Several weeks ago we peered into one of our reef tanks to notice that something was not quite right with one of our gem tangs. The medium sized Zebrasoma gemmatum specimen had been in our care for the better part of a year, in a tank with plenty of other surgeonfish – the corals in this tank have been acting a little funky but seeing a gem tang appearing to break down like it had been kept in high copper levels really threw us off.
The gem tang was removed and placed in a basic 10 gallon hospital tank where we could observe it closer and keep it under newer, fresher seawater. Mind you that when we managed to get the gem tang out of the main display it had been living in, it was only displaying a minor degree of head & lateral line erosion with pitting on the face, lateral line and a little bit on the fins.
A few days after being in the hospital tank we happened to notice that the poor white spotted Zebrasoma had taken a turn for the worse, and a big sore had developed on both sides of its ventral area. It was like, really nasty in its size, and degree of tissue breaking down and we thought for sure this fish would be a goner.
The sore looked like a classic case of Uronema, a nasty protozoan infection that is usually a death sentence by the time it’s visible enough to be diagnosed, and often times complicated by secondary bacterial infections. It was a good thing that the gem tang was already isolated in a small, treatable tank volume because trying to catch him with that nasty sore would have done some serious damage.
Our usual treatment for all ‘funky’ infections is usually a double dose of Kanamycin and Neomycin every other day with large water changes in between. Alas, our old container of Neoplex had completely hardened up and all that remained was just enough Neoplex powder to do a few treatments. We added a couple scoops, going through the motions of what you do when fish like this are sick, but those deep, hemorrhaging ulcers are quite almost often followed by a lifeless fish, so we set our expectations pretty low.
After a couple days had gone by we were surprised to see that the hospice gem tang was certainly perking up, and even timidly on the lookout for food. Incredibly, just four days after the initial treatment what was once a very gross open sore was very clearly beginning to heal. Even the assorted degeneration of the face, lateral lines and fins had stopped and seemed that this tang which we had written off as a goner was really bouncing back to life and health.
Now just eight days after that initial observation and treatment of the open sore the gem tang is acting like a regular aquarium fish again. It begs for food, displays aggression at its reflection, and we are impressed everyday at how little this fish which was in triage just over a week ago is healing up at record pace. Anyone who has successfully treated a sick aquarium fish can attest to their impressive ability to rebound and regenerate their skin, scales and fins.
Our little guy still has a few weeks and months to go until it’s a perfect Zebrasoma gemmatum again but we have a special love for the fighters in our aquarium collection – this fish must have had a good look at the underworld and decided that aquarium life was the place for him.