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 you have a Quarantine tank?
A quarantine aquarium is a small, empty tank that you use to hold new fish until they are ready for your main aquarium. 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. How is it possible for sickness to come from fish that don’t have any symptoms?” The reason is because the original host fish may carry an illness, but its strong immune system keeps the pathogen under control with no visible signs. When you add it to your main aquarium, the host fish may get stressed by its new environment, thus weakening its immunity and allowing the infection to spread to other fish.
Fish from wholesalers, fish breeders, or fish stores are most likely to bring in some type of pathogen. Fish diseases are more common in places that keep a lot of fish. If you purchase fish, or get them from a friend who is a fish-loving person, don’t immediately place them in your 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 will not only prevent contamination from spreading, but also save money and reduce the risk of losing your life.
This is often a sign of many disorders. Their chances of quicker recovery are increased if they are kept in a secure environment and away from other fish.
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 a disease has already been introduced to your display aquarium, we recommend treating the entire tank with medication.
Step 2: Can You Identify What’s Wrong?
Most of the time, fish keepers (especially beginners) do not know what ailment has affected their fish, but doing nothing is also not productive. 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. There are many medications that can be used around the globe. These medications will provide effective protection for most conditions. They are safe to be used with shrimp, snails and baby 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. We have found that all of these medications are safe to be combined and will not harm beneficial bacteria in your tank.
Description of quarantine medication trio
Many people are curious about “I have two of these medications.” Is it OK to swap one of these medications for another? Unfortunately, some medications can be toxic together. That is why licensed pharmacists in humans are trained to identify and prescribe only safe combinations. 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 do not know whether these unknown products will be safe for all fish, invertebrates or plants.
Step 3: How to Treat Your Sick Fish
If you know the exact disease that your fish is suffering from, make sure to treat it immediately with the right medication. For example, if you see fish fungus, read our full article and consider using Maracyn and Ich-X. ParaCleanse is recommended for tapeworms and other parasites. It should be repeated every two to three months to kill any eggs still in the hatching fish.
Trio of quarantine medications
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 lead to an open wound, which could make the fish more susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. It is best to treat all three types to ensure that the fish has the best chance for recovery.
1. When you are treating fish new to your aquarium, ensure that the quarantine tank is not near the normal display tank. Also, do not allow the tanks to share any siphons, buckets or other equipment. Droplets of water can travel from one aquarium to the next, so make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. 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. You should remove any chemical filters (activated carbon, Purigen) and turn off any UV sterilizers. Some medications can affect the water’s viscosity, which can cause problems for fish’s breathing. 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. (Ich-X is not known to stain aquarium decorations. However, it can stain clothes and skin if spilled. 5. Let the fish soak in the medication, and do not feed them or change any water for 1 week. (If you feel you must feed your fish, wait until Day 4 or 5, and only feed them very lightly.) You should keep the aquarium filter and heater on during this time. Aquarium lighting won’t activate the medication. 6. After one week, you can change 30% of the aquarium’s water. Keep the fish hydrated and keep an eye on any symptoms.
You may find it easier to give the treatment to very weak fish. Bacterial infections are the most common, so use Maracyn first for a week (at the dosage recommended in Step 4). External parasites and Ich are the most common. Next, treat the fish with IchX for a week. ParaCleanse should be administered in the third week for gill flukes and internal worms.
If you are able to clearly identify the illness (such as ich), switch over to the correct medication and finish the rest of the quarantine med trio afterwards.
You may notice signs of an outbreak such as ich or white spot disease after you have started the quarantine medication treatment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the right medication for you (e.g. Ich-X). 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. You should then be proactive in treating any new fish that come into your home. Yes, medication can be expensive, but pathogens can lie dormant for a long time, waiting for the chance to take over your fish’s immune system if they get stressed or we lapse on tank maintenance. We recommend that you always have these medications available in an emergency. This is based on our personal experience. It’s likely that you won’t find these medications in your local pet shop. Instead, you will have to wait several weeks to order online. Or settle for a less-tested brand that may not work.
You can play an active role in the health of your fish
We are passionate about quarantining any new fish, regardless of where they come from. Changes in their environment, such as new water parameters or social hierarchy, can cause disease. Every fish we receive is pre-medicated and given a clean bill before they leave 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? Check out our list of articles with detailed instructions to help you: