Natural Prevention and Treatment of Aquarium Fish Parasites ©

Information about natural treatments for aquarium fish diseases and parasites is tough to find due to a lack of scientific study (although this is improving with the demand for organically farmed fish). It’s also more complicated than it is with other pets because tolerance levels can vary between the many species. However, there are some natural methods of prevention and treatment for both internal and external parasites that have been proven safe for several species.

As it is with all animals, our best defense from fish illness and parasites is prevention through the nurturing of a strong immune system, and providing a healthy environment. Parasites are opportunistic and they target unhealthy or stressed fish.

PREVENT FISH PARASITES

  • Quarantine new fish and observe closely for signs of illness
  • Feed a high quality diet and avoid heavily processed foods
  • Keep the aquarium clean with frequent water changes and good filtration
  • Avoid stressing fish by providing a suitable environment (tank size, temperature, habitat, etc.)

Natural Cleansing of the Fish Digestive System

A healthy digestive system can tackle pathogens without treatment. In an unhealthy digestive system, parasites thrive on toxins, high-processed food, undigested proteins, and unnatural mucus. It can also tax the immune system and other organs, such as the liver.

Nurture a healthy digestive system: Feed a high quality, low-processed, whole food diet that is based on your species’ wild feeding habits. Foods that are high in starch, carbohydrates and sugars are difficult to digest and are a parasite’s dream buffet.  Foods such as corn, sweet potato, parsnips, bananas & oranges should be avoided or fed very sparingly.

Cleanse for health and immunity: Calcium Montmorillonite Clay (Bentonite) is a proven cleanser that expels parasites, while also cleaning the digestive system to make it less inviting to parasites. It also increases alkalinity (parasites and diseases thrive in an acidic internal environment), provides digestible minerals, and soothes a parasite-ravaged digestive system. Foods high in roughage/fiber, such as pealed peas, daphnia and krill, will also help expel parasites during treatment and cleanses the digestive system.

NATURAL TREATMENT OF INTERNAL FISH PARASITES

Tropical Fish - Camallanus Worm Parasite

This Molly was purchased with a Camallanus Worm parasite infection. Pardon the yuck factor ;-).

The most effective parasite treatments combine several ingredients because most only kill some types of parasites or their eggs. You can make a gelatin-bound anti-parasite fish food that helps repel and expel parasites from fish, while also providing immunity support to prevent secondary infections. As an added bonus, many anti-parasite foods are also anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Combine anti-parasite foods with nutrient-dense, easily digested, whole foods that are your fish’s favorites to increase palatability. Check out our Homemade Gelatin Fish Food article for all you need to know about making gelatin fish food. Feed your anti-parasite fish food exclusively for three consecutive days per week for three weeks.

For long term prevention, you can mix up a fish food recipe that includes the more gentle anti-parasite foods (in smaller, therapeutic doses) and immunity enhancing foods, combined with a balanced blend of foods based on the species’ wild diet. The Bottom Bites blends that we feed, for example, include a broad array of anti-microbial ingredients. Their inclusion allows us to easily incorporate them into an appropriate diet plan for all of our aquarium species.

Notes of Caution: It’s important to remember that fish are tiny creatures by comparison to us giant humans. They need a small fraction of what a larger animal would require and more could cause harm. Also be aware that you are using these treatments on your particular fish species at your own risk – begin with small amounts and do not feed antiparasite recipes over the long term.

Natural Anti-parasite Foods for Fish Food Recipes:

Raw, crushed garlic – Crushing activates allicin, the main active component in garlic used to treat parasites. Allicin is heat sensitive, rendering garlic and allicin supplements virtually useless in heat processed fish food.  A little goes a long way – too much garlic can irritate mucous membranes and if it’s over-supplemented for too long, it can cause anemia due to iron-binding.

Pineapple – The enzyme bromelain is the anti-parasite component in Pineapple. Other fruit commonly recommended includes papaya, pomegranate and blackberries

Extra virgin coconut oil – The high lauric acid content in coconut oil reportedly kills parasites.

Raw or dehydrated raw carrots, pumpkin and other vegetables high in Vitamin A are said to increase resistance to parasite larvae.  It’s important not to over-supplement Vitamin A, however, so make sure it’s only a part of a balanced diet and avoid high-carbohydrate sources.

Cruciferous vegetables – Thiols sulfur-bearing chemicals, such as those found in cabbage, are recommended in anti-parasite diets.

Seaweed – All species have anti-parasite properties and kelp is often recommended. Again, heavy processing deactivates most of these components so stick to gently-dried options. Seaweed will also help to reestablish electrolyte alkaline reserves.

There are several herbs that are reputed to kill parasites or their eggs, or soothe & regenerate the digestive system. Several anti-parasite herbs are quite harsh (such as wormwood) and may be dangerous so we avoid them, but there are a few that you may wish to try in small amounts for a limited time. They can have a strong taste, which is another reason to use them sparingly. Combine them with foods reputed to improve palatability and attractants (such as garlic and krill) to increase the chances of them eating it. Herb freshness is key to effectiveness.

Anti-parasite Herbs for Fish Food Recipes:

Turmeric

Neem Leaf (Leaves are also used in aquaculture ponds for the natural treatment of external parasites)

Eclipta alba leaf

Cinnamon

Ginger – Contains zingibain, which has demonstrated ability to dissolve parasites and their eggs

Olive leaf – Active ingredient is oleuropein.

Berberine (found in Goldenseal)

Thyme

Mandrake Root

Fennel seed

Other Natural Anti-Parasite Treatments for Fish Food Recipes:

Pumpkin seed – Offers curcurbitin, a noted anti-parasite compound that works through paralysis of the parasites, which allows them to be eliminated naturally.

Papaya seed – Carpain is the active anti-parasite component. Also contains enzymes to improve protein digestion.

Poplar, Baccharis and Cuba Propolis

Pomegranate stems and roots – Contain the anti-parasite compound pseudopelletierine.

Sea Cucumber – Anti-parasite properties have been proven effective even on malaria.

Brewer’s Yeast

Probiotics – Recent research into the use of probiotics on fish has been very promising.

It should be noted that sometimes we have to use pharmaceutical medications to eliminate stubborn, resistant or otherwise strong parasitic infestations. Preventative measures are crucial to avoiding these infections, but sometimes it happens anyway. For particularly brutal parasites such as Camallanus worms (requires Levamisole)  or heavy infestations that are posing a risk of quick death, we recommend trying medication.  You can still formulate an anti-parasite recipe that nurtures the digestive system and supports immune function to provide a more complete treatment.

All Natural Pet Care Blog CommentHave you had success with the natural prevention and treatment of parasites in fish? Please share your experience in the comments below. With a lack of scientific studies, your experiences are that much more valuable!

Sources:
Julie Desrivot et al. Ethno-pharmacology Antiparasitic activity of some New Caledonian medicinal plants. 2007.
Man-Chul Kim. Ramasamy Harikrishnan. Moon-Soo Heo. The effect of probiotics and herbal supplemented diets on growth, blood biochemistry, and innate immune response of olive flounder and parrot fish. The Israeli Journal of Aquaculture – Bamidgeh. 2008.
D.Q. Bai. R. Li. K.Z. Xing. Y.J. Guo. C.X. Chen. X.T. Qiao. H.T. Mao. G.X. Zhu. In vitro Antibacterial Activity of Herbal Medicines and Combinations of Herbal Medicines and Antibiotics against Edwardsiella tarda. The Israeli Journal of Aquaculture-Bamidgeh 61(1)
AquacultureHub.org – Accessed 01/31/12.
Halver, J.E., Hardy, R.W. Fish Nutrition. Second ed. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, USA. 1989.
Robert, Helen E. Fundamentals of Ornamental Fish HealthFundamentals of Ornamental Fish Health. 2009.
Dr. Chris Andrews, Adrian Exell, Dr. Neville Carrington. Handbook of Fish DiseasesHandbook of Fish Diseases
Larry Trivieri. John W. Anderson. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive GuideAlternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide 2nd Ed. 2002.
The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs: A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal MedicinalsThe Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs: A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinals 2004.
Propolis: Composition, Health, Medicine: A Review. Bee Product Science. April 2011.

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63 Responses to “Natural Prevention and Treatment of Aquarium Fish Parasites ©”

  1. Mersey says:

    It’s nice to have a sense of control over the situation when parasites invade. The tips and suggestions you make are intelligent and practical, thank you.

  2. You are a very smart person!

  3. Katja says:

    You know…..my fish are getting much more healthy overall. Feeding them this way isn’t only preventing parasites, they’re doing better overall. It really is a whole new way of thinking & I’m loving it.

  4. Charliew says:

    I’m floored by the number of options provided here. for the first time I have hopes for parasite free fishkeeping.

  5. Burton says:

    To be honest I expected to find an article about garlic and little else, thanks for the pleasant surprise. I’m now intrigued by your fish food…and I bet you planned that! ;)

  6. Matthew S says:

    I just wandered over from your earth day post. I’m amazed at the wealth of unique information you provide and it’s earned you another loyal follower. To the fishes!

  7. Callan says:

    They didn’t like the turmeric so I added a bunch more of their favorites to mask it. Now they chow it down like fish freaks!

  8. Mezzy says:

    I am so frustrated with parasites in and on my fish!!! Thank you for the alternative medicine.

  9. Jenny says:

    We just made our 6th order and it won’t be our last. Your fish food has improved the health of our fish and snails so much I haven’t seen parasites or any other sickness in over a year. I can’t believe how much money we’ve wasted on socalled premium pellets and algae wafers. It’s all trash and chemicals like kibble. PLEASE keep up this important work.

  10. Joanne says:

    My fish are fattening up again, thank you for the antiparasite ideas!!!!

  11. Lisse says:

    Natural treatments are so much better for fish & other animals. I’ll try some of these the next time they get parasites.

  12. Callie Osol says:

    I just added this weblog to my feed reader, excellent stuff. Can not get enough!

  13. Fishing in Canada says:

    This information will be so handy to have on hand when my fish get sick. TY!

  14. Sal says:

    Our fish are presently going bonkers for your Bottom Bites fish food. It’s so funny to watch them bicker over it and so great to know it’s also good for them while it attacks parasites.

  15. Nait says:

    I added a touch of garlic to my last batch of agar fish food and will hope it works!

  16. Sharon says:

    I see my new guppies have parasites :-(. Thanks for sharing this natural fish care info.

  17. Chris says:

    I’ve been feeding some of the wrong vegetables to my fish and I’m glad to know they might give them more parasites.

  18. Chuckster says:

    Thanks I’m going to try this on my fish.

  19. Brellareen says:

    Crushed garlic is effective on internal parasites and ich too. I’ve made my own fish food to treat them before and it works most of the time if you catch it early. I had the same problem giving them store fish food that has garlic in it though: it doesn’t work and now I know why. :-)

  20. Doctor Drake says:

    Right Steve and ever since the fish food industry caught wind of fish being able to use carbohydrates for energy they’ve been using it as a cheap filler. We can use sugar and starch for energy too but that doesn’t mean we should. Thanks for keeping people informed about these little known facts.

  21. Steve says:

    Internal parasites can prosper on some vegetables and fruit for sure! Sugar and carbohydrates feed the worms and make them reproduce and they can grow some fungal infections from them too.

  22. Koi Krazy says:

    I think my fish were getting parasites from bad container food or it just made them unhealthy so they got them more often. After a few months of actual food there were no more parasites in my aquarium. they also eat a ton of insects and larvae in our pond.

  23. Cecillia-A says:

    Internal parasites are so hard to get rid of! Just when I think I’ve annihilated them they come back! I’m going to try every single one of these things you wrote about on my fish and I’m ordering all your kinds of food too!

  24. Kimacho_Mal says:

    I’m excited to know I can actually prevent parasites in our aquariums instead of just treating them all the time!!

  25. Fenton says:

    I found All Natural Pet Care through Melody on Pinterest. Man that gal knows fish!

  26. Ontario fan says:

    Immunity is half the battle for sure because a strong fish can fight off parasites. I didn’t know about the carbohydrate connect so thanks for mentioning it, I won’t give them so many sweet potatoes now. I was told they would be good for fish but kind of wonderred about all the starch.

  27. Laurie says:

    I’m going to try these things on my fish because they have parasites right now dammit!!!!

  28. Classic says:

    This is one of the most impressive articles about fishkeeping that I’ve ever read!

  29. Darcy says:

    I don’t buy fish from stores very often but when I do I usually regret it because I end up spending a fortune for parasite treatments. :-(

  30. Louise says:

    Thanks for the research you’ve done into natural anti parasites. I’ve wondered if any natural alternatives were available for fish for anything but this is the first time I’ve found any information about it.

  31. Farah says:

    thanks! great web site. thank you for the information this site is amazing. very well developed with great information.

  32. Christian says:

    A fellow fishkeeper referred me to you and I’m happy he did. I’ve order some of your fish food and will try some of your antiparasite tips too. Bless you!

  33. claudia says:

    I made my own gel fish food to use on my new fish. I don’t know if they have parasites yet but I’ll feed it to all of my new fish just in case.

  34. Laurini says:

    Natural parasite prevention is great if you can control it but with fish we buy it doesn’t help. I’m glad you included natural treatments too, thanks!

  35. FreevaP says:

    I’ve also had bad experiences with buying fish that have parasites. I think they’re immune to a lot of parasite medicine.

  36. Raj says:

    When I went searching for natural fish care I didn’t think I’d find anything and certainly nothing this valuable. Congratulations!

  37. a fan says:

    Have you considered setting up subscriptions for Bottom Bites? I just got a pound of each from you and I know this is the food that’sbest for my fish and won’t need to buy anything else so it would be great to automatically receive it. What do you think?

    • admin says:

      Hi fan :-). We can set up subscriptions via Paypal if you like. Please drop us a line customersupport{at}allnaturalpetcare.com when you know how frequently you’d like to receive them. Thanks for the suggestion!

  38. Select Aquariums says:

    Thank you for all the info about fish parasites. I’ve never had fish worms in my aquarium. Thank goodness!!

  39. Grace says:

    This is perfect because I have tried all of the antiparasite fish foods I can find and my fish won’t eat ANY OF THEM!! I ordered some of your ingredients so I can do it up right and couldn’t resist your fish food while I was at it. I’m looking forward to receiving the parcel. Truly, thank you.

  40. Yaseen says:

    I’m excited to be trying my first anti-parasite fish food recipe this weekend. How boring does that make me? Heehee I don’t care, my fish bring me a lot more enjoyment than a busy social life!

  41. Matthew says:

    I’m a little intimidated by trying new cures in my aquarium but I’m very tired of dealing with worms so it’s worth a try.

  42. Walter A. says:

    This is really good information about fish parasites, I didn’t know the half of it. We should collaborate sometime.

  43. siino says:

    My cichlids have been much more resistant to diseases and parasites since I started making my own food. The only thing I feed them from a can now is shrimp!

  44. Miranda says:

    I agree with the people who say fish parasites are a big problem these days. It’s an epidemic! Now we can fight back!

  45. Toven says:

    A lot of valuable antiparasite information here, you obviously worked very hard to put it all together. I pity the parasite that tries to get at your fish!

  46. Aaaarrgggg!!!! says:

    I am so tired of parasites I’m considering giving up my aquariums!!! Every time I turn around I end up with fish that have parasites. You might just save the hobby for me!!!!!!

  47. N.E.Aquaculture says:

    I’m thoroughly impressed with the options for treatment that you’ve supplied here. We’ll give them a try on our fish & shrimp and report back.

  48. Monica says:

    I just made my first parasite food and fed it to my new fish. It was really easy and they love it!!

  49. Kisha says:

    This is some thing I need to do more research into, appreciate the posting.

  50. admin says:

    I appreciate the comments and feedback, thank you. Please continue!

  51. Hettie Q says:

    My shrimp & fish go crazy for Bottom Bites. :-) Are these remedies safe for inverts?

    • admin says:

      Hi Hettie, I’m glad to hear your creatures are enjoying Bottom Bites. I haven’t tested all of the above parasite treatments on all species, so it’s a ‘try at your own risk’ deal. We have tested our Bottom Bites herbal blend on many species of snails and a few shrimp species without incident, but we incorporate anti-parasite ingredients into our herbal blend at therapeutic levels and combine them in a formula meant to offset risk and avoid interaction issues. There was a lot of research and trial & error involved in the final blend. Even clay can cause issues when improperly used over the long term in fish, but basic knowledge is enough for temporary parasite treatment. Thanks for commenting!

      • Braxton says:

        So happy I found you in google! :-) I’ve only been keeping fish for a few months so I’m not comfortable making my own food yet but I’ll order some for now.

  52. Dr. Angus says:

    I really like how you so freely provide information about natural fish care instead of just capitalizing on it. It will help both hobbyists and holistic veterinarians who struggle to find information about fish to help their clients. We have a couple of clients in aquaculture that we will be referring to this site for information and products. Good luck with your endeavor.

  53. A. Says says:

    Nothing worse than fish worms. They can be stubborn little $^&*#$%’s to get rid of. I feel like I’m a little more armed and dangerous now, thanks.

  54. JasonF says:

    UGH! Almost every fish I buy from a fish store has parasites so I’ll be putting these tips to good use.

  55. Carl & Club says:

    We received our group order today, I thought it would take longer. My fish are digging into your Bottom Bits right now and I’ll deliver everyones order to the next meeting. Thanks for the samples!

  56. BRAVO! says:

    I have never seen this kind of detailed information about naturally treating fish parasites before. You guys are great researchers. I’m looking forward to trying them out on my fish. OK NOT looking forward to parasites but happy to have options LOL.

    • admin says:

      Thank you! When you have a moment, we’d love to hear how natural parasite treatment has worked for you.

    • Jilla says:

      Parasites are so gross and upsetting…if I can prevent them I’ll be one happy fishkeeper!!!!

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