Flavobacterium columnare (F. columnare) is the causative agent of columnaris disease. This bacterium affects both cultured and wild. Vet Rec. Jun 1;(22) Flavobacterium columnare (Flexibacter columnaris) associated with severe gill necrosis in koi carp (Cyprinus carpio L). Information about the fish disease Flexibacter columnaris. Gives answers to why it occurs, what can be done.

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Prevention is the key with both of these unrelated but similar symptom potential fish pathogens. With Columnaris, it is important to learn the effect stress has in outbreaks as well as the importance positive mineral ions and the role these cations play in adhesion of Columnaris by reducing surface potential and repulsive forces. As well, after reading both sections, hopefully the reader will understand how the success of treatment of Saprolegnia, as in the disease, Aeromonas is often improved considerably by improving water quality.

Further Reference for Aeromonas: Treatment, Identification, and Prevention of Aeromonas, Flexibcater, Furunculosis, Vibrio While success in “beating back” Columnaris is more aided besides treatment by removing stressors, such as a bullying cokumnaris or lack of electrolytes.

This is also where I find incorrect confusion between Saprolegnia and Columnaris since both look outwardly similar; flexibacterr and websites often state that they aided the cure of Columnaris by cleaning a dirty aquarium.

This indicates that the fish more likely had Saprolegnia co,umnaris even Aeromonas as you will see from reading the article in full.

If you have found this web site helpful or the sister site Aquarium and Pond AnswersPLEASE consider a donation or purchase to help with the s of hours of research and regular updates that go into these articles: Columnaris often referred to as “Cotton Wool Disease”, “Saddleback Disease”, or “Cotton Mouth Disease” and incorrectly referred to as “Guppy Disease” is a warm water, gram negative strictly aerobic and nonhalophilic meaning they do not live in saltwater conditions bacterium often appears like a fungus or more correctly; Saprolegnia.


However it is not a fungus, although many treatments for fungus are effective for mild cases of Columnaris Flexibacteria. This is why the often recommended Erythromycin columnarks a strange choice of treatment as it is rarely effective for either Fungus of Columnaris.

However do not confuse Columnaris with the spores of Saprolegnia the cotton wool ball with hair like growth structures seen on damaged fish. Flexibacted a microscope, Columnaris can look like Saprolegnia and is often treated as fungus, sometimes with poor results.

WITH a microscope, scrapings from a columnaris lesion then placed under a microscope will reveal long, thin, rod shaped motile bacteria.

Flavobacterium columnare – Wikipedia

The bacterial clumps form microscopic columns or dome shaped masses, hence the name columnaris. As well weak genetics from in-bred fish as with many Guppies and Bettas or fish such as “feeder” or “carnival” goldfish that are often permanently damaged for early life crowding are also often at risk for Columnaris infections. Unfortunately the above point is missed by many who often cite dirty, stagnant, or otherwise poor water conditions as cause of Columnaris, but since Columnaris is aerobicit simply cannot thrive in poor water conditions that are low in oxygen as can Aeromonas or Saprolegnia.

This is NOT to say that sudden shifts in parameters such as spikes in ammonia assuming an aerobic environmentwill not trigger Columnaris, as this too is a stressor that can allow for an opportunistic Columnaris infection.

Adding aeration without correcting mineralization problems based on false assumptions about Columnaris while ignoring ESSENTIAL mineral ions Calcium in particular, but sodium chloride too will only further force an out of balance Redox and not help with a cure of a true Columnaris infection!!

In lieu of often unavailable scientific microscopic identification, the above point is often noteworthy in identifying aerobic Columnaris from often anaerobic Aeromonas or the Mold Saprolegnia generally referred to as “Fish Fungus”. The point here is that even if the symptoms look like Columnaris, but the water conditions do not match and one uses a treatment regimen likely not to work for Columnaris, this most likely was NOT a Columnaris infection!

In gills, Columnaris can cause disintegration of the gill filaments. As the disease progresses the gills can change from their natural color to a light or dark brown. Since it is difficult to absorb enough oxygen from the water using damaged gills, the fish will start breathing rapidly and the fish might also swim up to the surface gasping for air. This is also where a Columnaris infection can very deadly and quickly without few other symptoms since it will then enter the blood stream a major reason for a strong Methylene Blue Baths and use of a Medicated Wonder Shell “in tank” to compliment other traditional antibiotics This is typically more acute in younger fish too.

The picture to the right shows necrosis of the fins, please click the picture to enlarge. Necrosis premature death of cells and living tissue of the fins which is accompanied by white, cotton-like accumulations of bacteria and detritus.


Fin Rot is a common secondary problem of Columnaris see the picture in the treatment section. Aeromonas, Vibrio, Septicemia, Furunculosis. Wonder Shells The premier product for a constant supply of positive mineral ions, as well as a medicated version.


Growth, Carnivore, Herbivore, Omnivore. The obvious first step is lowering stressors and improving water parameters not necessarily just “clean water” as outlined in these sections of this article.

If you columnaaris jumped to treatment and not read these other sections; STOP now and please read these sections too! This also includes lowering water temperature to 75F 24C. Failure to follow step one and just treating with medications is akin to asking someone for burn relief medications while still standing in a fire! Please keep in mind that this amount of salt is NOT meant for long term use, rather just the duration of time it takes to reach a cure for the Columnaris infection.

As an alternative to medications; a study at the Alabama Agricultural Experimental Station, Auburn University has shown increasing salt concentrations used with Channel catfish along with heat reduction to 75 Flexibactre can treat Columnaris Flexibacter infections. This study flies in the face of anecdotal flexibater about not using salt with catfish. You can see from the diagram that the best results were achieved at a dose of milligrams per liter; based on the weight of salt this converts.

This is Much more salt than many aquarists commonly believe a Catfish can tolerate. Fish farms generally cannot use antibiotics for fish being raised for human consumption, thus this alternative treatment. In fact with many instances of Columnaris the Methylene Blue Bath or the even more strong, columnwris more carefully administered Potassium Permanganate bath was the main factor of treatment that affected a cure as per many tests.

Please click to enlarge. Please see this article for more about Baths: As well as the above noted baths, direct applications swabs of Methylene Blue for mild cases of Columnaris applied to external areas of infection can help with recovery. A similar combination using a now discontinued “Aquatronics” product worked well to check infection spread directly on some fish.

For more serious cases, Hydrogen Peroxide or Diluted Potassium Permanganate applied as a swab may be your only chance to check the spread of a more serious infection of Columnaris. Make sure NO Potassium Permanganate gets into the gillsif this happens, a normal dose of SeaChem Prime or similar product added to a fish bath and used immediately for columnqris fish is suggested.

Reference for use of Hydrogen Peroxide: Aquarium Medications 3, Hydrogen Peroxide. In tank or hospital tank treatment: Many fish diseases, it should be noted, are caused by different bacterial or fungal pathogens that often exhibit similar symptoms, so identification of a specific bacterial or fungal pathogen is not often possible from mere visual inspection of the symptoms on the fish. I have also noted reports that while I have enjoyed good success with the above treatment method, assuming water parameters were spot on including Redox and water temperaturethat the failure rate is increasing.

This can be and likely has a lot to do with over breeding of certain fish such as many Bettas, resulting in weak genetics. However antibiotic resistance is also likely on the increase, which is why this antibiotic combination should not be used on a regular basis every time your fish “burps”. Resistant bacteria work by utilizing a pumping mechanism in its cell that when antibiotics enter that cell the pump immediately pumps out the antibiotics so it can have no effect on the MRSA cell.

Oregon Grape Root works by blocking the bacteria’s ability to pump out antibiotics. Currently the best suggestion for use is opening a mg Oregon Grape Root Capsule into 10 gallons of water along with the antibiotics, but keep in mind, aquarium use is still in flrxibacter infancy!!! Oregon Grape Root – It could save the world.

With severe quick moving Columnaris infections that have entered the bloodstream via a gill infection as noted earlier in this articlecombining Kanamycin, Nitrofurazone and Medicated Wonder Shells is a strong option that address mineral Cations and also helps with osmoregulation and blood issues. Unfortunately once this infection goes systemic, the odds are bad, but this is one of the few viable options at this point assuming all stressor corrective issues have already been addressed.

Medicated Wonder Shells patent pending. Ciprofloxacin can be an effective synthetic broad spectrum antibiotic against gram-negative bacterium such as Columnaris and can be used in tank or in baths.

The difficulty is finding this antibiotic fkexibacter small quantities columnris most is sold in large volumes at high prices beware of eBay sellers at low prices of this antibiotic, as it is often outdated as per the manufacturer. The only caution is that Trimethoprim can be a problem with fish with large bleeding sores, so if such sores or similar dlexibacter present, it should not be used.


My professional use of Triple Sulfa has found that it is occasionally a good choice along with lowering stressors, baths, and some salt for mild to moderate infections and is rarely harsh on aquarium environments including plants.

I stand behind Triple Sulfa as a possible alternative treatment. As well, this person is incorrect as per the use of a level 1 or higher UV Sterilizer, as it is excellent prevention for Columnaris, including the very well researched FACT it improves the Redox Balance.

As to his condescending remarks about me personally, Yes, I have done copious amounts of research which many are cited here, including the use of Triple sulfa and other products containing sulfa drugsas well as my consulting with one of my mentors, Dr. Herzog and research by Daniel W. Doxycycline is one more alternative that may work and is readily available to the aquarium keeping market. Doxycycline is the only member of the Tetracycline family that I would recommend for a true Columnaris infection.

Unfortunately, there is much unfortunately posted in forums or websites about the use of Tetracycline or Oxytetracyline for the treatment of Columnaris however this is based on old research and misunderstanding of the large Tetracycline class of medications. Unlike Doxycline, many Flexibacyer are primarily gram positive while Columnaros is a gram negative rod bacteria although Oxytetracycline is more broad spectrum than Tetracyline Hydrochloride, it is still primarily a gram positive treatment.

This said, Doxycycline and to a lessor extent, Minocycline, are also members of this class of Tetracycline antibiotics. Minocycline sometimes spelled Minocycline is more gram negative than its cousins and has shown SOME effectiveness for Columnaris although Doxycycline is the better choice of the two.

That said, the Tetracyline family of antibiotics should never be your first choice of medication treatment, despite some misinformed information stating otherwise please note that I make this statement based on researched medication facts as well as MUCH practical experience dating back to Pimafix can aid as a natural “in-tank” treatment for VERY MILD cases of Flexibacteria in combination with lower temps, salt, improving stressors including oxidative stressand baths I would NOT recommend it for more moderate to serious cases.

Do not confuse Melafix with Pimafix, as Melafix is more of an antiseptic with no effect on Columnaris whatsoever! Pimafix is sometimes effective for a volumnaris range of mild bacterial and fungal infections that typically afflict fish and other aquatic animals especially gram negative.

Fish diseases that may be treated in accordance with this product include bacterial fish diseases, such as fin and tail rot, mouth fungus often caused by the bacterium Columnarks Columnaris ; fungal fish diseases such as those caused by microorganisms of the genera Saprolegnia and Achyle and the like. Acriflavin is active against flex bacteria in mild cases. While I do NOT recommend Medicated Wonder Shells for a full blown infection of Columnaris these can be an excellent follow up treatment about days after completion of regular treatment and baths.

These are helpful in part for a Columnaris infection due to the positive mineral ions they deliver along with medication. I do suggest a water change and adding carbon to filters prior to the introduction of a Medicated Wonder Shell, or other follow up treatment. Aquarium Medications Part 3; Acriflavin. FINALLY, in summary of treatments ; one aspect I found over and over, including when I have compared notes with other aquarium maintenance professionals is that attempting to fledibacter a little of one method of treatment with another almost always results in failure.

But do NOT attempt to mix what is suggested here by leaving out some aspects of these treatment steps or another methods and expect success. Also as I have already noted, do NOT leave out the importance of correct water parameters, in particular positive mineral ions play in the success of a Columnaris treatment regimen. Columnaris, which is a gram negative strictly aerobic bacterium, is often prevalent in systems with poor mineralization, but not so much water high in tanins and other dissolved organics.

Columnaris is “Ubiquitous”, meaning it flexinacter found everywhere, however its presence does not necessarily lead to Columnaris disease.

Also reference this article: Parameters to Consider for Prevention and Treatment of Columnaris: The results of NOT addressing these parameters and stressors is often a reoccurrence!! Remember that Columnaris is a disease of opportunity that is often already presentso even though one may have an otherwise well maintained aquarium, any of these stressors could make it easier for Columnaris to get a foothold in a compromised fish.

There is no mystery here based on my decades of experience, yet this seems to be a part of the Columnaris puzzle so often missed!

Goldfish and similar flexibactrr water fish should always be kept under 80F 27C whenever possible. This is related to pH and maintains pH stability via adequate carbonates. This is important, please read this article for further information:.