Marine Head and Lateral Line Erosion

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1991

Marine Head and Lateral Line Erosion Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Marine Head and Lateral Line Erosion (MHLLE) are not commonly understood in the reef-keeping world. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much research to identify the true cause of this disease. Regardless, there are many theories as to what might cause it and also how to treat it. By monitoring your fish, you can identify certain characteristics of MHLLE and take the necessary steps to correct it before the disease progresses.

It is theorized that captivity, poor water quality, and stress are the culprit of marine head and lateral line erosion in fish. The lateral line of a fish is porous and highly sensitive to changes in water chemistry and can even sense low electrical currents. These fluctuations and in addition to an improper diet can cause stress and weaken the immune system of marine fish.

Marine Head and Lateral Line Erosion
A yellow tang with permanent disfiguration MHLLE

Symptoms of Marine Head Lateral Line Erosion:

  • Small or large lesions around the eyes, on the head and down the lateral line.
  • Fin and gill erosion
  • Loss of color vibrancy
  • Fish “itching” or rubbing themselves on surfaces
  • Fish that appear irritated

Possible Causes of Marine Head & Lateral Line Erosion:

  • Vitamin deficiency & poor diet
  • Electrical current in water
  • Poor water quality
  • Captivity
  • Copper treatments that weaken the immune system

While MHLLE is typically not fatal, it can be disfiguring. If caught early, fins can sometimes regenerate and lesions around the face and lateral line should heal with minimal scarring.  While we cannot definitively say what causes MHLLE, we do know that an improved diet, supplemental nutrition, frequent or large water changes, and elimination of other stressors such as stray electrical currents in the water (via a grounding probe) have proven successful for many aquarists in dealing with this problem.

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