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Major Fin Fish Diseases, Their Symptoms and

Management Measures


In recent years traditional aquaculture has turned into a science based

economic and commercial activity involving heavy inputs and therefore, diseases of all
kinds are known to occur on an increasingly large scale. However, fish mortality is not
the only criterion to evaluate the effect of fish disease. Even the morbidity which leads
to weight losses and poor growth in surviving fish contributes substantial losses to the
farmers. With increasing intensification of fish culture we are faced with an increasing
number of recognized infectious diseases due to ever changing environment.
Therefore, research on the pathogenesis and pathology of these diseases, their
prevention and control has become essentially required.

Water Quality – Why Is It Important?

Fishes are poikilothermal aquatic animals and need continuous acclimatization to the
environmental changes. To a great extent, the success or failure of fish culture is
determined by water quality. A Successful pathogen must first find a susceptible host
for its lodging and multiplication. It is not easy. Because the body of fish is covered
with scales. Mucus secreting epidermal cells. Easier way is to get entry into host is a
lesion on the skin or through other openings like mouth, eyes, nostrils.

Stressors for fish:

The stressors which elicit morphological and physiological responses in fish fall
into 4 categories.
Chemical - Stress due to water quality, pollutants, and metabolic wastes.
Physical – Temperature and super saturation of gas
Procedural – Stress due to handling, transportation, stocking or disease treatment.
Biological – Stress due to population density, confinement, diet composition and
micro- and macro-organisms.

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A fundamental management objective of all fish rearing practices is to avoid and
minimize stress on fish.

Stress: The aquatic environment is dynamic and constantly subject to changes in

its physical, chemical and biological components. These changes along with
culture practices – stressors severely stress the physiological systems of fishes.
The physiological response elicited initially is adaptive. However, they may
ultimately become maladaptive in chronic situations.

Stress response


Perceived by CNS

Stress hormones Cortisol and epinephrin

released from interrenal cells into blood stream.

2o response - Blood and tissue alterations

3o response - Reduction in growth and resistance to diseases

Most fish diseases are stressed mediated. Stress is a physiologic state caused by a
procedure, environmental condition or other factor which interferes with the fish’s
ability to maintain a “normal” state. It extends the adaptive responses of an animal
beyond the normal range or which disturbs the normal functioning.

Bacterial Diseases
Innumerable diseases are caused in fishes due to bacterial pathogens and
several of them are reported in Indian literature. They occur in nursery, raering and
grow out ponds causing serious concern to fish farmers. Some of them often wipe out
the entire population of fish. Some of the important bacterial pathogens are
Aeromonas hydrophila, A. salmonicida, Pseudomonas fluorescens, P.putrefaciens,
Flexibacter columnaris, Edwardsiella tarda, Vibrio alginolyticus and V.

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parahaemolyticus which have been identified as the most commonly encountered
agents in fish diseases.

Fin rot and tail rot

Fin rot and tail rot in hatcheries, nurseries and grow out ponds have been
reported in young and adult fishes. The disease is contagious and is capable of
causing immense damage. Fin and tail rot in young fish are due to a mixed infection of
A.hydrophila and Pseudomaonas fluorescens. Control measures adopted are bath
treatment in 1:2000 copper sulphate for 2 minutes or swabbing of concentrated copper
sulphate solution in the affected fishes.

Dropsy is frequently encountered in carps like Catla, rohu and mrigal mostly in
composite culture ponds in late winter. The epidermis and body cavities get filled with
fluid and scales protrude out from their pockets leading to severe anaemic condition. A
mixed infection of A. hydrophila and myxozoan parasite or malnutrition is frequently
the cause of infectious dropsy in Catla.

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The affected fishes could be effectively treated by Terramycin in the feed. Application
of neem leaf and leaf extract in the pond water, lime in soil, change of pond water with
fresh water can control this disease within 2/3 days.

Eye disease
A. liquifaciens infects the eyes of rohu, catla and silver carp. The cornea of the
eyes gets vascularized leading to opacity and complete necrosis and even mass
mortality of fish has been recorded. Investigations have isolated Staphylococcus
aureus from the affected eyes of diseases fish. Chloromycetin bath @ 8 - 10mg/L has
been found effective in controlling the disease at an early stage. Disinfecting the
environment with Potassium permanganate at a dose of 0.1 ppm followed by liming
@300 ppm check the disease.

Ulcerative disease
Bilateral ulcerations of the opercula and the head in catla are observed in
ulcerative disease. In most cases, A.hydrophila could be isolated, although several
other bacterial forms were also present as secondary invaders.

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Columnaris disease

Cause external lesions over the body surface. The causative organism has
been identified as Flexibactercolumnaris. Topical application of potassium
permanganate or short bath in 500ppm of Potassium permanganate has been found
to be very effective in completely curing the disease.

It is a septicaemic disease affecting brood fish population. Edwardseilla tarda
has been isolated from the diseases fish showing anaemia, cutaenous lesions and
gas filled abscesses in the muscle. Although treatment with idophor has been found to
be effective, water quality improvement in the hatchery is the most essential
component for keeping the disease away.

Epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS)

Epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS ) has ecome a matter of great concern not
only among fisherman and fish farmers, but also among general public
,entrpreneurs,administrators and planners. One common feature of the disease is that
it initially affects the bottom dwelling species like murrels followed by catfishes, weed
fishes and IMC. The lesions start as small grains to pea sized haemorrhagic spots
over the body which ultimately turns into big ulcersof the size of a coin with grayish
slimy central necrotic areas surrounded by a zone of hyperemia. The disease affects
to such an extent that they starts rotting while still alive and eventually die. A number
of bacteria viz.A.hudrophila, A.punctata, Flavobacterium sp., Pseudomonas sp.,
Edwardsiella tarda, Vibrio parahaemlyticus and Streptococcos sp. have been
isolated from the affectd specimens. Histopathological studies revealed complete loss
of epidermis in the ulcerative area of the skin where the dermis and hypodermis
showed characteristic granulomatous changes. Besides bacteria, virus, fungus and
parasites were also reported to be associated with EUS,

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Many antibiotics, sulfonamides, chemicalsherbal preparations etc. have been
advocated as preventive and curative measures. Lime was accepted widely among
fish farmers of the country until the formulation of CIFAX, therapeutics developed by
Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA). Marked improvement of the
ulcerative condition is noticed within seven days of application of the medicine and the
ulcers are healed up with in 10 -14 days.

Protozoan diseases


The white spot disease or Ichthyophthiriasis is a common disease of fresh

water carps. Affected fishes exhibit minute white nodular spots on the skin, fins and
gills and are restless. The causative agent is Ichthyophthiriasis multifilis. This parasite
can be controlled by hourly bath treatment for 7 days in 2-5% NaCl solution. Pond
treatment advocated is application of 15-25mg/L formalin.

The protozoa: Ichthyophthiriasis multifilis

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A = The trophozoites in the host's skin.
B = Trophont leaving the host.
C = The mature trophont with hundreds of maturing tomites.
D = The releasing of tomites that penetrate the skin of the host fish.
A = The cycle continues all over again.

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Various life stages of IMC and cat fishes are affected by the parasites. The
csusative agents are urecolariid ciliate species of the genus Trichodina,Tripartiella
and Trichodinella. They attach to the fish gills by means of adhesive disc constituted
by skeletal elements. The treatment methods adopted are water quality improvement,
diminishing stocking density of fish, bath treatment of fishes with 2-3% NaCl or 50
mg/L KMnO4 and pond treatment with 5 mg/L KMnO4 or 25 mg/L formalin.

Trichodina, circle shaped skin Parasite on Gill filament


Heavy infestations of the genus Coastia (Ichthyoboda) causes the disease. It

infests the gills and external surfaces of all species of fresh water fishes and is
reported to proliferate at low temperature (250c) . The affected fishes show grayish
white shade on the body surface. These parasites are controlled by bath treatment of
fishes with 2-3% Nacl or 50 mg/litre KMno4 and pond treatment with 5mg/litre KMno4
or 25mg/litre formalin.

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Myxosporean disease

Myxosporidia are one of the most important groups of pathogens capable of

producing diseases in fish causing heavy loss on the juvenile. Myxobolus cysts of
varying sizes have been reported on the gills and kidneys of Catla catla. Larger cysts
are located at the distal end of the gill filament whereas smaller ones are seen at the
proximal end. Infections damage the respiratory surface of the gill and excretory
tubules of the kidney. Diagnosis of the diseae can be made on the basis of gross
appearance of the pin head sized grayish cysts and large number of myxosporidian
spores under the microscope.

Helminthic parasites

Dactylogyrosis and Gyrodactylosis

Fishes are infected on their gills and skin by monogenetic and digenetic
tremetodes. The important monogenetic species belong to gyrodactylus (Skin fluke)
and dactylogyrus (Gill fluke). They remain attach to the skin (gyrodactylus) and gills
(dactylogyrus) by the help of anchors which causes wounds. Their presence cause
hyper secretion of mucous and haemorrhage from blood capillaries. These wounds
later get infected with pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Alternate bath in 1:2000 acetic
acid solution followed by bath in 2% sodium chloride solution has been found
effective. Some workers have advocated dip treatment in 5% solution followed by a
bath in 1:5000 formalin.


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Gyrodactylus –body fluke

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Black spot disease

The digenetic trematodes generally infect the alimentary canal, but are rarely
harmful. However, in the metacercarial stage they are harmful as they get encysted in
any part of the body. i.e. skin, muscle, abdominal cavity, liver ,eyes, and brain. In
these cases fish serves as intermediary host , while the final host is generally a fish
eating bird. In many carp fingerlings the black spot disease is due to metacercaria of

Life cycle of Diplostomum


IMC in reservoirs and lakes are affected by this disease. Diseases fishes are
dark colour anaemic and abdomen is distended because of large number of parasites
at infective stage.The causative agent is the plerocercoid stage of the parasite Ligula
intesinalis. Control methods are limited to extermination of the definitive host, the
ichthiophagous birds. Interestingly, the fish is not the major host of Ligula; the cycle
starts in the body of birds. The life expectancy in the major host is a maximum of 5
days, but in this time they will lay a multitude of eggs. These eggs are passed into
water via the faeces of the bird. Once in the aquatic medium they hatch and are eaten
by a wide range of copepod zooplankton. The cycle continues when the fish ingests

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the copepod. The worm then burrows through the gut wall and continues to develop in
the fish's body cavity. The cycle is then complete when the bird eats the tapeworm
hosting fish.

Acanthocephalan disease

IMC, cat fishes and many other fishes are parasitized by these helminthes.
These parasites inhabit the alimentary tract of fishes attaching themselves by their
probiscs. The attachment site of the intestinal epithelia gets damaged and become
focci for secondary infection. The causative agents are acanthocphalans,
Acanthogyrus acnthogyrus, A.pallisentis sp. Proper treatment methods have not

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Crustacean parasites


IMC are mostly affected by this parasite. The causative agent is the
branchiuran parasites Argulusfoliaceus (Fish lice), A.bengalensis. The nauplius
and other developmental stages which are free living are parasitic to the host fish.
Attachment site of parasites shows signs of ulcerations, growth retardation and
occasionally mortality occurs. Argulus must be eradicated quickly as the parasite
causes considerable physical damage to the skin which often results in
subsequent ulcerations of the affected areas if left untreated. It is controlled by
bath treatment with NaCl @ 3-5%, Pond treatment with KMnO4 @5mg/ litre,or
mechanical removal of Argulus sticky eggs by hanging bamboo mats or corrugated
sheets in the water area and its removal and drying in the sun after a week for
killing the eggs.

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Fish lice are flat, disc-shaped parasites which attach themselves to fish with small
suckers. They feed on blood and tissue fluids by piercing the skin with sharp

Infestation occurs in gills, buccal cavity, operculum and gills. The
causative agent is the species of genus Ergasilus. The parasites are controlled by
pond treatment with potassium permanganate @ 5mg/L or bath treatment of affected
fish with 2-3% NaCl.


Heavily infected fishes become moribund with erratic movement and
emaciation. Attachment areas on host exhibit sloughing off and ulceration. The
causative agents are Lernea chackoensis, L.bengalensis (anchor worm). The
parasites are controlled by the same treatment as for Ergasilus sp.

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Fungal Diseases

Saprolegnia parasitica infection in the fry and fingerlings of major carps is one
of the main problems affecting health of fishes. The disease in fish is characterized by
a white to brown cotton like growth consisting of colonies of mycelium and filaments
which appear as small to large patches on various parts of the body like fins, gills,
mouth, eyes or muscle. The infection starts due to netting injury and over crowding or
lesions caused by other diseases.

Saprolegnia infection on the body of a koi

Branchiomyces is another problem causing 'gill rot '.

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Diseases and control measures for Indian Major Carps Catla Catla(Source:FAO)
In some cases antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals have been used in treatment but their inclusion in this table does
not imply an FAO recommendation.


Eye, optic nerves and
brain affected;
cornea of eye Treat affected ponds
vascularised & with 0.1 ppm
Eye disease Aeromonas liquefaciens Bacterium
becomes opaque; KMnO4, followed by
subsequently eye ball 300 ppm lime
gets putrefied,
leading to death
Destroy badly
infected fish;
disinfect affected
ponds with 0.5 ppm
solution of KMnO 4;
Ulcer Aeromonasspp.;Pseudomonasspp. Bacteria exophthalmia;
add sulphadiazine
abdominal distension
(100 mg/kg) or
terramycin (75-80
mg/kg) to feed for
10-12 days
Raised white
plaques, often with
reddish peripheral Dip treatment with
Columnaris Flavobacterium columnaris Bacterium
zone leading to 500 ppm KMnO4
haemorrhagic spots
on body
Body scales stretch
Disinfect affected
out resembling pine
ponds with 1 ppm
cone; inflammation;
Dropsy Aeromonas sp. Bacterium KMnO4; dip
treatment of 5 ppm
KMnO4 for 2 minutes
abdominal distension
3-4% NaCl bath;
KMnO4 bath for 5
days at 160 mg/litre
Mould grows like
bath for five days; 1-
cotton wool on body,
2 mg/litre malachite
Saprolegniasis Saprolegnia parasitica Fungus penetrating into the
green bath for 30
muscle; morbid
minutes to 1 hour;
muscle rot
add formalin at 20
ml/litre to affected
Fungus grows out Addition of quick
through gill blood lime (50-100 kg/ha)
vessels and causes to affected ponds; in
necrosis of case of limited
Branchiomyces demigrans Fungus surrounding tissues; infections, use 3-5%
(gill rot)
yellow-brown NaCl bath for 5-10
discolouration & minutes, or 5 ppm
disintegration of gill KMnO4 bath for 5-10
tissues minutes
Dip in 1:5 000
formalin solution for
Skin, fin rays &
1 hour for 7-10 days
operculum covered
or in 2% NaCl for 7-
with white spores;
Ichthyophthiriasis Ichthyophthirius multifilis Parasite(protozoan) 10 days; affected
sick fish keep
ponds should be
rubbing against hard
disinfected with
quicklime at 200

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2-3% NaCl bath for
5-10 minutes or 4
ppm KMnO4 batch
Invasion of parasites
Trichodiniasis Trichodina reticulata; T. negre Parasite(protozoan) for 5-10 minutes;
in skin & gill region
treat affected ponds
with 25 ppm
emaciation; raising
of scales along their Reduce density; add
Thenohanellus catlae; Myxobolus
White gill spot posterior margins; yeast to feed (1
bengalensis; M. catlae; M. Parasite(protozoan)
disease scale loss; g/kg); 2-3% NaCl
perforation of scales; bath
loss of
3-5% NaCl dip
treatment for 5-10
Dactylogyrosis Gill, fin & skin minutes; 100 ppm
and Dactylogyrusspp.;Gyrodactylusspp. affected; excessive formalin bath; treat
Gyrodactylosis mucus secretion affected ponds with
25 ppm formalin or 4
ppm KMnO4
Black nodules due to
metacercarial cysts in
Black spot or Parasites (digenean Remove resident
Diplostomum pigmentata the host body; infects
Diplostomiasis trematode molluscan population
eye and causes
Drain and dry ponds
showing severe
Parasites visible to
Argulus infection;
naked eye attached to
short duration 5 ppm
head & fin rays;
Argulosis Argulus sp. Parasite (crustacean) KMnO4 dip;
haemorrhagic spots
treatment with
found in chronic
'Butox' three times at
35 ml/ha-m at
weekly intervals
Large red or grey
shallow ulcers with
necrotic areas on 200 kg/ha quicklime
Aeromonas hydrophila; A. sorbia; skin; fungus extends or 0.1 ppm CIFAX (a
Ulcerative Bacteria and fungus
Aphanomyces invadans deep into the CIFA, India
musculature; lesions formulation)
of acute dermatitis
and ulcers

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