Like all animals, fishes too have immune systems and are susceptible to icky bugs and diseases; and prevention is always better than cure. This issue, we pull out our fish stethoscope and dive into the common causes as well as simple remedies for fish ailments.
Part of owning a fish tank and the fishes within them is the joy of observing them. Occasionally, odd behavioral patterns emerge, like when they start scratching themselves against objects such as the walls of the tank or the decorations within. This usually does not bode well.
Upon seeing this, it is important to take a closer look at your fish. You may want to isolate it in a smaller tank or tub, as it will help with the observation. If it has whitish-green threads dangling from its skin, chances are, it has anchor worms.
Introduced into aquariums by an infected fish, these worms are small crustaceans that burrow into the fish’s skin and enter the muscles to develop and release eggs before they die. This often results in the infection of the fish’s body tissue and skin damage.
For larger fish, common methods of ‘curing’ the fish include physically removing the parasite and cleaning the wound with an antiseptic like iodine. However, an easier and non-intrusive method could be bathing freshwater fish in a seawater bath (35ppt) for about five minutes daily, until the parasites fall off.
Body & Gill Flukes
If instead of whitish-green threads, you find a layer of mucus covering the gills or body of the fish or in some cases, your fish seems to be moving its gills rapidly; there is a chance that it could be a sign of gill flukes. Commonly called “flukes”, they are a broad group of parasites known as Gyrodactylus.
They attach themselves to the skin or gills of the fish, and can cause a great deal of damage. These worms obtain nourishment by chowing down on skin fragments as well as draining the blood of the victim. In infestations that have last longer, you will notice a pale appearance in your fish.
Flukes are commonplace in most aquariums and become pesky where water quality is bad and overcrowding is prominent. For treatment, most solutions containing praziquantel are effective, but must be carefully administered as per the directions.
A healthy aquarium is easier to maintain than a sick aquarium. Keeping your fish population healthy helps to make the hobby enjoyable. First of all, it is pertinent that you purchase your fish from reliable sources and avoid fish that appear to be sickly. For added precautions, you could isolate your new fish in a quarantine tank for a few days. This is to observe and see if they become sick, as some ailments are not immediately visible and take time to show.
If a new fish or two begins to exhibit symptoms, you can then isolate the problem and treat it accordingly with a solution or medication, before introducing the fish back into the tank. After all, it is better to have two sick fish than the whole tank! It is also a good practice to acclimatize your new fish properly: 15-20 minutes in the bag in the aquarium, add 20 per cent of aquarium water to the bag, wait another 15-20 minutes, before releasing the fish gently.
An overcrowded tank is often the root cause of health problems in fish. So when increasing a fish population, it is always best to build the number up slowly, introducing only a few fish at a time. Too many fish in one tank can bring about problems (such as the ones mentioned before!) and encourage unhealthy nipping behavior, which means more open skin for icky things to get in. Not ideal!
Tank chemistry is important as well. Chlorine, chloramines and metals are damaging to aquarium inhabitants, so be sure to condition water properly using one of the many commercially available de-chlorinating and cycling products. Singapore’s tap water, though safe for human consumption in terms of chlorine level, could kill a fish in less than a day!
Lastly, but most importantly, tank maintenance should be regular. It is a good idea to regularly practice tank maintenance by testing and changing the water. Use fish-friendly cleaning solutions to get rid of excess algae. When cleaning your aquarium, you should just remove part (10-15 per cent) of the water and replace it with fresh, dechlorinated tap water. Do note: vases require larger water changes more often. While you are doing this, you should use your siphon to suck up some of the gunk that collects in the gravel and decorations.