbles contribute to this problem - assuming, of course, that there is a single cause.

    I also have no evidence that this disease is transmissible - whether it's bacteria, virus, or something else. Only one fish per tank gets it and it does not spread through the rest of the population. Most of the time, I assume that the whirling behavior happens when I'm not there so any pathogen would have plenty of opportunity to spread.

    I'm with the vet who believes its a relatively rare infection of specific parts of the nervous system, Willie
    Hey Willie, I may be the vet you were referring to. I posted my theory about whirling a while back after experiencing it first hand myself.

    I do highly suspect it is a neurological disease of the brain, probably caused by some yet unidentified pathogen. (bacteria? viral? prion? toxin?). The whirling is just a symptom as 100fuegos noted. It's triggered by changes in the affected fishes environment that stresses it slightly, enough to cause the seizure-like activity. (water changes, bright lights, being startled, etc). Large water changes seemed to trigger it in mine.

    Unlike your experience, I did see it affect several fish in my grow out tank, one at a time. About half succumbed to the disease and the other half never showed symptoms. I don't know if that indicates that it spreads or if all the fish were already infected when I bought them. Maybe some fish have a natural immunity and never show symptoms, even if exposed to the pathogen.

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    Silver Member Willie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    Wow, half succumb?! I've never experienced this in discus with more than one fish at a time! Also, this will happen without any obvious environmental changes. I hear water splashing in the fish room, walk in and see a whirling fish. I do not see this after daily water changes which, for me, is 100%. It makes me wonder if this is a single disease or multiple pathologies with similar symptoms.

    We're describing this as the whirling disease, but the description may be inadequate. Certainly what I've seen is far more violent that the video.

    Willie
    Last edited by Willie; 01-01-2018 at 04:46 PM.
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    Registered Member smsimcik's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    I did lose half the fish, but it was one at a time, over 2-3 weeks. One would show symptoms and I would cull it. A few days later another and I would cull it. Then a few days later another.

    And the whirling was very violent as you observed. Water splashing, fish banging into the sides of the tank. Afterwards, the affected fish would just lay still for several minutes. I could literally just reach in and pick it up without a net.

    I'll also mention that I only experienced whirling disease with Stendkers. I've never seen it in any other discus I've had.
    Last edited by smsimcik; 01-01-2018 at 05:14 PM.

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    Silver Member Bizarro252's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by Megalodon View Post
    Pre-heating the water does more to remove dissolved gases than aging. I have a 125 gal tank and 60 gal barrel for water preparation. The first batch is often aged quite a bit as it has leftovers from the last water change. The 2nd batch is only aged long enough for my battery of heaters to bring it to aquarium temperature, usually just a few hours. I do refill in stages though rather than blasting it all in there at once.
    I age and preheat my water, for 24 - 48 hours - I change 30 gal of the 55 gal tank (that is really only about 48 true gallons) every 1-2 days like clockwork.


    Quote Originally Posted by 100fuegos View Post
    The more I read and see peoples experiences, I had my share five years ago, I am more and more convinced that it is not an illness by itself, more a symtom than a disease.

    In my case I narrowed it down to mussels. At that time I used to feed a ton a mussel flesh, boiled mussels. Suspected the mussels after loosing a fish and few others had symtoms and stoped feeding mussels for a few months. Symtoms disappeared, resumed feeding mussels and within a week few fish started with the wirling behaviour again.

    So in my case I am pretty sure it was not water related, since then no more mussels for my fish.
    Interesting, since I am hoping to compile some info on this, for the record my fish were never fed mussels. I am pretty confident in saying that because they are Stendkers and from what I am aware they do not feed them, and I myself have not either.


    Quote Originally Posted by Willie View Post
    Wow, half succumb?! I've never experienced this in discus with more than one fish at a time! Also, this will happen without any obvious environmental changes. I hear water splashing in the fish room, walk in and see a whirling fish. I do not see this after daily water changes which, for me, is 100%. It makes me wonder if this is a single disease or multiple pathologies with similar symptoms.

    We're describing this as the whirling disease, but the description may be inadequate. Certainly what I've seen is far more violent that the video.

    Willie
    Thanks Willie, for the record the behavior on the day he dies prior to be getting the recording started was WAY more violent, he was shooting up through the water and slamming into the lid, floating on his side on the top of the water and flying around the surface so much that the lids were bouncing around and water was going all over.

    I also would like to note that he did this during the day while I was away as well, so no changes (lights had even been on for hours, etc).

    I agree that this has something to do with the brain as the behavior looked like seizures, he would also kinda look like he was...choking, for lack of a better word - he would stretch our his mouth over and over, kinda looked like he was trying to puke or something - usually I would see this right before he would go into a fit/seizure which usually ended with him crashing into something so hard he seemed to knock himself out - he would return to normal every time from that state...well except for the last time...


    Quote Originally Posted by smsimcik View Post
    I did lose half the fish, but it was one at a time, over 2-3 weeks. One would show symptoms and I would cull it. A few days later another and I would cull it. Then a few days later another.

    And the whirling was very violent as you observed. Water splashing, fish banging into the sides of the tank. Afterwards, the affected fish would just lay still for several minutes. I could literally just reach in and pick it up without a net.

    I'll also mention that I only experienced whirling disease with Stendkers. I've never seen it in any other discus I've had.
    That middle part matches exactly what I saw, many, many times - he would lay flat on the tank bottom motionless, sometimes he would go for 20-30 seconds without gill movement - then slowly snap out of it like nothing happened... I recorded over a week and flipped through the footage at 2-3 minute intervals, I caught him doing this 6 of the 7 days I recorded.

    I have not noticed any signs in the other fish and it has been about 2 weeks now - I did just got done treating the tank for Hex however, which they almost certainly had - symptoms matched exactly and they are now all eager about food again and eating like pigs.


    Thank you all for your experiences and feedback - this seems like its relatively rare, but a problem that seems to hit at random...
    Last edited by Bizarro252; 01-01-2018 at 08:25 PM.

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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    How are your fish now Bizarro ?
    Did you have any other Whirlers ever since?

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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    3 of 4 of my discus in my 65 have it right now. I've had them in there a year and a half and have not added anything since I got them. It started with one having a random episode every now and then and it got worse that particular fish when I had a stretch where I was traveling for work a bunch and my tank was neglected. About a month ago I had an outbreak of an intestinal parasite with all of my fish, one in particular was starting to wither away (not the one that was whirling). After a week of API general cure on the entire tank, it cleared up. The one that was emaciated was still having some fin rot and eye cloud and another came down with that. I started a round of treatment with Paraguard and it cleared up the fin rot, but then everything went to hell. The one that had a history of whirling started whirling more and a week later (last week) another one started whirling and yesterday a third one started doing it. The only one not doing it is the one that had been in rough shape. The three that have been having whirling episodes have been healthy other than the whirling and one having a touch of fin rot a few weeks ago.

    I do 50% water changes 3-4 times per week, but that and feeding seem to have no effect on the whirling. The whirling seems to happen more at night or when they're startled. I'm wondering if it isn't triggered by trauma and then it's a downward spiral from there. I'm probably going to have to euthanize all 3 of them.

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    Registered Member HappyFace's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    I'm sorry to interrupt this post. I'm a newbie with zero knowledge of what the whirling disease is but I was wondering, do you think it's possible that the line breeding and inbreeding with discus might have caused or made them more susceptible to stress seizures or neurological disorders that have nothing to do with a disease? If it is caused by a disease, could it be that some Discus are genetically predisposed to having neurological problems when exposed to a trigger such as stress, illness? Does this happen in all discus, wilds included? You mentioned the Stendker line.

    For years I bred and showed exotic short hair (persion) cats. Linebreeding and inbreeding is common in that breed. When I started breeding I noticed 1/3 of my kitten died right after their first injectable vaccines. A few years into breeding and getting frustrated with my babies dying, I called Cornell University that deal with diseases in cats and they said many catteries have experienced the same as me, specifically lines that had inbreeding and line breeding and suggested I switch to intranasal intraocular modified live vaccines. Not a single kitten died after that. I also stopped having respiratory problems in my kittens. It was like a miracle. My cats were also more susceptible to illness and infection due to the inbreeding and line breeding.
    Last edited by HappyFace; 01-21-2018 at 04:18 AM.

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    Registered Member smsimcik's Avatar
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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by HappyFace View Post
    I'm sorry to interrupt this post. I'm a newbie with zero knowledge of what the whirling disease is but I was wondering, do you think it's possible that the line breeding and inbreeding with discus might have caused or made them more susceptible to stress seizures or neurological disorders that have nothing to do with a disease? If it is caused by a disease, could it be that some Discus are genetically predisposed to having neurological problems when exposed to a trigger such as stress, illness? Does this happen in all discus, wilds included? You mentioned the Stendker line.

    For years I bred and showed exotic short hair (persion) cats. Linebreeding and inbreeding is common in that breed. When I started breeding I noticed 1/3 of my kitten died right after their first injectable vaccines. A few years into breeding and getting frustrated with my babies dying, I called Cornell University that deal with diseases in cats and they said many catteries have experienced the same as me, specifically lines that had inbreeding and line breeding and suggested I switch to intranasal intraocular modified live vaccines. Not a single kitten died after that. I also stopped having respiratory problems in my kittens. It was like a miracle. My cats were also more susceptible to illness and infection due to the inbreeding and line breeding.
    Your theory that it may be genetic is possible. Somewhat like epilepsy is genetic in humans and dogs.
    However, I doubt line breeding has anything to do with it since it is frequently seen in wilds. Not much inbreeding going on in wilds.

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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by Filip View Post
    How are your fish now Bizarro ?
    Did you have any other Whirlers ever since?
    Hi Filip,
    All others have been doing great, they for sure got Hex, well as sure as I can be without a microscope... But that is all cleared up not and they are more active and alert than ever. No other fish ever showed the same symptoms as the checkerboard did which eventually led to his death and crossing my fingers it stays that way.

    IMG_20180114_145126_2.jpg

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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    I have seen this "whirling" like behavior many times now. It often actually has true whirling, but in some cases, just smacking into the glass. Sometimes with fry, they just very suddenly die, with no apparent symptoms, and sink to the bottom of the tank. In fry, it is most often just sudden death with no symptoms. It's not just Stendkers. I have had in fish from Kenny's and at least two other dealers, so I don't think it is the source. I have seen it in fry when they are 1.2 -2 inches, and in older fish as well, but most often in fry. It is almost always lethal. It must be transmitted from fish to fish because it happens most often in over crowed tanks, the more crowded, the more likely it will happened and the higher the percentage of fish that die. This tells me that it is most likely caused by bacteria, virus, nematodes or protozoans, or possibly a strain of fungus. I have tried every medication I know of. Most do not seen to work at all.

    The best luck I have had is with fresh levamisole and praziquantel. Levamisole with one twenty-four treatment, 3 weeks of prazi, then another levamisole treatment and 3 more weeks of prazi. Clean everything well and reduce number of fish in tank.

    In pub med, I found some descriptions of this in zebra fish, in which it wiped out the entire colonies of some zebra fish researchers. They had luck with levamisole too. This would indicate that nematodes are the most likely culprit. I have meant to talk more with the vets that take care of our zebra fish here at University of Utah, but just seem to never have the time. I really have to do that.

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    Default Re: Whirling Disease

    Hopefully you are in the clear, Bizarro. This very rarely happens to adults. Mostly it's fry and juvie's that get this. I've only had one adult (out of hundreds) that got this, and died.

    100fuegos, I also thought it might be food as well at one time. It seemed to come on when I fed some 2.5 inch fry almost exclusive on flake food that had added pro biotics to it. However, the thank was very over crowded and I had several other over crowded tanks, to so it just might have been over crowding.

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