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Do Fish Sleep?

Yes, they do!

Although it may look considerable different from humans or fluffy pets sleeping, most fish require rest periods where they reduce their activity and metabolism. Many fish must stay alert to danger in this low-energy state, so there is still some brain activity. Fish do not have eyelids, so they cannot close off their sight. Those individuals undergoing migration, spawning or caring for young may hold off on sleep until that period has passed.

Depending on the species and lifestyle, there are many “sleeping” strategies.

Depending on where a fish lives and its activity level, a fish may simply settle to the bottom of their watery home, secure themselves in a crevice like a triggerfish, float in place (thanks to neutral buoyancy) or settle into a nest. Ram ventilating sharks have to keep swimming in order to keep breathing, so they are able to hit this low power mode and keep swimming!

So, although it is not “traditional” sleep, fish DO enter a conservative energy state.

For more information:

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Fish Immune Function

When you live in a toilet, like fish do, it’s critical to have a well-functioning immune system. Being ectotherms, fish rely on the temperature of their surrounding environment to dictate their metabolism and immune function. Cold water = limited activity. Warm water = more activity. Hot water = poached. All things considered, a fish’s immune system may be more complex that you give them credit for.

In addition to basic phagocytosis, fish produce B and T lymphocytes. These cells are responsible for antibody production and are the reason why we are able to make vaccines for fish. Vaccines can be given orally, topically, by immersion, or through injection, like your flu shot. Most vaccines are available for aquaculture production and are not used on pet fish. For more information on vaccines in fish, read here.

Mammals produce their white blood cells in their bone marrow. Fish do not have bone marrow and rely on their kidney and spleen to produce blood cells. These cell lines have similar functions to mammalian white blood cells.

A fish’s response to stress has a direct effect on their immune system. When a fish is stressed due to lack of nutrition, bullying, poor water quality, sound irritation or multiple other causes, they release hormones into their bloodstream, specifically cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones initiate an animal’s “fight or flight” reflex, causing secondary changes in blood glucose, lactate, liver and muscle glycogen and osmolality. Over time, these chemical changes cause tertiary changes to behavior and performance, including digestion, reproduction, and immune function.

Acute stress is beneficial where it helps a fish get out of a stressful situation. Chronic stress, however, leads to long-term immune suppression and increased vulnerability to disease.

In order to maintain good immune function, use these key prevention and management strategies:

How to Clean a Fish Tank

Sounds simple? Do it right and keep your stress minimal!

Cleaning the glass

  1. Wash your hands and arms to your elbows.
  2. Unplug filter and lights. If you have any UV lights, unplug those too. Close any valves if you have a sump so it doesn’t overflow.
  3. Remove any synthetic decor and scrub it with hot water and a designated toothbrush.
  4. Clean the glass with an appropriate acrylic-safe or glass scrub.
  5. Use a gravel vacuum to get into the substrate crevices. Do not remove more than 50% of the tank water at a time. Your fish can stay in the tank, just don’t suck them up!

    Scrubbing decor separately using hot water and toothbrush

  6. Remove filter media and rinse gently or squeeze in collected bucket of waste water. Do NOT use tap water. The chlorine can kill your good bacteria. Your filter media does NOT have to be pristine and sparkling. Again, super clean media will reset your biologic filter to ZERO. You do NOT have to replace your filter media every month. If your filter media is falling apart, do not replace more than 1/4-1/3 of the total media at a time. We recommend using sturdy sponges over floss.
  7. Use your waste water to feed your plants. The nitrates make great fertilizer!

    Using a gravel siphon to clean substrate

  8. Re-fill your bucket with tap water. Bottled water can be missing buffers and/or minerals. Make sure it is the same temperature as your tank! An infrared thermometer is great for quickly comparing two temperatures.
  9. Add dechlorinator to your bucket of water and decor that treats chlorine AND chloramine. Chloramine is a more stable form of chlorine mixed with ammonia! Allow a few minutes for the dechlor to do its job.
  10. Replace your decor back in your tank and pour in your treated water. You may need to adjust your decor after adding the water.
  11. Prime your filtration by pouring some tank water into the filter base. Plug in and adjust flow accordingly. Open any valves you previously closed.

    Gently rinse filter media in waste water

  12. Turn on your lights and replace any covers. Watch your tank for a few minutes to make sure everything is working properly.
  13. Wash your hands and arms!

Watch this video for the entire process.

 

Rotting Eggs & Fish Don’t Mix

Have you ever been cleaning your pond, maybe pulling out dead plants, and smelled rotting eggs? This unfortunate smell is hydrogen sulfide, the product of anaerobic bacteria buried deep in the mud. Hydrogen sulfide is highly toxic to fish and can can death very quickly. Fish who are exposed suffer an increase in secondary infections from bacteria, parasites and fungi.

It is essential to remove your fish from the pond before undertaking any serious deep cleaning, especially into boggy areas with overgrown plants. Set aside a whole day to tackle your cleaning project and put your fish in a temporary tub with an airstone for the day. They will be fine for a few hours without filtration, but no more. Bring in extra help to make sure the project can be completed quickly. If you use a professional company to perform your cleanings, make sure they are aware of hydrogen sulfide and can provide the proper accommodations for your fish. Once all the plant material is removed, the pond must be drained to remove all hydrogen sulfide.

 

Top 10 Mistakes All New Fish Owners Make

Keeping fish couldn’t be simpler! Get tank, add water and then add fish, right? Well, I’m sorry to say it just isn’t that easy. Here are the 10 top mistakes that all new fish owners make.

  • Not learning about fish prior to getting them.
    • You wouldn’t get a dog or a cat without some prior knowledge about what to expect, would you? Well, maybe you would, but it is not recommended. Just like adding a furry member to the family, do your research about your fish way before you purchase a tank. Once you know what kind of fish you want and how much maintenance you’re willing to do on a regular basis, you’ll know what size tank to get and what features you’ll need. Read up on what your fish will need to eat, how often and if all the fish you want will even get along in the same system.
  • Adding fish too early.
    • When you first start your system, it’s a clean slate. Brand new from the pet store, you excitedly want to fill it to the brim with fish. Do this, and your fish are guaranteed to die. New tanks need to cycle for a few days without anything in them to make sure that all the decor has been rinsed. Then, it’s time to start culturing your biologic filtration. Your biologic filtration is made up of millions of tiny bacteria living on your filter media pads, substrate and many other nooks and crevices. Best part is, they’re free! Your fish bring them with you when you add them; the trick is to start with a very low load of fish to get things started first. You can try adding bacterial starter, but with few exceptions, these are just a waste of money. Unless you are starting with pre-started media from another system, it will take 4-6 weeks to establish your filters.
  • Feeding too much.
    • All pet owners feed their pets their love. Cats, dogs and even fish can become obese very easily. It is harder for fish, since they use energy constantly to swim, but can happen all the same. If you are concerned about the amount of food your fish are getting, you can try to estimate the total weight of your fish and calculate an exact dose, or just feed slowly over a few minutes until they stop eating. Unlike your Labrador retriever, they will stop when they’re full.
  • Not testing your water.
    • Especially in the beginning, testing your water can be a frightening experience. Your ammonia will shoot up and keep climbing until your biologic filters are established. Regular water changes will help this from getting out of hand. Even if your tank is established, testing your water regularly will be a good indicator of how well you are maintaining your system. You should be testing the following parameters regularly: ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, kH and temperature. Salinity is a must for any marine or brackish system. If you’d like more information about water quality, check out this quick reference sheet or our recorded webinar.
  • Not doing regular tank maintenance.
    • You didn’t think a fish tank would be any work? Sorry to tell you, but it’s just as much work as a fluffy pet. You need to take care of your system regularly by vacuuming up poop and debris, rinsing your filters to achieve adequate flow and changing out a percentage of the water. Here’s a helpful checklist of everything you need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly schedule.
  • Not storing your food properly.
    • Fish food loses a significant amount of nutritional value if stored improperly. Keep it in an airtight container out of the sun at room temperature. Toss any remaining food after 6 months, since after that time, most of the good water-soluble vitamins are gone. It does not make sense to buy food in bulk unless you are able to repackage it in a vacuum bag. Learn more about fish food in our awesome webinar.
  • Not understanding filtration.
    • In the fish world, some bacteria are good. The nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live in your biological filtration (sponges/matting) help your fish live happy lives. So why would you throw out your filter media every month? The box told you to? Well, ignore the box. By tossing your filter media every month, you are only causing more problems and making more profit for filtration companies. Yes, they may look dirty, but it’s OKAY!! By making your filters pristine once a month, you are doing more harm than good.
  • Worrying too much about algae.
    • Fish tank = algae. Sorry, but there’s just no better home for algae than in a fish tank. Over time, your algae colonies will change depending on what your system behaves. As long as your tank doesn’t look like a giant hairball, your fish are probably fine. A quick, daily scrub will take care of most of it, but without a UV filter, it will just settle somewhere else. If you have a LOT of algae, try to cut down on its food source by feeding your fish less (see point above) or doing more water changes. Maybe try some aquatic plants to put those nutrients somewhere else? Algae will use the light to breathe during the day, but at night, it can suck the oxygen out of your water! Make sure to have adequate aeration so your fish don’t have to compete.
  • Rely too much on internet searches.
    • If it’s on the internet, it must be true, right? Well, sorry to tell all those two-headed alien babies that not everything you read on the internet is true. I’m sure everyone is looking out for your best interests, but a lot of these “home remedies” are untested with only one subject. Even in the same species, not all fish act the same and “normal” can vary widely across the 30,000+ species in the fish kingdom. Many of these quick fixes will help with the visual issue, but do not treat anything underlying that cannot be seen, such as husbandry and water quality. Always approach “miracle” cures on the internet with some skepticism.
  • Not asking for help when you’re in over your head.
    • No matter where you live, there is a professional who can help. Be they an expert hobbyist, maintenance company or veterinarian, there is someone who can help you! Don’t give up and throw in the towel! Our office covers California and Nevada, but there are fish veterinarians all over the world, ready to help you! If you think it’s a stupid question, I guarantee we’ve heard it before. We are just here to help! Call now! (831) 728-7000

 

“Reputable Dealers” Cannot Guarantee Healthy Fish

Over the years, many of our clients have added fish to their pond without quarantine and denied any problems simply because the fish have come from a “reputable dealer.” Unfortunately, even our store, with some of the strictest quarantine guidelines, cannot guarantee our fish are 100% disease free.

Why is this? Well, keep in mind that fish live in a toilet. There are constantly pathogens on them, including bacteria, fungi and parasites. A healthy fish’s immune system works to constantly keep these invaders at bay, but they are always around in low numbers. This is why when water quality goes off the rails, we commonly see secondary infections. The stress of compensating for poor water decreases a fish’s immune function, allowing these pathogens to multiply and spread.

No dealer can 100% sterilize a fish. It would be cruel to even attempt it. But they should be able to keep you away from the worst. In fish, these are mainly viruses. Viruses, such as Koi Herpesvirus (KHV), can wipe out a pond very quickly. By ensuring a proper quarantine length and temperature duration, most dealers will catch infected fish and remove them from their purchasing pools. However, even if they say their protocol is one thing, unless you watch them go through this protocol, you cannot guarantee anything.

The only way to cover all your bases? Quarantine your fish yourself. A simple setup with separate equipment and filtration out of splashing range of your pond will guarantee that no sick fish are bringing anything into your pond. Read this article on quarantine or watch our webinar to make sure you can keep your fish healthy.

Stop Replacing Your Filters!!

Dear Fish Tank Owners,

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!!

Remember how our nitrogen cycle works? You need those bacteria!

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 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!

 

Calls That Make Us Cringe

Did you know our veterinary hospital takes in calls from all over the country? Although our veterinarian is only licensed in California and Nevada, we work with dozens of other veterinarians to make sure your fish can get the help they deserve. Most of the time, our calls are straightforward and simple, but other times, they can make us cringe. What are our all time cringe-worthiest stories?

5. “My bass has a piece of salami stuck in its throat.”

‘Am I being punked?’ was my first thought. Second, it’s a pet bass, not a wild one. And third, why is he eating salami? Bass are more carnivorous, and probably don’t have to worry about heart failure, true. Thankfully, fish can’t asphyxiate from food stuck in their esophagus or mouth. The operculum can still pump water through the gills regardless of what’s going on in the mouth. The fish did manage to spit out the large salami.

4. “My betta lives in a bowl, has no heater and I do 100% water changes. Now he’s sick.”

I can hear my hospital manager’s head hitting the desk right now. This is one of the most common calls we get, which is why we have a dedicated webpage and webinar. By keeping your betta in a stagnant bowl with no heater, I guarantee it will get sick. Yes, bettas have adapted to taking in oxygen through their specialized labyrinth organ, but this is not a long-term survival option. When the rains wash out in their natural habitat, this adaptation allows them to survive in tiny puddles until the water comes back. We cure almost 100% of our surrendered bettas by putting them in a warm tank with a filter.

3. “So, this just happened: my fish was attacked about 3 months ago. He stopped eating a week ago.”

If your fish is sick, do not hesitate to get help! We are happy to talk you through situations on the phone before proceeding with veterinary care. Our hospital staff is expertly trained to talk clients through all sorts of fish health issues, even if the veterinarian is off helping someone else.

2. “I read on the internet that _______ can be treated with ________ drug. Can I come pick some up?”

Yeah… no. Veterinarians cannot prescribe any medications to any client without establishing a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship. Here in California, it requires a yearly exam to keep this valid. And of course, if it was on the internet, it must be true. There is some great fish info available on the free interweb, but there is considerably more terrible information. If you have questions about therapy for diseases or possible diagnoses, talk to your veterinarian first. Yes, we charge money. But you’ll end up paying more to fix for your experiments. By using a professional the first time, you will save time, money and LIVES.

1. “I just put a new fish in a few days ago, now they’re all acting funny.”

Quarantine. Quarantine. QUARANTINE. I’ll never stop saying it. Fish transmit diseases to their tank/pondmates exponentially faster than any terrestrial pet. Why is this? Because a lot of diseases can be spread through the WATER. Fish swimming around in a tank or pond will bump into each other, transmitting pathogens with direct contact. We have lost dozens of koi this year to Koi Herpesvirus (KHV) because owners do not quarantine. A “reputable dealer” is no guarantee. Protect the lives of your pets. QUARANTINE! Still not convinced? Watch this webinar.

Behind Our Children’s Series

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!

 

See the Boo & Bubbles website for more information.

Our Mission

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.

My only job is to make your life easier.

Try me.

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