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Article of the Month MAY 2015 “The medication never worked…”

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Article of the Month MAY 2015 “The medication never worked…”

Post by Sbenson11 on Tue May 26, 2015 7:01 pm

“The medication never worked…”

Occasionally I get asked for recommendations on how to deal with problems people are having with their fish. If I know the answer I will more than happily give my opinion. Maybe this time next year I might actually have the right answer. Smile

Anyway IMHO 90% of the fish products on the market today are snake oils. Yes there are effective products out there, but most are watered down versions meant to perpetuate the problems fish keepers have. Now there I have said it, let the multinational corporate lawyers hunt me down.

It is also my opinion that 90% of the problems people have are related to the condition of their water or problems with it. The power of regular water changes can NOT be over emphasized. A regular routine of doing 20-25% weekly water changes will go a long way to maintain good overall water quality and healthy/happy fish.

Anyway to my point,

The first issue most people have (myself included) is diagnosing the problem. Fish can’t talk so unlike your kids they can’t tell you where it hurts or what the problem is. My first question will usually be “what are your water parameters?” This is usually followed by the answer “the water is fine” unfortunately that is usually not the case. A test of the Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, PH and alkalinity are the usual suspects. Ammonia and Nitrate should be zero, Nitrate should be less the 20 mg/L and Alkalinity should be over 80ppm. For PH it’s more important for it to be stable rather than a particular level, especially throughout the day. If it fluctuates more than .3 in the run of a day, you may have a problem.

If all that checks out then you could be looking at Parasites, bacteria or a disease of some kind. I won’t get into that here as this can be a book in itself. A book I’m not qualified to write. Smile

One thing to keep in mind when diagnosing a fish problem is that what you see may not be the problem just a result of a problem. Ich is a very common problem with Goldfish, but it is seldom the root of the issue. An outbreak of Ich is usually brought on by the stress of water quality issues. Be it from travelling, a wild temperature change or off the chart ammonia levels.  So you can have the right medication for the right problem, but if you don’t fix the underlying issue the results may not meet your expectations. Fish like humans carry a bunch of viruses and parasites just waiting for the ideal conditions to explode into an unhealthy condition for your fish. Most times the fish are healthy enough to keep them at bay and down to acceptable populations.

So you have now had perfect water, diagnosed the problem and purchased the right medication for the problem. Got it made in the shade and your fish are on the road to recovery.

Well not exactly…

Fish medications are only going to be effective if they are used properly. A number of things will affect their ability to cure whatever it is that is affecting your fish. One rule of thumb, “if a product is good for everything it is usually good for nothing”.

1. In most cases you need to remove the carbon from your filter if you use it. Personally I only use carbon after I use medication in an aquarium to remove any residuals left behind. Using carbon while treating your tank will in most cases filter out the medication you just put in.

2. If you are using a UV sterilizer in most cases you will need to turn it off during treatment. It can and will break down the medication prematurely.

3. You need to know EXACTLY how much water your Aquarium/Pond holds and more to the point how much water is in it at the time you are treating it. More of an issue for pond owners, but many a fish keeper has been guilty of improperly dosing their fish because they only guessed the size of the tank.

4. One thing that many people don’t consider is water conditioner. Water conditioner actually deactivates many of the medications that are on the market today. So if you doing water changes in between treatments you will need to time them accordingly or prepare a batch of water in advance. Usually you don’t get much advance notice when something goes wrong, but you need to react accordingly when they do. I use Seachem Prime and according to Seachem it remains active for up to 72 hours. So if you add a medication to your tank within 72 hours of using such a product it can and will have an effect on its effectiveness.

There is a lot to consider when things go south in your aquarium and I’m sure I have missed a bunch of them. So if anyone has anything else to add/disagree with any of this by all means fire away.

Steve
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Re: Article of the Month MAY 2015 “The medication never worked…”

Post by GaryE on Wed May 27, 2015 6:12 am

This is a great posting!

As we have moved away from books, we have made ourselves vulnerable. Yes, there are good online fish disease sites, but they are often run by medication sellers, or are only used on a need to know basis.

When I bought my first aquarium (okay, my parents bought it for me) it came with a basic 'what are these species' book, and a fish disease book. They were only 30 pages each, but they were designed to start us reading.

When I connected with a petshop in my early teens and began to catch fish for them (the owner was in his late 70s) I was sent home with a big disease book, and quizzed on it. Disease books were big sellers, and even fairly new customers would study fish with a knowledgeable eye before buying.

Prevention was key. And that was before most store fish came from Singapore and Indonesia, where they are raised in disease rich factory conditions. When I go into the big chain stores now (the Pet-this and Per-that chains), I see fish no sensible person would have bought 40 years ago. They are often ragged and ill.

The meds available are often snake oil, and that trend is developing. Call it 'herbal', and it will replace a tried and tested med within a year. It may not work, but it will sell. These meds are for us, so we feel like we are doing something.

More and more, we can't treat diseases as the good meds are pulled for the trendy ones. I've cured things using treatments from the 1940s, looked up in the old William T Innes book, because the meds that replaced those treatments have been replaced by general, cure all tonics straight out of a medicine show in a bad cowboy movie.

Steve is right (as usual) about water. Keep changing, keep observing and keep learning. An hour looking at photos and descriptions of common fish parasites and diseases will save you tons of grief.

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Re: Article of the Month MAY 2015 “The medication never worked…”

Post by Biulu on Wed May 27, 2015 10:18 am

I agree with all of the above, but would like to add one thing.

Stress caused by incompatibility or harassing/power play within one species often leads to diseases as well. I have lost many fish because it turned out I had too many males or females in one group, or even because I had 3 fish of the same species which was one too many.

As I normally do research my fish beforehand and otherwise have another tank so I can move fish around, I don't have so much of an incompatibility issue.
However, with so many pet store people not even knowing what they are selling, it is very easy to fall for a 'nice looking' fish and finding out at home that they don't go with the ones you already have. Or can't compete for food with the ones you already have.

And then, like Steve says, the fish's immune system weakens and pathogens that are always in the water, have a chance. And this can happen in water that is spot on...
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