Preventing Aquarium Fish Disease
Disease Free Fish
Doing everything you can to avoid health problems in your aquarium will usually reward you with healthy fish. It is certainly a case where prevention is the best cure.
Symptoms to Avoid
Careful inspection and observation before you buy fish can help you choose healthy specimens. Examine all fish in the aquarium for signs of disease. This is very important as aquarium fish disease can quickly spread amongst tank mates.
Many aquarium shops link all tanks to a central filtration unit. When this is the case inspect all aquariums for fish disease symptoms.
Look out for both physical and behavioral problems.
Physical signs of disease include puffed up scales, white spots, silvery patches and cotton wool like growth. All of these are particularly difficult to spot on white fish. Also look out for any lesions or bumps, missing scales and long strings of excrement protruding from the fish.
Behavioral signs may include loss of appetite, drooping fins, swimming at the top of the water or gasping for air. Check to see the fish is behaving similarly to its same species tank mates.
The Quarantine Tank
Although a fish may appear disease free it is always possible that it is not showing symptoms yet. A quarantine tank will limit the chance of introducing new diseases to your community of aquarium fish. By placing new fish in such a tank diseases can be prevented from affecting your established aquarium.
Your quarantine tank only needs simple furnishings. Minimal clutter will allow you to observe your quarantined fish easily and note any developing fish diseases. The bare essentials of a filter and heater are the only real requirements.
Keeping Diseases Away
Even with quarantine procedures in place there is always the potential for fish disease. By keeping water clean, potential health problems are kept at bay by the fish's own immunities. The established aquarium should have it's water kept in optimum condition.
If you are using test kits aim for 0 ammonia and no more than 20 mg/L of nitrate. This is done through adequate filtration and regular water changes using chlorine free water of the same temperature as the aquarium. Water temperature fluctuations and incorrect pH or hardness will also cause undue stress.
Fish should also be kept free from other stresses. Where stresses are present they will reduce the fish's capacity to remain immune from a disease. Timid fish need hiding spots and any fish that receives regular harassment from other fish is experiencing stress. Prolonged or constant handling is also stressful. Even the change in environment from one aquarium to another in enough to affect a fish's level of stress.
Physical Damage & Slime Coats
When injuries occur this physical stress is an opportunity for fish diseases. When the fish is uninjured it's skin and protective slime coat help it defend against bacterial, fungal and parasitic infection. Losing just a part of the slime coat can be all an opportunistic disease needs to take hold.
To avoid skin and slime coat damage the best strategy is to handle fish as little as possible. In doing so fish will not scrape against gravel or rub against harsh nets. Where handling is necessary try using the largest net possible. Bring the net up from underneath the fish and chase the fish upwards.
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