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Parrot with one white, fuzzy spot on his head.

Good morning everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to join a forum of like-minded fish lovers!

I have a spawning pair of parrots in a 30 gallon tank with one Chinese algae eater and two small Cory catfish.  The tank and tank mates have been established for almost 2 years now.  The male and female parrots are at least 5 years old and are quite large.  Tank maintenance consists of weekly 15% treated water change-outs while vacuuming gravel and scrubbing glass/plants etc.  Food is Large Flake for Cichlids, shelled peas and pellets every other day.

Last evening at feeding time all was well with their world and mine.  This morning the male is displaying a small (larger than a grain of salt but smaller than a pea) white, rather fuzzy spot on his head... right in the crease between his head and his back.  At first I panicked and thought "ick"... but it's not.  I'm a little frazzled and very worried right now because I love these little darlings and I want to address this situation immediately... but I don't know what it is or how to "fix" it.

I've uploaded two pictures that I just took to Photobucket:

If you look closely it almost seems as though another spot is starting directly across from the first one in the same crease.

Does anyone know what is happening?  Is it hole in the head?  Velvet?  Some type of fungus? 

Any insight or help would be immensely appreciated.

Thank you,






"Fuzzy" made me think of fungus initially but the picture looks like HITH. Increase your water changes to the standard 50%. 15% isn't enough.

You didn't post water parameters but I'd guess nitrate was high.

Hi and thank you so much for your response!

The instant I read your email I did a 50% water change in the tank. I wonder if there is anything else I can do at this time? Neither of the parrots look very happy right now. They are cowering in the far corner of the tank.

Do you suggest a 50% water change each week? Or more often at this point to help the situation?

I apologize that I don't have any test strips right now but I will get a new bunch in the morning. I used them religiously for the first year or so that I had the tank but nothing ever seemed to change as far as parameters went so I sort of slowed down on the testing. I won't make that mistake again.

Again, I surely appreciate your note. I've been so nervous and worried all day and there's not much chance I'll sleep tonight. I just love Gidget and Gadget and I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I did something to cause them any grief.

All of the sites I've visited on the web over the past couple of years suggest a 10% to 15% water change each week so that's what I've been doing. Clearly, it's not enough and I thank you for setting me straight on that issue.

Thanks ever so much,


You're welcome and I appreciate your love for these animals.

What size tank are they in?

10-15% weekly is ok for small-bodied fish but with parrot cichlids and all other large cichlids we do 50% weekly. It prevents stunted growth and HITH. We also double filtration (so that all tank water is turned over 10x/hour) and vacuum at least every other water change.

Relax; HITH, if that is indeed what we have here, is rarely fatal and is easily (if slowly) reversible with healthy foods (live foods like blood worms) and clean water. I would hold a block of frozen bloodworms in the water and let them gorge a few times a week. Frozen shrimp are great, too. So are earthworms and crickets. Vitamin-rich foods are another option.

They are in a 30 gallon tank and I'm using an Aqua Clear 70 for filtration.  I figured that a filter rated for just over double the tank size would be a good choice.

As I type this, the lesion on Gadget's head/neck is about half the size it was this morning when I sent out this call for desperate help.  Please forgive me for being so emotional, but the tears of relief are blurring the screen.

I truly need to become more educated on what to feed these sweethearts and your reply will be so helpful when I show it to the staff at my lfs.

And 50% weekly water change-outs will be the norm from here on in.

They are a miracle to observe, these two.  The dynamics between them are amazing and almost surreal.  I have their tank right beside my bed and when I wake up in the morning they are both hovering near my pillow and watching every move I make.  Sort of like children on Christmas morning waiting for the sign that it's all clear to go open presents!  LOL!

I feel so blessed that I found this forum... and you... and I cannot thank you enough!




Please consider a larger tank for your fish. That one is a bit undersized. More water=better dilution of the substances that stunt growth. Definatley DO change half their water weekly. Your filter size is fine and a very good one at that. You could buy a 40 high and all of your accessories would convey; they are identical in footprint to your existing tank so the top, light, stand would all work perfectly fine. Your cost would be about $80 and the fish would be nominally housed. Alernatively, a 55 gallon complete ensemble is fairly inexpensive.

I observed a pair of adult parrot cichlids in a 45 gallon tank in a hospital day room and was fascinated by their interraction just as you are with yours. They inspired me to obtain my own and mine are no exception; they really are "surreal." Such quirky, intelligent animals.

I wasn't aware that something like a 40 tall existed until now.  That the lid/stand etc. would remain viable makes it very appealing and I will begin my search for one.

When you say you would "hold a block of frozen bloodworms in the water and let them gorge a few times a week"... is this block something you prepare yourself?  Are everyday, garden-variety earthworms acceptable (provided they were rinsed in de-cholorinated water, I would guess)?  It's rather evident that I have much to learn.

I found it interesting that you say to vacuum the gravel at least every other week while effecting water changes.  Is it advisable not to over-vacuum?  I will confess that I remove waste from the gravel using a turkey baster at least twice a day and vacuum every week.  Am I compromising their eco system?

Could you also advise as to how many hows out of 24 that the hood light should remain on?  As of late the parrots do not want to venture out from their corner until I turn off the hood light.  I would imagine that is another indication that they are stressed these days as this wasn't always the case.

Gadget's lesion is even more subdued today... which makes me a cautiously optimistic camper... :-)

This morning (before lights-on) he was back to his usual antics.  He seems to get a kick out of swimming sideways under Gidget and then giving her a good face thrashing with his tail before zooming away.  She gives as good as she gets, though.  They are adorable!

A million thanks for your help and support,


Just to be sure, your tank is a 30 gallon and not a 29, right? A 30 is 36" wide and a 29 is only 30" wide. The 40 high is 36" wide.

The filter would also convey to a 40 high.

Bloodworms come frozen in slabs and cubes. Your LFS should have some-shrimp too.

Worms from your yard are fine if rinsed. I use tap water and I squeeze some dirt out first. Dechlorinated water isn't a bad idea.

You cannot over vacuum, it just isnt usually necessary more than twice monthly. If you get bored I have plenty of aquariums with gravel substrate.

You can leave the lights off 24/7 if there is ample window lighting in their room, assuming you do not have live plants that is.

Glad to hear the issue is receding.

My female tail-slaps me when I am working in the tank. She's something else.






my female seems to think i am made out of frozen shrimp... especially now that my blind oscar associates my hand with food... DANG, he is a biter...

Well, unfortunately the tank is a 29 and not a 30.  However, I've got a line on a gently used 55 gallon tank which I will view on Friday.

I went to the lfs today and bought test strips, cubes of frozen brine shrimp and cubes of frozen bloodworms.  The bloodworms look very much like Chinese algae eater droppings when they are floating in the tank and it was all I could do not to take up my turkey baster and go into full damage control mode!  LOL!

Gidget and Gadget were very leary of them at first but started munching them down after a few minutes.  I held the cube in my fingers for them but they would have none of it... only after it dissolved did they became more interested.  I will try the shrimp cube tomorrow and see how they like that.

Water parameters are as follows:

GH - 180

KH - 40-80

pH - 6.5-7.0

NO2 - 0

NO3 - 20-40

Thank you for the information on the lighting.  I was afraid if I didn't leave them on for a good 8 to 10 hours a day that I would end up with brown algae trouble.  Just something else I picked up on the misinformation superhighway.  There is a large picture window in their room which allows for plenty of light but I make sure that no direct sunlight touches the tank.  And they would never allow me to have anything as nice as live plants... they even tear out the bubbler hose every night.  ;-)

The white spot is the size of a grain of salt now and he's pushing Gidget around the tank by ramming into her side which he seems to enjoy... as does she.

You've got gravel substrate and I "Have turkey baster - Will travel"! 

Thanks so much for all this.  I truly appreciate your expertise and your willingness to share it.


Low light IS an invitation for diatoms but there's not a huge threat. Experiment.

The next size up from your 29 that WILL allow conveyance of all accessories is a 37. The 55 would be a better choice. Good luck.

First of all, thank you for letting me know about the 37.  I've been looking at one of those on the PetSmart site and I'm kinda taken with it.  I realize a 55 would be the better choice and I looked at a used one last week but it was a disaster.  More like a breeding tank and nowhere near 55 gallons.  Half a canopy and all of it pretty much jerry rigged.  Not what I had hoped for.

I mentioned in my previous post that the parrots didn't really go for the bloodworms.  The following day I tossed in a brine shrimp cube.  Well... they wouldn't go anywhere near it.  I spent the better part of an hour trying to scoop the hundreds of tiny shrimp out of the tank.  The cory cats did munch down a few... but the filter sucked up most of them and began to float.

Not really learning any lessons, I thought I would offer everyone a half cube of shrimp today.  No dice.  Spent a half hour rinsing shrimp out of the filter sponge.

So then I tried a rinsed, squeezed earth worm.  Oh my God.  The parrots went insane!  Morphed into piranhas immediately.  At one point they were lips to lips... each furiously trying to suck down the spoils.  I've never seen either of them move so fast in the two years I've had them.

So that's a good thing.  But my question is this:  how many earth worms can they have in a given day?  I have been giving them a half worm each in the morning and then again in the evening.  Along with a little flake in the interim.

Today I did another 50% water change out with lots of vacuuming and took another reading.  All is well... 0 nitrites and 0 - 20 nitrates.

The lesion on Gadget's head has completely vanished.

Thanks, too, for letting me know about the lighting and giving me the courage to experiment with "lights-off" during the day.  They are so much happier when the lights are turned off.

You're the reason I've slept these past few nights ... and I can't thank you enough!


BTW, you are very astute and obviously extremely knowledgeable.  Not many people would have caught the 29 gallon versus the 30 gallon I said I had.


Thank you for the kind words.

You can slo try slivers of sliced cooked shrimp from the grocery store.

I feed mine 2-3 medium sized worms at a time. Once my female robbed her mate and she overate, as indicated by her inability to swim afterward. She was quite stuffed and sat very still for several hours. THAT is too much. Anything else is fine.

I will definitely try slivers of cooked shrimp.  I bought my Mom a bag of frozen Zipperback shrimp last week and I'll snag one of them to cook for these little darlings.

I had to smile when I read that your female got to all the worm bits before her mate did.  It's the other way around here.  The male is lightning fast and he can grab a worm at one end of the tank and then turn around and grab the female's half before she even has a chance to know there's one for the taking.

I love them both equally... don't get me wrong... but the female is nowhere near as intelligent as the male.  She has that "deer in the headlights" look all the time and she's just not on the ball the way he his.  Of course, I love her all the more for it.

When they have eggs, though, she steps up her game.  She won't eat or be swayed away from the task at hand.  And the male does his part... fanning eggs until he's just about dead.  However, if I offer food he will sort of glance sideways at her to see if she's aware of the situation... and then he'll break away quickly and eat something... but he pays for that dalliance rather heavily.  She rams him something fierce and makes no bones about how disappointed she is in him...

They are, and I repeat myself, nothing short of amazing.  At one point I bought some headlight/taillight tetras to add in to the tank so that I could have some middle swimmers.  Well, not being aware that new fish should be quarantined I paid the price when the next day two of the tetras showed major ick.

I ran out and bought Super Ick and doused the tank.  The female parrot did not suffer it well.  She sank to the bottom of the tank and began to turn white.  I was beside myself and the "mea culpa" chant was deafening.  While I watched in copious tears... the male got under her and kept lifting her up to the top of the tank.  She would sink and he would lift her again.  This went on for hours.  It was as if he knew she would die if she didn't keep swimming.  While this was going on I did three massive water changes to get rid of the ick treatment.  Very slowly... and in the middle of the nght... the female began to come alive again... began to colour-up and show signs of life.  Through all of it, her mate never left her side and never let her give up.  I've never seen anything like that... not even in the human world. 

Okay... I'm rambling... please forgive me.  But these two are so special to me... and to one another.

Thank you SO much.  You're amazing... and I appreciate that you are so willing to help when I have no doubt you have a million other things to do.




FYI: In case you don't know by now, to treat ich next time, simply raise the tank temperature to 86º (anything over 82 will help) and add 2 teaspoons of pickling salt per gallon, predissolved. Leave this as is for twelve days, salting the change water each time you do a water change and vacuum. Speedy ich treatments use horrendous toxins like malachite green and formaldehyde. They are definately fast but they 1) expose your fish to poisons and 2) stain your silicone sealant. I don't like them and would rather wait the 2 weeks (ich clears up by day 3-6) to kill the parasite gently and safely.

Your case study in the interaction of the happy couple was interesting and clorfully presented. You are quite articulate.


I'm printing out your writings because I know they will prove invaluable when distaster strikes again.  And I'm sure it will... mainly because I'm such a newbie at all of this... but my willingness to learn is surpassed only by my love for these fish.

They continue to adore their daily earthworms.  I turn off the light and the filter when I feed them so all is quiet.  As they munch down their worms, it sounds so much like tinkling crystal coming from within a distant cave.  From what I've gathered, it is the sound of their esophagus (I can't imagine what the plural of esophagus might be ... esophagae?  LOL) masticating the food since they lack the teeth to do so.

I've read your 'bio', and I can't believe you have so many tanks (and fish) and that you still find the time to maintain a pool (and selflessly help those of us who come panic stricken to this forum).  My hat is off to you!

Thanks to you these two are happy and healthy again.  For the past few days they have relocated the driftwood to every corner of the tank and back again.  They make me laugh out loud... and these days that's a welcome diversion to be sure.

Thank you for the kind words, as well... :-)

I've almost got enough saved up for a (brand new) bigger tank.  I'm so excited for them and for me!