Top 10 Mistakes New Fish Owners Make – #1

The #1 Mistake – Not Asking for Help

We’ve made it all the way to our #1 mistake new fish owners make: not asking for help when you’re over your head. A new hobby can be very challenging and there’s no shame in getting assistance if you’re overwhelmed.

But, as we covered with mistake #3, not all sources of help should be treated equally. Just because somebody wrote it on the internet, does NOT make it true. Cause and effect can be misinterpreted and hobbyists are known for corroborating evidence that is not connected. Here is a common example:

Owner A buys medication from store B, which claims it can cure their fish of disease C. The medication, be it anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial or anti-fungal, requires multiple doses with multiple water changes in between. Owner A uses medication as prescribed and the fish gets better. Since 90% of our clinical cases are secondary to poor water quality, it is more likely the increased water changes cured the fish, NOT THE “MEDICATION.”

But, you see this on the internet and think it must work for your fish with the same issue. But your water might be different with a different species of fish and a different pathogen (bacterial, parasite, fungus). All that you can see is how your fish is behaving, which sounds similar to Owner A.

Too many owners reach straight for the treatment without a diagnosis. You just want to make your fish healthy – NOW. Your water looks fine, so it can’t be the water. And this is where many fish owners fall out of the hobby. They try X number of medications, read all they can on the internet, but without a diagnosis, the fish will eventually perish.

What about calling your aquatic veterinarian?

We understand it is a foreign concept for many. One of our colleagues starts many of his professional talks by asking the following question:

If you walk up to 100 random people on the street and ask them, “my fish is sick. What do I do?” What are the top 3 responses?


A. David Scarfe PhD, DVM, MRSSAf, CertAqV
  1. Dr. Google
  2. The pet store
  3. Flush it

No where in that list is “call your veterinarian.” Well, it’s time to not only add it to the list, but make it the ONLY response. If you need help with your fish, CALL AN AQUATIC VETERINARIAN. (Click link for a vet near you.) If you have a veterinarian for your cat/dog/horse/etc, see if they are interested in helping. They can directly consult with an out-of-state aquatic veterinarian to help your fish. Have them call us! If you are in California or Nevada, CALL US and we will help you! If you want to pay for our veterinarian’s license in a state we do not cover, CALL US. If you are not in your state and need help, CALL US. We cannot guarantee we’ll be able to give you more than basic husbandry help, but WE WILL HELP YOU AS BEST WE CAN.

Advertisements

Top 10 Mistakes All New Fish Owners Make

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

 

Preventing Disease in Fish Tanks and Ponds

Preventing Disease in Fish Tanks and Ponds

Everyone always wants to know how to keep their fish system from becoming infested with some horrible disease that puts all their fish at risk. Well, it’s a lot simpler than you think!

  1. Quarantine. Quarantine. Quarantine. This includes plants and ALL NEW FISH. The stress of handling and transport is enough to make even the healthiest of fish turn on your tanks inhabitants. Fish cannot be sterilized and always have pathogens on them, including parasites, bacteria and fungi. Most problems occur when new fish, invertebrates or plants are added to an established system. Set up a separate hospital tank and have it at the ready whenever new fish are on their way in. 4-6 weeks is the MINIMUM requirement for all new additions. For more information, be sure to watch our Quarantine Practices webinar!
  2. Maintain your water quality through consistent maintenance, proper feeding and adequate filtration. Water quality is the #1 thing owners can do to keep their fish healthy. Get a test kit, know how to use it and what normal parameters look like. Not all fish systems will be identical! Keep up with your maintenance. If everything is a bit discombobulated, use these handy checklists for tanks and ponds.
  3. Feed your fish a good quality diet that is species appropriate. Look for a food with appropriate levels of protein, fat and carbohydrates. We are happy to give consults on diet for FREE. If you want to learn more about fish diets, watch our webinar.
  4. Note any signs of disease early and take precautionary measures. You set up that hospital tank, right? Learn the physical and behavioral signs of disease in fish through our free webinar.
  5. If you think something is wrong, ASK NOW! Don’t wait until a small problem becomes big and hard to manage. Our job is to help you take care of your fish, plain and simple. We can work within your budget to make sure your fish get the care they need. Call us at (831) 346-6151 or email hospital@cafishvet.com.

Follow those rules and your fish will thank you! Being healthy and disease free is the way to be, no matter what your species!

Over-Medicating Fish

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

Fish of the Week: Jack Dempsey

Fish of the Week: Jack Dempsey

This post is in honor of an e-mail I received shortly after my radio show yesterday. Apparently, just one of these little guys took down an entire tank of cichlids! Further warning to check species compatibility before adding new fish to your tank.

Jack Dempsey (courtesy of Animal-World.com)
Jack Dempsey (courtesy of Animal-World.com)

The Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciatum) is a type of cichlid and one of the most popular freshwater pets. They can grow up to 7-10″ long and are dark colored with a few bright blue/green iridescent spots. They are voracious eaters (as previously described and how they got their name) and will try to eat anything that fits in their mouths, be it other fish or plants in the tank. Although relatively easy to care for, just one of these fish, or two with enough room to establish separate territories, is really all that can fit in one tank. If you must have additional fish, make sure they are bigger cichlids who can hold their own. Jack Dempseys are very active spawners, so if you do manage to keep a male and female, you will have lots of little ones in a short amount of time!

Cichlids, overall, are a great way to get into larger freshwater aquariums. Most species of cichlid are relatively hardy and can put up with some novice mistakes. Advanced cichlid keepers can have amazing tanks that rival even the fancy saltwater setups.

Fish of the Week: Cichlid

Sorry to have missed last week’s fish! We’ve been busy around here. Finally got some anesthetic drug, big nets and all our state paperwork! Time to get going!

Many special thanks to all the friends and family who attended our launch party this weekend at Bantam in Santa Cruz. It was a great way to kick off the start of this amazing company. Now, on to the fish…

This week’s fish is: The Cichlid

Discus - courtesy of wikipedia
Discus – courtesy of wikipedia

Cichlids have been growing in popularity as an aquarium fish over the years. Those species coming from the African great lakes are the most well-known, but there are an estimated 2,000-3,000 different species of cichlids! They range in size from a few centimeters up to a full meter. They come in every shape and color imaginable. Tilapia and discus are cousins within this family! They are usually divided into 3 groups, based on their origin: African, Central/North American, and

Tilapia - courtesy of wikipedia
Tilapia – courtesy of wikipedia

South American. If you would like to start a cichlid tank, make sure you know about the specific species you would like to have. Cichlids have a broad range of temperature tolerances and water quality parameters.

Interested in knowing more? Check out these resources below!

Cichlid Forum

Aquatic Community – Cichlid

American Cichlid Association