Epistylis (<i>Epistylis</i>)


Gills fungused
Gills show signs of fungal growths protruding from them.
Grey patches, faded look body
Grey or faded looking patches are evident on the anterior portion of the fish.
Pale slime film over skin
A slimy thin grey/white film covers the body.
White - grey cottonwool tufts
White - grey cottonwool-like tufts appear on fins.
White - grey cottonwool tufts.
Whitish-grey cottonwool-like tufts grow on the skin.
Abnormal swimming - flashing.
Sudden bursts of speed with rolling motion.
Abnormal swimming - streaks
Fish swims in short bursts, then stops.
Gills white spots
Gills show very obvious white spots on and around them.
White/grey cottony mass
White/grey mass, looking like a growth.
White/grey cottony mass
White/grey mass, looking like a growth.
White/grey cottony mass
White/grey mass, looking like a growth.
White/grey cottony mass
White/grey mass, looking like a growth.
Grey/white spot around head.
Around the head area is a large grey or white spot.
Bloody lesions on body
Body shows one or more bloody lesions, where leeches have eaten into flesh.
Haemorrhages - skin
Bloody haemorrhages are apparent over several parts of the skin.
Reddish inflammation
Around the wound caused by the parasite, there is a bloody inflamed area
Haemorrhages on head
The head of the fish has one or more bleeding areas.
Listless and lethargic
Fish moves very lazily in water, much less than normal, lacks interest.
Reluctant to feed
Fish comes to eat but with evident lack of appetite.
Fish constantly rubs or scratches itself against any object available.


Belongs to the genus Heteropolaria. It is ubiquitous in fresh water. Basically harmless.
The life cycle of Epistylis spp. requires only the fish host. The numerous bodies or zooids that comprise the Epistylis colony undergo binary fission, resulting in free-swimming ciliated young teletrochs that invade fish hosts. The parasite matures into a sessile trophont (adult stage).
Sunfishes and temperate Bass in the southern United States, including Bluegill sunfish & Largemouth Bass are the principal species affected.
However the parasite has been reported from a variety of species, including perch & pike, smelt & herring, as well as sturgeon & eels.


If caught & treated as indicated at an early stage usually little loss will be encountered. However if an acute infestation is allowed to develop then some losses are to be anticipated due mostly to the invasion of necrotic areas by secondary infections of bacteria.


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Try to ensure "clean" stock before new introductions, or dip new fish as a precaution before placing into rearing tanks etc.

DNA and RNA diagnostic references. 

Phylogenetic relationships among six species of Epistylis inferred from 18S-ITS1 sequences.

From   Science in China Series C.    Life Sciences June 2002  Miao Wei et al. 


Dr. Durborow, Robert
State Specialist for Aquaculture
Cooperative extension program
Kentucky State University   USA


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