Ich is a common problem in many aquariums and getting rid of it is something most people hurry to do once they find out they have it. Also known as Ick and White Spot Disease. This problem hits beginners and people well advanced in the hobby alike and when it does each on responds differently. There are a number of treatments available out there, however many fish are sensitive to the treatment and the treatment can even cause death. Many people turn to natural ways to get rid of ich instead.

Understanding What Ich Is.
Ich (Ichthyophthirius) is actually a parasite that causes a white spot on the skin of the fish. This spot is actually a cyst! In an aquarium freshwater fish can die from Ich so it is important to get it taken care of as quickly as possible.

The Life Cycle of Ichthyophthirius.
Ich is often found in even a well maintained tank. It starts its life cycle as a free floating organism in search of a host. It then clings to the skin of the fish (and sometimes the gills). After a few days of feeding on the fish for a few days it develops the hard shell that makes the cyst. During the time in the cyst it is impossible to kill it and you are waiting for it to move on with its life cycle. After growing too large it emerges from the cyst. It then "plants" itself in the gravel or on the plants and begins making new organisms. It keeps producing floating versions that then attach to fish. The fish will come into contact with more and more of them and the white spots will become more and more prevalent.

In The Wild.
Ich isn't a huge problem in nature because of the openness of it all. The Ich are released into the waters. They float around hoping to come into contact with a fish. When they do, they do the same thing as they would in the tank. However, the fish isn't likely to be killed because it will only come in contact with a few of the organisms rather than with lots of them. They finish their development and move on. The fish also has the ability to develop an immunity when they come in contact with it. This makes it harder for the organism to attach to the fish in the future. In the fish tank there is no time for this immunity to develop because the fish is attacked by so many organisms at once.

Treating Ich Naturally.
Ich can be killed and eradicated from an aquarium with natural methods. However, you must do so slowly and effectively. You need to make sure that you are watching your fish for signs that they are handling the treatment well and adjust things as they need to be adjusted.

  1. Increase the amount of air. It is important that you work on increasing the amount of air that the fish have. this is because many fish will struggle to breathe when they have ich. Plus you should be raising the temperature shortly and you want to make sure that there is plenty of air. Add extra air stones and another air pump. Lower your water level so that the filter pushes more air into the water.
  2. Slowly raise the temperatures of the water. You should raise the temperature of the water 1 degree every two hours until it is at 86 degrees. Then you should watch how your fish. If they don't seem to have a problem then you should raise it up to 88 degrees. This will kill free floating Ich and it will also make it impossible for those that are breeding to continue.
  3. Add salt. Slat also helps to get rid of ich. You will want to research your fish so you know who can handle more salt and less. As a general rule fish that are from soft and or acidic waters will have a harder time with salt in the water and you should make sure that you aren't going too high with the salt. However, most fish will do okay with salt in their water for a short period of time. Each day you should add 1 tablespoon of salt for every five gallons of water for three to five days. Don't add salt directly to your tank, instead mix with warm chlorine free (or treated) water and add it to your tank slowly. By adding 1 tablespoon of salt for every five gallons even after your water changes you will slowly increase your salt to a rate that will kill the ich.
  4. Do daily water changes. Getting rid of as many of the Ich parasites in their free floating and planted varieties is important. You will want to take 50% of the water out each day. Make sure that you are using a gravel filter so that you are getting the planted variety as well as those floating in the water. When replacing the water you will want to make sure that you are adding the salt to keep your salinity levels high.

It is important that you keep up the care of your tank every day for ten days. In most cases that is when the ich will be completely eradicated. However, you should be watching closely to make sure that you have indeed beaten the problem. Watch for the white spots to disappear and keep treating for three days after that. You can do a daily water change of 25% to get rid of the salt and lower your temperatures a little bit at a time.

Reasons To Go Natural.
There are a few different reasons to go natural. Consider these long before you go to the store and purchase something.

  1. Many bacteria and parasite strains are becoming resistant to medications because they are used way too often. It is important that you work on making sure that you get rid of bacteria and parasite naturally whenever possible so that we don't have to keep making harsher and harsher medications.
  2. Medications are often enough to send a sick fish over the edge. You are much more likely to save your sick fish with natural cures.
  3. Medications are also dangerous for you to use. They are poison for the parasites, but they are also poisonous for fish and even for you!

Whenever possible you should choose to go a natural route in getting rid of ich. If after two weeks you haven't been able to get rid of it using salt and raised temperatures combined with lots of water changes then you should go to the store and pick up a treatment. Make sure that you follow all directions on the package and take care to keep you and your family safe. However, when possible, go natural! For tips on preventing ich check out Preventing Ich or White Spot Disease.