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Are these gills normal??

I have 4 year old female parrot fish.  One of her gills has red "tentacles" coming out of it.  They resemble worms but I'm not sure if they are, indeed, a parasite. (I've done some reading on parasites and any that I've seen are not red-colored.)  The other gill does not have any of these.  Several months ago, I treated the tank with CopperSafe in case they were worms, but the "tentacles" did not go away.  She otherwise seems healthy and happy.  Her tank-mate does not have any of the "tentacles".
Has anyone seen this before?  Is this just part of the gill (maybe inflamed for some reason?)?  Or is it a parasite?
Thanks for any info!

UPDATE.. I REALLY appreciate the help I've gotten - I think that it probably is gill flukes and will order the meds right away.  I also just posted several pictures for anyone who has more advice. THANKS!!!

Image icon Perry11.jpg124.01 KB


can you get a good photo?

I posted some pics last night. Any thoughts? I called the store that I got her from and they thought it may be inflamed gills...

When I saw the photos I realized this is probably one thing I haven't seen. My expertise is not in cichlids. Most any other fish, but not cichlids. AND now I have one! :D
I was hoping someone would have dealt with this and have good advise.
I have been researching any parasite that would be under the gill as those are. Most parasites are so tiny you cannot see them without a microscope, this includes flukes. You can see yours. This is what I found and I think it is probably what you have. See what you think.
these are excerpts from various discriptions of the parasite.(unfortunately this will be long, but we need to be sure. Plus this is a parasite that affects Cichlids, we all should learn.
Red pustule on or near base of fins; thread-like body may protrude from wound
1/8 to 1 inch; buries anchor-shaped head into fish. Body protrudes; inflamed pustule may form. Parasite may drop off, larea.
By Shirlie Sharpe, Guide
Definition: Anchor worms (Lernaea sp.) usually generally only affect pond or outdoor fish such as Goldfish, however some Cichlids may also be affected. Lernaea burrow into the muscle and gill tissue of fish, and can reach as deeply as the internal organs. Heavy infestations can cause significant weight loss and even death.

Anchor worms are parasites that infect fish and one of the main problems with them is that they increase the risk of attracting other diseases. The anchor worms can cause serious damage to a fish and can eventual kill the fish themselves, but anchor worms are only seldom the cause of death in fish with anchor worm since the damage weakens the fish and opens it up for other diseases that end up killing the fish.

Anchor worms are in fact small crustaceans. These crustaceans start out their life as free swimming and find a fish to burrow their way into. They burrow themselves too far into the fish to allow for safe removal. When they have buried themselves into the fish they move themselves into the muscles where they live for several months while developing. They then make their way out of the fish, a process that often leaves ugly wounds, and releases their eggs before dying. The circle will then start over again.
Anchor worms can be treated with potassium permanganate in the community tank (will color the water) or by bathing sick fish in a potassium permanganate solution (10mg per litre) for 20-30 min. Treating the entire community/holding aquarium will as I said color the water and be a little messy but it is still a god idea since it guarantees that no other fish are infected and that the disease doesn't return in a few months by emerging from a fish that is currently showing no signs of infection. If you decide to treat your entire tank you should add 2 mg potassium permanganate to every litre of aquarium water in your tank
(I do not know what this chemical is, it should be checked out before putting in your tank )
Infected fish can be seen with whitish red worm-like threads, about one quarter inch long. The parasites can be found anywhere on the body of the fish, including the eyes, gills and fins. Raised ulcers may appear at the site of attachment, and secondary bacterial infections may occur.
I think removing the anchor worms, might depend upon how long they have been attached to the fish and where they are attached. If it was new and you could see the attachment. IF you thought you could remove it. I doubt either of the people that have it in this thread, should, or could. It might be best to treat the tank and to also treat the fish with the worms. To prevent infection.

This man, knows what he is doing believe it or not. :) Fish have minor surgery too, it's up to us to do it. I have helped numerous fish that had a problem that had to be removed or spot medicated. It still makes me feel sick, but you do what you have to do to save the fish. If you do it right, you can save the fishes life. I never had one die. A good Antiseptic to put on an injury such as these, if they are out of the water is mercurochrome (out of water and away from eyes.) Don't attempt this if you cannot do it well. (you have to be more than ready ahead of time. WorK fast)

I thought this might teach us more about anchor worms than other info. This written by a man that is fighting anchor worms. I didn't get the whole article, I was afraid I would crash our server!

Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society, Inc
Wallace Cox.
Now, as if just buying the pleco was not stupid enough, my next blunder was huge. Instead of quarantining the pleco for a couple of weeks, I was feeling a little lazy and just put it in a tank with one of my show fish. This turned out to be two disastrous blunders. First, you should always quarantine new fish brought into your house. Second, the whole point of keeping show fish in a tank by themselves is to avoid the fish getting ill or damaged. To this moment, I have no idea what I was thinking.

One week after the purchase there they were: ANCHOR WORMS. The pleco had only one worm. It had attached itself just in front of the right pectoral fin. Unfortunately, the show fish was under an all out assault. They seemed to be attached predominately down the spine and back, but they were also found on the fins and lower body. The further complication was that several days before, I had finally decided to split and quarantine the pleco and had removed the show fish and put him in his own tank. So I now had two tanks infected with the parasite.

Well, now not only am I upset at myself for making some stupid mistakes, I had to listen to the wife yell at me for buying a fish I was not allowed to have and risking a show fish. As if all this was not enough, my five-year-old son also decided to join in and lecture me. At that point, something else occurred to me: I had recently made a water change on all of my tanks and used the same equipment to do it. Was it possible that I had transferred any cysts or larvae to any other tanks? Did I cause an anchor worm epidemic?

The nausea quickly subsided and I leapt into action grabbing all the books I had to learn how to rid myself of these infernal pests. I found Lernaea in four books: An Owner’s Guide to A Happy, Healthy Pet; The Goldfish by Carlo Devito with Gregory Skomal, Handbook of Tropical Aquarium Fish by Dr. Axelrod and Dr. Schultz, Dr. Axelrod’s Mini-Atlas of Freshwater Fishes by Dr. Axelrod Dr. Burgess and Dr. Emmens, and Baensch Aquarium Atlas #1 by Dr. Riehl. The general consensus was that the anchor worms were highly contagious and that they are not actually worms, but a freshwater copepod. Only the female will attach itself to the fish, underneath a scale usually deep into the muscle tissue with its powerful extensions on the sides of its anchor shaped head (hence the name anchor worm). The male lernaea will then attach himself to the female’s body. The female will produce egg sacs fertilized by the male, which are then released into the water column. The eggs hatch into a free swimming larvae or nauplii. This is the stage where the crustacean will attach to the fish completing the life cycle. After releasing the eggs, the parents will die off leaving a gaping wound, which is highly susceptible to secondary infections.

There were a few suggestions given by the four books on how to exterminate this pest. I started with the easiest of which was a salt bath for 30 minutes. I did not measure the total amount of water or salt. It was approximately 1 pound of salt to 3 gallons of water. It was such a high concentration of salt, the show fish floated on his side and could not get down to the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket. I diluted the concentration with water until he could totally submerge himself. At the same time, the pleco was given the same treatment. Even at this salinity, the worms remained.

The second attempt (3 days later) was to add a teaspoon of salt per gallon to each tank and twice the recommended dosage of Coppersafe to both tanks. This treatment seemed to work on the plecostomus but seemed to have no effect on the show fish. In fact, the show fish seemed to have more than before. I did no water change on the show fish’s 10-gallon tank. I waited five days and added a double dosage of Fluke Tabs. I was certain that this would kill those little buggers, but also possibly the show fish. I waited for five more days and the show fish had no change in his status. The plecostomus remained clear of anchor worms during this

At this point I decided to go for a full-fledged attack on these seemingly indestructible nuisances. That was it ,“THIS WAS WAR!”. I had a chemical soup in my tank. My show fish was not eating and was so washed out it looked like someone had poured bleach on him. “Wait a minute!” I screamed. “Bleach! Bleach kills everything!” My wife thought I had totally lost what was left of my dwindling sanity. Bleach was the answer. I decided that the only way to eliminate the anchor worms was to break the life cycle. That weekend I assembled my assault equipment: a pair of latex surgical gloves, a pair of tweezers, an old net, a few paper towels, 2 five gallon buckets and two cups of bleach.

I filled 1 five-gallon bucket with 3 gallons of water, stress coat, and Maracyn 2 as directed (for
secondary infections). The second bucket was filled with 3 gallons of water and 6 teaspoons of salt. In one of the books it recommended to give the fish a salt bath before trying to remove the worms. This would supposedly soften the exoskeleton of the crustacean and make it easier to remove. I used the old and disposable net to catch the show fish and place him in the second bucket. I took the two cups of bleach and dumped them into the 10-gallon tank. Everything was left in the tank to be cleansed of eggs and larvae. The plants turned into a mass of opaque mush within 30 minutes. The gravel, sponge filter, airline, plants, and clay pot were all
disposed of after a 12-hour bleach bath.

I put on the latex surgical gloves to protect me from the worms and open entry point wounds on the fish. Not that anchors worms are transferable, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I wasn’t exactly on a streak of good luck with this fish. I used the old net to catch the fish and it helped to immobilize the fish during his surgical procedure. I then took the tweezers and began removing the anchor worms, trying to grip them as close to the wound as possible. I would periodically dunk the fish into the bucket of water to let him get a few breaths before continuing. After removing as many as I could see, the show fish was put into the first five-gallon bucket with stress coat and Maracyn 2. The bucket was moved to a low traffic area and covered with a heavy dark brown towel, to reduce noise and chance of shadows from my two annoying curious cats.

The following morning the tank was drained using an empty milk jug and the contents thrown in the garbage. One of the most important parts of the whole procedure was to thoroughly rinse out all of the bleach. Here is my tip for working with bleach. Just when you think have gotten all of the bleach rinsed out, rinse it three more times. The tank was set up with a new sponge filter only. I added 10 drops of Methlyblu, 1 tablet of Maracyn 2, 10 teaspoons of Instant Ocean salt, and stress coat.

I waited five days and noticed that I had missed some of the lernaea around the pectoral fins. I added another store bought remedy called Clout. It also seemed to have no ill effect on the anchor worms. I waited a week from adding the Clout and performed the surgical procedure the same as the first go round.

It has been 2 weeks since the second surgery and I have seen no new anchor worms or injury sites on the show fish. The pleco is fine and has shown no signs of the anchor worms. As for my other tanks, there have been no signs of infestation in them either. I only use a special bucket and siphon to clean these two tanks. I still don’t even want to take a chance of there being another anchor worm break out in any tank. These procedures were costly and time consuming. Hopefully I have eradicated the pesky crustacean. I hope you will learn from my foolish mistakes. Be sure to quarantine all new fish and never risk your quality show fish! Also remember to use any and all precautions necessary to protect you and your fishy friends when working with harmful chemicals.

Up 5
I fond a photo of the anchor worm. If you look up red worm and aquarium, you will also find anchor worm.

Wow- thanks for all the info! I really appreciate all the help I have gotten on this site. As I am reading more of the responses, I really don't know if i is a worm or inflamed gills! It really fits the description of both. I think the safest thing to do would be to treat the fish for worms and also try to reduce the inflammation at the same time- since I really think at this point that it could be either!
Thanks much!!

I remember reading a blog on another site that sounds a lot like what you are describing.

A woman wrote in and said that her BP fish had thread like red things coming from her gills. She had small dither fish in the fish tank and they would literally stick their heads in the larger fish gills and eat the things coming out. The fish expert replied stating that they were gill worms. They live off of the gill tissue of the fish. They need to be taken care of as soon as you can since they are eating away the gill tissue. It will also cause the fish to produce more of a slime coat on the gills and make it harder for it to breathe.

I am so sorry. But, I can't remember what the expert said to treat the fish with.

I'll try to find the site again and see if I can find what the expert prescribed for treatment.

Sorry not to have any more information to help you.

I found it!! This is from I hope this helps you.

Parasite in Parrot Gills
I have lost two parrot fish in the last three months. They all have long red tubular growths coming from the inside of the gills. The gill area has busted open since they got this and is growing out of the gills. The aquarium store told me it was most likely gill flukes and so I treated them repeatedly with no cure. They told me that they were a hybrid fish and if they appeared to be OK them let them go. I did and I lost one parrot 3 months ago and 1 last night. I noticed last week that the red tubular growths had purple tips on them and that the rosy barb in the tank was sticking its head into their gills and eating it. Please help. I've had these fish for over three years and I am very attached. The aquarium seems to think they may be anchor worms. There are two angel fish, a Pleco and a rosy barb in the tank and they do not have these growths.

Thank you! I will try this!

Do you think it could be gill inflammation? Have you checked your water parameters? Given a choice, I think I'd prefer gill inflammation to parasites.

I have never seen a gill fluke. But, I did see a man remove a anchor worm from a Koi fish once. The worm didn't look like the photo of your fish. Nor did it look like the photo Nostagia posted. But, maybe different worms look differently. These photos are exactly what the worm looked like that I saw removed from the Koi.

Please keep us posted on how your fish is doing. I hope he makes a full recovery.



Thanks- it definitely does not look like the anchorworms in your photos. I called the store I bought her from and they also thought gill inflamation- they said to raise the water temp a little and be very vigilant about vacuuming the gravel, testing the water, etc. It's just strange that only one gill looks this way.

I truly hope all the info above helps you.
I had to quit yesterday, I was seeing red worms and had a headache! :(
One thing I noticed about anchor worms, the type PBs and cichlids had were under the gill. We have two different users that have this problem at this time, both under the gills. The article I used as experience with anchor worms, the fish were not cichlids. Two other types freshwater fish, they seemed to get them anywhere. But I thought it was interesting.
The next thing, I am wondering about ulcers, inflamation etc being part of this BPs problems. This fish that have a problem no matter the parasite, it will need antibiotics. Since the worms may be internal also, I was looking at the Jungle fish flakes (food) Anti-Parasite contains metronidazole and praziquantel for internal parasites including flagellates, trematodes, cestodes, hexamita, intestinal worms, and nematodes. Not for use in aquariums with desirable, ornamental invertebrates. 1.5 mm pellets, This is fish food.
The fish also needs antibiotics on the wound. mercurochrome on the wound itself would be direct to the one fish and the wound. You would need to do this out of the water. You will need to do this maybe twice a day. Be ready, net your fish, lay it on some soft clean cotton material. Dab on the mercurochrome gently, it needs to be there maybe 15 seconds. Put it gently back in the tank. Often you do not need to remove the net. If it does not appear to be helping or you cannot do it, you will need to find a broadspectrum antibiotic and a parasite treatment. That work together. It seems copper is not of use on this problem.
You will need Salt in your water and temp to 80 degrees. Salt can help heal and parasites don't like it. (Aquarium salt) (look up proper amount for your tank on the net) Or other threads here.
Where cicllids get these worms, would make it hard to remove them, unless you notice it immediatly. I still don't know if it would be wise.

I found this today. Comes in gel or Powder. Sounds like a good antibiotic for directly on the fish. I don't know which form works best.
Bio-bandange (Gel)
* Great for all types of fish
* Use to quickly and effectively treat open wounds and cysts
* Up to 165 treatments

Quickly and effectively treat open wounds and cysts. More effective and convenient than bath or dip treatments. Gel-based topical wound preparation contains a combination of neomycin and a proprietary vitamin-polymer formula for quick healing. Can be applied directly to wounds. Up to 165 treatments. 1 oz.
Bio-Bandage Topical Treatment (Powder)
Treatment of open sores, injuries or infectious septicemia can be difficult in large aquariums where “bath” treatments require lots of medication and removal of chemical media. The Bio-Bandage products offer an alternative method of treatment. You apply this neomycin based antibiotic directly on the wound/sore. After catching the fish and cleaning the area of infection, you apply either the Powder or Gel based Bio-Bandage and release the fish. This eliminates exposing the other fish to antibiotics and prevents possible damage to the bio-filter of the aquarium. The treatment goes right to the site of infection! Repeat treatment every 24 hours. Gel treatment does 165 applications, the Powder does 150 applications

did you find a solution to the red gills that were protruding? Like you I have the same thing with my fish and I have also treated unsuccessfully. they have been ther 3 years now and he seems fine and happy