Freshwater Fish Disease – Signs, Causes, And Cures

It’s a fine lazy day and you’re just kicking back and enjoying the aquarium you’ve worked so hard to set up. But wait, something’s off. One of your fish looks like he’s been rolling in the sand. And another seems to have less fins than you remember. And still another is so swollen he looks as though he’s about to burst. All in all, it looks as though your fish are sick! Yup, keep fish long enough and it’s something you’ll have to face eventually, and usually fairly early unfortunately. You see, illness is often preventable, but typically we only learn how to do so after doing it wrong the first time. But fear not! Many ailments can be turned around if spotted early and treated properly.

Spotting Illness

So how can you tell that a fish is sick in the first place? It’s not like they’re going to tap you on the shoulder and let you know. For the most part the only way you’ll know something is wrong is through careful observation of their appearance and behavior. Hopefully you’re already fairly well acquainted with what could be considered normal for your fish and can thus notice when something is off. Here are some key things to take note of:

-paleness/color change

-clamped fins (the fins are held close to the body)

-scraping or rubbing against objects in the tank

-heavy breathing

-loss of appetite

-loss of equilibrium


-decreased activity

… and of course the more obvious signs like visible sores, swelling, and the like.

Keeping a watchful eye out for signs of illness is an important part of keeping fish. Try to take a few minutes each day to check for any signs that something is amiss. Feeding time provides an ideal opportunity to do this as most fish are at their most active when there’s a meal to be had. An illness chris hsu caught early is far easier to treat and the chances of the affected fish surviving the ordeal are far greater. For many ailments your fish may face by the time it’s blatantly obvious it is too late.

Quarantine Tanks

Of course one step better than treating your fish once they become sick is preventing it from happening in the first place. The absolute best way to prevent diseases from reaching your tank is by using a quarantine tank. A quarantine tank is essentially just a small bare bones aquarium setup where all new arrivals can spend a week or two before entering your main setup. This gives you ample time to make sure your new fish are in good health before they have a chance to potentially spread any diseases to your other fish. It also gives new arrivals a chance to recover from the stress of moving in a quiet and peaceful environment. And if a problem does arise having the specimen already isolated makes treatment much easier as well. Finally, in the event that a problem does reach the fish in the main aquarium the quarantine tank can serve as a hospital tank as well, preventing the further spread of disease and providing a safer and more controlled environment for the application of any treatments.

Water Quality

In addition to a quarantine tank, keeping your fish in good general health goes a long way towards preventing any illness from taking hold. Most common diseases often arise in fish only when their health is already compromised. What causes their health to become compromised? The majority of the time the culprit is poor water quality. A fish trying to live in dirty water in kind of like you trying to live in a house filled with smoke- it’s unlikely you’ll be in the best of health. Keeping on top of your aquarium setup’s maintenance is key to keeping your fish healthy and disease free. As such, should your fish ever become ill your first step should always be to make sure the water is in excellent condition. All the critical parameters, such as ammonia, nitrate, pH, and temperature, should be checked. Always be suspicious of any equipment or decor that was recently added to the tank as well which could be leeching something toxic into the water. And, even if poor water quality isn’t the root cause of the illness, a water change is never a bad idea When it comes to recovery the cleaner the water the better.

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