Skin shedding or skin disease?

Maldark

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Hi all,

My Max hasn't been looking the best lately, there is layer of white on him that appears to be flaking off, it looks like hes shedding. Looks alot like our skin when we peel after sunburn. I wouldn't be worried but he seems to be rubbing himself on objects in his tank to get it off, which I think I read somewhere could be an indication of a skin disease of some sort.

Tank parameters: Ammonia - 0, Nitrite - 0, Temp - 18 degrees (now being cooled to 15, I have a chiller), There is a cannister filter in set up before the chiller, and I also have an air stone and air filter in there for good measure. There seems to be slime that has developed on the tubing, which I take to be normal, but it seems the stuff on Max looks a similar consistency.

He seemed lethargic after a few days of this, so I took him out, and fridged him with daily salt baths for about 3 days. As soon as he was in the fridge, the white stuff vanished, well it didn't vanish, it was all through the water, but his skin was clear. So after a week, I put him back in the tank and the white stuff was back within 24hrs. This leads me to believe its a water issue, however my parameters are normal. Any ideas?

Here are some photos.
 

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Darkmaverick

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Hi Liz,

It does look like shedding skin. There is no indication for salt baths so it would really be quite unnecessary. Have you added anything to the tank recently, chemicals, new animals or plants, or even things like stress zyme? Have your axie been trying to scratch itself (ie. hind legs scratching gills?)

Cheers.
 

Maldark

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Nothing has been added to the tank, if anything, things have been taken out. There were alot more rocks in the bottom (large ones) but cleaning became too much of a problem, so I took them all out, cleaned up all the mess, and put half back in.

Max doesn't seem to be trying to scratch himself with his feet (that i've seen) but he's rubbing against the plastic tree in the corner, and you can see the 'skin' that has come off, left on the edges. I watched him for a good hour one night and he was going around to everything he could find and rubs mainly his head, but also his side on it.

The only thing I can think of is water flow. There is not much but some water flow from the filter/chiller set up, however I thought he liked it because he would go and sit right in the path of it for hours. He will also sit in the bubbles from the air stone for hours. I didn't think stress could cause this though... But alas, I am a novice in the world of axelotles.
 

b00f

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Hey Liz,

My axies sometimes rub up along a hard plastic plant, and afterwards, I always find lil flakes of skins...

I don't worry about it, unless I can see fungus, or anything that looks strange.

My axies also swim to the spray bar, and will swim "upstream" for hours...which I guess is their way of jumping on a treadmill...

All I can suggest is to monitor what's happening, and if he starts scratching, or freaking out, move him back to the fridge.

Normally with things like parasites, they can scratch along, but if there are no obvious signs of this, it's probably just shedding...

If you can, take the axie out, mix up the water and sand a bit, and then try netting as much of the shedded skin as you can, or else you could get a water issue on your hands....
 
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blueberlin

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Hi Liz,

Tea baths can help with shedding - more info here, scroll down a bit. Although shedding is normal and more visible in dark axolotls, the shedding in the pics looks extreme, so we need to find discover the cause.

My inclination is to suspect water quality. You wrote that Ammo and Nitrite are 0 - what is the reading for nitrate? Do you dechlorinate your water before adding it?

-Eva
 

Maldark

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I add dechlorinator to the water for every water change. I don't have a test kit for nitrate at the moment. When I originally began cycling the tank several months ago, I thought ammonia and nitrite were the main factors to test for. I am now aware this is not the case, so when the stores reopen after easter, I'll buy a kit. However, the ammonia and nitrite levels have been zero for about a month to two months now, which leads me to believe the nitrate should be fine. If it wasn't fine, wouldn't the only way to improve it be to do regular water changes? If so, I've been doing regular water changes since the shedding began to decrease the amount of 'skin' in the water. So this should at least help the situation if it is a problem caused by high/low nitrate.
 

blueberlin

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Hi Liz,

You're alright with the ammonia and nitrite tests - nitrate is also important, of course, mainly because it does not go away like ammonia and nitrite, so it is nice to have the option of monitoring its levels. Yes, the way to get rid of nitrate is to do water changes. If ammonia and nitrite are at 0 (but were previously showing higher readings), the tank should be cycled. Hm, my first suspicion is always water quality, so I'm sort of out of ideas.

Last guess: What do you feed him?

-Eva
 

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I feed him earthworms. He can't get enough of them. I ran out of them a few weeks ago and it took a week to get more, so in the mean time, I fed him a mixture of beef heart and mealworms. I know these aren't very good for a staple diet, but they were all I had, and it has to be better than nothing. However, it was the end of this period of feeding him beef and mealworms that he started the shedding, so it could be related to the food I guess, although I'm not sure how.

He is now back on a steady diet of earthworms and is eating regularly.
 

blueberlin

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Hm, no, I was thinking that maybe if you were feeding something from saltwater or something defrosted, that might be the culprit. Now I really am out of ideas. Are the water changes helping any, has the skin improved?

-Eva
 

Maldark

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Yeah the water changes seem to be helping, he looks better today, I did a water change last night. Eating and fresh water always seem to make him a bit happier. Thanks for all your help and advice anyway, I'll keep you posted on how things go.
 

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Max had improved over a few days since my last post, then my family came to stay, and I had to turn the chiller off overnight because it is really loud. The next day, the shedding was back. So I put him in the fridge for the rest of their stay and the shedding decreased. I put him back in the tank yesterday, and the shedding increased again, then decreased as the day went on.

I went and bought a nitrate kit and it turns out the nitrate levels are zero as well. This has me worried, theres supposed to be nitrate in the tank isn't there? Could this be what is making him shed? The man at the pet store also mentioned somthing about water hardness and that this could be a factor. I can't tell whether its a real idea or he was just trying to sell me stuff, so I thought I would ask opinions of the experts on this forum first.

Max is still eating well and moving around fine. So I'm not too worried, just more curious now.

Thanks, Liz.
 

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Hi Liz,

Actually excessive abnormal skin shedding can be triggered by many things. Poor water parameters, high temperatures, concurrent subclinical infections and some forms of parasites can cause skin irritation and shedding. Nutritional deficits can also do the same. Axies do better in hard water. Soft water can cause transient anaemia and damage to skin and gills. However, i really doubt you are using soft water unless you been performing your water changes with distilled water. If you want to be certain, you can bring a small sample of tank water to your aquarium shop for a test.

I noticed that your axie tend to shed when water temperatures are raised. The shedding resolves when chiller is on, when fridged etc. What is your unchilled water temperature? At this point, i suspect your water temperature might be a trigger.

How long has your tank been set up? I would expect some nitrates if the tank is fully cycled.

Cheers.
 

Maldark

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If the chiller isn't on, the temperature could reach up to 20 degrees on a cool day, hence why i bought the chiller. Its currently set at 17 degrees, should i set it lower perhaps?

The shedding does tend to occur during sudden changes, ie, back into the tank, chiller turned off etc. It could have been originally set off due to change in diet, had to feed him beef heart because I couldn't get hold of any earthworms.

The tank has been set up for about 3 - 4 months. The ammonia and nitrite are at zero, and the ph bounces between 6.8 and 7 (I tested them again last night). The nitrate test seems to be easily done wrong from what i read in the instructions, perhaps that could be it. I just didn't do the test properly. Ill test it again tonight to see if I can get any readings.

The water I use is just tap water with dechlorinator, so its definately not distilled.

Thanks,

Liz
 

Darkmaverick

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Hi Liz,

Your management methods are good. Hence i seriously doubted you did anything radically wrong. I set my chiller to 16 degrees but 17 degrees is fine. Also as you use dechlorinated tap water, i don't think water hardness is the issue here.

Some axies are just more sensitive to fluctuations in their environment. They have increased sensitivity to changes in diet, temperature, water parameters and thus also react much more readily and dramatically. i think the best treatment strategy in your case is to try minimise drastic changes. Try keep the tank conditions as stable as possible.

You are doing great. No worries.

Cheers.
 

Maldark

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Update: Figured out why there were no nitrates; I was doing the test wrong:rolleyes:. Redid the test following the instructions EXACTLY and the test said there was 10ppm on nitrate. So yay, there are nitrates meaning the tank is cycled.

Max is also doing better, shedding comes and goes. Less severe now anyway. He seems to be going off earthworms lately which is rather annoying, but I think it might just be the batch of worms don't 'taste right'??? Who knows. For now I'm trick feeding him axelotl pellets (he tries to eat my finger, gets a pellet instead) because he wont eat them willingly, probably because they're not live.

Thanks for all your help.

Liz
 
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