Can Fish Survive Ich Without Treatment? (How Quickly It Kills)

Last Updated on 2023-10-18

Have you noticed that one of your fish has ich? If so, you may be wondering if this is a disease that will go away on its own or whether it needs treatment. In this article, not only will you find out if ich needs to be treated or not, but you’ll also learn the best treatment methods, what happens if it’s left untreated, and how to prevent it from happening again.

So keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

Key Takeaways:

  • Ich is a highly contagious parasitic disease that can be fatal for fish if left untreated.
  • Quick treatment with medication, heat, or aquarium salt can help fish recover.
  • Ich can kill fish within 5-7 days if not treated promptly.
  • Preventive measures include using a quarantine tank for new fish, maintaining clean water, and feeding fish a balanced diet.

So, Can Fish Survive Ich Without Treatment?

If left untreated, ich is guaranteed to end up killing your fish. And because it’s so contagious, it’s also extremely likely that ich will end up spreading to the other fish in the tank as well. However, it’s possible to treat ich with natural remedies, so if you don’t have medicine at hand, all is not lost.

How Quickly Does Ich Kill Fish?

Once ich has taken hold of your fish, if it’s left untreated, it will often kill within 5-7 days. On top of this, the longer it’s left untreated, the more it will breed and spread in the tank, so it will begin infecting other fish a lot more rapidly as well.

How to Know if Your Fish Have Ich

If you’re worried that your fish might have ich, there are a few things you can look out for to confirm your suspicions. First and foremost, keep an eye out for white spots on your fish’s body or fins – this is one of the most common signs of the disease.

You may also notice your fish scratching or rubbing against objects in the aquarium, which is a sign of discomfort and irritation. Other signs that your fish may have ich include labored breathing or gasping at the surface of the water, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

You may also notice that your fish’s fins appear clamped or that they seem generally stressed out and unhappy. If you do notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to take action right away. The sooner you can start treating the infection, the better chance your fish will have of recovering.

How To Treat Fish For Ich Without Medicine

If you don’t have any medicine for treatment, there are a couple of things you can do to give your fish the best chance of survival! And fortunately, with ich, when caught early enough, it’s likely that your fish will make a full recovery!

The two main ways to treat ich in fish are with heat and aquarium salt (or a combination of both).

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Heat Treatment For Ich

If you plan on using heat treatment, then you’ll need to take your time and research whether your fish can tolerate the higher temperatures before trying. If all is clear, then the following should be done:

  • Move the fish suffering from ich to a quarantine tank to make sure that no other fish or plants are affected by the treatment.
  • Once you’ve moved your fish to the quarantine tank, slowly begin to raise the temperature of the tank until it’s at 85°F. Remember, the temperature raise should be done over a few days, not hours, to ensure your fish doesn’t suffer from temperature shock. As a rule, it shouldn’t be raised by more than 1°F a day.
  • You should also add an airstone or bubbler to the quarantine tank as well. As the heat in the tank rises, the amount of oxygen in the tank will lower, but an airstone will mitigate this.
  • If you plan on using this method, make sure that the treatment doesn’t last for more than 10 days.

Salt Method For Treating Ich

As well as the heat method, you can also use aquarium salt (on its own or in combination with heat). If you want to use the salt method, then you should do the following:

  • First of all, if you plan on using the salt method to treat a fish with ich, make sure the fish will be able to tolerate it. Some fish, such as scaleless fish, are unable to tolerate salt at all because there’s no protective barrier. So if you’re going to use the salt method, check that the fish can handle it first.
  • Now you know your fish can handle the salt method, once again, you should move them to a quarantine tank, so no other fish or plants are affected.
  • Once you’ve done this, put some water from your tank into a separate container and add aquarium salt. You should be adding 1 tablespoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons of water in the tank.
  • When the aquarium salt has dissolved, pour the water back into your tank gradually over the day.
  • Now all you have to do is monitor your fish and ensure things aren’t getting worse.
  • Lastly, only add more salt when you’re performing a water change. And when you’ve performed the water change, only add salt for the water that’s being replaced. Not the whole tank!
  • You can use aquarium salt as a treatment for up to 10 days.

Lastly, remember to only use aquarium salt. Other forms of salt can be dangerous to fish can could end up killing your fish.

Treatment MethodKey Steps
Heat Treatment For Ich1. Transfer fish to a quarantine tank.
2. Gradually raise the tank temperature to 85°F.
3. Use an airstone to maintain oxygen levels.
4. Ensure treatment doesn’t exceed 10 days.
Salt Method For Treating Ich1. Check fish tolerance for salt treatment.
2. Move fish to a quarantine tank.
3. Mix aquarium salt in a separate container.
4. Gradually pour the salted water back into the tank.
5. Monitor fish and avoid overusing salt.

Can Fish Recover From Ich By Themselves?

Fish can recover from ich by themselves if their immune system is strong enough to fight off the parasite. However, this is not always the case, and the disease can be fatal if left untreated. Fish that are stressed or weakened by poor water conditions or other factors are more susceptible to ich and may have a harder time recovering on their own.

What Is The Best Ich Fish Treatment?

There are various treatments available to help manage and treat ich. Here are some of the best ich fish treatment options:

  1. Medication

One of the most common treatments for ich is medication. There are different kinds of  medications available, such as formalin, copper sulfate, and malachite green, that can kill the parasite. However, it is important to note that these medications can be toxic to fish if not used properly.

  1. Salt Bath

Another treatment option is a salt bath. This involves adding salt to the aquarium water to create a concentration of 1-3%. The salt will help to kill the parasite, and it can also help to reduce stress in the fish.

  1. Temperature Increase

Increasing the temperature of the aquarium water can also help to treat ich. The parasite cannot survive in water that is above 85°F (29°C). However, it is important to note that some fish may not be able to tolerate higher temperatures.

  1. Clean Water

Keeping the aquarium water clean and well-maintained is essential for preventing and treating ich. This includes regular water changes and using a good quality filter.

  1. Quarantine

Finally, isolating infected fish in a separate quarantine tank can help to prevent the spread of ich to other fish in the main aquarium. Quarantine tanks should be well-maintained and treated with medication or other treatments as necessary.

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How Long Does Ich Stay After Treatment?

The lifecycle of ich is typically 3 weeks; however, the temperature of the tank will affect this. In tanks with a higher temperature, the life cycle will be reduced dramatically. Whereas in tanks with a cooler temperature, the lifecycle will last longer.

And remember, even if the white spots on your fish are gone, there could still be ich in the tank, so make sure to continue treatment.

How To Prevent Ich In Fish

Preventing ich isn’t difficult. In fact, it’s just a part of good aquarium keeping. When you learn how to prevent ich, you’ll also learn to prevent a whole range of diseases.

Quarantine Tank

When adding new fish to your aquarium, it’s crucial to start by placing them in a quarantine tank. This simple step allows you to closely monitor their health and promptly address any signs of illness.

Health Matters

Never purchase fish that appear unhealthy. Additionally, it’s always best to steer clear of fish sharing a tank with dead or diseased companions. These are clear indicators of issues with either the fish or the water quality.

Consistent Water Parameters

To minimize stress for your fish, it’s essential to maintain stable water parameters. Here’s an exhaustive list of the water parameters needs of over 345 fish!

Avoid Overcrowding

Ensure your aquarium is not overstocked. A general guideline is to have 1 inch of fish per gallon of water, but it’s wise to keep slightly below this limit. This way you know the biological media in your tank will always keep up with the waste.

A Balanced Diet

Make sure you’re feeding your fish a balanced diet, and that they’re getting all the nutrients they need. Remember some fish are carnivores, others omnivores, and other’s herbivores, so make sure you’re picking the right food!

Buy Locally

Avoid ordering fish online as the transportation process can be stressful for them. Instead, opt to purchase fish from your nearest aquatic center or pet shop. This reduces travel time and helps ensure the well-being of your new additions.

Check out this video by Girl Talks Fish on the best Ich treatment for freshwater fish:


Here are some frequently asked questions about whether a fish can survive ich without treatment, including how long it will take to kill them!

Can Fish Ich Spread To Humans?

Fortunately, fish ich can’t spread to humans; however, you should still make sure you’re not putting your hands in the tank when possible. Not only could it result in your spreading bacteria in the tank, but you may also spread bacteria from the tank around your home as well!

How Long Will Ich Stay On A Fish?

Ich typically stays on a fish for around 4-6 days during which it feeds, multiplies, and causes characteristic white spots on the skin and fins of the fish. Without treatment, the parasite can continue to cycle on the fish, leading to ongoing infections. 

Does Ich Ever Disappear By Itself?

Ich can sometimes disappear by itself if the fish’s immune system is strong enough to fight off the parasite. However, this is not a guaranteed outcome, and it can take a considerable amount of time for the fish to recover.

How Long Does Ich Live For?

In general, the Ich parasite has a life cycle of about 4-6 days at a water temperature of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (24-27 degrees Celsius), although it can survive for up to 21 days in cooler water. 


As you can see, if ich is left completely untreated, it will end up killing your fish. However, it is still possible to treat ich without medication. You will just need to use heat and aquarium salt.

If you liked this article, make sure you check out the rest of the website! Otherwise, have a great day!


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