When Do You Need a Fish Vet?

a series of photos showing different types of fish.

For any pet that is sick, you may be questioning if they are sick enough to warrant a trip to/from the fish 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.

Save yourself the money and do your regular water changes. This is the best thing you can do to keep your fish healthy. Here are outlines for fish pond and tank maintenance regimens.

When to Call the Fish 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 fish 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 a visit from the fish vet! A few improvements to their environment and diet can go a long way to improving health and quality of life.

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