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My Parrot Fish Has Become Lethargic, What Could Be Wrong?

My biggest Parrot has become lethargic overnight. He is usually the boss of the tank, first to greet me when I come near the tank, first to get to the food. I noticed last night that it now hides all the time and does not come to me with the other fish when I come near the tank. At feeding time he doesn't look too interested in food. He may eat a little, but then spits it back out and thrashes around. This is a greedy fish who can eat a pea whole, never spits out anything. It just hides in its bowl all day, and charges when the others come near, then back into the bowl. 

The gills look swollen, but it's hard to compare to the other two parrots since it is so larger and he hides all the time. They do seem to protrude a lot when he breathes--although I haven't paid much attention to it until now. There is no Ich or gill flukes, or the red tentacles, or anything else that I could see the few times he came out of his bowl. Just a sad fish so far. 

Maybe the symptoms haven't started showing yet but I want to try and fix whatever may be wrong before it gets worse and spreads to the others. I did a 'full' (75-85%) water change about a week ago, but already the water is cloudy. I cleaned out the filter as well, but I've had the sponges since March, maybe its time for new ones? I also have some ceramic as well. Is there anything else I can do? I use aquarium salt and I would like to try as little medication as possible.

In the first picture you can see the flared gills, compared to the second picture of the other to who dont have the same gills. Not sure if this is important.

Image icon Parrot1.jpg63.74 KB


The ceramic might not be good for your tank, you have to know what type of ceramic it is. Is it painted? If so I dont think thats good for the tank, I'm not an expert on ceramic but there are different kinds, check it out. Also, check your ph balance, I find for myself most problems begin with a bad ph level usually too low. You should do 20 % water changes weekly rather than a 75 - 85% change at once. Also do not clean the filter and do a water change in the same day as you are depleting the tank of too much of its good bacteria in one shot. I dont change the filter or clean it out for at least four days after a water change. Do you have carbon with the sponges in your filter? Are you checking the ammonia,nitrite and nitrate levels? All of these things have to be at the right levels or you are killing your fish. Some fish are able to deal with bad chemical levels in the water a little better than others but sooner rather than later if this is the problem all your fish will get sick.

After keeping the fish under careful observation and not seeing much improvement, I decided to tempt him to eat with some peas. I was finally able to see the problem, since I hand feed them to make sure everyone gets some. There was a giant piece of gravel stuck in his mouth. My poor baby. No wonder he wouldn't eat. 
I carefully pried it out with tweezers, and it was huge, I can't even imagine how it ended up in it's mouth in the first place. I was worried that I had damaged the inside of the mouth because when pulling the pebble out, it was wider than the mouth and scraped along the sides, but already he is more active, swimming around, playing with his tank mates. It must be a great relief for him. I'm so glad I discovered this before he starved to death. 
Thanks for the help! :D