Please stop replacing your filter media every month.
I know it says to do so on the box! But, guess what? They do that in order to SELL MORE!!
When you take out your old filter media and toss it in the trash, you are discarding all of your good bacteria. These good bacteria maintain your biological filter and keep your nitrogen cycle up and running.
Most of those floss filter pads are designed to fall apart rapidly. Replace your filter media with a sturdy sponge (search “aquarium filter sponge”) and it will last you for several years! In order to keep them clean, squeeze them out gently in your waste water after siphoning your tank.
I know this goes against everything that is printed on the sides of your box of filter media pads, but you have to trust us. We are telling you this in the best interest of your fish and system. Just try it!
Go to any book store and look at the pet section. There are a ton of books on how to make a good home for dogs, cats and horses, but what about fish? Many of us start our careers in fish by having a pet fish when we are very young. Usually, our parents buy us a fish as a “trial” pet, before moving onto cats and dogs. But, there are no good reference books for kids and families to get started in fish. Enter, Boo & Bubbles! In seeing this lack of reference, I went ahead and wrote a complete series for any family looking to get started in fish keeping.
Boo & Bubbles: In the first installment of our series, Boo and her pet cat, George, want to have an underwater friend to play with, so she and her mom are off to the fish store. Boo and her mom load up with all the equipment that they need to take care of their new fish, and safely bring him home. Once the tank is ready and the new fish acclimated, newly christened Bubbles can enjoy his new home! Important topics include all of the equipment required for new fish, how to set up a tank and how to acclimate a fish to a new environment.
Boo & Bubbles: A Visit From the Fish Vet: In part two, Bubbles is sick! Enter the fish vet to deduce why Bubbles doesn’t want to eat or play. In reviewing maintenance protocols, water quality and finally a physical exam, Bubbles is diagnosed and receives treatment. This vital part of the series illustrates the role aquatic veterinarians can have in the care of wet pets.
Boo & Bubbles: Meet Goldie: Bubbles needs a friend, so Boo and her dad are back to the pet store. This story covers the important role of quarantine in order to protect new and old fish from illness. Bubbles and his new friend, Goldie, have to be separated for the full 4-6 week quarantine in order to make sure they are healthy! If we can teach this to children, hopefully our older clients will also understand.
The complete Boo & Bubbles series is available for purchase. All multiple book purchases come with a Bubbles & George plush! They make a great gift for any inspiring fish keepers!
In the evolution of any business, the business model may bend and reform, but the mission remains the same. Sometimes, after getting bogged down by disease outbreaks, the day-to-day dealings with two businesses and trying to have a life outside of work, we forget why we started to do this in the first place. I hate to admit that I have forgotten why I work so hard to carve out a tiny niche that seems to be almost invisible sometimes. Today, I remember why I do what I do.
My job is to make your life easier.
Yes, I treat sick fish, but I mainly educate fish owners to help them understand how fish work. I have loaded my website with tons of free educational material, offered a monthly webinar series and helpful YouTube videos with the sole purpose of making fish owners lives easier. Fish require just as much work as a cat or dog, just in different ways. True, you don’t have to take them on daily walks or clean their litter boxes, but maintaining a healthy environment goes a long way to keeping fish healthy. As we always say, water quality is the #1 influence owners can have on their fish. Once you understand how everything works, it becomes significantly easier to maintain your system.
We are here for all things fishy. Even if you think it’s a stupid question, I guarantee we’ve heard it before. Yes, we are significantly more expensive than the free help on the internet, but by experimenting with your fishes’ health, you are likely making the problem worse. There is a reason no veterinarian can diagnose disease over the phone or email. There are just too many variables that go into figuring out what is wrong with your fish. It will save you time, money and LIVES in the long run to get experienced help the first time.
Due to the overwhelming success of our Wet Vet Weekend, we have modified our curriculum to make it available to ANYONE, ANYWHERE. We hope you can join us for our new Fish Health MASTERCLASS October 27 with separate lab program on November 3. Please see our class page for more information. Click here to register.
Hospital codes can be universal or for one facility. When our vet tells the office, “coming in hot,” it means we have a patient inbound to the hospital and will try to get there as soon as possible. Staff is responsible for making sure the tank for that fish is ready and standing by with oxygen and basic triage supplies, just in case.
Have you ever driven a fish in a car before? How do you drive “fast” with a fish in the car?
The answer: very carefully. When we pack fish for movement, they are usually in a plastic bag with an airstone running off a pump and power converter. They are essentially the same as a very full cup of coffee. Not hot coffee, but at least a couple gallons of coffee. If you stop too fast or hit the gas too hard, there’s going to be a tsunami in your car. You can get up to highway speeds, but it’s going to take a little distance. Slow acceleration is the key, and it does take some practice.
And due to a fish’s sensitivity to vibration, we’re limited in our tune selection. Basically, anything with bass is OUT. Our vet prefers books on tape for long fish transports or no radio for short trips.
So, the next time you’re driving behind a giant fish car and you’re comparing their driving capacity to your grandma’s, remember, they might have a fish in there and are just avoiding a flood and have no music to entertain them.
Over the last few weeks, our staff has been undergoing the major task of relocating our hospital and sister store, The Fish Vet Store. This includes ALL of our veterinary equipment, tanks and, of course, fish! We are very excited to make the move to our new facility at 440 Airport Blvd in Watsonville, CA. Our new location has a great space for our hospital and holding tanks. Rather than scattering multiple tanks over 3 floors, we have everything in one room with easy access to all our new systems.
Even with our move, our services and store stock has not changed. The Fish Vet Store will still offer a wide variety of products for both tanks and ponds. If you can’t make it to our new location, we continue to offer FREE delivery within all of Santa Cruz County. Our veterinary services will continue to serve both California & Nevada.
Please help us in celebrating our new facility. We will be holding an open house event later this summer.
Koi Herpes Virus. Those three little words can spell disaster for any koi owner. Koi herpes virus is a viral infection that can kill 95-100% of exposed koi in 24-48 hours. Quarantining any new additions can keep KHV from spreading to established populations. With warm water and transport stress, fish will become sick and die quickly, but since they are quarantined, they will not spread the disease to your other fish.
In the cyprinid (koi and goldfish) herpes family, there are 3 known viruses. Cyprinid herpesvirus-1 causes carp pox. Carp pox is a skin disease of koi that causes irregular growths usually around the dorsal fin in koi. Cyprinid herpesvirus-2 is a disease in goldfish causing hematopoietic necrosis of the internal organs. Cyprinid herpesvirus-3 is the causative agent of the deadly koi herpes virus. The virus causes severe necrosis of the gills and other internal organs. Death occurs quickly, within 24-48 hours.
Koi owners need to be aware that KHV is present and deadly. Without proper quarantining procedures, all the fish in your pond can be decimated. Any new additions to any pond should be quarantined separately for minimum 4-6 weeks. The incubation period for KHV is 7-21 days. New additions need to be quarantined with new koi to make sure they are not a carrier. Carrier fish will never show physical signs of the disease, but can transmit it to other fish. Goldfish and other carp species can be carriers and NEVER show any signs of illness. Be sure the water is between 60⁰-77⁰F (16⁰-25⁰C) to bring out the virus if it is present. If your new additions are indeed carrying KHV, they will sicken and die quickly, but your other fish will be protected. Any fish that survive an outbreak of KHV are carriers of the virus and can spread it to other fish. It is recommended that carriers are isolated for the remainder of their lives or humanely euthanized.
So how do koi get KHV? Koi can get KHV through direct contact with infected fish or their fluids as well as contaminated water, mud or equipment. Once they contract KHV, the sick fish usually show unspecific signs of illness, most commonly, sudden death. Post-mortem analysis of fresh dead fish can confirm an outbreak of KHV. If there is suspicion that a fish may be a carrier of KHV, there is another test available that can confirm the presence of KHV in live fish from a blood sample.
KHV is a reportable disease to the state and OIE. It is not an actionable disease, like Spring Viremia of Carp, meaning that euthanasia of survivors is NOT required. It is up to the owner and veterinarian to decide what will be done with any survivors.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for KHV. A vaccine was previously available, but has since been discontinued. The best thing to prevent KHV from spreading is quarantine. Quarantine all new fish additions for 4-6 weeks in water 60⁰-77⁰F (16⁰-25⁰C).
If you suspect your fish may have KHV, contact your local fish veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. In California, call (831) 346-6151. To find a fish veterinarian in your area, review the following databases.
Some fancy goldfish can lead long, healthy, normal lives. Others, like their over-bred cat and dog compatriots, can develop genetic disorders that have no ideal treatment. Meet our little buddy, Rusty (top):
Back when he was little, he had no issues. Swimming and eating normally, being a happy little fish with his tankmates, Cupcake (bottom right) and Zhen Zhen (bottom left). However, a few months ago, we noted that Rusty was having trouble getting to the top of his tank. This progressed to where he started to lie on his side on the bottom for long periods of time. He was able to swim up to the top for meals, and eventually graduated to hand feeding.
In order to better see what was going on inside Rusty, we set up an appointment for x-rays. What we found was that his swim bladder had shifted to one side of his body, and due to his increasing size and girth, made it impossible for the swim bladder to inflate enough.
So, for a long-term solution, we needed to figure out a way to help Rusty swim. We have rigged temporary suspension systems for goldfish before, but never as a potential long-term treatment. The little guy pictured below had undergone neurologic damage secondary to a severe ammonia spike. A couple of weeks on the float, and he was able to recover.
This guy was rigged up using a block of styrofoam and a length of suture through his back. However, this was only a temporary setup. Rusty’s would have to be more long-term. So, our vet team sprung into action!
A small strip of plastic was threaded through Rusty’s dorsal fin and tied behind his pectoral fins. Several attempts had to be made in order to find a place where the strap would stay on and not interfere with his swimming. Then, a small sytrofoam peanut, donated by UPS Store #6455 in the same plaza as Aquatic Veterinary Services, was tied onto the strap.
Obviously, one peanut is much to buoyant for this tiny fish, so the peanut was gradually trimmed down.
For right now, he is still a little too positively buoyant, but our vet staff wanted to give him some time to get used to his new apparatus before learning to swim again. You can come meet Rusty at our Scales & Tails event this Saturday from 5p-9p. For more information, please see our Event Page.
We have had several instances over the last month of fish being over treated with a wide array of over the counter fish medications. Please read this if you are unfamiliar with how to treat sick fish or do not have much experience.
Overuse of medication in fish can lead to decimation of your biological filter and loss of the protective slime coat on a fish’s skin. This leads to “burns” that can be pink splotches anywhere on a fish’s body. Usually, you will see secondary fungal growth in spots that can no longer fight off the invasion.
The aquatic veterinary industry is different from the small animal pet industry wherein many treatments are available over the counter at your local pet store. If one treatment doesn’t produce the expected results, owners can grab multiple medications, running them in sequence, or even worse, in combination.
If you have a fish that is sick, it is vital to that fish’s survival that you correctly diagnose the disease the first time. You wouldn’t want your doctor reaching for everything in his medicine box just because your nose itches, would you? If you are a new or inexperienced fish keeper, there are many resources available to help correctly treat your pet. This does not mean consult Dr. Google. There are many fish health experts that work in fish-specific online forums. You can also try your local pet store, provided that they have a well seasoned staff and good turnover of their fish and fish-related products.
Once the problem has been diagnosed, make sure that you know how to use your product correctly. Most fish treatments are water-based, meaning that they are mixed in with the tank water. Never, ever apply medication directly to your fish. You will see the same “burns” from over-medication, except now it is a direct chemical burn. Your fish needs to grow a new layer of skin before they will be able to heal the initial reason you treated in the first place. Again, imagine yourself in their place.
No matter where you are located, you can always contact an aquatic veterinarian for guidance. Even though we are located in California, we are happy to discuss fish issues all over the world. To find a local fish professional you can talk to, visit aquavetmed.info or fishvets.org.