When disease is suspected
Any unusual behaviour or changes in physical condition often indicate a
health problem. As already stated, it is impossible to make a firm
diagnosis based purely on 'symptoms' or clinical signs. However, careful
observation of symptoms helps to reduce the number of possible causes. See clinical signs- a guide to common problems
Making a definitive diagnosis
For the most effective approach to health problems, we need to identify
ALL existing conditions. For example a
fish may have parasites as well as a bacterial infection, or there may be
more than one species of parasites present. We also need to identify any
underlying causes such as water quality or environmental stress. Unless
these are resolved at the same time, treatments may be ineffective. See disease diagnosis - a guide to diagnosing fish disease
Other options to a proper diagnosis
In the majority of cases the simple procedures above will identify the
problem. However, the reality is that few fish keepers have the
facilities, equipment or experience to carry them out. This is a common
problem, leading to complications and unnecessary losses. I would strongly
urge all fish keepers to either get themselves equipped so that they can
carry out basic 'first aid' or find someone who will assist them.
If, for what ever reason, it isn't possible to have the fish properly
examined, the following procedure may help. However, I should stress that
this is a poor option and will obviously have a lower success rate.
Carry out core water tests for ammonia,
nitrite, pH and hardness. See Water
Testing for more details. Monitor water quality on a regular
Give the system and filter a good clean
in case there is decomposing organic matter polluting the
water. See organic
Carry out a 25-50% water change to
dilute any toxins or pollutants. Repeat again 7 days later.
Examine the fish.
Redness, heavy respiration, frayed
fins, rubbing, flashing, and lethargy may indicate a parasite
infection See the parasite page
for more details about parasite disease. Please be aware that these
symptoms can be caused by other problems. Use a course of [strong]
proprietary anti-parasite treatment, preferably several treatments
over a period of 10-days. Severely affected fish can also be given a
salt bath every day for 2-3 days. See salt
Fish 'breathing' heavily and hanging
under the water surface or near water returns may indicate gill
disease. If possible try to examine the gills for signs of gill rot.
Try treating with chloramine-T and QACs baths on alterative days over a 6 day
If the fish has open lesions, or fin
rot, this may indicate a bacterial infection. See the bacterial infections pages for
more details. It is probably worth carrying out steps 1-3 at the
same time as any antibacterial treatments in case there is also a
water quality or parasite problem.
A firm, unsymmetrical swelling of the
abdomen, without raised scales or inflammation could indicate a
tumour. This would require surgery
A soft, symmetrical swelling of the
abdomen, with or without raised scales, could have several possible
causes, but the only practical treatment would be to assume a
bacterial infection. See antibiotics.
Growths on the skin or body, are
usually benign. The only practical treatment would be surgical
Loss of equilibrium has many causes.
See frequently asked questions.
Again, I stress that 'blind treatments' are a
poor option to a proper diagnosis, but it is better than nothing.
Obviously, while this procedure will help in many cases, it will not cure
all problems. If there aren't any signs of improvement within 7-10 days,
it really is important to have the fish properly examined.