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Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

This is a discussion on Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls? within the Sick Axolotl? forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; Some of you may know that a little while I lost a number of my axolotls due to bacteria. Well. ...

Sick Axolotl? Axolotl looking down in the gills? The doctors are in.


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Old 21st September 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Angry Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Some of you may know that a little while I lost a number of my axolotls due to bacteria. Well. It strikes again. I've lost another 2. I'm over this. Is there any way of getting rid of this bacteria. I disinfected everything except Sarge (who was the only surviver). Everything was going well. Sarge is eating, putting on weight and happy. So is his sister that I adopted. They're doing fine. But the bloody bacteria killed my only 2 larvae. What else can I possibly do??? Luckily I still have Toady and Caspian's spare antibiotics that I never got to use.



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Old 21st September 2008   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

How do you know it's a bacteria?



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Old 21st September 2008   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

There are so many reasons that larvae can die. I attempted to assemble a complete list of reasons here:
http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/why_larvae_die.shtml
I wouldn't assume it's bacteria unless you can rule out all other causes.

Rather than (or in addition) to using antibiotics, I would suggest moving the larvae to a fresh container of clean water every day and seeing how that goes. There is always a layer of bacteria that forms on the inside surface of whatever container they are living it, and if this layer accumulates dead food it can grow the "bad" kind of bacteria. So using fresh containers (wiped and allowed to dry between uses) will prevent this.

Another strategy I would suggest is to set up a heavily planted airated tank (no filter) and cycle it with an adult axolotl or fish. When the next batch of larvae arrive, remove the axolotl or fish and raise the larvae there (and do no significant cleaning before putting the larvae in). The idea here is to establish a tank that has enough "good" bacteria that the bad ones don't have a chance.



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Old 22nd September 2008   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Thanks for the advice. I only had 2 larvae though. I have posted about my various cases on caudata, including this one: Puffy mouth and throat?. All my axolotls died like that over a period of time.

With the larvae, I was only using fresh water with them but I thought to myself 'maybe cycled water from my axolotl tank would be better'. I used about 100mL and then voila: the larvae developed the characteristic puffy mouth. My last larvae, Smiley, had a puffy mouth and appeared to be dead because it was not moving. I turned her over and her heart was still beating. She died during the night though.

But seriously, what else could it possibly be apart from bacteria? Nobody seems to be giving me any answers. Just questioning every single thing that I do. My reasoning is that Sarge survived the bacteria but still was contaminated with it which thus, infected his new set up. He's lucky that he and his sister appear to have resistant genes and a very strong immune system.



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Old 22nd September 2008   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

I am no expert with Axies, but since I added a UV sterilizer to my fishtank, I have had no fungal or bacterial related problems. Maybe worth a few pounds/dollars to try it?

Good luck.



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Old 22nd September 2008   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Does that not also eradicate the 'good' bacteria too though?



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Old 22nd September 2008   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

I would try it if I could afford it but alas, I'm now broke. It would be worth losing the good bacteria just to get rid of the bad bacteria. I'm thinking about moving my axies into the fridge soon. The water temperature has quickly risen to 19 degrees celcius over the past 2 weeks and my axolotls can't afford to have a weakened immune system which such nasty stuff being in the tank.



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Old 22nd September 2008   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

A UV sterilizer will only kill off the bacteria, protozoa, algae etc. floating in the water. It will not affect any bacterial populations clinging to the substrate, plants, decoration and so on.

I had some sudden losses with newts larvae, too. What I did was to separate them into small plastic boxes and do a complete water change every day. Some did not make it, others did not.

It is possible that your older Axolotls still have some kind of infection but are somehow resistant to it (or healthy and strong enough not to get harmed). If this is the case, I would not know how to get rid of the infection. The only way would be antibiotics, if it is bacterial.



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Old 22nd September 2008   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

I have enough antibiotics to give a full course to both my axies. Do you reckon I should try it? Sarge didn't eat tonight



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Old 22nd September 2008   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Would fridging affect the effectiveness of antibiotics?



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Old 22nd September 2008   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

The bacterium which most commonly causes this sort of problem is columnaris. It is a very common organism and tends not to cause trouble if the fish and amphibians are well.

It's generally regarded as bad practice to use antibiotics to attempt to clean up an environment thought to be infected rather than treat sick animals. You will upset the cycling of your biological filtration, poison normal gut flora making it easier for pathogens to get a hold and encourage the development of an antibiotic resistant strain of the pathogen.

One further problem is that most antibiotics used for columnaris, (Tetracycline, Chloramphenicol) are bacteriostatic. They stop the bacteria growing but do not kill them. This does not impair the clinical effectiveness, the axolotls immunity then clears up the infection, but they do not eliminate the bugs from the tank, as non-dividing bacteria free in the tank water pull through.

Fridging will alter the speed of action of the antibiotic, probably reducing its effect although fridging itself helps axolotls heal.

I'd be inclined to keep the antibiotic in a cool spot such as the fridge to extend its shelf life and not use it until you have a sick animal.

Concentrate on getting water conditions good and your two survivors up to full health. Your axolotls should not be stressed at 19 Celsius so I would not move axolotls to the fridge for this alone.

You've done a fantastic job getting Sarge back to health. Remember he healed without antibiotics. Keep and use them when necessary, not to treat the fear of future problems.



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Old 23rd September 2008   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

While I don't disagree that what is causing my axolotls to be sick is bacteria, somehow I don't think it's columnaris which John describes as a 'white fungus-like disease'. While Sue had a little bit of fungus due to a wound, the others didn't. I've found it extremely difficult to detect when an animal is sick because it's already too late when the 1st symptom of throat swelling occurs. Death in my household normally took place between 24 -72 hours. I'm only going with the antibiotics because this disease seems to be resistant to every other single thing that I do. After my 3rd axolotl became sick, my 4 remaining axolotls all began a course of antibiotics. That's why Sarge is alive today.

My water conditions are fine. No ammonia, no nitrite, a little bit of nitrates, a pH of 7.4. There's no food floating around. Nothing. Except the temperature has now gone up to 21 degrees celcius. From how I see it, my tank is a ticking time bomb because once those axolotls get stressed from the heat, they're sitting ducks for disease.

For now, I've got them out of their tank into a tub of 12L of fresh dechlorinated water and they're going in the fridge. I'm going to clean out the tank and thoroughly decontaminate it AGAIN and maybe cycle it with one of my disease-free goldfish. I'm hoping that the bacteria will starve to death and/or denature in the fridge. Gah I'm sorry but this whole situation is extremely frustrating. I thought it was gone but alas...



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Old 23rd September 2008   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Part of the trouble is without knowing what disease you are dealing with it is hard to know what is appropriate. Few disease organisms survive a thorough clean followed by a prolonged period without a host present. A fishless cycle using a pinch of fish food or a drop or two of ammonia (if you can get ammonia solution without other additives) should give you a clean start, and may be preferable to a fish which may carry whatever pathogen is the cause or catch and spread it if the tank is not totally clean.

I think you are then planning to treat your healthy but suspect carrier axolotls in water in the fridge, in the hope that the problem will be eradicated. Whatever treatment you use should be under the recommendation of a vet. The problem is that curing a sick animal is different from eradicating all disese organisms. For instance salmonella is easily controlled but often impossible to eradicate with antibiotics in many species, sometimes antibiotics actually encourage prolonged carriage by eliminating the competing normal flora.

Whatever you do, good luck! Sometimes dealing with problems like this feels like this smiley!



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Old 23rd September 2008   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Ok how about having a look at the water under a microscope? Won't that show bacteria?

In the past when I've been puzzled I've called the University of AZ and asked to speak with a professor who deals with such-n-such. I've never run across one who wasn't happy to discuss something curious. LOL I even got a coffee date with the masterfarmer at the UofA.

If your nearby university has an axolotl colony maybe they'd be more than happy help to help you identify this issue?

Sharon



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Old 23rd September 2008   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Thanks for the reply. Hmm.. I didn't think of a fish-less cycle. 'Tis a wonder idea. I did it once when I was setting up my teachers goldfish tank and it worked pretty well . I normally I wouldn't go for antibiotics but with this disease, by the time the symptoms show it is pretty much too late... So it's quite hard to tell when to use antiobiotics. The vet is cool. He gave me antibiotics! But unfortuntately he's running a bit blind with this case I coooooould take a sample to the nearest Uni but that's over 3 hours away and I seriously doubt they have an axolotl colony. It's their loss lol. But thank you for the suggestion :) At this point of time of the plan of attack is to continue fridging the axies (probably until summer is over at this rate) and run a fish-less cycle. Cheers everyone!



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Old 24th September 2008   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

LOL well yes it is their loss. But I was mostly thinking of having some bio type person have a look at the water. Heck an enthusiastic highschool teacher could probably do it. Failing that - you could pay a lab to have a look or overnight the water to a professor or pay a local water lab (rural areas w/wells and some cities have these) and have them test it.

Its a lot of work but if you're up to it, maybe its better than flying blind?

Sharon



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Old 24th September 2008   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sherylbobbins View Post
That's why Sarge is alive today.
Just a minor quibble with this. There are many other circumstances that could have led to Sarge living and the antibiotics may have been a coincidence.

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Originally Posted by ferret_corner View Post
Ok how about having a look at the water under a microscope? Won't that show bacteria?
Looking at the water under a microscope would provide very little information. Bacteria are very diverse and quite small. A laboratory would have to isolate and do a differential culture to identify species and this is a time consuming process. There are newer techniques that allow bacterial identification from PCR and other molecular techniques. Only some sort of identification would allow the appropriate antibiotic to be identified. Properly identifying a disease causing agent requires a swab or biopsy of the animal not a water sample.

Antibiotics are not magic bullets. They are specific tools that have to be used very carefully to have full effect. Improper use of antibiotics can cause even more problems. Dosing the water with antibiotics, instead of the animals themselves, can kill beneficial bacteria in the tank and the animal while diluting the medicinal effect and making the antibiotic ineffective. It should be noted that antibiotics can have deleterious effects on one or more organ systems of amphibians (and humans too.)

Does your municipal or well water have any known problems? Possibly they are contaminated with something? A professional water test may be illuminating in that regards, but not bacteria.



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Old 24th September 2008   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

I'm in total agreement with Abrahm. Sending a sample of water to anyone in the hope of seeing or growing a disease causing bug is a not a sensible or realistic option. There are lots of bacteria in healthy tank water, identifying a pathogen among the harmless is a difficult and expensive task. If you keep getting deaths then sending a dead axolotl for bacteriological culture to a specialist laboratory may be worthwile.

As a medical pathologist I have seen people killed by overgrowth of otherwise harmless organisms due to prescription of antibiotics killing off normal flora.

Are there any issues with your water? You may be able to get an analysis free from your supplier or have one if you use a well. If it is very soft then adding salts may reduce stress either by using a dilute Holtfreter's solution or a home made recipe such as I use (see -Water change time)



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Old 24th September 2008   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

Well shoot. I was hoping that would be one line of attack for the problem.

No our wells are fine - but I guess when new wells are drilled or when someone sells a house the well supplying the house has to be tested so we've seen the companies come out here and test the water quality.

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Old 25th September 2008   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Erradicating bacteria without erradicating axolotls?

The water could of been the culprit. My first, Leui, died about 24 hours after a water change. Apparently she just went really odd. But what about the others? I'm guessing if there was something in the water it would of affected my other aquatic pets. They've been relatively fine during the axolotl plague. I will look into getting an analysis of water though. I don't think water softness is an issue in tanks as I use a number of shells and some shell grit. With the antiobiotics, I was injecting them directly into the abdomen as directed. The vet did take a few samples from Caspian just before he died but I don't believe they did anything with them unfortunately.



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