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Health

Bacteria, parasites, disease causing organisms and viruses are present, to some degree, in every aquarium. The resistance of your fish dictates whether illness will break out or not; if you keep your fish in poor living conditions they will have little or no resistance against disease. Therefore it is vital that the fish and the aquarium are cared for as a complete unit to guarantee the best health possible. Prevention is better than cure! (see routine maintenance) Use the time spent feeding the fish each day to monitor any changes in feeding and/or behavior of the fish and to inspect that all the equipment is running as it should. The earlier you spot any signs of trouble, the sooner you can start to treat it. The sooner you start to treat it, the higher the likelihood of a full recovery. If left untreated diseases can quickly spread and effect all the inhabitants of your aquarium. Most fishkeepers have a selection of treatments ready to hand, to counteract the more 'common' illnesses. If you work all day, the chances are that you will spot the first signs once the shops have closed for the evening!

A small selection of the range of medications and treatments available from Aquatic Fanatic

If you suspect you have a disease in your aquarium it will help to identify it if you can describe any symptoms present and any changes in behavior. Some diseases occur purely as a result of poor water quality and will respond to a simple water change while others will need medication, so before you buy any make sure you have diagnosed the problem accurately. When administering medications ALWAYS read the dosage instructions carefully and NEVER overdose or mix medications, this can have lethal consequences. To calculate the dosage for your tank you will need to know how much water it holds see the volume calculator page for help with this.

Use the following table to identify symptoms of fish diseases then click disease name, ? or ! to see a description.

  White spot Velvet Slime disease Higher form parasite Finrot Mouth rot Internal bacterial infection Bacterial gill disease Fungus Swim bladder problem Poisoning or water quality problem
Fish gasping

Rapid gill movement

Fish hanging near surface

Possible symptom of white spot

Possible symptom of velvet

Possible symptom of slime disease

Possible symptom of higher form parasite

     

Definite symptom of bacterial gill disease

   

Definite symptom of poisoning or water quality problem

Flicking & rubbing

Definite symptom of white spot

Definite symptom of velvet

Definite symptom of slime disease

Definite symptom of higher form parasite

           

Possible symptom of poisoning or water quality problem

Peppering of gold spots  

Definite symptom of velvet

                 
Patches of slime    

Definite symptom of slime disease

             

Definite symptom of poisoning or water quality problem

White spots

Definite symptom of white spot

                   
Disc or wormlike attachments on body/gills      

Definite symptom of higher form parasite

             
Gills pale/eroded

Possible symptom of white spot

Possible symptom of velvet

Possible symptom of slime disease

Definite symptom of higher form parasite

     

Definite symptom of bacterial gill disease

     
Cloudy eyes    

Definite symptom of slime disease

             

Definite symptom of poisoning or water quality problem

Cotton wool growths          

Definite symptom of mouth rot

   

Definite symptom of fungus

   
Fins eroded/opaque        

Definite symptom of finrot

 

Possible symptom of internal bacterial infection

       
Mouth/head erosion          

Definite symptom of mouth rot

         
Eyes swollen "pop-eye"            

Possible symptom of internal bacterial infection

       
Distended/hollow stomach            

Possible symptom of internal bacterial infection

       
Holes/ulcers            

Possible symptom of internal bacterial infection

       
Fish colour darkness            

Possible symptom of internal bacterial infection

     

Definite symptom of poisoning or water quality problem

Unexplained deaths            

Definite symptom of internal bacterial infection

       
Darting around                    

Definite symptom of poisoning or water quality problem

Unable to maintain balance            

Possible symptom of internal bacterial infection

   

Definite symptom of swim bladder problem

Definite symptom of poisoning or water quality problem

Key:  Definite symptom of... = definite symptom of disease, Possible symptom of... = possible symptom of disease

Diseases - white spot White Spot 

Caused by a protozoan parasite, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, these small creatures only become noticeable when they appear as small white spots on the body and fins of their host. The parasites burrow into the skin of the fish and grow under the skin until they are mature, at this time they break out and fall to the bottom of the aquarium where they form cysts. Each cyst is capable of producing over 1000 new parasites and once ready each cyst will break open unleashing a new assault on the fish. It is only during the free-swimming stage of the cycle that white spot can be treated, as with all medicines, read the documentation that comes with the medicine and follow the instructions carefully.

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Diseases - velvet Velvet 

This oval-shaped parasite, Oodinium pillularis, attaches to the fish near the fins, especially the dorsal fin, and around the gills. This parasite acts in the same way as white spot, it drops off the fish and multiplies at the bottom of the aquarium. The new parasites then re-infect the fish. Fish with velvet disease have the characteristic behavior of rubbing their sides and flicking around in the corners of the aquarium. As the disease progresses, fish become lethargic, the fins (particularly the dorsal fin) are held close to the body.

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Diseases - slime disease Slime disease

Slime disease is caused by a parasite infection by flukes - Dactylogyrus, Gyrodactylus sp. and the protozoan parasites - Chilodonella, Ichthyobodo (Costia), trichodina, brooklynella sp. Usually these parasites are dealt with by the fishes immune systems but if the fish becomes stressed due to poor water quality then these parasites will rapidly multiply and overcome the fish. The symptoms are almost identical to Velvet, but you will see opaque grey/white patches of slime. 

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Diseases - higher form parasite Higher form parasite

These parasites are also referred to as 'Crustacean Parasites'. These are large parasites easily seen with the naked eye, such as gill leeches.  Anchor worms (Learnaea sp.) are usually up to 20mm in length and bury their heads into the skin of the fish. Female anchor worms produce two egg sacs on the end of their bodies. Fish lice (Argulus sp.) are disc shaped, usually 10 mm in diameter and attach themselves to the skin or fins of the fish with the aid of suckers. They then feed on the fish which causes prime sites for secondary infection from fungus or bacteria. Gill maggots (Ergasilus sp.) are found attached to the gills, gill covers and in the mouth. The name referrs to the 'maggot-like' egg sacs. Heavy infestations will cause severe gill damage and death. A typical response to all these parasites is for the fish to rub against a hard surface or even to try and jump out of the water. 

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Diseases - finrot Finrot

Finrot is caused by the Aeromonas and Psueudomonas species of bacteria that are found in all aquariums. This problem is typical of poorly maintained aquariums, or as a result of damage caused by fin-nipping fish. Therefore it is vital to deal with the cause of the problem as well as treating the symptoms. Finrot is characterised by a degeneration of the fin membranes which become opaque, blood streaked and eroded. It is important to treat this problem as soon as it is spotted because if the erosion reaches the fin base this will lead to the fishes death.

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Diseases - mouth rot Mouth rot 

The bacterium Flexibacter columnaris is the cause of mouth rot. A fungal type growth and/or erosion in the mouth is the typical symtom, this 'fungus' is actually colonies of the flexibacter columnaris bacteria. Poor water quality is once again a big influencing factor with this disease, so correcting the conditions will speed up recovery.

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Diseases - internal bacterial infection Internal bacterial infection

Caused by Aeromones hydrophilia, Pseudomenas fluorescens and Vibrio marinum species of bacteria. Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the disease but include listlessness, colour darkening, ulcers, abdominal swelling (dropsy) and swollen eyes (pop-eye). Poor water quality will stress the fish and leave them susceptible to infection. Any fin or body tissue damage will provide the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria to start infecting.

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Diseases - bacterial gill disease Bacterial gill disease

The gill is susceptible to bacterial disease as a result of poor water quality, stress or parasites. Symptoms displayed are as for Internal bacterial infection. Gills may move at a different rate to healthy fish.

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Diseases - fungus Fungus Fungus is a secondary infection that gets into existing injuries when the body mucus has become damaged. It manifests itself a fluffy cotton wool-like growths on the body and or fins. Caused by the fungal species Saprolegnia, the spores of which are found in all freshwater aquariums.
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Diseases - swim bladder problem Swim bladder problem

Swim bladder infections are caused by bacteria such as Aeromones hydrophilia and Pseudomenas fluorescens, which cause the fish to lose control of buoyancy which results in severe stress and death if left untreated. The fish floats to the surface, often inverted, and is unable to swim back down to the bottom or vice versa, the fish may sink to the bottom and be unable to swim back up. 

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Diseases - poisoning/water quality Poisoning/water quality

There are several possible causes for this type of problem, it could be that the aquarium has been exposed to some form of chemical household toxin e.g. polish, paint fumes etc., poor water quality, i.e. pH imbalance, high nitrite/ammonia levels, accidental overdose of medication or even untreated tapwater. Your fist step should be to test the aquarium water to ensure the filter is working correctly and that the pH is at the correct level required by the fish. If you suspect the problem is from a contaminant several large water changes, over a number of days, will help dilute any toxins.

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