Hold the Antibiotics! Overuse and Resistance in the Aquarium Hobby

SM1199

I feel like I read all too often of people on here jumping to dump antibiotics into their tank. In a lot of cases, they don't even realize what antibiotics are or how they work. I would like to explain, in depth, why I (as a biology student) am so quick to tell people not to use antibiotics, at least not as their first medication option.

First off, what are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a class of medications that kill bacteria, and in certain medications, other microorganisms. They work through various mechanisms, often by preventing synthesis of cell walls, proteins, DNA, RNA, or other key biological molecules or structures.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Bacteria are rapidly evolving organisms. A single generation, on average, only lasts about 20 minutes! Because of their innate machinery, bacteria can find ways to deal with new problems very quickly. That includes antibiotics. If we kill off most of the bacteria that are susceptible to a specific antibiotic, there is a chance that a tiny minority of those bacteria have evolved a way to avoid susceptibility to that antibiotic. For example, bacteria can evolve to create a new membrane pump that pushes the antibiotic out of the cell faster than it leaches in. Alright, so now we've killed off a few million bacteria, and left a few survivors that aren't susceptible to the antibiotic anymore. The ones that survived may have the opportunity to proliferate. Give it some time, and now you've got a few million bacteria again, except this time, a higher percentage of them are resistant to the antibiotic than before.

The more we use antibiotics, the more this cycle compounds, and the more bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. In fish terms: we are selectively breeding bacteria by culling them with antibiotics. Every time we use an antibiotic, we are culling the "weak" bacteria, and allowing the "strong" bacteria to survive and breed the new generations of bacteria that are stronger and harder to kill with antibiotics. You don't want this! Why? Because the next time you use that antibiotic, it's less likely to work. This can accumulate and become such a problem (throughout the entire hobby and human medicine, not just your own tank!) that a particular antibiotic can become completely useless and ineffective!

"So, what?"

I believe it is worth mentioning that although up to this point I have only been discussing antibiotics as they relate to aquariums, the topic of antibiotic resistance is extremely relevant to humans as well. All the antibiotics that we use to treat our aquariums were first used to treat humans, and still are. The problem of antibiotic resistance isn't isolated on the level of our home aquariums. It is true that you can spread antibiotic resistance among the aquarium hobby by trading fish, plants, filter media, and plenty of other equipment, and it is also true that you can spread antibiotic resistance from aquariums to people. Even if the bacteria themselves are not harmful to people, bacteria can pass on plasmids (tiny pieces of free-floating DNA) to other bacteria, even if they are not related strains of bacteria. These plasmids often code for antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance can be spread from aquariums and fish to people and other animals very easily, and contributes to the rapidly growing antibiotic resistance problems encountered in human medicine. If you don't believe me, the link below expands upon this issue.

Fancy Fish - Antibiotic Resistance

And as a side note, another reason why it matters - antibiotics can kill your cycle. What lives in your filter, fueling your cycle and keeping your fish healthy and alive? Bacteria! It should come as no surprise that certain antibiotics absolutely can, and will, kill the bacteria responsible for your cycle. Keep that in mind the next time you're about to throw some antibiotics in your tank, and set up a hospital tank if you absolutely need to dose them!

What medications are antibiotics?

Like a lot of products in the aquarium hobby, antibiotics aren't always properly labeled. Those "fish meds" you have might actually be antibiotics in disguise. Here's a list of common aquarium antibiotics, providing both the brand name and formal name when possible:

- Maracyn/Erythromycin
- Azithromycin
- Furan/Nitrofurazone
- Kanaplex/Kanamycin
- Sulfaplex/Sulfathiazole
- Neoplex/Neomycin
- Tetracycline
- Metronidazole*

*Although Metronidazole is an antibiotic, it is mostly used as an antiprotozoal rather than an antibacterial, and is more acceptable for general use than the others. One of the active ingredients in General Cure.

When are they inappropriate to use?


Here's a quick rundown of when antibiotics should not be used:

- When you're unsure why your fish is sick. There are many types of infections: bacterial, fungal, parasitic... Just because your fish is sick does not mean it's a bacterial infection. There is a high likelihood your sick fish is not going to benefit from antibiotics anyway if you're not sure it's bacterial.
- When you haven't tried non-medication fixes first. A lot of sick fish are sick because of water quality, improper parameters, or stress, not because of an infection. An issue may come down to a soft water fish being in water that's too hard, or tropical fish looking drab and lethargic in cold water, or incompatible stocking, rather than a disease or infection. The infection will keep re-occurring if you never fix the root of the problem.
- When you haven't tried non-antibiotic treatments first. Keep antibiotics as a last resort. For example, clean water +- aquarium salt can (in most cases) clear up fin rot, one of the most common bacterial infections, without antibiotics. Epsom salt baths can clear up swim bladder disorder without antibiotics.
- When you want to dose preventatively when your fish aren't sick. I agree with preventative treatment! However, I absolutely, 100%, with every ounce of my being, do not believe in dosing antibiotics as a preventative. All you're doing is setting up your tank and your fish to be resistant when there might be a time down the road you do need to use antibiotics! Don't do it, I beg you! Quarantine your fish! Treat preventatively for parasites, if you must. Not for bacterial infections.

When are they appropriate to use?

- When you've ruled out easy fix issues like water quality. As we have all encountered at one point or another, beginners - through no fault of their own - may not be familiar with the nitrogen cycle, and are more likely to have water quality issues that cause illness. These beginners are also more likely to jump to grab antibiotics off the shelf and use them without second thought. Rule out these easy fix issues before checking off this box.
- When you are confident that your fish are sick because of a bacterial infection. When in doubt, ask! There are some fantastic aquarists on this forum who are always more than willing to help you diagnose and form a treatment plan for your fish.
- When you've exhausted all other treatments, and your fish still aren't healthy. The exception to this rule is when you're dealing with something that has a clear bacterial diagnosis, like Columnaris, and you are certain that (for example) an anti-parasite treatment is not worth trying first.

All of the above should be checked off before you proceed with antibiotic treatment.

"Do you just hate antibiotics?"

No! I believe antibiotics are some of the best medicines that humans have had the ingenuity to discover and create. They have saved countless numbers of people from certain death. That is why we need to use them mindfully and in moderation so that we will still be able to use them when they are medically necessary, and continue to save lives!

Thank you for reading! I hope you learned something new, and spread your new knowledge to those who seek your advice. Have a good day! Please feel free to ask questions!
 

UnknownUser

Very good information, thank you!
 

NevermindIgnoreMe

I feel like I read all too often of people on here jumping to dump antibiotics into their tank. In a lot of cases, they don't even realize what antibiotics are or how they work. I would like to explain, in depth, why I (as a biology student) am so quick to tell people not to use antibiotics, at least not as their first medication option.

First off, what are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are a class of medications that kill bacteria, and in certain medications, other microorganisms. They work through various mechanisms, often by preventing synthesis of cell walls, proteins, DNA, RNA, or other key biological molecules or structures.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Bacteria are rapidly evolving organisms. A single generation, on average, only lasts about 20 minutes! Because of their innate machinery, bacteria can find ways to deal with new problems very quickly. That includes antibiotics. If we kill off most of the bacteria that are susceptible to a specific antibiotic, there is a chance that a tiny minority of those bacteria have evolved a way to avoid susceptibility to that antibiotic. For example, bacteria can evolve to create a new membrane pump that pushes the antibiotic out of the cell faster than it leaches in. Alright, so now we've killed off a few million bacteria, and left a few survivors that aren't susceptible to the antibiotic anymore. The ones that survived may have the opportunity to proliferate. Give it some time, and now you've got a few million bacteria again, except this time, a higher percentage of them are resistant to the antibiotic than before.

The more we use antibiotics, the more this cycle compounds, and the more bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. In fish terms: we are selectively breeding bacteria by culling them with antibiotics. Every time we use an antibiotic, we are culling the "weak" bacteria, and allowing the "strong" bacteria to survive and breed the new generations of bacteria that are stronger and harder to kill with antibiotics. You don't want this! Why? Because the next time you use that antibiotic, it's less likely to work. This can accumulate and become such a problem (throughout the entire hobby and human medicine, not just your own tank!) that a particular antibiotic can become completely useless and ineffective!

"So, what?"

I believe it is worth mentioning that although up to this point I have only been discussing antibiotics as they relate to aquariums, the topic of antibiotic resistance is extremely relevant to humans as well. All the antibiotics that we use to treat our aquariums were first used to treat humans, and still are. The problem of antibiotic resistance isn't isolated on the level of our home aquariums. It is true that you can spread antibiotic resistance among the aquarium hobby by trading fish, plants, filter media, and plenty of other equipment, and it is also true that you can spread antibiotic resistance from aquariums to people. Even if the bacteria themselves are not harmful to people, bacteria can pass on plasmids (tiny pieces of free-floating DNA) to other bacteria, even if they are not related strains of bacteria. These plasmids often code for antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance can be spread from aquariums and fish to people and other animals very easily, and contributes to the rapidly growing antibiotic resistance problems encountered in human medicine. If you don't believe me, the link below expands upon this issue.

Fancy Fish - Antibiotic Resistance

And as a side note, another reason why it matters - antibiotics can kill your cycle. What lives in your filter, fueling your cycle and keeping your fish healthy and alive? Bacteria! It should come as no surprise that certain antibiotics absolutely can, and will, kill the bacteria responsible for your cycle. Keep that in mind the next time you're about to throw some antibiotics in your tank, and set up a hospital tank if you absolutely need to dose them!

What medications are antibiotics?

Like a lot of products in the aquarium hobby, antibiotics aren't always properly labeled. Those "fish meds" you have might actually be antibiotics in disguise. Here's a list of common aquarium antibiotics, providing both the brand name and formal name when possible:

- Maracyn/Erythromycin
- Azithromycin
- Furan/Nitrofurazone
- Kanaplex/Kanamycin
- Sulfaplex/Sulfathiazole
- Neoplex/Neomycin
- Tetracycline
- Metronidazole*

*Although Metronidazole is an antibiotic, it is mostly used as an antiprotozoal rather than an antibacterial, and is more acceptable for general use than the others. One of the active ingredients in General Cure.

When are they inappropriate to use?

Here's a quick rundown of when antibiotics should not be used:

- When you're unsure why your fish is sick. There are many types of infections: bacterial, fungal, parasitic... Just because your fish is sick does not mean it's a bacterial infection. There is a high likelihood your sick fish is not going to benefit from antibiotics anyway if you're not sure it's bacterial.
- When you haven't tried non-medication fixes first. A lot of sick fish are sick because of water quality, improper parameters, or stress, not because of an infection. An issue may come down to a soft water fish being in water that's too hard, or tropical fish looking drab and lethargic in cold water, or incompatible stocking, rather than a disease or infection. The infection will keep re-occurring if you never fix the root of the problem.
- When you haven't tried non-antibiotic treatments first. Keep antibiotics as a last resort. For example, clean water +- aquarium salt can (in most cases) clear up fin rot, one of the most common bacterial infections, without antibiotics. Epsom salt baths can clear up swim bladder disorder without antibiotics.
- When you want to dose preventatively when your fish aren't sick. I agree with preventative treatment! However, I absolutely, 100%, with every ounce of my being, do not believe in dosing antibiotics as a preventative. All you're doing is setting up your tank and your fish to be resistant when there might be a time down the road you do need to use antibiotics! Don't do it, I beg you! Quarantine your fish! Treat preventatively for parasites, if you must. Not for bacterial infections.

When are they appropriate to use?

- When you've ruled out easy fix issues like water quality. As we have all encountered at one point or another, beginners - through no fault of their own - may not be familiar with the nitrogen cycle, and are more likely to have water quality issues that cause illness. These beginners are also more likely to jump to grab antibiotics off the shelf and use them without second thought. Rule out these easy fix issues before checking off this box.
- When you are confident that your fish are sick because of a bacterial infection. When in doubt, ask! There are some fantastic aquarists on this forum who are always more than willing to help you diagnose and form a treatment plan for your fish.
- When you've exhausted all other treatments, and your fish still aren't healthy. The exception to this rule is when you're dealing with something that has a clear bacterial diagnosis, like Columnaris, and you are certain that (for example) an anti-parasite treatment is not worth trying first.

All of the above should be checked off before you proceed with antibiotic treatment.

"Do you just hate antibiotics?"

No! I believe antibiotics are some of the best medicines that humans have had the ingenuity to discover and create. They have saved countless numbers of people from certain death. That is why we need to use them mindfully and in moderation so that we will still be able to use them when they are medically necessary, and continue to save lives!

Thank you for reading! I hope you learned something new, and spread your new knowledge to those who seek your advice. Have a good day! Please feel free to ask questions!
I totally agree, great job. You should write an aquarium article. There are so many people who need to see this, thank you.
 

david1978

I have to agree so much with this. My last infection I was on iv vanco for month. With external infections on fish I'm a hydrogen peroxide guy for external infections. Bacteria will never outsmart or build any immunity to it.
 

flyinGourami

Thankyou for writing this! I (and a lot of others probably) needed to know this information, it'll help so many people.
 

UnknownUser

I have to agree so much with this. My last infection I was on iv vanco for month. With external infections on fish I'm a hydrogen peroxide guy for external infections. Bacteria will never outsmart or build any immunity to it.

How do you use hydrogen peroxide on a fish? Or even methylene blue. You’d have to like hold the fish to put something on it’s body.. I’ve never understood how
 

Fisheye

Excellent write up, truly.

How many hobbyists have microscopes or would even know what they were looking at to diagnose accurately and treat properly? I get pretty upset at all of the random, over and mis-medicating that seems so prevalent in the hobby.

An ounce of prevention would go a long way in preventing much of this largely irresponsible and expensive "cure". Canada has greatly restricted consumer access to these products which is a good thing.

I wish people would research first and resist the urge to impulse buy; source a reputable fish store and only take home the healthiest looking; learn how to acclimate; quarantine; house in proper sized tank, at the right temperature, with compatible inhabitants; understand the nitrogen cycle; understand ph, gh, kh; perform regular water changes; realize that everything that goes on in an aquarium is a result of their action or inaction; accept that this hobby is expensive no matter what size tank you have, and there's certain things you need to buy - test kits for example, to responsibly run an aquarium.

Thank you again, SM1199.
 

SM1199

How do you use hydrogen peroxide on a fish? Or even methylene blue. You’d have to like hold the fish to put something on it’s body.. I’ve never understood how
I use methylene blue as a bath. It's an extremely safe medication, and I've never had a problem just mixing a good bit of it into a clear cup full of tank water and dropping the fish in for a few minutes. Fantastic anti-fungal!
 

DoubleDutch

Applause, applause, applause, some more and a verrrrryyyyyy deep bow.

Thanks for this.
 

TWiG87

Great write up! I agree wholeheartedly.
 

MacZ

This is the reason for the longest piece of red text in my signature! YES!
Thank you for that article!
 

FeeshieSymfiny

Darn good post!!
 

Lindsay83

Well said! Totally agree.

Canada has greatly restricted consumer access to these products which is a good thing.

UK's been restricting antibiotics for fish for years. It's great in theory, but not so great in practice, as there aren't that many vets that are qualified in fish care. I'm in the North East. The nearest fish vet is in Penrith.

And even when I have taken a fish to a vet (for an autopsy), all I got was a non-descript diagnosis of "bacterial infection" and a bottle of Baytril for the survivors.
 

SM1199

UK's been restricting antibiotics for fish for years. It's great in theory, but not so great in practice, as there aren't that many vets that are qualified in fish care. I'm in the North East. The nearest fish vet is in Penrith.

And even when I have taken a fish to a vet (for an autopsy), all I got was a non-descript diagnosis of "bacterial infection" and a bottle of Baytril for the survivors.
I might get a lot of hate for this, but hear me out...

Maybe it's not such a bad idea if we let bacteria-infected fish die.

Firstly... Most home aquarists do not have the technology capable of accurately diagnosing almost any bacterial infection. I mean, even with a compound microscope and bacteria stains (and I have experience with this, working in a microbiology lab), it's incredibly difficult to identify bacteria. The only thing you can tell (and that's assuming you know what to look for) is very rudimentary things like if it's gram positive or negative, if it has a capsule, and what shape it is. And even then, you won't know what you're looking at because there are going to be hundreds of species of bacteria on your slide because, after all, your swab is going to pick up everything living on the surface of your fish, which certainly is not just the pathogenic bacteria. And then how can you tell which ones are the pathogens? How do you know what antibiotics will work for them? And even with very easy to visually identify bacterial infections, like columnaris, they're often caused by multiple genera (not species, genera!) of bacteria, and you don't know which one you're dealing with.

Secondly... We have no idea what they're resistant against until we try. And that only increases resistance in the process.

Thirdly... The outcome of antibiotic use is rarely positive. I've heard of maybe one or two people who have had success treating dropsy with the appropriate antibiotics, and the fish has always ended up relapsing a few weeks later anyway. I've never seen fish turn around and live long, healthy lives after a treatment of antibiotics (please share your stories if you have differing experiences).

Fourthly, and possibly the most touchy issue... There are a lot of fish in the aquarium trade. If you have neon tetras dying and you don't know why, maybe it's best to euthanize them and source from a healthier provider. It's not worth pouring all of our time and effort and money (and possibly losing enjoyment in the hobby while doing so) for a small school of fish, or a single betta, when there are millions out there that will be healthier with better life quality and be more rewarding to your fish-keeping experience.

I'm sorry to the people who get personally attached to their fish (including me) and might get offended by this. Everyone is allowed to disagree with me. I think, perhaps, it might be worth letting the weak, infected, antibiotic-resistant fish self-cull.
 

Kjeldsen

I might get a lot of hate for this, but hear me out...

Maybe it's not such a bad idea if we let bacteria-infected fish die

Agree 100% with this, and the entire article. Thank you! I think people mean well and really care about their fish, but shotgunning drugs hoping for a cure is the worst thing you can do, not to mention expensive. I've seen people panic-spending $50 + to cure a 3 dollar fish, without ever addressing the root cause. It's crazy. There's almost total resistance to available antibiotics now anyway. It's no wonder some of these aquaria companies advertise that "You can't overdose it!" which begs the question "What good is it then?"

I believe most antibiotics are banned for food fish because of the tendency to treat instead of prevent, and any new drug is so severely scrutinized that the major drug companies are loathe to invest much time or expense coming up with new treatments.

I suspect that in countries where over-the-counter antibiotics are banned they actually have less mortality, possibly because they learn to take better care of their fish?
 

MacZ

Fourthly, and possibly the most touchy issue... There are a lot of fish in the aquarium trade. If you have neon tetras dying and you don't know why, maybe it's best to euthanize them and source from a healthier provider. It's not worth pouring all of our time and effort and money (and possibly losing enjoyment in the hobby while doing so) for a small school of fish, or a single betta, when there are millions out there that will be healthier with better life quality and be more rewarding to your fish-keeping experience.

I'm sorry to the people who get personally attached to their fish (including me) and might get offended by this. Everyone is allowed to disagree with me. I think, perhaps, it might be worth letting the weak, infected, antibiotic-resistant fish self-cull.

That point makes it really hard to help people on forums sometimes, but I agree fully with your statement. Sometimes there is nothing one can do and it's hard to tell the owner that. I have taken to rather prepare people on forums that are worried their guppy might die, that it will be dead sooner or later and kept people knowingly from preemptively medicating with a med (not only antibiotics, sometimes other meds are not helping either), that might otherwise kill the cycle or weaken other, still healthy, fish. Don't know how often I've seen the whole spiel of somebody medicating and suddenly not only one, but three fish are sick and/or dying.
If somebody keeps a single betta or a handfull of guppies I almost never respond to the post anymore.

Edit:

I suspect that in countries where over-the-counter antibiotics are banned they actually have less mortality, possibly because they learn to take better care of their fish?

You get antibiotics only on prescription here but they are rarely to never prescribed. Most (by no means all) importers and wholesalers treat their stock on arrival, though mostly just with the usual anti-ich stuff and not antibiotics. So the losses there are on international average.
Interestingly though, you see relatively few threads on sick fish in german-language aquarium forums and if so, many "pros" actually say "There is nothing you can do without spending a load of money on vet bills and/or meds and it might kill all the fish in your tank." and people understand and let their fish die with dignity. There is a tendency though for serious fishkeepers to buy their own microscopes and do diagnosis themselves. Culling and euthanizing is also common.
 

FeeshieSymfiny

I might get a lot of hate for this, but hear me out...

Maybe it's not such a bad idea if we let bacteria-infected fish die.

Firstly... Most home aquarists do not have the technology capable of accurately diagnosing almost any bacterial infection. I mean, even with a compound microscope and bacteria stains (and I have experience with this, working in a microbiology lab), it's incredibly difficult to identify bacteria. The only thing you can tell (and that's assuming you know what to look for) is very rudimentary things like if it's gram positive or negative, if it has a capsule, and what shape it is. And even then, you won't know what you're looking at because there are going to be hundreds of species of bacteria on your slide because, after all, your swab is going to pick up everything living on the surface of your fish, which certainly is not just the pathogenic bacteria. And then how can you tell which ones are the pathogens? How do you know what antibiotics will work for them? And even with very easy to visually identify bacterial infections, like columnaris, they're often caused by multiple genera (not species, genera!) of bacteria, and you don't know which one you're dealing with.

Secondly... We have no idea what they're resistant against until we try. And that only increases resistance in the process.

Thirdly... The outcome of antibiotic use is rarely positive. I've heard of maybe one or two people who have had success treating dropsy with the appropriate antibiotics, and the fish has always ended up relapsing a few weeks later anyway. I've never seen fish turn around and live long, healthy lives after a treatment of antibiotics (please share your stories if you have differing experiences).

Fourthly, and possibly the most touchy issue... There are a lot of fish in the aquarium trade. If you have neon tetras dying and you don't know why, maybe it's best to euthanize them and source from a healthier provider. It's not worth pouring all of our time and effort and money (and possibly losing enjoyment in the hobby while doing so) for a small school of fish, or a single betta, when there are millions out there that will be healthier with better life quality and be more rewarding to your fish-keeping experience.

I'm sorry to the people who get personally attached to their fish (including me) and might get offended by this. Everyone is allowed to disagree with me. I think, perhaps, it might be worth letting the weak, infected, antibiotic-resistant fish self-cull.
You've stated the truth in a nutshell.
We're new to the hobby, just since Feb and have 'manically' dove straight in accumulating 12 tanks (mostly grow-outs) in total for our very own 'personal therapy' fish room.. we've actually followed the self-cull method you mentioned. We've treated a fish with mostly herbal products (unless we used Ich-X during quarantining) and sometimes we've treated a whole tank along the same lines should the need have reared its ugly head. This ideology Has left us with quite minor losses, a handful per say and overall healthier fish that swam ahead of us and bred so fast that tanks had to accumulate in number for 'grow-out' (even as we speak, I just got back from discovering yet another angelfish pair having laid eggs Again when they've still got month old fry we're supposed to move in the next two days, smdh). Anyways, it's been a form of common sense IME to seek the survival of the fittest for what we would enjoy out of our fish. I truly second the hold off on actual antibiotics unless it's a deworming of an unreliably sourced specimen (those we have quarantined and treated with "Everything Aquatic Anti-Parasite Duo 1 mm Pellet"). Well so far so good... my two bits, thanks for reading it.
-Added 2 *badly taken* pics of one parental pair I just discovered with their fry and eggs ; bewildering how they keep 'babysitting' their fry very close to them as usual and yet still lay eggs not caring one bit about the fry pecking away; viewed them for over an hour, not a single care, the young just move a bit to the side out of the big guy's way as he fertilizes then they're back to pecking. Will be taking them out later sometime today, just gotta Google this first, lol!
20200425_054459.jpg
20200425_054540.jpg
 

GlennO

I agree, are all of those freely available in the US? The only one of those that I can get from my LFS is Tetracycline. I suspect that much of the resistance is not due to hobbyists but rather the commercial breeders and fish farms especially in countries where their use is widespread.
 

Lindsay83

I might get a lot of hate for this, but hear me out...

Maybe it's not such a bad idea if we let bacteria-infected fish die.

Firstly... Most home aquarists do not have the technology capable of accurately diagnosing almost any bacterial infection. I mean, even with a compound microscope and bacteria stains (and I have experience with this, working in a microbiology lab), it's incredibly difficult to identify bacteria. The only thing you can tell (and that's assuming you know what to look for) is very rudimentary things like if it's gram positive or negative, if it has a capsule, and what shape it is. And even then, you won't know what you're looking at because there are going to be hundreds of species of bacteria on your slide because, after all, your swab is going to pick up everything living on the surface of your fish, which certainly is not just the pathogenic bacteria. And then how can you tell which ones are the pathogens? How do you know what antibiotics will work for them? And even with very easy to visually identify bacterial infections, like columnaris, they're often caused by multiple genera (not species, genera!) of bacteria, and you don't know which one you're dealing with.

Secondly... We have no idea what they're resistant against until we try. And that only increases resistance in the process.

Thirdly... The outcome of antibiotic use is rarely positive. I've heard of maybe one or two people who have had success treating dropsy with the appropriate antibiotics, and the fish has always ended up relapsing a few weeks later anyway. I've never seen fish turn around and live long, healthy lives after a treatment of antibiotics (please share your stories if you have differing experiences).

Fourthly, and possibly the most touchy issue... There are a lot of fish in the aquarium trade. If you have neon tetras dying and you don't know why, maybe it's best to euthanize them and source from a healthier provider. It's not worth pouring all of our time and effort and money (and possibly losing enjoyment in the hobby while doing so) for a small school of fish, or a single betta, when there are millions out there that will be healthier with better life quality and be more rewarding to your fish-keeping experience.

I'm sorry to the people who get personally attached to their fish (including me) and might get offended by this. Everyone is allowed to disagree with me. I think, perhaps, it might be worth letting the weak, infected, antibiotic-resistant fish self-cull.

In that case, why bother with forums and identifying diseases at all? Just knock any infected fish on the head and be done with it. Whether it's ICK or fungus or columnaris -, doesn't matter because there's always more fish ready and waiting to be bought.

Why advise people to carry out a fishless cycle? If the fish die of new tank syndrome, then the new fishkeeper can always just buy more fish. Buy better - another thing that's easier to say than do.

How many people buy online now? Especially in the current climate? How do any of us know how those fish are kept and stored? By asking the retailer? Yeah, that's about it. And of they're lying through their teeth, then we're never going to know any different, are we?

How does a newbie know what to look for in their LFS? How do they know what questions to ask? How do they know how to interpret the answers?

Why quarantine? The fish aren't worth saving, after all!

Nothing like a nice, acute strain of columnaris to test a new foshkeeper's resilience.

Because we have a duty of care to the animals we bring into our homes, that's why. Because a life is a life, and it's worth protecting.

I'm not saying that people should have the freedom to just grab any antibiotic off the shelf and treat away until their heart's content. I personally believe that in countries where antibiotics are available without prescription, they should be stored behind the counter - much like a fish pharmacy, not just plucked from the shelf and money paid with no questions asked like a bottle of Melafix.

But I also believe that those of us who actually do know what we're dealing with should have access to appropriate medication up to and including antibiotics.

I agree, are all of those freely available in the US? The only one of those that I can get from my LFS is Tetracycline. I suspect that much of the resistance is not due to hobbyists but rather the commercial breeders and fish farms especially in countries where their use is widespread.

Exactly!
 

KinderScout

Great post SM1199 and a shame some are missing the point about re-introducing natural resistance in the fish population. Suurely we've all heard enough recently about 'herd immunity' to get that?
Mankind is on the brink of a crash in antibiotic effectiveness due to increased resistance brought about by overuse.
I have to say if it's a choice of putting my fish at risk - of tearing my hair out not knowing what to do (yes they are my pets!) or of my future grandchildren or their children dying of infections we don't currently consider dangerous I'll protect the latter.
Luckily in the UK I do not have that choice - antibiotics are quite rightly not for sale across the counter.
 

86 ssinit

All fish medicating is foolish. Read the threads! Everybody’s starts with one med doesn’t let the process finish and goes to another med.... and the fish die. Pet stores only want to sell. If you have no idea how to medicate you shouldn’t even try. I never use meds never! Any sick fish gets moved into a qt tank. Salt and fresh water is what I use. Fish die it happens. So many fish keeper thrive to never do water changes. They have all these theory’s why you don’t need water changes. Than some beginner reads you don’t need to change water and doesn’t. Than 4 months down the line doesn’t understand why any new fish he adds just die off. Water quality!

Water changes must be done! Don’t avoid them. Even with great filtration water changes still need to be done. It’s like walking your dog or cleaning the litter box. It has to be done.

Antibiotics for fish come on. Do they have an aquatic z-pack . Yes this IS an American thing. If we can sell it we will!

As to the fishless cycle...pointless! This is where it starts. Add fish and learn how to test your water and change it. Learn that water changes need to be done. Not let a tank sit for weeks if not months without changing the water.
 

faydout

As to the fishless cycle...pointless!

Having just finished my first fishless cycle, I'm going to disagree with this. I've learned more about water chemistry and exactly why this does that, and why am I seeing this now and what it means, than I had cycling any tank before this with fish in. Even if it isn't something the fish require, I think a fishless cycle is the perfect introduction to fishkeeping. It forces you to learn the nitrogen cycle intimately. It forces the new fishkeeper to be patient, some of those awful first tank stocking choices sort themselves out if they're posting somewhere like here (I've noticed more than once or twice, talking people off the ledge from keeping an angel in a 29 gallon). Just personally, I loved the process. Even the frustrating bits when you think nothing is happening and you've stalled.

Now, I'll agree that for the fish themsleves, a fishless cycle is pointless and unnecessary (as long as the fishkeeper keeps up on the added maintenance of doing a fish in cycle). I think it can be a massive benefit for the new or returning fishkeeper.
 

A201

I've never medicated my tanks with antibiotics. Fortunately not many bacterial infections encountered.
I've read countless threads concerning the use of antibiotics & sick fish.
The overwhelming end result is "Failure & Death".
Kanaplex & Furan 2 have been the most recommended antibiotics. I have been guilty of passing on that info.
I eventually recognized the futility & danger in using antibiotics in aquarium environments and have ceased any positive reference towards antibiotic use.
 

Cody

This is not really a post advocating one way or another but here is an analogy from a site I like to visit. The author has a often has some research and opinions that go against the grain of the hobby.

He asks the question that if your grandma was in the hospital dying of pneumonia would you choose to treat here with the medicine known to save most patients or opt to feed her fresh veggies and other healthy foods and hope that saves her in fear of what the medication may do to here in the process of healing her. What would you do?

Now this was more of a taking a stance against some of the herbal remedies available commonly today and that if you're going to treat something in an advanced stage that it needs to be an actual medicine.

But he did also point out the fact as many of you stated that proper care and water chemistry can heal most ailments. This is what give some people false hope that the herbal remedies are affect. But in reality a lot of this can be credited to the actual fish and its own immune system, not the herbal remedy.

If I cut my finger, rubbing an antibiotic ointment on the cut will usually help it heal better and faster - of course the same result in the end. But the anti-biotic might knock down some of the bacteria allowing my body to focus on healing the skin vs fighting off an infection. At the end of the day my finger should heal itself without any issue. And if I do my part and keep the wound covered and clean, it should not be that much worse if I do not put any ointment on the wound.

This same thought can be taken with fish. Fish should be equipped to fight off a lot of the ailments they face and we do our part to provide an environment to support natural healing.

So I am in the camp with most of you not to just dump something in the water whenever something looks off. But I do think there is a point that clean water may not be enough - but you could also say how did it get to the point as well? Which the answer may come back to poor living conditions.

Like I said, not really advocating for pro and anti-med. But I have not had a lot of issues either really having me make a choice.

Great write up though! I do think its good food for thought to actually evaluate if its really worth it or appropriate to treat. Because as you said you do see on here a lot that it seems like people are often blindly treating the fish but not really the problem.
 

MacZ

So I am in the camp with most of you not to just dump something in the water whenever something looks off. But I do think there is a point that clean water may not be enough - but you could also say how did it get to the point as well? Which the answer may come back to poor living conditions.

In essence, this is what everyone enthusiastic about this thread thinks.
 

goldface

In that case, why bother with forums and identifying diseases at all? Just knock any infected fish on the head and be done with it. Whether it's ICK or fungus or columnaris -, doesn't matter because there's always more fish ready and waiting to be bought.

Why advise people to carry out a fishless cycle? If the fish die of new tank syndrome, then the new fishkeeper can always just buy more fish. Buy better - another thing that's easier to say than do.

How many people buy online now? Especially in the current climate? How do any of us know how those fish are kept and stored? By asking the retailer? Yeah, that's about it. And of they're lying through their teeth, then we're never going to know any different, are we?

How does a newbie know what to look for in their LFS? How do they know what questions to ask? How do they know how to interpret the answers?

Why quarantine? The fish aren't worth saving, after all!

Nothing like a nice, acute strain of columnaris to test a new foshkeeper's resilience.

Because we have a duty of care to the animals we bring into our homes, that's why. Because a life is a life, and it's worth protecting.

I'm not saying that people should have the freedom to just grab any antibiotic off the shelf and treat away until their heart's content. I personally believe that in countries where antibiotics are available without prescription, they should be stored behind the counter - much like a fish pharmacy, not just plucked from the shelf and money paid with no questions asked like a bottle of Melafix.

But I also believe that those of us who actually do know what we're dealing with



Exactly!
I think you entirely missed the point. It's a cost-benefit analysis, where the cost might be more than just the money in your wallet.
 

Vince3

Thanks for posting this thread, including the support for your conclusions. I've never used antibiotics for my fish, because I wouldn't know what I was doing. Aside from putting something in the water that might not be necessary or might complicate things, you make a great point about the dangers of fostering antibiotic resistance. I agree with the others that these antibiotics shouldn't be available to the general public. I've seen survivalists on other forums talk about aquarium meds as a source of DIY medication for people.

Short of a vet's prescription, the farthest I'd go is a general-cure product like Tetra Life/Fungus/Ick Guard. I've used Lifeguard a few times and had good results with it. Even then, I use general-cure products only after I address any water quality or stress issues. If the fish keeps going downhill after a general-cure and has trouble reaching the surface or eating, I'll put him in a breeder box with a small anubias for some cover. If he looks like he's improving, I'll try letting him out of the breeder box. Thankfully, I haven't had to euthanize a fish.

I haven't tried aquarium salt yet. Honestly, I've been a bit nervous about it. The next time my betta has fin rot, I'll try it.

EDIT: I should acknowledge that I'm talking about store-bought betta. Not that I value fish according to what I paid for them, but I understand that these kinds of decisions are weighted differently for somebody who spent several hundred dollars for a fish and now it's in danger of dying well short of its usual lifespan. I personally wouldn't make that investment if I didn't have access to a fish vet, but I won't go any further with that here.
 

Lucy

Looks like it's time to bump this up.

We've seen an increase of posts advising members to throw medications in their tank even if the fish aren't sick or they don't know what the issue is.

As a word of precaution, please don't medicate unnecessarily. Not only can it lead to medication resistant disease, medications also can weaken the fish's immune system.
 

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