How to Treat Sick Aquarium Fish (even if You’re Not Sure What’s Wrong)

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 make sure they’re healthy and won’t potentially infect your other fish. You may think, “I don’t need a quarantine for my new fish. 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. It is possible for the disease to spread to other fish by stressing the host fish when it is added to an aquarium.

The truth is that when fish come in from a wholesaler, breeder, or fish store, they’re most likely bringing in some kind of pathogen. Any place that keeps a lot of fish together has a higher risk of having fish diseases. Don’t buy fish from friends or purchase them directly. Instead, the best practice is to set up a quarantine aquarium where you can first observe the fish for symptoms and treat them with preventative medications. This is similar in practice to how we vaccine new cats and dogs to stop common diseases spreading. This prevents contamination and will save you money over the long-term.

This is often a sign of many disorders. Treating them in an isolated, safe environment away from other fish can improve their chances of faster recovery.

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. We recommend that you treat the entire aquarium with medication if a disease has been introduced to it.

Step 2: Can You Identify What’s Wrong?

Fish keepers, especially beginners, are often unaware of what is ailing their fish. However, it is not productive to ignore the problem. We want to make sure that the problem is treated as quickly as possible in order to ensure that the fish has the best chance at survival. Therefore, we advise covering all your bases by using broad-spectrum medications for bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. There are hundreds of medications on the market. Which ones will not only offer effective protection against most conditions, but are also safe to use with plants, shrimp, snails, baby fish, and even sensitive, scale-less 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.

Descriptions of the three-part quarantine medication trio

A lot of people ask, “I have two out of these three medications. Is it okay if I replace one of these medications with another brand?” Unfortunately, certain combinations of medications can be toxic, which is why we humans have licensed pharmacists who research and only prescribe drugs that work safely together. Similarly, we have no way of knowing the compatibility of other fish medications without thorough testing, and there are countless types of medication on the market (some of which are only available in certain countries). We also do not know if these unknown products are safe for all fish, invertebrates, plants, and beneficial bacteria.

Step 3: How to treat your sick fish

If you’re certain about the disease of your fish, first treat it with the correct medication. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or packaging. Maracyn or Ich-X may be used if fish fungus is suspected. 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 de quarantine medicines

On the other hand, if you are quarantining new fish or you are not certain which ailment you’re dealing with, use all three medications at the same time. A fish might be suffering from a fungal infection or one of the other types 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. If you are treating new fish, make sure the quarantine tank is far away from your normal display tank, and do not let the tanks share any nets, 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. If you are treating the entire display aquarium, do a thorough cleaning of the tank to make sure the fish’s environment is optimal and free of any stress factors before starting treatment. Clean the aquarium walls to allow you to observe the fish’s condition. 3. You should remove any chemical filters (activated carbon, Purigen) and turn off any UV sterilizers. You might consider adding additional surface agitation, such as an air stone or pump to increase the fish’s ability to breathe. 4. Do not use the box directions. For every 10 gallons, add 1 packet Maracyn and 1 packet ParaCleanse. (Ich-X is not known to stain aquarium decorations. However, it can stain clothes and skin if spilled. 5. For one week, let the fish soak in their medication and then do not feed or change water. (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. Continue feeding your fish and monitor for changes in symptoms.

If you have very weak fish, it may be easier on their bodies to space out the treatment. Bacterial infections tend to be the most common. For a week, use Maracyn at the dose recommended in Step 4. The second most common parasites are Ich and External Parasites. Therefore, next, give Ich-X to the fish 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.

When you start the quarantine medication treatment, a few days later you may see obvious signs of an outbreak like ich (or white spot disease). Change 30% of the water, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the medication you need to use (e.g., Ich-X in this case). Wait a few weeks to let the ich die. Then, treat the fish with ParaCleanse or Maracyn for a week.

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. While medication is expensive, some pathogens may remain dormant for years, just waiting to attack your fish’s immune system. These medications should always be available for emergency situations, based on our own experience. There is a good chance that they won’t be available at your local pet shop. You will need to wait several days before you can order them online or settle for a brand that doesn’t work.

Play an active role in your fish’s health

We are very passionate about quarantining all new fish, no matter who you get them from, because even changing their environment (e.g., different water parameters or new social hierarchy) can trigger disease. That’s why we preventively medicate every single fish that enters our fish store and ensure they have a clean bill of health before leaving 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: