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. We have years of experience in helping customers at the fish shop and online. Here are the steps we follow and the medications we use to bring our fish back to good health as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Step 1: Do you have a Quarantine tank?
A quarantine tank is an aquarium that contains only new fish. This allows you and your fish to check that they are healthy before adding them into your main aquarium. However, you might say that they don’t require a quarantine tank because they 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. The infection can spread from the aquarium to the other fish if the host fish becomes stressed out by the new environment.
It is most likely that fish are brought in by a wholesaler or breeder from fish stores. Fish diseases are more common in places that keep a lot of fish. Therefore, whenever you buy fish or even get them from a friend, don’t immediately put them into your display aquarium. It is best to have a quarantine tank where you can observe the fish and then treat any symptoms with preventive medications. This is similar to the way we vaccinate cats and dogs to prevent common diseases from spreading. This will not only prevent contamination from spreading, but also save money and reduce the risk of losing your life.
These fish are acting lethargic, which is a symptom of many types of disorders. They will recover faster if they are treated in a safe, isolated environment.
In reality, most people do not keep a quarantine tank because they’re either new to the hobby or think it’s too much of a hassle, but it only takes one virulent outbreak to learn the importance of quarantining. We recommend that you treat the entire aquarium with medication if a disease has been introduced to it.
Step 2: How can you identify what’s wrong?
Fish keepers, especially beginners, are often unaware of what is ailing their fish. However, it is not productive to ignore the problem. Ideally, we want to treat the issue as soon as possible to give the fish the best chance of surviving. Broad-spectrum medication for fungal, bacterial and parasitic infections is a good idea. However, there are hundreds of medications available all over the world. Which ones will not only offer effective protection against most conditions, but are also safe to use with plants, shrimp, snails, baby fish, and even sensitive, scale-less fish?
After consulting with ichthyologists as well as spending thousands of dollars in development and testing, we were able to narrow down our search to three medications, Mardel Maracyn (Aquarium Solutions Ich-X) and Fritz ParaCleanse. All of these medications are safe to use with each other, and in our experience, they will not harm the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium.
Description for the trio of quarantine medications
Many people wonder if they can have two of the 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. We don’t know if certain medications are compatible with other fish medications. There are many types of medication available, some of which are not available in all countries. We also do not know if these unknown products are safe for all fish, invertebrates, plants, and beneficial bacteria.
Step 3: How to Treat Your Sick Fish
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. For example, if you see fish fungus, read our full article and consider using Maracyn and Ich-X. If you suspect tapeworms or other internal parasites, use ParaCleanse and make sure to treat the fish again in two to three weeks to kill any remaining eggs that have hatched.
Trio de quarantine medicines
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 may be suffering from one type of illness. This can leave the fish vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections. Thus, it’s best to treat for all three types of infection to give the fish the greatest chance of recovery.
1. When treating new fish, be sure to keep the quarantine tank away from the main display tank. Do not share your tanks with siphons, buckets, nets, or any other equipment. 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. Before you begin treatment, make sure that the aquarium is clean and clear. You can inspect the fish’s condition by wiping the aquarium walls. 3. Remove any chemical filtration (such as activated carbon or Purigen), and turn off any UV sterilizers you may be using. Consider adding extra surface agitation (such as with a simple air stone and air pump), since some medications can change the water’s viscosity and hamper with the fish’s breathing ability. 4. Do not dose according to the box instructions. For every 10 gallons, add 1 packet Maracyn and 1 packet ParaCleanse. (Ich-X does not stain aquarium decorations in our experience, but be careful not to spill it because it can stain your skin or clothing.) 5. Let the fish soak in the medication, and do not feed them or change any water for 1 week. If you feel the fish must be fed, wait until Day 4/5 or 5. Then feed them only lightly. During this time, you should leave the heater and aquarium filter on. Aquarium lighting won’t activate the medication. 6. After 1 week has passed, change out 30% of the water in the aquarium. Continue feeding your fish and monitor for changes in symptoms.
You may find it easier to give the treatment to very weak fish. Bacterial infections tend to be the most common. For a week, use Maracyn at the dose recommended in Step 4. Ich and external parasites are the second most common, so next treat the fish with Ich-X for a week. ParaCleanse should be administered in the third week for gill flukes and internal worms.
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) appearing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the right medication for you (e.g. Ich-X). After the ich has been beaten, give the fish some time to rest and then treat the fish with ParaCleanse and Maracyn for 1 week, as suggested.
You may want to treat all fish in your home, even if they are not familiar with the treatment. You should then be proactive in treating any new fish that come into your home. 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 our own experience. Chances are that you won’t be able to find them last minute at your local pet store and will have to either wait several days to receive an online shipment or settle for an untested brand that may not work at all.
Take an Active Role in Your Fish’s Health
We are passionate about ensuring that all fish arrive in quarantine, regardless of their origin. This is because any change to their environment (e.g. different water parameters, new social hierarchy) could cause them to contract disease. That’s why we preventively medicate every single fish that enters our fish store and ensure they have a clean bill of health before leaving our care.
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? You can find detailed instructions in our article list.