Columnaris Disease

Columnaris Disease

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Columnaris Disease in Susquehanna Smallmouths


  • Bacterial infection caused by Flavobacterium columnare
  • It is a long Gram-negative rod in the family Flavobacteracea



  • This disease is brought on by stressful situations such as unfavorable pH, warm water temperatures, nutrient loading, low flow, low dissolved oxygen or not enough food
  • In the Susquehanna the smallmouths effected by the disease are young of the year
  • Investigations by the USGS and Pennsylvania Water Science Center have confirmed that stressful water quality occurred in the YOY smallmouth habitat


  • White spots on mouth, fins and gills
  • White growth eats away mouth
  • Infected fins begin to disintegrate
  • Lesions growing near dorsal fins


Results from disease

  • This disease is usually fatal
  • It kills the YOY smallmouths in a few days after they are infected
  • Outbreaks of this disease happened in the Susquehanna in 2005, 2007 and 2008


  • The Susquehanna was compared to The Delaware and Alleghany Rivers
  • It was shown that The Susquehanna usually had lower dissolved oxygen then the Delaware and Alleghany
  • This is not the only factor that went into Columnaris, but it is the only one the PA Fish Commission identified as a contributor so far



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