When bad things happen to anchor worms – Good Fish SURVIVE!

It’s no small task recovering from parasitic anchor worms.


Unless you’re a wonderfish w/ a will to live stronger than superglue.  That’s RIGHT folks.  Blackie the brave is ALIVE & well!!

Just weeks ago, he was host to a legion of creepy crawlies so repulsive they’d likely do in lesser men.  He underwent treatment, consisting of primitive home surgery and three – maybe four rounds of soak in potassium permanganate (aka PURPLE DIP).  He has spent almost a month living in a tiny glass bowl, without companion or decorative pagoda.  But, today –

all better


Looking back over the past weeks I am astounded.  MOST PEOPLE WOULD HAVE FLUSHED HIM AFTER ALL.  But despite everything, Blackie has not just survived.  He has thrived.

The parasites?  Gone.  His gaping wounds, incapable of scabbing?  Healed.  If I hadn’t seen it w/ my own eyes, I’d hardly believe it.


In the immortal words of Winston Churchill:

Never never never give up.

When bad things happen to good fish, Part 2. THE TREATMENT.

When I last left you, my wonderfish Blackie was suffering from parasitic anchor worms.  For those of you unfamiliar w/ anchor worms, let me just say YOU ARE LUCKY.  Now onto their Treatment.


Unfortunately, the literature is divided as to whether or not one should attempt to remove anchor worms from an infected fish.  Half saying it will kill the fish, half that it will save them.  We opted on the side of GETTING THE DAMN THINGS OUT.

Using tweezers, my husband gently removed each of the protruding anchor worms.  It didn’t look hard – each seemed to slip right out w/ the slightest pull.


BUT BOY WAS IT GROSSSSSS>!  Those anchor worms are VILE.  Truly the stuff of nightmares.  And as I don’t want to scar you for eternity, I’ll just share a MERE SHADOW of one.



BOY I am SOOOO GLAD I didn’t have to touch them.  For enduring this whole horrific ordeal, both my husband & Blackie should be awarded gold medallions.

Step Two: THE DIP.

After much research, my husband determined potassium permanganate was our best course of treatment.  Potassium Permanganate is a chemical which kills parasites and helps heal sores.  WIN-WIN.  So, on Friday, John obtained some from a biologist friend at work.  He then prepared a very dilute solution of potassium permanganate in regular tap water.  As we didn’t have exact measurements for this application, he used mere granules of the substance.  It came out a vivid purple.  In this case, I am hoping PURPLE = gooood.  It was quite an emotional several minutes for us all, as Blackie soaked in the solution and looked at us w/ his big googly eyes.  I know I wasn’t the only one thinking DEAR GOD PLEASE LET THIS NOT KILL ME.




After the chemical soak, Blackie was released into a spring water recovery bowl.



It’s a bit hard to see from the photo (YOU ARE WELCOME) but he has a multitude of lesions all over his tail and sides.  These mostly look like huge gaping open sores.  Since they are underwater, they never get the chance to scab over and look less scary.  So the whole thing is indeed hideous.  Our daughters keep commenting that Blackie’s skin is “falling off” but it’s just open flesh, really.  Several areas still look highly suspect, like a parasite may be on the verge of emerging.  Yesterday, John removed Blackie to tweezer out a late-emerging anchor worm.  And today there are a couple spots that look bad – like worms are peeking out – but nothing yet.  We will just keep watch.  Tonight we are planning a second round of the Dip.

The fact that Blackie has survived thus far is TRULY a testament to his strength and will.  Keep sending those well wishes.  I will keep you posted.

When bad things happen to good fish

Months ago I related the tale of my daughter’s MIRACLE GOLDFISH, Sunny & Blackie.  Who, though small in stature, survived hours in the back of a bouncing UHaul truck in a cracked aquarium w/out water.  Who, though shaken and scarred, not only escaped the icy grip of death but went on to thrive & grow.

sunny and blackie

Until 4 weeks ago, when we moved.  In order to get the fish from our apartment to the new house, we had to drain their hefty tank and transport them in a modest glass bowl.  The fish seemed fine the first day.  We cleaned their tank and got it filled, but during the next 48 hours, they began to struggle.  Days later we woke to find Sunny gone.


15 minutes after a proper burial in the yard, our younger daughter was READY TO FILL THAT VOID.  By evening, my husband had whisked her off to the nearest pet shoppe for replacement/s.  They quickly returned w/ three tiny goldfish, and by bedtime they were swimming in the tank with Blackie.

The following morning we knew something was wrong.  One of the new guys appeared to be sick.  He’d developed some sort of spot on his side.  It didn’t look good.  In fact, it looked seriously bad.  My husband scooped him out and placed him in the quarantine bowl, and for good measure, added his two comrades.  By the next day, all three were exhibiting signs of the same illness.  ANCHOR WORMS.  Neither nice nor pretty, Anchor worms are seriously nasty parasites.  They burrow into fish and expel their eggs out through their sides.

anchor worm

We were horrified to think we’d not only brought home fish that were infected, but had also exposed our own (mourning) Blackie to the disease.  My husband took the 3 fish back to the pet shoppe from whence they came.  After explaining that he’d just purchased 3 parasitic fish from their store, and that he expected a refund, they very grudgingly gave him back the money, but were not going to take back the “merchandise.”  John stated firmly that he was NOT leaving the store with the fish.  After several iterations of I DON’T WANT THEM< YOU TAKE THEM, the manager finally took the bag.  Mostly b/c other customers were beginning to take notice.

In the ensuing days, we have watched Blackie develop one lesion after another.  We have seen the sprouting of at least a dozen anchor worm egg sacks, trailing from his sides and tails like streamers on a newlyweds car.  This morning I resolved to take photos and write this post, in an effort to spread the word.  FISH OWNERS TAKE HEED!!  Do not make the same mistake we did.  When purchasing new fish – even from a reputable pet store chain – never EVER put them directly into your established home tank.  Sure, we waited for the water temps to equalize, but we didn’t quarantine the new fish.  Being fairly new to fish ownership, I didn’t know this was customary.  But that is no excuse.  Please, don’t let THIS happen to your pets.



We have been trying to treat Blackie for the infection.  First (and unsuccessfully) w/ an over-the-counter remedy from the pet store – Ironically – the same pet store that sold us the infected fish.  We have attempted to cure him by NOT FEEDING HIM & subsequently, not feeding the parasites living off & on his flesh.  No Luck Yet.  Tomorrow my husband is obtaining some Potassium Permanganate from a chemist at the university where he works.  It’s a poison, and is supposedly a foolproof way of treating the disease.  Historically it was used to disinfect drinking water.  I will keep you posted as to the results.  Till then, send Blackie your well wishes.  The poor guy needs them.