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Corydoras losing their noses
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MariafromBC
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Joined: 02 Feb 2007
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

PostPosted: 2007.02.02(Fri)23:16    Post subject: Corydoras losing their noses Reply with quote

Hi there bottom dweller experts!
About a year ago I changed the gravel in my tank from the brightly colored gaudy blue coated type gravel to the small realistic looking multicolored river pebbles. (How descriptive!) Anyway, thinking about my future plant setup and the layout of the tank I decided to put about 2-3" of gravel throughout the whole tank. It is fairly fine gravel, roughly 1/16" to 1/8", although there could have been a slight amount of residual sand in the mix (it was from a previous setup). Okay, so now getting to the problem: my cory's have completely worn away their noses! no barbells left at all, just long pointy sort of 'snouts' that I can barely find a hole in (for a time I wondered if the tissue had completely closed up around their mouths...it looks like they are still managing to get some food in somehow). Sometimes they completely stand on their 'heads' trying to get at ?food? stuck in the gravel. Is this wearing their noses right off? (it appears that may be the case) Should I change this gravel completely into a larger substrate/is the depth of gravel too deep/is it a bacterial problem common with corys? (the bottoms of their tails-where it touches gravel- are slightly damaged and side fins have become mere stubs--they haven't grown back) I need an expert opinion...I can't stand to watch them suffer Sad
from Maria***
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deborah_claro
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Joined: 11 May 2006
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2007.02.03(Sat)8:29    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maria, welcome to Aquahobby. The question you are asking has been asked many times in different ways and I always give approximately the same answer, depending on the specific conditions of the poster.

Here is the bottom line: barbels are sensory organs and are not meant to be used to push gravel around. This is the main reason corys should not be kept on gravel, even if it is smooth. Not only does it erode the barbels, but pushing gravel around to get at food exhausts the fish, and pushes the food deeper into the gravel, where it decomposes under anaerobic conditions and produces toxic waste.
Quote:
Should I change this gravel completely into a larger substrate/is the depth of gravel too deep/is it a bacterial problem common with corys?
Using ever larger gravel sizes is even worse, as the corys end up doing just what you said - nosing deeper and deeper into areas where anaerobic conditions surely exist, and direct exposure to toxic waste is insured. Rummaging around in these poor conditions, erodes the barbels faster than even the poor choice of substrate does.

So, to answer your specific question, yes, you should change your substrate immediately, but to a 3/4" (three quarters of an inch) layer of fine, smooth-grained sand, with some fine gravel scattered over the top. This is the ideal substrate for Corydoras catfish, who will keep it stirred up and fresh, as they search and burrow their noses in right up to their gills. A fine grained sand, for use in freshwater systems, will not compact with a group of corys in there. I have always found cleaning sand to be much easier than cleaning gravel, because the debris tends to sit on top and is easier to see and remove. I have a couple of posts on the board showing one of my tanks with white sand. I have no trouble keeping it clean. A sand tank, IMO, stays far cleaner than a gravel tank, using the same cleaning regimen.
Quote:
I decided to put about 2-3" of gravel throughout the whole tank. It is fairly fine gravel, roughly 1/16" to 1/8", although there could have been a slight amount of residual sand in the mix
Most serious cory enthusiasts use sand, and if all of your material described above was 1/16" I'd say okay, use it. 1 mm would be even better. If you absolutely cannot use sand, there is a very, very fine sand-like gravel sold at PetSmart, which is supposed to be very good. I have not used it, but I've seen it for sale and it looks pretty good to me.

Research scientists have reported many times that the areas where corys are found do not have gravel beds or coarse materials of any kind. They are almost exclusively sand, and the finest sand which is, in effect, mud. The waters flow freely by the thousands of gallons over these areas in good season, and rooting around in this material yields all kinds of tiny insects, larvae, crustaceans, and other invertebrates, which are eagerly consumed by bottom dwellers. Soft, friable substrate is the only kind to use with these little catfish.

As you have found out, barbel erosion is a nasty customer. And, yes, it is as bad as it looks. The first stage is ever-smaller barbels, eroding to stubs; then inflammation, caused by sharp or dirty substrate, then infection from opportunistic bacteria. Serious mouth fungus, a secondary infection following the bacterial infection which caused the barbel erosion, is usually fatal. It doesn't sound as if you are up to this stage yet, so if you improve the conditions by changing over to a fine-grained, smooth sand, and keep up a good tank maintenance schedule, you may see some barbel regrowth. At least, things won't get worse. Try weekly water changes of 25-30% and do not overfeed.

It's a long and complicated subject, barbel health. I have written about this topic extensively on these boards and a forum search using three keywords "barbels corydoras Deborah" will yield a few threads for your further reading, if you are interested. I'm not the only one who writes about it, but I write about it very passionately! Others will be able to help you, too. Very Happy

Deborah
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joitoy
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Joined: 06 Mar 2005
Location: Trinity, TX

PostPosted: 2007.02.03(Sat)12:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish I read this before I purchased my cories last night. I had gravel, though it is not a very thick layer. I would say 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches in the thickest areas

I planned to order some java moss and some bubble moss (can't recall the exact name) and allow it to grow in a thick carpet all over the tank because I love the look of an aquarium lawn. Should this help and prevent them from harming themselves since they will be foraging over greenery instead of gravel?
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deborah_claro
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Joined: 11 May 2006
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2007.02.03(Sat)14:38    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joi, if you could remove some of your gravel, and replace it with sand, that would be a good improvement. Look to reducing the overall depth of your gravel, say to 1" - 1 1/2" total depth, and establish saucer-sized areas of sand, that are no more than 3/4" deep. Feed your corys there, and slightly bury the food for them, so that your aggressive eaters, if you have any, don't steal it. If you decide to remove some of the gravel, do so over a period of four weeks, removing 1/4 of the total amount to be removed at a time. That way your biofilter will have a chance to adjust gradually. I think this will work out well for you.

Growing a carpet over the bottom is a good idea, and it will look great, but it won't stop determined corys from rummaging in the gravel. That's why I suggest creating sand areas, too.
Very Happy
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joitoy
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Joined: 06 Mar 2005
Location: Trinity, TX

PostPosted: 2007.02.03(Sat)15:48    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's going to be difficult. Removing the gravel isn't so hard, but putting sand into the tank without clouding the water is a toughy.

Quote:
Most serious cory enthusiasts use sand, and if all of your material described above was 1/16" I'd say okay, use it. 1 mm would be even better. If you absolutely cannot use sand, there is a very, very fine sand-like gravel sold at PetSmart, which is supposed to be very good. I have not used it, but I've seen it for sale and it looks pretty good to me.


I will begin removing and replacing with this, and place a terracotta dish into the tank so that the sinking pellets fall in there. That should be even easier on their noses until enough of the gravel is changed over. I'm noticed that they are very frantic eaters and furiously search the gravel for bits of food. I am worried about the dojo loach I bought at petsmart a few nights ago. I have never seen him eat, but I realize that doesn't mean he hasn't eaten at all.
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Lobsterman
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Joined: 01 Sep 2006
Location: NYC

PostPosted: 2007.02.04(Sun)13:36    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe the barbels will regenerate over time. Eco-complete is a good substrate you can use.
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MariafromBC
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Joined: 02 Feb 2007
Location: Victoria, British Columbia

PostPosted: 2007.02.04(Sun)18:43    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks deborah for the detailed and informative response...After reading it I decided to go to my LFS and purchase some sand substrate. After catching the bus in the rain, and lugging it all the way home, I proceeded in the lengthy process of changing my substrate, beginning with washing the sand about a zillion times! literally! I guess with fine particulate substrate a fair amount of dust is present in the sand, and after three hours of rinsing I made the switch. Its going to take weeks before my honey gourami is over the trauma. Anyways now I'm dealing with the problem of a massive pH jump (I guess I should have rinsed for another three hours Sad ). Note to others changing from gravel to sand: monitor your pH throughout and also rinse it THOROUGHLY!!!

thanks again
Maria
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