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Hobbyists that take very good care of their tank will rarely encounter a sick fish. Almost all health problems can be avoided by taking some preventative measures. Keep reading to learn how to prevent many medical issues, how to spot problems early on, and how to treat common fish diseases.
In order to be able to recognize problems that develop, you will need to have an understanding of what normal is for your fish. Also, there are certain things all fish never (or at least very rarely) do. For example, fish never normally gasp at the surface. Fish will only gasp at the surface if they are suffocating because of poor oxygenation, parasites, damage to their gills, etc. Other behaviors that are cause for immediate concern include shimmying, cowering, or dashing around the aquarium. If your fish exhibit any of these behaviors, consider speaking to an expert as soon as possible for assistance with a diagnosis.
In addition, a very important part of keeping a healthy aquarium is being faithful to quarantine new additions to your tank. Quarantine is a fairly easy way to give the residents of your tank a better chance of living long, healthy lives. Set up a separate aquarium as your "quarantine tank." This tank should be filtered and maintained exactly like any other tank, but there is no need to decorate it. Whenever you purchase a new fish to add to your tank, place him in the quarantine tank first to make sure he isn't sick in any way. You can also use the quarantine tank to closely observe any fish from your main tank that is acting funny or looking sickly.
While it is impossible to predict when your fish will get sick or what disease they might suffer from, it is a good idea to be somewhat knowledgeable about some common ailments and their symptoms so you can quickly give your fish the necessary treatment if you think they may be afflicted.
Ich is named for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, the parasite that causes ich. Symptoms of ich include small, raised white spots on the body and fins, making it one of the few fish ailments that is easily identifiable. Any species can be affected by ich, and if you think one of your fish might be infected, you will need to treat all of the fish in your tank, as ich is highly contagious.
There are several ways to treat ich. The first is by raising the temperature of the tank to about 90°F. The heat will kill the parasites, and most fish will be able to tolerate this rise in temperature for several days, which is how long it will generally take to wipe out the parasites. Ich can also be treated by adding salt or an ich-specific medication to the water in the tank. Regardless of which treatment method you choose, be sure to vacuum the bottom of the tank each day, which will help to remove any incubating or dead parasites.
Fungus shows up as a white growth on fish, appearing sort of like cotton. An infection of fungus often follows another infection or injury, usually on a fish's lips or fins. Although fungus is not generally contagious, a fish suffering from fungus should immediately be moved to another tank and treated with a fish medication that is specifically formulated for fungus.