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Mouth wide open, not looking good.

Discussion in 'Dwarf Cichlid Health' started by barcod21, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. barcod21

    barcod21 New Member

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    Hello, I got a male and female MacMasteri Gold / Red a little over a month ago from the LFS. I wasn't quite ready for them as I am in the process of setting up a 40 gallon tank but had been looking for Apistos which I haven't found in locally and really liked the color of these. I was certain they wouldn't be around by the time I got my 40 setup and decided to go for it. I currently only have a 5 gallon setup with 2 Red Eye Tetras, 1 African Dwarf Frog, 2 Mystery snails and a Plecostomus that is about 6" long. They actually adapted very well, there has been no aggression with other fish and actually made the Tetras less shy. Everything had been going great and they even paired up and there were a bunch of reddish pink eggs in a hollow rock on Sunday May 26th. After about 3 days all of the eggs had been eaten, I assume the plecostomus ate most of them and the female apisto finished them off. She left the rock after that but started going back in the rock at night the last 2 nights. I assume she might be ready to lay more eggs?

    Yesterday when I got home from work, my male is near the top of the tank, his mouth is wide open and and his gills are opening and closing at a very fast rate. I fed the tank and he did eat a some. His mouth doesn't completely close but does move a little. He didn't eat much though. He did poop after that and it appears normal (can see in the picture). I tested the water with the API Master Test kit and was as follows;

    PH 7.4
    Amonia 0
    Nitrite 0
    Nitrate 40ppm (I always struggle with this one judging the test kit, it has always been right at this same color and doesn't seem to change with water changes). It is definitely safe to say it has remained at this level the entire time I've had the Apistos.

    I started looking up what this could be. A few things came up but I'm leaning toward lockjaw. I don't know what would cause this and I'm guessing there isn't much I can do. He seems to mostly just hang out at the top of the tank (and he a little diagonal instead of sitting horizontally) or hanging out at the bottom of the tank almost on the gravel. He does come out when I get near the tank and he slowly moves around and will eat a small amount of food but he's not moving around like normal. He's usually pretty active. The female still seems fine along with all of the other tank mates. Any ideas, does it look like the end of the road for this guy? I sure hope not, the 40 gallon tank is very close to being setup and ready to start cycling but I fear this guy will not make it to his new home. Thanks for any input.

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  2. Mike Wise

    Mike Wise Moderator Staff Member 5 Year Member

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    Maybe he tried to sift food from the bottom and got a piece of gravel temporarily lodged in his mouth. This is the reason why experienced apisto keepers recommend coarse to fine-grained sand for the substrate. I'm afraid that all one can do now is provide optimal conditions (pH 7.4 is not optimal) and hope he can re-adjust his jaw.
  3. barcod21

    barcod21 New Member

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    Thanks Mike, Do you think it is worth trying to take him out of the tank to get a better look into his mouth in case there is something in there? I don't see anything from outside of the tank and he does get a very limited amount of food in there.

    My plan for the new tank is to have a tiered bottom with the lower portion of the tank being a pretty fine pool filter sand I found and the upper tier area being EcoComplete as I plan on doing some plants. The tank he is in now is my 6 year old's tank and over the last couple of years I have turned it into my side hobby. The Apistos are the only fish I have picked out, everything else has been my sons. The plan is also for the 5 gallon to become a quarantine for new or sick fish once the 40 gallon tank is established.

    What do you suggest to lower the PH? I have read adding peat, driftwood or certain leaves to the tank or filter can help but from my reading I was under the impression that unless you are extremely high or low on PH, the fish will typically adapt. I assumed that was also confirmed when the Apistos successfully paired up.
  4. barcod21

    barcod21 New Member

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    Update: When I got home yesterday evening the male was still alive. He is mostly stationary but still coming out to eat. He was near the top in a corner where there is more flow from the filter. I put some flake food right above him and he did eat a little but his mouth still doesn't close much. Where he was with the filter made it difficult too because the flakes swirled a lot and he isn't moving real fast. I decided a little later to pull him out and see if there was resistance trying to close his mouth. He was pretty easy to net, didn't swim fast at all. It was not hard at all to push his mouth close, it will push closed and then go right back open. After a few seconds though he did close it on his own. However, once back in the water it is right back to being open. He did seem slightly more lively for a few minutes after that in the water but was quickly back to resting on the bottom or up at the top by the filter.

    He was still alive this morning up by the top of the filter. Condition seems the same. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he will pull through but I'm not holding my breath. If anyone has any further thoughts or suggestions I'd appreciate it.
  5. Mike Wise

    Mike Wise Moderator Staff Member 5 Year Member

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    All of the above work, depending on how hard your tap water is. The harder the water, the less effective tannins are at lowering pH. Fortunately, A. macmasteri is fairly adaptable pH-wise - especially domestic strains like yours. Still optimal values, which might help cure him if it isn't a physical problem, can only help.

    Many species will breed in poor water values (for them), but these are often unsuccessful or produce few viable fry.

    This is not a good idea. Most hobbyists who do this end up breaking the jaw and then the fish is lost for certain.

    If it were my fish I'd do nothing more than I suggested in my first post. If you want to go further, since he eats flakes, maybe you could soak some flakes in a broad-spectrum antibiotic for him to eat. It will get more into him than soaking the entire tank.