Is paying a fish veterinarian worth the cost?

a woman in a blue shirt is cleaning a fish tank.

For those of you who read our pricing page, you know that paying a specialty service to come to your house, do all the work and diagnose complex issues carries a premium fee. But is the cost of a fish veterinarian worth it to your fish? We certainly think so, but we can break it down further.

Take for instance this all too common scenario: you have a 30-gallon tropical freshwater tank and you just added a new fish. Suddenly, your fish have begun to die because you neglected to quarantine your fish from your trusted dealer. What do you do?

Cost of Do-It-Yourself

Hopefully, the first thing you do is check your water chemistry. A standard $30 test kit will give you decent results, the test strips not so much. Some pet stores will offer testing for free, but they often use the un-reliable strips. You’re much better off buying a liquid-based test kit and doing it yourself.

Alright, your water chemistry is all within parameters, so you drive to the pet store ($2 gas both ways) and ask them what to do. Most pet fish owners will walk away with a selection of the following products:

  • Water conditioner (ex. Stress Coat) – $5 (PetSmart)
  • Bacteria product (ex. Top Fin) – $7 (PetSmart)
  • “Antibiotic” powder (ex. API General Cure) – $13 (Amazon)
  • Ulcer treatment (ex. Melafix) – $12 (PetSmart)
  • New food, something extra tasty (ex. frozen brine shrimp) – $7 (local)

So, you add all of your medications, to no avail. You lose a few more fish. So you go back to the pet store ($$ more in gas) and pick up another tank medication (ex. API Furan – $5 (Amazon)). However, in adding that “antibiotic,” you’ve wiped out your biological filter, causing an ammonia spike. You’re doing more water changes and adding bacteria in that may or may not be the correct species for your tank. And since the filter box says to replace your media every week or two, which you really shouldn’t, let’s add a few of those to the bill (ex. Aqueon (M) – $20 (PetSmart).

And guess what? Your fish are still sick! Although antibiotics are fancy and “work more than anything,” they don’t do a thing to treat parasites. Parasites are the most common pathogen brought in by new fish. But which one do you have? What works for Ich does not work for flukes and vice versa. How do you treat Trichodina? Are you gonna buy all three and throw them in as well? By the time you get to this step, do you have any fish left? Are your fish swimming in water or medicated soup?

Adding up the total bill for all these products and drive back and forth to the store, not even including your time in this is ~$135. Not to mention you also are left with an (almost) empty, uncycled tank.

Cost of Using a Fish Veterinarian

Let’s go back to the beginning and after checking your water chemistry, BEFORE going to the store, you call your local fish veterinarian. Smaller fish may be able to be transported to the veterinary office for a reduced fee, or you can have the veterinarian come to you. Veterinary fees for fish will range from ~$50-100 in house to ~$200-300 for an at-home appointment (remember, this is a premium service). The fish veterinarian quickly diagnoses the issue and gives you a prescription for an effective medication, possibly being filled on the spot. You follow their instructions and your tank recovers.

Does calling the fish veterinarian cost more? Maybe. But you can’t place a value on the lives of your fish. Certainly there is a dollar amount to buy replacements, but there is also your additional value you place on them as their owner. These fish may be been in your family for years. Our veterinary service treats fish like family, but you may not. And this scenario covers a basic issue. What is your plan for more complicated fish issues, such as cancer, buoyancy disorders or a viral infection?

The choice is yours: run back and forth to the store, use medications that may or may not treat your issue and likely lose more fish OR call your fish veterinarian.

fish veterinarian performing surgery on a koi

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4 thoughts on “Is paying a fish veterinarian worth the cost?”

  1. Pingback: How to Save a Sick Fish - Aquatic Veterinary Services

  2. Pingback: How to care for a betta fish - Healthy Tips for Fish Keepers

  3. My fancy goldfish has swim bladder disease and we looked over the internet and feeding my fish crushed peas is not working, he is not even eating what should I do?

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