Why Do My Neon Tetras Have White Spots: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

You have probably noticed that your neon tetras do not have the same look. Some of them might have white spot on their fins, others don’t. Why is this? This can be caused by many reasons such as overfeeding, inappropriate water parameters, or even just plain old age. But the most common reason why your neon tetras have white spots is because of Ich which can be fatal for your pet fish.

In this article, we are going to discuss the causes of these white spots as well as the treatment and prevention measures that you can do against Ich.

Neon tetra fish

Why Do My Neon Tetras Have White Spots?

Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis) is a protozoan parasite whose common name in ichthyology is ‘the parasitic white spot disease’. They are the most common reason why your neon tetras have white spots. These parasites are small organisms which look like an amoeba, floating and dividing rapidly by binary fission to produce cells of the species or another. These then attach themselves onto other aquatic animals that are free-swimming such as fish, crustaceans and even reptiles, but occasionally, on plants too.

In case the parasite attaches itself on your fish and forces it to stay still for too long or burrow into its body somewhere, then this will allow Ich to grow much bigger for it needs fairly deep water due to its flat shape so that they do not suffocate underneath any rocks. And if you notice a bunch of Ich around one specific area in your tank, then you could see that your fish is quite sick and the particular area would have white spots all over it.

What Is Ich on Neon Tetras?

So, what exactly is an Ich anyway? Technically speaking, it’s not ever specifically one parasite but rather, there are several parasites involved in the act of attaching themselves onto its host/hosts as well as some opportunistic anaerobic bacteria too. The Ich disease is actually a potentially fatal and overall term used to describe what happens when many species of Ich attach themselves onto an aquatic organism that would otherwise have no problem fighting/dying off certain parasites like parasitic worms and leeches.

However, for some reason, the host fish so often end up dying because the symptoms are quite familiar with those you may see on other species in your aquarium such as swim bladder swelling, rapid breathing and final heart failure which can result in even death. If things go completely wrong (and a lot of the time they do), then other diseases such as Pericarditis could occur causing your fish to hold its breath hence depriving itself from oxygen and ultimately lead to inconsistent/stop swimming or worse yet, plummet kick out from a drop in dissolved oxygen levels.

What Are the Symptoms of Ich on Neon Tetras?

There are three basic symptoms to look out for; white spots on the fins, sluggishness, and bubble-like floatation. Occasionally you may see them rubbing their stomachs against plants or a tank wall which could be an indication that they feel something is lodged in there causing pain so make sure to check it over! It’s also recommended that you can better notice any early signs by viewing your fish through a microscope because Ich parasite can also be seen using a microscope.

If you spot any of these symptoms, then it is certainly time to take action as soon as possible because this infection can become fatal, especially if there are thousands or even millions of them hopping around on your fish when we aren’t watching. It is important that our fishes live out their preferred natural lifespan which for most species in the wild would mean around 10 years so making sure they don’t suffer from Ich is the best way to make sure these animals have a fitting natural life’s end.

However, there are some Ich symptoms that aren’t immediately sighted by most aquarists. Your fish will appear to be healthy, then after a couple of days, you realize that your aquarium water has an unusual ammonia smell and upon closer inspection, small white spots can be spotted throughout the tank’s gravel and other substrate. These similar condition which happen quite often on fresh new fish seem like random occurrences but this is because the Ich parasites have merely parasitized onto them.

How Does Ich Get Inside Your Aquarium?

Ich exists outside the tank, but needs to get inside the fish’s body and once it has attached itself on a fish, they begin sucking out its hemolymph (the fluid that is found under your fishes’ scales). The parasites then tries to escape from their ball using all of kinds of techniques like bending themselves through different shapes. When this happens, free-floating needles will appear with pieces or strands hanging off them and be released into the water column.

After a fish is infected with Ich, the parasite will begin to transfer itself from its host preying on one another. The parasites move via triads which are groups of three adult hitchhiking larvae that come together from different hosts. This is how the parasites get into and invade your aquarium.

Can Ich or White Spots Kill Fish?

Ich is most likely harmless. Depending on how severe your tank/water conditions are, and I would strongly suggest treating it if there is an outbreak, but otherwise you can live in limbo worrying ill-founded about something that has no effect or ability of causing harm. Outbreak usually occur when the water quality in the tank is not stable causing massive fluctuations and stresses on the fish’s body. Ich will only be dangerous to your fish if it enters their bloodstream by stinging them with its “noodles”. The chances of this happening are very low, again depending on how severe the conditions are.

How to Treat Ich on Neon Tetras?

Once you have noticed that your neon tetras have Ich disease, you have to change your tank immediately! Make sure your fish tank is clean, the gravel has been changed regularly, there’s no spots where algae might grow and the filters are always running. This will ensure that your fish wont contract any more Ich once the water in your aquarium has been changed. Change filters if you have to and test for nitrate level, this will probably be a good indicator to when an Ich outbreak might occur.

Also make sure to feed fish on time and make certain that there’s enough food for your fish. This will ensure you’re feeding your fish to get more time in order to cure the Ich outbreak before it starts once again. In addition, you might want to try and get rid of the nitrate level in your tank, this will help you keep your water quality stable and ensure that the Ich doesn’t cause any more problems.

There are also drugs available in both powdered and liquid forms that should kill all strains of this disease apart from a few rudimentary ones. You may want to try using a dip treatment called Maracyn or any other equivalent. This is the quickest and cheapest way to treat Ich with your fish surviving the infection much more commonly than not.

Do yourself a favor and get some medicine from your local pet store so you can find out the specific degree of medicine that needs to be utilized for your pet fish.

How to Prevent Ich on Neon Tetras?

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent your fish from getting Ich. However, a few things are safe and will active preventing the disease in your tank:  

  • Ensure that nitrate is as low as possible (remembering to change filters regularly)
  • Make sure all gravel has been replaced frequently
  • Increase light for plants during night time hours
  • Reduce pH level in your tank (if needed)
  • Add less unfiltered water to the tank when adding new fish(new batches of tetras not really clean subject for Ich disease)
  • Introduce a green/herbivore carnivore fish as part of nutrition plan You can prevent most cases of ICH with these steps.

Sometimes, it might be that you simply add more water or change something in your aquarium after multiple outbreaks, but usually, the causes are not eliminated. However, you can considerably reduce your chances with these measures.