Posts tagged with "aquatic vet"

How to Properly Move Pet Fish

So your fish keeping friend is moving and has offered to give you all their fish, lucky you!  But how to properly get those beautiful new finds safely from their pond or tank to yours.  Even if this is not exactly the case, there may come a time when you need to move fish, such as because they are newly purchased,  going to a show, or are going for a visit to the vets office. Therefore it is good to do a review of proper fish handling and transport.Seahorse Hippocampus kuda

First of all, fish that have been in a pond or tank for many years are often not kept in the most optimal conditions.  They have often long outgrown the appropriate size for their environment.  Overcrowding equates to poor water quality and a depressed immune system.  Although they may appear perfectly healthy now due to the fish’s incredible ability to acclimate to most any gradual changes, the stress of moving is often all that it takes to push the fish over the edge and allow them to suffer from all manner of illnesses and parasites.  Even fish that are  transferred from presumptively “disease free” sources can potentially be carriers of disease.  Some conditions can be difficult to detect in carrier fish, and some pathogens may go undetected if they have not produced clinical signs in any of the fish.  Do not believe it when the store says the fish have already been quarantined! Brutus the koi fish

To minimize spreading of these potential diseases to your pond; first, acquire the services of a knowledgeable fish veterinarian.  If possible have the fish’s health and environment evaluated before the move.  This can be scheduled while the isolation or quarantine tank(s) are establishing since of course, you do NOT want to move the new fish directly into your pond on the first day.  During those times when it is not possible to have the fish evaluated BEFORE the move, then plan to have them examined within the first week or two in your quarantine facility to minimize the potential spread of pathogens into your pond.

Ideally, fish should be fasted for about three days before being moved.   Some report fasting for up to a week, but this tends to add to the stress of the fish and is not recommended.  Fasting the fish will help minimize waste during transport which will maintain water quality, which becomes more significant with the farther distance traveled.  Caution must be used to minimize stressing the fish during capture and restraint.  Latex or similar gloves should be worn when handling the fish to protect their delicate skin and to protect you from potential pathogens.  No jewelry should be worn.  Fish should be gently guided head first into catch bowls in the water; fish should NOT be lifted out of the water with nets if at all possible.  Any nets used should be of the type which will minimize damage to the sensitive skin of the fish.  Nets are primarily used just to guide the movement of the fish.  The fish should be lifted out of the water in either a catch bowl or a fish sock (fine mesh bag), which is then picked up on both ends and from there the fish is moved into what it will travel in. Goldie

The safest way to transport fish is in a plastic bag with just enough water to cover the fish, and the rest of the bag filled up with pure oxygen.  Fish of any considerable size should be placed in two bags as their dorsal fins, as well as hooks near the anal fins, have been known to cut plastic bags.  The plastic bag(s) should then be placed in cardboard boxes and padded with newspaper to minimize their rolling around.  For trips of less than 30 minutes fish can be transported in buckets, plastic-lined regular or Styrofoam coolers with about 1 liter of water for every centimeter of fish if supplemental oxygen is not provided.  Any container fish are transported in must be covered to protect the fish from injury by jumping out.  Noniodized salt can be added to the water, but must be carefully measured to equal one teaspoonful per gallon. Do NOT add salt if going for a visit to the vet, as this might make it more problematic to locate parasites on the fish when they get examined.

Once at the new locale, plastic bags should be floated in the quarantine tank for around 30 minutes to acclimate to the new water temperature before the fish are released.  If fish are being moved into a freshwater quarantine tank, it should have a separate fully cycled filter sponge or another type of nitrification system, and consider adding non-iodized or sea salt added,  to a level of 0.3%. Salt reduces the osmoregulatory effort of the fish, which is how much nutrition it needs to breathe and digest food.  This level of salinity should be maintained throughout the quarantine period of at least two but preferably 4-6 weeks.  While in quarantine the water should be checked daily to ensure ammonia (should be 0), nitrate, nitrate, and Ph levels.  Use partial water changes to maintain good water quality, and be prepared for a Ph crash.Killer the fish

Other treatments that can be done during the quarantine period are to feed the fish medicated food. It is important to ensure the new fish are eating well, tempt them to eat with food and treats specific for their species.  Random treatment with antiparasitic agents is NOT recommended unless the tests performed by your veterinarian confirm and warrant such treatment.   Monitor all the fish every day to ensure they are eating and swimming well without scale/skin lesions or frayed fins.  Use separate nets and equipment for the quarantined fish to prevent cross contamination, and at the end of the quarantine period thoroughly disinfect all such equipment with diluted chlorhexidine or other net safe solution.

At the end of the quarantine period, release the new fish in the pond or tank to join the current residents, and enjoy the freedom of knowing you have done everything possible to ensure the best possible outcome for your new additions!

If the fish are not going into quarantine, but just being transported to visit the vets office, be sure to bring with you another container with the water the fish is acclimated to, so that there is fresh water for the fish to travel back home in.  For smaller fish, I usually recommend transporting the fish in a plastic bag, and then having at least the same amount of water in another plastic bag just in case of bag breaks, a bucket spills, or whatever the case may be.  You can never be too careful about when transporting fish. I also prefer them to come to my office in a cooler, as this minimizes temperature fluctuates no matter what the weather outside,  which helps keep stress to a minimum.

In summary, with a little preparation, it is easy to safely transport your pet fish for whatever purposes you might need. I am here for you to do housecalls in and around Denver, Colorado for your fresh, salt, and pond water fish. You can even book me on line here http://www.drkoi.com. Best wishes for you and your fishes!

Betta Fish 101!

You see him from across the room, all bright colors and radiant personality, virtually calling out to you “Hey you, come over here! Check me out! Am I not the most handsome thing you have seen all day? You know you want me baby…!

So who is this alluring creature that has captivated your heart and mind? It’s the magnificent betta fish! First things first, his name is “bet”-“tah” fish, not “bay”-“ta”. You don’t want to hurt his macho pride, do you? Well actually that’s just part of the story. His (or her) real name is Siamese Fighting Fish, or to be more specific (and accurate)  Betta Splendens.

The picture of health!

The picture of health!

They come from Asia, specifically the tropical waters of Thailand (formally Siam). The natural habitat of this fish is the shallow streams and rice paddies of Vietnam and Thailand. These huge, shallow areas of wetland are where they carouse around rivers skimming insects, larvae and insect eggs off the surface of the water with their upturned mouths, and doing so wearing much less dramatic colors. Males are relatively territorial and will defend their own space from other fish, especially those who also have colorful, flowing fins. They love to hide, rest and play in the abundant foliage found in their natural habitat.

Around the 19th century people from Malaysia and Thailand began to collect these fish from the wild. They were kept for both bright color patterns and long flowing fins, as well as aggression. This developed in conjunction with staged fish fighting matches, apparently enjoyed by the King of Siam in 1840. In the wild these fish only spar for a few minutes, however in captivity they were bred for a willingness to continue fighting. Once a fish retreats, the match would be considered over. Luckily not a fight to the death!

One of the most fascinating facts about this unique fish is that it has a labyrinth organ, a defining characteristic of fish in the suborder Anabantoidei, which the betta belongs to,  which allows it to actually obtain oxygen from the air above the surface of the water,  instead of taking it from the water through their gills.  The labyrinth organ helps the inhaled oxygen to be absorbed into the bloodstream, and develops from  expansion of a bone in the first gill arch.  As a result, like all labyrinth fish, they can survive for a short period of time out of water, provided they stay moist. For a betta fish to stay healthy, it is critically important  for them to periodically get some exercise as well as use their labyrinth organ to obtain air. Betta fry (babies) are 100% dependent on getting air through their gills, until their labyrinth organ fully develops at around 3-6 weeks of age.

Healthy gorgeous betta fish!

Healthy gorgeous betta fish!

So now we  have a purpose bred beautiful and aggressive, beloved aquarium fish with an air breathing super power and one heck of a personalty!  Actually they all have different personalities, some more peaceful than others, which is what makes putting them in a tank with other fish, let’s just say, interesting! Read on for more about that!

Other fascinating facts about them include,  that the males blow bubble nests which they use to carefully tend and raise the eggs (after the female that  deposited them, has been chased off, since she will most likely eat them),  that they like to sleep in hammocks,  they can be taught tricks, that they come in an amazing variety of more than 9 color patterns,  and at least 14 different fin and scale patterns (like crown tail, double tail, half-moon, etc.),  that besides food and clean water they need exercise, friends, and rest (so no lights on 24 hours a day), to stay healthy.

So how long can I expect my betta to live?

An interesting survey recently showed that most bettas live about 2 years, a few to three, fewer still make it to 4, yet nearly as many that make it past 2, make it past 5. These are fascinating statistics.  This means most bettas live to either 2, or much longer, with not much in between. Knowing that most bettas are at least 6 months to a year old before you purchase them (they wait until full sexual maturity at about 4-5 months of age to begin selling them, so that you can see their fully developed fins and colors), and that most make it to an age of two, my suspicion is that the way that most people keep and care for them, is sustainable only about 12-24 months before the long term stress of mismanagement begins to take it’s toll.  Well how hard can it be to take care of a little betta fish in a bowl? The answer is, it’s not hard, it’s actually quite easy, as long as you care careful about 1 key thing:

Do not do once weekly complete water changes!

I see this one little oversight taking the lives of more betta fish than any other problem. So why is this such a big deal? Because your fish eats food, which then turns into fish poo, which is made up of ammonia, which is eaten up by all the invisible good little bacteria that live on the gravel, in the water, on the plants, and on any and all other surfaces inside the tank. If you dump out the water each week, and worse yet, rinse all the gravel, and plants, you each week are killing off the beneficial bacteria which are vital to the good health of your fish.  If you have no good bacteria, then each week your fish is exposed to toxic levels of ammonia. Even though it may only be at toxic levels for a day or two until you do that full water change, over time this continual stress takes it’s toll on your fish’s immune system.  So it’s like spending one full day a week in a crowded bar full of smokers with no windows.  Eventually you are going to develop a cough, or worse. The same thing is happening with your fish. They are amazing little creatures that can tolerate a lot and still survive, yet they do much better with slow changes in all things. Therefore don’t change all the water once a week, do a 25% water change every 2-3 days, and watch your fish thrive! And make sure that water stays around 78-80 degress F, after all, these little ones came from Asia!

Additionally, the have small stomach’s about the size of their eyeball, so feed them at least once, but more like twice a day, just enough that they eat it all in one meal (floating uneaten food is your second worst enemy to fish health besides water quality).  Here is a little video clip I did on the topic of feeding What do betta’s eat in captivity?

Also ensure they have an enriched environment, this means interesting things to explore, and mix it up regularly with plants, rocks, ornaments, ceramic tubes, floating ping pong balls, moss balls,  and other smooth objects (no clay flower pots with sharp edges/chips that can snag fragile fins). Nourishing your fish’s mind is just as important to his long term health as nourishing species specific food (never generic aquarium fish food to bettas, only food meant just for them).

Betta fish of a smoother fin variety.

Betta fish of a smoother fin variety.

So what about the size of the tank? One fish in a 5 gallon tank is a MINIMUM! Anything smaller than that is just not adequate.  Bigger is better, and much easier to take care of, to boot! And what about friends in the tank? Well would you like to be in solitary isolation your whole life? Probably not, and neither does your fish.  Even though males are solitary in the wild, they are surrounded by all manner of other species of fish. You can mimic the same by making smart choices of fish to share their space. One of the better choices are corydora (little clear/silvery fish and you need at least 6 for them to be happy), and they also prefer a Ph up to about 7. Clown pleco’s, a colorful  algae eater is another good choice. This one is smaller than some of the other pleco variety’s and will give the added bonus of eating algae in the tank too although, you will want at least  20 gallon tank for a fish of this size. Guppies are another option although sometimes the bettas will pick at them if they have flowing tails. There are reports of betta’s getting along with no problems  in other kinds of community fish tanks, as well.

Adding new fish must be done carefully, from an adequate quarantine period, to monitoring fins as some betta’s are more aggressive than others. In general the more space and interesting places to hide and explore, the less stress and everyone will have a higher chance of getting along. Of course you don’t want to have 2 male bettas, or a male and female, as both situations lead to aggression. Some people choose to keep betta’s alone in a 5 gallon or larger tank to not risk it or hassle with it at all. If you choose this then keep in mind your fish will need more maintenance and interaction to stay happy and healthy. You will want to play laser tag, and/or add the other other enrichment ideas already discussed, on a regular basis to keep your only fish child happy.

I have done everything I could, but my fish is sick anyway, now what?

Finally, so now you now most of what you need to know, yet your little fish is sick anyway. How can I be sure my fish is sick, and what do I do first? Here is a video I did based on what one client asked me Why is my betta pale and not swimming? Other ways you can tell a fish is sick is have they have worn, frayed fins, growths or abnormalities on their bodies, or they do not eat. So first things first if you suspect your fish is sick:

  1. Get a water quality test kit, and use it, daily while the fish is sick, and once a week thereafter, for as long as your fish lives. Most importantly make sure the ammonia and nitrites are zero. If they are not? Daily 25% water changes (not more) until the conditions are right. Be sure to add something to remove the chlorine from tap water, too, and it helps to add a little beneficial bacteria (available at your aquarium store).
  2. Double check the temperature and make it right, between 78-80 F.
  3. Before spending money to add chemicals and treatments recommended by someone, if your fish is still not doing well and you have done the above, your next step is to call an aquatic veterinarian! One near you can be located through these sources: World Aquatic Veterinary Medical AssociationAmerican Veterinary Medical AssociationAmerican Association of Fish Vets. If there is not one near you, then reach out to the one nearest you, who can then possibly guide your local small animal or exotic vet in the treatment and care of your sick fish.

So how long can a betta fish live? Well with proper care, enrichment, exercise, and great water quality, bettas have been know to live up to 9 years. However, if yours does not live that long, it does not mean you have necessarily done anything wrong. We often don’t really know how old the little one was before you got him or her, or what they might have been exposed to, or what their genetics were before they came to be in your care.  All we can do is arm ourselves with education, love and devotion. It’s the least we can do for them, after all the joy, smiles, and entertainment the little beings bring to us.

On that note I am DrQ, here with best wishes for your fishes! If you have tried all of this and still have a sick fish, please contact me for a consultation http://www.drkoi.com Please leave comments, share, and follow me on our favorite social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkdin for more valuable animal care information. Thank you!

 

 

Want New Fish? Read This!

Whether you have had huge tanks your whole life, or just want to get a little goldfish, there are a few important things to know to set you up for success.

1) Evaluate your current situation, and decide what you need.  If you have a small pond, then only plan to get another one or two small fish.  Remember, the more water + the less fish = higher chance of success, less work and costs for you (in general).  How much money do I have to spend on this new fish? How much more time do I want to spend caring for my fish? Is the tank or pond that I have now in good working order, or should it really get some upgrades before I commit to caring for a new life? Also ensure that what you want to get, will get along with the fish you have.

2) Be prepared to, and quarantine, the new fish, period.  Saying that the person, shop, auction, whatever, already quarantined the fish, defies the very definition of quarantine.  The fish has to be in YOUR environment, exposed to YOUR temperature changes, YOUR water source, etc. for a set period of time, ideally 4-6 weeks, before any decisions can be made about the health of that animal.  Diseases and parasites, (such as a herpes virus you or I might get as a fever blister when we work too many long hours), often lay dormant within the animal, even for years, but then overtake the fishes immune system and become a problem during times of stress i.e. moving to your house!  And then gives it to the fish you already have, and then, you have a big problem, which could have been avoided in a quarantine tank.  Have another set up, a tank from a garage sale (or I got my last one at the local thrift shop), get it cycling and have the water quality in it going great, and put your new fish in there.  Preferably your 2 new fish, as they really like to have a friend and will do better in at least a pair.   It’s a little more work, but so worth it, for so many reasons.  In fact, if everyone did this one important step, there would be almost be no need for me as a fish doctor!  So go ahead,  I dare you to try and put me out of business! Quarantine those new fish!  And no I do not recommend prophylactic treatment with a bunch of chemicals, dewormers, antibiotics, etc.  Just use this opportunity to bond with the new fish, up close and personal, before they are introduced into the main system.  Observe them and check their water quality carefully, every day, and then treat any problems as, or if, they arrive.

3) ONLY then should you begin to look for your new fish.  Of course if goes without saying to get fish from a reliable source with a great reputation.  Word of mouth is the best.  But also use your powers of observation.  Choose the fish that chooses YOU!  Not the little lonely one in the back corner with the torn fins who is all alone…he is for the shop owner to assume accountability for. Look carefully for torn fins, being interested in you and the surroundings, swimming strongly with the other fish, showing a strong interest in food, with a bright color and no visible marks, bumps, or other abnormal bulges or discolorations. You want the one (s) who can’t seem to want to swim over to you fast enough and say “Hey Buddy, What’s UP? YOU look awesome, want to hang out with me?”! And if your not lucky enough to have experience this with pet fish, and I hope you do, then at least pick one who seems the most vibrant, to you.

4) Safely transport the new fish home.  Proceed directly to already established quarantine tank.  Get the assistance of whoever you are getting the fish from, with the safe transport of your new friend. But if you want more help, I have an article for that which I can provide you with.

5) Feed, love, care for, and check temperature, ammonia, nitrites,  nitrates, and Ph, AT LEAST, on this new fish, every single day while in quarantine for the next 4-6 weeks.  If problems arise, consult me, right away.  I have seen Ph crashes kill thousands of dollars worth of fish in less than a day.  Don’t wait and see, this is what the quarantine period is all about. One month later and all is good? No problems or concerns whatsoever? Then congratulations on your new addition!  It is now safe to introduce the new arrival to the rest of the gang, of course ensuring that the water in the main tank matches what your new fish has been is, especially as far as temperature is concerned.   

So there you have it folks, everything you need to know about getting, and keeping, a new fish healthy and happy, in 5 simple steps!  And I remember, I am DrQ, here to help YOU, keep your animals happy, and healthy, years longer.  What other questions do you have?  Connect with me on Facebook #jenaquesten, Twitter @drquesten, Linkin, Google+, and almost everyone else you might like to hang out, and I will answer. Have a great day, and, best wishes for you and your fishes!Goldie

 

 

 

Have you ever accidentally killed a pet fish?

Have you ever accidentally killed a pet fish?  Even a 50 cent goldfish can leave a stabbing pain in your heart when you realize you were not even able to keep something so small, and seemingly simple, alive. Up to now, the problem has been, not knowing what you did wrong, and then, not knowing where to turn, for answers.  The internet is full of advise, but sometimes it is hard to sift it down to just the most important stuff you need to know, right now.  The pet or aquarium store can be helpful, but it depends on who you ask.  You are embarrassed because you don’t know, and feel silly because it’s JUST a goldfish.  But true animal lovers know you can’t put a price on a relationship, and it doesn’t matter if the fish cost $3 or $75,000, this is YOUR pet fish, your responsibility, and most importantly, your friend, who is counting on you, to do what it takes to keep him or her safe, and healthy.

One piece of advise, most of the time the problem with fish is water quality. Unfortunately most people start with toxic medications and water additives, at the first sign of problems with their fish, rather than checking the water  The good news is, you don’t have to be a chemist to evaluate your fishes water,  really!  All you need is to invest in a water test strip kit from the pet store, and use it, at the first sign of any problems.  If something does not look right, then 20% water changes, once or twice a day, until the numbers are in range again, does the trick, MOST of the time.  That’s it! This one little piece of advise could save thousands of little fish, and the people and children who love them,a lot of heartache.

However, if you have fish now, or want to get fish again, and want to know more about how to keep them healthy, then my upcoming course “Wet Pets”, is for you!  This will be an introductory course of all things related to keeping the most common pet fish safe, healthy, as well as the basics of what to do if you detect problems. This course is designed for veterinary technicians who hope to one day work with an aquatic veterinarian, but, it is a great introductory course for anyone fascinated by fish, and wanting to learn more about their anatomy, basic body functions, basic tank designs and functions, as well as an introduction to common diseases,  how to recognize  them, and when to hire an aquatic vet.

I promise you this 4 hour investment of your time, on Saturday November 8th, from 10-2:30 pm, will be time well spent learning fascinating facts about these wonderful creatures, and help break the myth that the cost of an animal does not in any way equate to the amount of joy sharing your live with such an exotic creature, can bring! Class size is limited, and slots, as usual,  will fill up fast.  Please forward this email to all the fish lovers you know!  Registration for the course is $175, and registration is  directly through Bel-Rea School of Veterinary Technology (where the course will be held)  at 1681 S. Dayton St, Denver, Co 80231,  phone (303)751-8700.  Thank you, and, best wishes for the fishes!Abby's Koi pic (2)