Unfortunately fish are highly susceptible to diseases and problems,
especially when their water conditions are not accurately maintained.
In some cases the solution is simply a clean and water change, in many
some sort or medication or air is required to either treat the fish or
return the water to normal levels. We highly recommend talking to one
of our trained staff if your fish have any problems.
Using medication for your fish can sometimes be quite complicated. There
are many factors to take into consideration when treating one of your
sick fish. Most treatments will require that the entire tank be treated,
with this in mind, you need to be sure that the treatment for one sick
fish, won't adversely affect the health of other fish in the tank. Alternatively,
some medications may also kill the bacteria in the tank if used over a
long period of time. This will lead to ammonia build up and may kill all
your fish weeks after you have medicated one fish with a problem. Depending
on the diversity of your tank, you may need to separate a sick fish and
treat it in a separate tank, like taking it to a hospital.
With the proper information and advice you have a much better chance
of curing a sick or diseased fish, and keeping all your other fish safe
while doing it. There are hundreds of diseases that can affect your fish,
luckily only a few are common. Additionally, sometimes it's the cause
of the disease that is just as important to determine. i.e. you may always
use an outdoor rain tank for water changes and the problem originates
there. You may cure the problem, only to have it return weeks later. Alternatively,
you may not do enough water changes and cleaning, leading to ammonia or
bad bacteria problems.
Check your equipment, environment and water
quality before treating any fish!
Problem Groups and Common Problems
Not all problems are a "disease" if the term is used in it's
Environmental Stress: Sluggish behavior, panting,
and gill discolouration (gill burn). Fish may hang just below the water
Bacterial Infections: Inactivity, loss of
colour, frayed fins, bloated body, cloudy eyes, open sores, abscesses,
red streaks throughout body, reddening or inflammation of the skin, fins
or internal organs, bulging eyes, difficulty breathing.
Fungal Infections (often secondary to another type of illness):
Erratic swimming, darting, scratching, visible cotton-like tufts on skin,
eyes, or mouth.
Parasitic Infections: Inactivity, loss of appetite,
excess mucus or film on body, visible spots or worms, rapid breathing,
Most tropical fish are used to living in water with a small temperature
variance. When the temperature drops below or exceeds this range, fish
can be weakened and left more vulnerable to disease. The best way to prevent
wide variances in temperature is to purchase a reliable heater and place
the tank away from drafty areas.
Symptoms: Darting movements,
inflamed gills, bleeding gills, rapid gill movements, gasping for air
at water surface.
Solution: Most tropical
fish live in water with a relatively stable pH. When the pH is not right,
the fish are weakened and become more susceptible to illness and infection.
If the pH is way off, do not rapidly restore the pH to normal. Instead,
gradually add pH buffers until the proper pH is reached. To help prevent
this problem, check the pH
on a regular basis.
Symptoms: Rapid gill movement
and fish hanging just below the water surface. Later, the fish may lose
colour and die.
Solution: An oxygen shortage
can be caused by several ways: insufficient aeration, a buildup of organic
wastes, a high temperature, or through plant respiration. An oxygen deficiency
can be solved by a partial water change, an increase in aeration, and
removal of dead or dying fish and vegetation.
Symptoms: Sluggish behavior,
panting, and gill discolouration (gill burn). Fish may hang just below
the water surface.
Solution: Ammonia poisoning
is caused by the buildup of organic waste due to overfeeding, fish or
plant deaths and decay, or improper cycling. Ammonia poisoning especially
occurs when the pH exceeds 7, when benign ammonium becomes ammonia. The
easiest way to confirm ammonia poisoning is by testing
the water. Ammonia poisoning can be reduced by reducing feedings,
making water changes, lowering the pH, using zeolites, and increasing
Symptoms: symptoms as ammonia
poisoning is caused by the same activities as ammonia poisoning. Nitrite/Nitrate
poisoning has the same, and can be tested by a Nitrite/Nitrate water test
kit. The best course of action, is to reduce feeding, make frequent partial
water changes until the compounds are reduced, and increase the aeration
in the water.
Symptoms: Treated fish,
or other fish appear unwell while medicating.
Solution: Medications are
meant to help fish recover, although when misused, can be more harmful
than helpful. Medications can have adverse affects on many types of fish
including Catfish, Tetras, Mormyrids, Loaches, and other sensitive fish.
Copper-based medications have harmful affects on invertebrates, so always
remove snails and crustaceans from the tank before treating it. Always
be sure to read the label on the medication to confirm that it is suitable
for your fish. If a medication appears to be harming your fish, make a
partial water change and filter the water with activated carbon.
Symptoms: Red or bleeding
chlorine, present in most tap water, is toxic to fish. Chlorine affects
the gills and causes death by asphyxiation. Chlorine can be removed by
boiling the water, letting the water stand for a few days, vigorously
aerating the water, or by adding a water conditioner.
Heavy Metal Poisoning
Symptoms: Fish gasp at the
surface for air and breath rapidly
Solution: Heavy metal poisoning
can result from old pipes and/or metal in the fish tank. Tests are available
to measure the amounts of heavy metals in your water. The best way to
remove heavy metals is to utilize a reverse osmosis system, although filtering
the water through activated carbon and using water conditioners can be
Hydrogen Sulfide Poisoning
Symptoms: Rotten egg-like
odour and fish gasping at the water surface for air Solution:
This gas is caused by rotting debris and waste in the gravel
of the tank. This gas is toxic. The best measure to take is to make a
large water change, using a siphon to remove waste from the gravel. Make
partial water changes until the odour is gone and the fish return to normal
swimming and breathing.
Other Pollutant poising
There are other chemicals (cigarette smoke, paint fumes, pesticides) that
sometimes make their way into the fish tank. The best way to combat these
pollutants is not to allow them to get in the tank in the first place.
However, once a foreign pollutant enters the tank, the results can be
drastic for the inhabitants. Try making water changes and filtering with
activated carbon to alleviate the problem.
Fish Tuberculosis (Mycobacterium)
Symptoms: Fish may lose
colour and appetite and become hollow-bellied. Fish become lifeless and
often crippled–with a bent spine. Fish develop ulcers under the
skin and may rupture causing open sores and “pop-eye.”
Solution: This disease is
highly infectious and deleterious. Bacteria can remain living in the gravel
to infect other fish when they are weakened. Some success has been achieved
by treating infected fish with antibiotics (Oxytetracycline and Kanamycin),
although often it is best to kill the fish and put it out of its misery.
When removing piscine tuberculosis victims, do so with care, as this disease
can be transmitted to humans.
Dropsy (Aeromonas, Pseudomonas)
Symptoms: Fish infected
with Dropsy are characterized by protruding scales, bulging eyes, pale
gills, the body cavity is filled with fluid, and there may be red patches
on the skin.
Solution: An infectious
disease that spreads most readily among weakened fish. Infected fish should
be removed and destroyed, or treated with antibiotics. Treatment is not
Mouth Fungus, Columnaris (Chondrococcus, Cytophaga)
Symptoms: Despite its misleading
common name, mouth fungus is actually caused by bacteria. Patches of cotton-like
patches develop around the mouth, but also on the head, fins, gills, and
body. As the disease progresses, open sores develop.
Solution: Raise the water
temperature. Several different courses of action can be taken including
a 30 minute bath in 1 ppm potassium permanganate (10 Mg/L); the addition
of Malachite green; or the addition Nifurpirinol. Frequent partial water
changes are important.
Discus Flu, Discus Plague
Symptoms: The disease sets
in rapidly after new fish are introduced. The first symptoms include small
white patches on the body and the disintegration of the fins. Soon, the
milky mucous membrane begins to slough off in large sections and the fish
turn a dark colour. If a number of fish are affected, they may huddle
together in the corner of the tank.
Solution: This seasonal,
flu-like disease, that has devastated entire hatcheries, is caused by
seemingly unknown causes. Scientists have found a number of species of
bacteria in diseased fish. The best way to combat the disease is to keep
the pH low (4-5), make daily water changes (clean the tank well), and
stop feeding the fish. The lights should be turned off and decorations
removed. Try treating the water with a small amount of potassium permanganate
to kill off some bacteria. Some suggest using an antihistamine throughout
the course of the disease.
Neon Disease (Sporozoasis)
Symptoms: This incurable
disease can affect Characins, Cyprinds, and Cichlids. The disease can
manifest itself in several ways. Symptoms vary, and can include a loss
of colour, emancipation, and the loss of equilibrium causing fish to swim
in an erratic, jerky manner. An infected specimen will wander from its
school. The body may become a milky, opaque colour.
Solution: Since this disease
is not treatable, the best way to prevent its spread is to immediately
remove the affected fish, and destroy it. Disinfect the tank after removing
Fin Rot (Pseudomonas and others)
Symptoms: The edges of the
fins are discoloured and frayed. As the disease progresses, fin damage
becomes more evident as the fins disintegrate. Often fungal infections
follow fin rot, contributing to fin damage.
Solution: Fin rot is most
commonly caused by improper water conditions including too low a temperature
and the buildup of toxic compounds. This infectious disease can be treated
with a bath in Trypaflavine or the addition of commercially prepared medications.
Treatment of Fin rot is difficult.
Velvet Disease (Oodinium)
Symptoms: Velvet disease
is characterized by a cover of a fine gold to gray film on the fish’s
body. The affected fish may gasp for air and rub against rocks. The gills
may be flared.
Solution: When Velvet disease
has been confirmed, raise the water temperature of the tank. If possible,
the temperature should be brought to 88-93°F (31-34°C). Turn off
the lights and treat fish with copper sulfate, Trypaflavine, methylene
blue, a malachite green-formalin combination, or Quinine Hydrochloride.
An alternative is to immerse the infected fish in a salt bath.
White Spot Disease, Ich (Ichthyophthirius)
Symptoms: The body and fins
are covered with small white spots. In heavy infestations, the skin may
be covered with slimy gray patches. As the disease progresses, the fish
becomes emancipated and less active, and scratches against objects.
Solution: The Ichthyophthirius
parasite has three life cycle stages, and is only vulnerable to medication
in the free-swimming stage. Raise the temperature to 86°F (30°C).
This highly contagious disease is treatable with a malachite green-formalin
combination, Trypaflavine, Quinine, an addition of salt, or one of many
medications available in pet stores. Treat the tank for three weeks so
all the Ich parasites have completed their cycles. Survivors appear to
be immune after infection, but still carry disease. Non- immune tank mates
are infected when they are weakened by stress.
Gill Flukes (Dactylogyrus, Cichlidogyrus, Tetraonchus)
Symptoms: Tiny worm-like
flukes infest the gill membranes causing redness and slimy gills, panting
at the surface, rapid breathing, and emancipation.
Solution: Flukes lay eggs
that are resistant to medication. Treat the tank with Droncit (Praziquantel)
at 2 ppm (2 Mg/L) or a malachite green-formalin combination until all
eggs and flukes are gone. Flukes can be eliminated from fish (but not
the tank), by short formalin, salt (3 %), or Ammonium Hydroxide baths.
Skin Flukes (Gyrodactylus)
Symptoms: Fish are infested
with small worms causing colour's to fade, reddish patches, and the fish
to scratch against objects.
Solution: Skin flukes can
be treated with Droncit (Praziquantel) at 2 ppm (2 Mg/L) and formalin
Fish Lice (Argulus)
Symptoms: Fish rub against
rocks and plants and have clamped fins. Areas may have red, inflamed spots.
Small lice are visible to the naked eye.
Solution: The best treatment
is careful, manual removal with a pair of tweezers and siphon the gravel
daily to remove eggs. If there is a heavy infestation, raise the temperature
to 86°F (30°C), and treat the aquarium with dylox, masoten, or
trichlorfon (0,0-dimethyl- 2,2,2-trichloro-1-hydroxyethyl phosphonate).
Be sure to remove all invertebrates from the aquarium as they may be harmfully
affected by the treatment.
Symptoms: The body is covered
by a gray layer of slime and the fins are frayed. The fish may swim erratically
and rub against rocks. Heavy infestations result in reddish patches on
the skin. A highly infectious disease that thrives in acidic water.
Solution: The temperature
should be raised to 86°F (30°C) and the fish should be bathed
in a short formalin, or a longer salt bath. Medications are available
in pet stores.
Symptoms: The body and gills
lose colour and become gray-blue in colour. Fish swim erratically and
rub against objects.
Solution: A malachite green-formalin
combination works well as does a short (30 min) salt bath followed by
a 12 hour Trypaflavine bath. This disease is most prevalent in overcrowded
tanks and is most easily prevented by maintaining an appropriately stocked
Hole in Head or Discus Disease (Hexamita, Spironucleus)
Symptoms: Diseased fish
lose weight and develop “pitting” in the head region.
Solution: The cause of this
disease is usually attributed to a lack vitamins and minerals, especially
vitamin D and calcium, the effects of the deficiency possibly amplified
by the presence of Hexamita in the intestines. This intestinal flagellate
is usually introduced with the feeding of Tubifex worms, and can survive
in the gravel of unclean tanks. The best way to cure Hole-in-the-Head
Disease is to complement the diet with vitamins. Treatment can also include
dosages of antibiotics and metronidazole. Keeping the tank scrupulously
clean also helps prevent this disease. Try medicated fish foods.