Common Fish Diseases

There are many different kinds of ailments that can attack aquarium fishes. They are also sometimes hard to diagnose properly. I have written some information on some of the most common ailments and their treatments. It is wise however, to always check with a knowledgable aquariest, or veteranarian if you can’t diagnose or treat your fish. Water quaility is the best way to prevent the onset of diseases in your fish. Keeping your tank and filters clean will help. Also if there are signs of injury, you can often ward off problems by treating the injured fish before infections invade the wound. When adding new fish to a tank be sure to watch for signs of disease or damage from transport, fighting, etc. Spending time watching your fish and how they behave is one way of getting to know your fish. You will notice changes in behavior when they get sick. Knowing your fish and how they act, may help you notice diseases and treat them before the fish get too bad to treat, or infect the whole tank.

Quite a few people have sent me email and webform submissions asking about fish diseases. I am not able to answer questions on fish diseases. I cannot accurately diagnose your fish’s disease or ailment over email. Just as your doctor could not diagnose your illnesses over the phone. It takes a lot of experience to be able to accurately diagnose various diseases. The only way to correctly do that is to be able to see the fish in question. I have provided a short list of the most common ailments below. Read the symptoms and treatments carefully. Always seek the advice of your local pet or aquarium shop, if you need someone to look at your fish, or take it to a veteranarian. That may sound funny, however, there are some very expensive fish out there!!

“ICH”: White spot disease
This is probably one of the most commonly found ailments. Ich looks like small granules of salt and are separate from each other and defined. This Protozoan disease in fresh water environments is caused by Ichthyophthirius and in marine environments by the parasite Cryptocarion irritans. The parasite attacks the eyes, fins, gills, skin and mouth interior. It is recognized by tiny and distinct, white pinpoints covering these surfaces.The fish may attempt to scrape itself against objects in the aquarium, exhibit a loss of appetite or a stressed-rapid breathing. The parasite has a cyclical life span and can only be affected by treatment during the free-swimming stages of the cycle.

Treatment: In most cases the use of a Copper Sulfate or Copper Formalin based medication should be able to clear most parasite outbreaks. I recommend Copper Safe, or Maracyn. In severe cases, it may become necessary to exactly determine the type of parasite, so that a more targeted medication may be prescribed. There are various commercial remedies on the market which commonly come in either chelated or non-chelated formulas. Chelated formulas are easier to administer, but may not be as effective as non-chelated formulas with certain outbreaks. Whichever brand you choose, be careful to follow the manufacturers directions precisely. The parasite usually leaves an open wound once it leaves the host to reproduce and in many instances a secondary bacterial or fungus infection may occur. It is always prudent to combine an antibiotic remedy with the parasite treatment to prevent further complications.

Thermal Therapy: In aquarium environments with warm water species, raising the aquarium temperature to 90´┐Ż for a period of 5 consecutive days may also be effective. Do not use thermal therapy on fish sensitive to warm temperatures, as it will only lead to increased biological stress.

Velvet looks similar to Ich, but there will be many more small white spots that appear dusty. This Protozoan disease in fresh water environments is caused by Oodinium limneticum and Oodinium pillularis. In marine environments by Oodinium occellatum. The parasite attacks the eyes, fins, gills and skin. The disease may resemble “Ick”, but is recognized by a dusty appearance on these surfaces and can have a yellowish color. The fish may attempt to scrape itself against objects in the aquarium, exhibit a loss of appetite or a stressed-rapid breathing. The parasite has a cyclical life span and can only be affected by treatment during the free-swimming stages of the cycle.

Treatment: See treatment above for Ich, It is the same for Velvet.

This is one of the most disturbing of fish diseases, and is rarely cureable. Dropsy is an internal bacterial infection. The fish’s scales will stand out, making it have a pine comb look. What causes the scales to protrude is the body will fill with fluids, swelling the fish causing the pine cone effect, and can be severe enough to sometimes cause the eyes to bulge. The fish will get very lethargic. Move the infected fish to a quarantine tank. Use Kanamycin or Tetracycline and raise the temperature to about 80 degrees. You can also try using Epsom salts to treat the disease. Use one tablespoon for each 10 gallons of water. This will help eliminate the fluid from the body.

This is a very common disorder which infects all kinds of tropical fish. Its appearance is a cottony white color, and usually shows up on scrapes, damaged fins, or on the mouth. It is also much more likely in poor water conditions in which there are unacceptable levels of ammonia or nitrites. Fungal infections are also a sign of bullying by other fish. Fin nippers will damage the fins of other fish making them more susceptible to fungal infections and external bacterial infections such as fin and tail rot. Treatment of fungal infections is relatively easy. There are a great many commercially available products for this, including MarOxy by Mardel Laboratories and Super Sulfo by Aquatronics.

Visible worms, flukes or lice on the body. Parasitic infestation is perhaps the easiest to diagnose. The fish must be removed from the tank while the parasite is removed. Follow up treatment is essential to prevent fungal or bacterial growth. Treatment: Pick the visible parasites from the fish. Follow with commercially available treatment such as Aquatronic’s Diacide or CopperSafe by Mardel Laboratories. You can also help prevent infections from the parasite by applying mecuricomb to the wound with a cotton swab.

External Bacterial Infection:
There are a great deal of possible symptoms associated with this infection. There may be spots on the body which appear red or orange. Watch for red streaks on the surface on the body. Dropsy is also a sign of a bacterial disorder. “False Fungal Infections” look like fungus but is actually a bacterial infection known as Columnaris. These symptoms may include a white or gray film on the body. Bacterial infections are often difficult to diagnose due to the many different types. Orange or red streaks on the body is usually the only fool-proof method for the identification of a bacterial infection. Treatment: There are a number of effective treatments for many stains of bacterial infections. Three of the most common are tetracycline, penicillin and naladixic acid. Salt baths are another effective treatment.┬áprednisolone getting off

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