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FISH Emergencies

home advice


1. Is the fish an emergency case?

The problem is that fish hide or "mask" the signs of illness until they are very sick. So the key is that any fish which shows any obvious signs of change from their normal behaviour may be an emergency. Do not just wait and see how the fish is over a few days as, by the time a decision to take the fish to a veterinarian is made, it may be too late. Preferably take the fish straight to a veterinarian.


2. What are the most common signs of an emergency?

        Changes in behaviour such as a change in colour, swimming in an abnormal manner, positioning within the tank, not responding to stimuli such as food in the normal manner, and/or the absence, change in colour or consistency of faeces.

        Hovering or "piping" (gulping air) is abnormal for most species of fish and usually indicates that the fish is experiencing a shortage of oxygen.

        "Flashing" (rubbing of skin or gills against the sides of the tank or other solid objects) is usually an attempt by the fish to rid itself of an irritant.


Unfortunately all of these signs are usually non-specific and so correct diagnosis by the veterinarian is essential to ensure appropriate treatment.


3. What can you do in an emergency?

    When fish are ill, environmental improvement is the first priority. The majority of all emergencies are related directly or indirectly to poor tank or pond conditions.

        Test water quality, particularly ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH - a variety of home test kits are available and are generally quick and easy to use.

        Change 20-30% of the water in order to dilute poor quality conditions - draining the water to the required level and then refilling with appropriately treated water is the most effective method.

        Add non-iodinised salt (eg rock or sea salt) to freshwater tanks at an initial concentration of 1-2 g/Litre of water to help reduce the stress on your fish. This can be increased to a maximum of 5g/Litre.

        Improve aeration of the water by the use of an air-stone.


4.    What can you do for your fish in an emergency?

        Stop feeding your fish until a cause for its illness has been established. This will prevent further waste products being added to the water.

        Avoid handling your fish as much as possible. Seek veterinary help.

        Do not add medications indiscriminately as the misuse of medications can actually cause more stress, "kill" the filter and make the water quality worse.



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