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Cherry barbs dying - gashes/cuts in their body

greenbliss

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21 Apr 2021
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9
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Northumberland
My cherry barbs that I got are slowly dying off. Not sure exactly what happened with 2 so far that have died (both were found with their guts hanging out of their body), but today (around 30 minutes ago) I found one that had a very concerning cut bellow it's head. The head had almost become separated from the body of the fish and was only hanging on by the spine. It looked like it had died extremely recently. There is a Laetacara with them in the tank but I do not believe it would cause such injuries. Anyone had anything even remotely close to this happen before? I am honestly puzzled.
 

Tim Harrison

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Sounds like a horror show. In the absence of any other explanation it seems likely that your Laetacara Dorsigera is the culprit. A quick Google confirms it's not unknown for this species to attack and kill cherry barbs. Sometimes, even though it's not usual behaviour for the species, it can come down to individual personality.
 

greenbliss

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I have not had much luck with dwarf cichlids at all really. I had heard that this Laetacara species is overall more peaceful than other cichlids, which I initially found out to be true. It was quite an attractive centre piece fish. But now that I have had a whole group of 20 cardinal tetras almost totally wiped out in a similar way (Died off one by one, no obvious injuries other than on a few individuals or disease symptoms but this was when I had Apistogramma that I rehomed after the incident), as well as seeing this cherry barb with these sort of injuries, I'm wondering if I should possibly reconsider this stocking plan and try to rehome the Laetacara. The survivors of the (highly likely) Apistogramma incident had also been possibly picked off by this fish while the tank was under the care of a "fish sitter" by the same male. Absolutely demotivating. I guess it's sort of my fault being ignorant about this sort of outcome being a realistic possibility. I had imagined they'd be able to get away and not be bothered by the Laetacara as I had researched a decent amount about them and come to the conclusion they would be a good cichlid to have with some smaller, peaceful fish. I am keeping the fact that it could be water quality issues or some mystery disease in mind, and I'll have to probably wait and see one get attacked before I can assume this male is killing any fish.

I also want to keep in mind water quality issues are very possibly a contributing factor. I had actually stopped using tap water after the mass cardinal tetra die off (R/O is a more reliable source) and after the Laetacara female had died. My Laetacara male has been doing great for over a year now along with a small group of cherry shrimp, but I do think cherry shrimp could honestly live in a toilet. I also think if there was a water quality issue the Laetacara would surely appear stressed or not be doing so well, and that the fish would obviously appear stressed or sick before dying. But I can't really know that for sure. I mix my own R/O and change 25 percent of the water around 2 or 3 times a week, or do 50 percent once a week.
 

greenbliss

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The fish look pretty healthy to me (In my humble opinion). I don't have pictures of dead fish but they really don't look special at all. Really nothing that's visible on the outside of the fish. Tank is a bit awful looking still as it's recovering from a broken timer but it's improving and the algae issues (BBA, BGA, Diatoms) have improved a lot. I also want to get a larger filter and do the spraybar style laminar flow that a lot of people here have success with.
 

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Tim Harrison

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It strikes me that although you have some plants and wood it might be an idea to add a lot more of both and maybe some rocks to break up any lines of sight. It might make your Laetacara Dorsigera feel more secure and give your cherry barbs a sporting chance. That is assuming the worst.
 

greenbliss

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It's just over a week later and there is no more deaths and no sign of the Laetacara even being remotely interested in the barbs. Not sure what really happened.
 

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