Fish Vets & How to Care for Your Sick Fish

Fish Vets & How to Care for Your Sick Fish

Many people are surprised to find that there are vets out there who will treat sick fish. In fact, there are many things a vet can do to help you keep your pet fish healthy.

Here is a rundown on some of the signs of illness your fish may show and possible causes of their illness.

How to Tell If Your Fish is Sick

Here are some telltale signs that you fish has a problem and you might want to take it to a vet:

  • Clamped fins: Your fish is holding their fins in close contact with their body rather than opening and closing the fins. The fins may also appear torn or frayed. This is often the first sign that your fish has a health problem.
  • Flashing: You fish is swimming erratically and bumping into things. This means your fish is attempting to scratch itself and may be due to parasites in the water.
  • The shimmies: Your fish appears to be swimming, but it is not moving forward. The fins may also be clamped. This condition is common in Swordtails and Mollies and can occur if the water temperature is too cold.

  • Schooling: Many species of aquarium fish prefer to swim in a group of their own kind. It’s easy to see their schooling behavior if you have a large aquarium with plenty of space for fish to swim. If one of the fish is not swimming with the rest of the school, it may be a sign of a health problem. 
  • Irregular swimming: Different species of aquarium fish have different preferences when it comes to which level of the water they prefer to swim. For example, Danios prefer to swim close to the surface of the tank whereas Rainbowfish prefer to swim at mid-level. If you notice one of your fish has changed its swimming behavior, this could be a sign of illness.
  • Loss of appetite: If your fish is showing a decreased interest in food, this can have one of several causes including high water temperature, insufficient dissolved oxygen, and wrong pH.

  • Hiding in the tank: If a fish that is not normally a loner, is tending to hide or spend time in a different part of the tank, this could be a sign of illness.
  • Rapid gill movements: Difficult breathing and gasping for air at the surface of the water can be caused by the wrong pH or a low oxygen level in the water.
  • White spots on the body or fins: This is a common disease for aquarium fish and is caused by ciliate protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, known as ich.
  • Discolored gills: This may be a sign of ammonia or chlorine poisoning resulting from poor water quality.
  • Bulging eye(s): This occurs when tissue fluid leaks into the area behind the eyeball causing a build-up of pressure.
  • Warts or sores on the body: This could be a sign of fish pox, which is a form of fish herpes virus.

Things to Keep an Eye on When Caring for Fish

  • Water quality: The most common cause of illness in aquarium fish is poor water quality. Fish are a vastly diverse group of animals, with more than 25,000 different species. Each species requires specific needs in order to survive. That means, when it comes to water, different types of fish need certain pH or salt level and different temperatures. If you’re not sure about your specific fish needs, your vet will be able to help you.

  • Infectious diseases: This is the second most common cause of sickness in aquarium fish. An infectious disease may be viral, parasitic, or bacterial. If you vet suspects an infectious disease, he may examine the fish via a skin scraping, fecal test, or a fin and gill biopsy. You can prevent diseases from spreading throughout your aquarium by keeping new fish in a separate tank for the first month you bring them home.

How to Treat a Sick Fish

Taking care of a sick fish can be tricky, especially if you are not sure what is wrong with your pet.

The first thing to do is to transfer your sick fish to a smaller, quarantine tank. This will prevent any infection from spreading.

If you are unable to identify what is wrong with your fish, talk to your vet. If you know what kind of disease your fish has, use the appropriate medication to treat it as soon as possible. Do not return the fish to your aquarium until you are absolutely sure the disease has been cured.

Take an active role in your fish’s health by paying attention to their appearance and their behavior. This way you will be able to tell if something is wrong while the problem is still treatable.

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