How to Treat Sick Aquarium Fish (Even If You’re Not Sure What’s Wrong)
Treating a sick aquarium fish can be difficult, especially if you’re new to the hobby or have never seen this disease before. These are the steps and medications that we use to quickly get our fish to health.
Step 1: Do Your Quarantine Tanks Have You Got One?
A quarantine aquarium is a small, empty tank that you use to hold new fish until they are ready for your main display tank. This allows you to ensure that your fish are healthy and won’t infect other fish. But you may say, “I don’t need a quarantine tank for my new fish because they all look healthy. Why is it possible that sickness can come from fish with no symptoms? This is because while the original host fish might have an illness or other conditions, its strong immune system keeps the disease under control. If you add it to your main tank, the host may become stressed from its new environment. This can weaken its immunity and allow the infection to spread.
Fish from wholesalers, fish breeders, or fish stores are most likely to bring in pathogens. Any place that keeps a lot of fish together has a higher risk of having fish diseases. Therefore, whenever you buy fish or even get them from a friend, don’t immediately put them into your display aquarium. A quarantine aquarium is a good idea. This will allow you to first examine the fish for signs and then administer preventive medication. This is similar in practice to how we vaccine new cats and dogs to stop common diseases spreading. This prevents contamination and will save you money over the long-term.
These fish are acting lethargic, which is a symptom of many types of disorders. You can speed up their recovery by keeping them isolated from other fish and providing them with a safe environment.
Most people don’t keep a quarantine aquarium because they are new to the hobby, or simply don’t want to bother with it. However, it takes only one serious outbreak to make you realize how important it is to quarantine. If you have a disease in your aquarium, it is best to treat it with medication.
Step 2 – Can you spot the problem?
Many fish keepers, especially novices, don’t know what has happened to their fish. But, not only is it not productive, but they also may not be aware of the cause. We want to make sure that the fish survives as quickly as possible. Broad-spectrum antibiotics for fungal, bacterial, and parasitic diseases are recommended. There are hundreds upon hundreds of medications to choose from. What medications are safe for use with fish, plants, shrimp, snails, baby and sensitive fish without scales?
After consulting with ichthyologists as well as spending tens to thousands of dollars in development and extensive testing, we were able to narrow down our search to three medications, Mardel Maracyn (Aquarium Solutions Ich-X) and Fritz ParaCleanse. We have found that all of these medications can be safely combined and will not harm beneficial bacteria in your tank.
Description for the trio of quarantine medications
A lot of people ask, “I have two out of these three medications. It is okay to replace one of these medication with another brand. Unfortunately, some combinations of medications can prove toxic. This is why licensed pharmacists are trained to only prescribe safe and effective drugs. The compatibility of fish medications is not known without testing. Also, many medication types are only available in certain countries. We do not know if these unknown medications are safe for all fish, insects, plants, and beneficial bacteria.
Step 3: How to Care for Your Fish in Sickness
If you are fairly certain of which disease your fish has, treat for that specific sickness first with the appropriate medication, and follow the instructions on the packaging or manufacturer’s website. Maracyn and IchX are two options if your fish has fish fungus. ParaCleanse should be used if you suspect tapeworms, or any other internal parasites. Make sure to treat the fish again within two to three week to eliminate any eggs that have not yet hatched.
Trio for quarantine medication
If you have to quarantine new fish, or you don’t know what ailment it is, you can use all three medications simultaneously. Sometimes, a fish can be born with a specific type of disease, such as fungal. This can create an open wound that leaves itself vulnerable to a secondary bacterial infection. To ensure the fish’s maximum recovery, it is important to treat all three types.
1. If you are working with new fish, be sure to keep the quarantine tanks away from the display tank. Don’t let them share any nets or siphons. Since droplets of water can travel on your hands to another aquarium, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands and arms with soap and hot water between tanks. 2. If you are treating the entire display aquarium, do a thorough cleaning of the tank to make sure the fish’s environment is optimal and free of any stress factors before starting treatment. Wipe the aquarium walls so that you can easily observe the fish’s condition, clean out the waste in your filter, and use a siphon to vacuum the substrate and change the water. 3. Turn off any UV sterilizers or chemical filtration. Because some medications can affect the water’s viscosity, and hinder the fish’s breathing abilities, you might add extra surface agitation such as an airstone or pump. 4. Do not follow the instructions on the box. Instead, add 1 packet of Maracyn, 1 packet of ParaCleanse, and 1 U.S. teaspoon of Ich-X for every 10 gallons of aquarium water. (IchX does not stain aquarium decorations based on our experience. But, be careful not to spill it as it can stain skin and clothing. 5. Allow the fish to soak in the medication for at least one week. Do not feed or change the water for the next week. You can feed your fish only lightly if you feel that you have to. Wait until Day 4 or 5. During this period, the aquarium filter should be on and the heater on. Also, aquarium lighting will not deactivate the medication. 6. After 1 week has passed, change out 30% of the water in the aquarium. Resume feeding the fish, keep the water quality high, and watch for any change in symptoms.
It may be easier for fish with weak bodies to spread out treatment. Bacterial infections are most common so first use Maracyn for one week at the recommended dosage in Step 4. Ich and external parasites rank second. So, for one week, you should treat your fish with IchX. Internal worms and gill flukes are slower-acting pathogens, so dose ParaCleanse in the third week.
If it is possible to identify the illness (such like ich), you should switch to the right medication and complete the remainder of the quarantine medicine trio.
A few days after starting the quarantine treatment, you might notice obvious signs like ich (or white-spot disease). Make sure to change 30% of your water. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to administer the medication (e.g. IchX). Once the ich is beaten, wait a couple of weeks with no medication to give the fish a break, and then follow up by treating with the other two quarantine medications (e.g., Maracyn and ParaCleanse) for 1 week as originally suggested.
If you have never treated any of your fish before, consider treating all of them and starting with a clean slate. Then proactively treat all new fish that enter your home so that nothing slips through. While medication is expensive, some pathogens may remain dormant for years, just waiting to attack your fish’s immune system. These medications should always be available for emergency situations, based on personal experience. It’s likely that you won’t find these medications in your local pet shop. Instead, you will need to wait several weeks to order online. Or settle for a less-tested brand that may not work.
Participate in Fish Health Promotion
We are passionate about keeping all fish quarantined, no matter their origin. It is possible for them to contract disease by changing their environment (e.g. water parameters or social hierarchy). To prevent any potential illness, we ensure that every fish in our fish shop is properly medicated before they leave our facility.
In the same way, take the proper precautions to ensure your own fish can lead long and healthy lives.
Are you dealing with a specific sickness in your aquarium fish? Check out our list of articles with detailed instructions to help you: