Can we stop this fish wasting away?

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Dr Peter Burgess gives his advice to a reader that has an Uaru that will not eat.

Q) We have a six-year-old Uaru that will not eat. It lives with a couple of younger Uaru which are two years old. They do not bully the older fish and both of them eat well but the older fish is wasting away. Please can you give us any advice on anything we could do to help him?

MICHAEL STONE, VIA EMAIL

A) DR PETER BURGESS REPLIES: Along with other large cichlid species, such as Severum and Discus, Uaru live to around 10 years in captivity, with a few records of individuals exceeding 12 years. In the wild, however, their lifespans will be significantly shorter as the ageing fish will be more prone to predation, starvation and other natural pressures.

So your fish could simply be showing signs of old-age. But there are other causes of starvation in captive fish, such as: water quality issues (including low dissolved oxygen levels); organ failure; infections; tumours; injuries; bullying; incorrect diets.

Assuming the three fish have lived together for several weeks or more, with no other fish recently added, then it’s unlikely to be some highly infectious disease. However, old fish are more prone to opportunistic infections, including mycobacterial infections which cause loss of body mass, resulting in wasting. So a mycobacterial disease might f t with the symptoms you describe.

If it were a water quality issue, such as low oxygen levels, high ammonia, extremes of temperature, or a dietary problem, I’d expect all three fish to be showing signs of ill-health. But it’s still worth checking the water temperature, and ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels, just to be on the safe side. Closely monitor all three fish for any other signs of ill-health.

I don’t think you should medicate as we don’t know what the problem is. A mycobacterial infection is almost impossible to cure: over-thecounter remedies won’t work, and even antibiotics rarely prove effective.

Sadly, it may be necessary for the Uaru to be put to sleep (by anaesthetic overdose) if the wasting condition continues.