Sick Fish! What Do I Do?

By Kent Cannon
Editor's note: Kent Cannon, otherwise known as 'Cichlid 102', has kindly given us permission to reprint this article.
Aquarticles

When you walk up to the tropical fish medication display at your local aquarium store, are you confused as to what to buy? What should I have in my medicine chest for that occasional disease that pops up, you might ask. How do I diagnose the disease that my fish seems to have? And what causes it? How am I supposed to know what I am supposed to buy when I can't even pronounce the name on the package? How do I know what symptoms point to what disease? Where do I find information that will help me answer some of these questions? If you've found yourself asking one or more of these questions, then you are not alone! Most of us are not used to treating disease we rely on doctors to do just that for us! In most cases, finding a doctor to treat that sick fish is a rather pointless undertaking. By the time you get the fish to the doctor, the fish has undergone so much stress from netting and transporting that it is going to be a goner anyway! That leaves us back on page one. In this article I am going to try and help you answer some of those tough questions.

Where do I start? What should I have on hand, and where do I find the information to make an educated decision as to how to treat my fish?

More Fish Disease Info

Now that you have your fish hospital and basic medications all set up, let's move on to understanding symptoms. How is your fish behaving? How does it look as opposed to normal? Is it hiding or is it sitting on the bottom? Is it free swimming or is it stationary with fins held tight to it's sides? Does it lean to one side, or does it have its head towards the surface or towards the bottom? Does it eat, and if it does eat does it spit out the food after a few moments? Is only one of your fish sick or are all of the fish in the tank sick? These are just a few of the questions that you will have to answer in order to treat your fish. Below are some of the common terms for symptoms used to treat almost all fish diseases: Many of these symptoms can be together or separate. You need to determine the sequence of the symptoms and which are involved with your particular fish. All of these things together will help you to properly diagnose what is happening to your fish so you can properly treat it. Every time you feed or look at your tank, pay attention to your fish! How do they normally act? Once you get good at picking out proper behavior, you will be better able to pick out fish that are healthy the next time you go to your LFS.

I am just going to touch on treatments in this article, although I do hope to do a follow-up at a later time. When you spot your fish acting strangely, the first thing that you want to do is check the water parameters. Check the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Check the temperature and the pH. The most common cause of all problems in a fish tank is poor water conditions. Do a 20-30% water change and see if your fish start to behave in a normal manner. If you still have a problem, then you need to decide whether to isolate or not depending on the symptoms. If you catch many problems early you can save yourself a lot of worry!

Some of the common diseases are found in the next portion of this article. You can combine the symptoms given earlier with the descriptions of the following diseases to treat many of the maladies that are common to the aquarist.

As you can see, when you combine the symptoms with the various diseases and infestations, a pattern develops. As you become more adept at picking out the symptoms you can shortcut the disease and save yourself and your fish a lot of misery. It is too hard to touch on the many maladies that can affect your fish in one article. Hopefully, through the course of this article you have learned enough to start diagnosing the diseases that affect your fish.
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