For any pet that is sick, you may be questioning if they are sick enough to warrant a trip to/from the vet. Aquatic or not, there is not always a clear line that indicates ‘take to vet now!’ And you know what? Your fish might NOT need a veterinarian. Here are some of the things to consider BEFORE contacting us or your local fish vet.
Test Your Water
As we have stated many times before, water quality is the most significant input on fish health. You can have the most robust fish, the fanciest tank and feed them the best food, but if your water is terrible, I guarantee your fish will get sick and die.
To make sure your water is healthy for your fish, you MUST test it. And not by using those stupid strips! No one can tell you their water parameters from looking at it. Get yourself a liquid-based test kit and practice how to use it. Keep an eye on your parameters and record them regularly. For more information on water quality, read this comprehensive page or watch the below video.
Check Your Fishes’ Food
Like the food we eat, what a fish eats is directly tied to their energy levels and ability to fight infections. Unlike most other pets, fish are ectotherms and their metabolism correlates directly to the water temperature. Warmer water = higher metabolism. If you have an outdoor pond, you will have to change your feeding behaviors based on the temperature of your water.
Almost all pet fish need to be fed DAILY. Tropical fish, including bettas, will likely be fed twice a day (remember: warmer water = increased metabolism). It is best to feed them a complete pellet diet and supplement it with diet-appropriate treats. Veggies for herbivores, meaty things for carnivores and a mix for omnivores.
Once you open a can/bag of fish food, you have 6 months to feed it, then toss it. The expiration dates printed on the bags are only for items on store shelves. Store all fish food in a cool, dark environment in a well-sealed container. This will prevent excess loss of water-soluble vitamins, including vitamin C. For more information on fish nutrition, please watch our comprehensive webinar.
Do NOT Waste Your Money on OTC/Pet Store Antibiotics
Since these drugs are not under the control of any governing body, such as the FDA, they are not checked for quality. Who knows what you could be adding to your tank! These drugs will also wipe out your biological filter and cause a New Tank Syndrome.
Most of these OTC products “fix” your fishes’ problems by making you perform excess water changes. (See point #1) If you need to do some water changes and DON’T have a test kit, do not perform more than 50% of a change at a time. Changing more than that can cause the pH to change too drastically and kill your fish. However, if you have an Old Tank Syndrome going on, we recommend no more than 10% changes at a time. You’ll only know this from testing your water.
When to Call the Vet
So, if you’ve already checked your water, assessed your diet and done some water changes and your fish has not improved, it’s time to call the vet. Here are some other things you may want to get help for:
- Multiple sudden deaths
- Fish are showing signs of a parasite (flashing, missing scales, bruising)
- Fish with a mass or growth (internal or external)
- Fish have not improved with water changes or better diet
Not all sick fish require veterinary services! A few improvements to their environment and diet can go a long way to improving health and quality of life.