Marine Hole in the Head and Lateral Line Erosion Disease

Common Indicators: Ulcers in the skin (esp. near lateral line or head); depigmentation

Evidence suggests that a leading factor in development of this disorder is vitamin or mineral deficiency (and/or ongoing stress to the fish). However, given that this is an issue most common among tropical pet fish (versus commercial fish), studies on this are less common and consensus on the causes less conclusive. Other theories such as issues with activated carbon flters, stray voltage or microorganisms have also been proposed.

Some common symptoms of this disorder can be the formation of holes or pits in the head and along the lateral line (often back from the head). Bleaching of the skin and erosion of the fins (particularly the membranes between the rays) can be another indicator — particularly in Tangs. Surgeonfish and angelfish are particularly susceptible to this disorder.

Fish often have pores in the head, so it can occasionally be difficult to distinguish between normal marks and these pits. Observing your aquarium is key. Observe if the pits change size or grow, and if whether or not the holes are symmetrical on either side of the head (which lowers the probability that the hole is a result of the disease).

Dietary deficits ( whether insufficient  nutrition, vitamins or minerals and trace elements) are the most commonly cited possible causes. This conforms with our experience.

New Life Spectrum® nutrition formula has been demonstrated in our fish, as well as reported by many users, to prevent and reverse Marine Hole in the Head, Lateral Line Erosion and Fin Erosion. This assumes acceptable water quality and pollution levels for the aquarium environment. While not formal scientific studies, our observations with our fish stock, as well as numerous anecdotal reports, provide us confidence that this is the case. 


Bibliography & Further Reading

Noga, Edward J. “Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment.” 2nd Ed. John Wiley & Sons; 2010

Fenner, Robert. “The Conscientious Marine Aquarist.” TFH Publications; 2001

Bassleer, Gerald. “Diseases in Marine Aquarium Fish.” Bassleer Biofish; 1996


Bartelme, Terry. “Hypothesis of Head and Lateral Line Erosion in Fish: The Role of Nutrition in Enhancing Immune Function, pt. 3.” Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine; May 1990

Hemdal, Jay. “Head and Lateral Line Erosion: What We Know About HLLE in Aquarium Fish”. Aquarium Fish Magazine; April 2003

Advisory: The information contained in this article entry is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for consultation with a veterinary professional nor treatment under the supervision of a veterinary professional. New Life International does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information nor of the sources cited as reference. This articles is not a diagnostic tool or reference, nor should be considered treatment advice by New Life International.

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