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.

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Top 10 Mistakes New Fish Owners Make – #3

The #3 Mistake – Relying Too Much on Internet Searches

The internet is a wonderful, magical place. Because if it’s published on the internet, it must be true, right? Sorry to tell you, but Dr. Google does not have any sort of medical degree. Have you read all about the magic of tiny green peas and the dreaded dropsy disease? Sorry to tell you, but these are just internet fabrications. The veterinary community is partly at fault, having ignored the plight of fish owners for far too long.

Enter Aquatic Veterinary Services! **Wearing a cape, if a business could.** Our mission is to give you the straight, well-researched facts about all things fishy. Does it cost you anything? NOPE! We have over 200 articles on different fish species, diseases, physiology, water quality, surgery and beyond in our Fish Health 101 section. We have a YouTube channel dedicated to more in-depth information and monthly free webinars open to all. Need to waste 10-20 minutes and want to learn something about fish? Pick out a topic here.

There is some good help on the internet, but always consider the source. What worked for one fish under certain conditions does not work for every fish. Disease does not progress the same in every situation. Over the counter medications are not always what they say they are. There are NO regulators checking up on fish medications on pet store shelves.

If you need more help than our website can provide, call your local fish veterinarian. NEVER attempt treating or performing surgery on your fish or your friends/family pet fish. Visit the American Association of Fish Veterinarians to find a vet near you. If you are in California or Nevada, we’re here to help you directly. Call us at (831) 728-7000.

How to Treat Disease in Fish

How to Treat Disease in Fish

If you’ve ever read our other posts or watched our webinars, you may have noticed that we never tell you how to treat certain diseases. Although it’s one of the most common questions our staff is asked, treating disease is never as straightforward as a fish owner may think. As one of my colleagues put it recently, “I no longer treat disease; I treat systems.” When your fish gets sick, do you think of treating the fish or the environment in which it lives?

When comparing disease in a fish vs. a dog, your veterinarian will rarely ever ask, “what is the air quality in your house?” For fluffy pets, it is always assumed that they have suitable air to breathe. Veterinarians will rarely ever question this parameter unless you are talking about a fish. The watery environment in which a fish lives has a significantly increased impact than the air we breathe. (You’ve watched our water quality webinar, yes?) The increased density of water and the physiology of fish gill-water interaction can directly influence fish health. Fish live in a toilet, and there’s no avoiding that. Keeping your fish’s watery home within appropriate water quality parameters is the #1 thing you can do as a pet fish owner to keep your fish healthy.

And a big part of your fishes’ environment are the commensal bacteria living in your filtration. These magic beings don’t need any instructions or directions to do their part in keeping your fish healthy. By converting ammonia into its less toxic nitrate, they turn a watery death trap into a fish-safe home. However, any treatment you add to your tank, be it prescribed or over-the-counter, can affect those contributing bacteria. This is part of why treating disease in fish is very tricky. If you dump in a bunch of treatments that may or may not help your fish, you can wipe out all of the bacteria working in your favor. A lot of the over-the-counter medications are not validated by any third parties, and can do more harm than good.

Overall, treating diseases in any species is sometimes a straightforward process, provided that you can make the right diagnosis. Veterinarians train for years to make correct diagnoses and corresponding treatments. We are taught to be detectives and make sure to get the whole story rather than make assumptions based on simple physical appearances. Since aquatic medicine is an emerging field, many fish owners do not know that there are veterinarians who can help them. Asking Dr. Google a simple fish question can take owners down a rabbit hole of possibilities that very often lead them astray. Going to ask your local pet store can result in a bag full of home remedies that treat symptoms, not disease. Although there are many great fish stores and websites with loads of helpful information, knowing what is legitimate and woefully misleading can be hard to negotiate. By asking a veterinarian to assist you, you have a great guide to lead you to the right information and correct diagnosis, leading to treating your fish correctly the first time.

Find a fish veterinarian to assist you:

American Association of Fish Veterinarians

World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association

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

5 Tricks to Healthy Fish

5 Tricks to Healthy Fish

5 Tricks to Healthy Fish

Directly from our veterinary staff!

Water Quality

The #1 thing you can do to keep your fish healthy is to have good, clean water. You’ve probably heard this before, but we cannot stress this point enough. Think about how the air you breathe can affect your own health. It’s the same for fish, just underwater.

Regular water testing is a simple step to add to your maintenance routine. You should test pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, alkalinity and temperature regularly. Buy a reliable test kit that uses liquid drops, not strips, for the best results.

Buy a test kit here!

Quarantine

Any new fish you bring into your pond has the potential to bring along all of its diseases. In order to protect your established fish, all new additions should be separately quarantined for 4-6 weeks minimum. This will prevent disease spread to your other fish and allow you to treat the new fish specifically. Quarantining will save you time, money and lives. Potentially the lives of all your fish.

Can’t quarantine your fish at home? Send them to our hospital!

Nutrition

Indoor Tanks

Make sure you know what your fish need to be eating! Many specialty foods are available for all types of freshwater and saltwater species. Do your research before purchasing or adopting a new fish and make sure you have their favorite foods at the ready!

Outdoor Ponds

Pick a food for your koi from a reputable company with a good reputation who know their products well. The two main differences in koi foods are growth and maintenance. The temperature of the water in your pond will determine what type of food to feed when. Below 50°-55°F, do not feed your koi. Their metabolism is not high enough to digest anything. Between 55°F and 65°F, feed them a more easily digestible, wheat-germ based diet. Above 65°F, it is okay to feed a higher-protein, growth diet. There are also specialized diets to enhance the color of your koi.

We recommend feeding koi using the 5 Minute Technique. After checking the pond temperature and choosing the appropriate diet, sprinkle a small amount of food and wait for your fish to eat it ALL. Then, sprinkle another small handful and wait for them to eat it all. Continue this for 5 minutes, then stop.

Here are some recommendations:

Cold Weather Diets – 55-65F

Warm Weather Diets – >65F

Recognize Signs of Disease

Since you see your fish every day, you will be the first to notice anything amiss. Maybe one fish doesn’t have the appetite she used to or another who used to be a bully is hanging back at the bottom during feeding time. Sometimes, it’s not the obvious wounds that we get called out for.

Signs of disease can include inappetance, anorexia, lethargy, change in color or behavior. Fish have different personalities that may change upon the addition of new fish to the pond. Stress can cause a lot of problems in koi. Most stress in koi comes from poor water quality!

Don’t Guess! Ask a Fish Vet

Not all fish owners have direct access to a veterinarian specializing in fish, but not you! Dr. Jessie Sanders, chief veterinarian of Aquatic Veterinary Services of Northern California, is a certified aquatic veterinarian through the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association. Her mobile clinic brings the full veterinary clinic right to you! Our hospital offers in-house appointments, critical care and boarding.

Any questions you have about any aspect of koi care can be answered promptly and correctly. The next time your fish gets sick, don’t just throw a bunch of treatments at it hoping to correct the unknown problem. Call us and we can schedule a phone consultation or appointment to get to the root of the problem quickly and treat correctly the first time.

Call now to schedule an appointment or phone consultation!

(831) 346-6151