Here are some of the more common ailments and concerns regarding pet fish.

Ich – A Common Fish Health Disease

pet-health-fishA common disease that is seen in many pet fish is called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, also known as Ich. Ich is caused by a protozoan organism that is currently one of the most common parasites to infect fish. Since ich is such a common health problem among fish kept in aquariums, being aware of this condition is a very important part of overall pet care. Knowing about ich in fish is essential for ensuring that you will be able to provide the proper fish care if your fish become infected with ich. Here is some general information about this condition, how it affects a fish’s health and what you can do to prevent it.

Identifying ich in pet fish is usually very simple, due to the visible symptoms of this condition. The primary symptom is the appearance of small white spots on a fish’s gills and body. In certain cases, these white spots may only be present in localized areas, such as around the gills. This disease is progressive, and as a fish becomes more uncomfortable, they may try to ‘itch’ their body by scraping against the sides of the tank. In more advanced cases of ich, a fish will develop respiratory distress, loss of appetite, severe agitation and eventual death.

Risk Factors
Though there is no dormant period with the Ich parasite infection, there are certain factors that may increase the likelihood that a fish will become infected with ich. Factors such as reduction of water quality, stress and changes in water temperature can all contribute to a fish becoming infected with the ich parasite. In addition to this, if a fish’s immune system is substantially repressed by infection with another health condition, this can also increase the likelihood that a fish will be infected with ich.

Treatment for ich in fish is commonly supplemented with the raising of the tank’s temperature to 82-86 degrees fahrenheit. This temperature change should be done gradually, as to not upset the normal life cycle of the fish in the infected tank. This is usually combined with other treatment methods, such as chemical treatments. Examples of chemicals used to treat ich in pet fish include Quinine Sulfate, chelated copper, formalin, copper sulfate and malachite green. In some cases, diluted salts may be used to increase the salt level of a tank so that it is not a tolerable environment for the parasite that causes ich.

If you are caring for a home aquarium with pet fish, chances are that you will have to deal with an ich infection at some point in time. However, there are certain measures that you can take which will greatly reduce the chance that your fish will become infected with ich. When purchasing fish from a pet store, try to examine them for any signs of ich parasites. Always put new fish in a quarantine tank for a period of time after purchase, in case they are carrying any parasites. If any of your fish begin to show signs of ich, it is very important that you remove them from the tank and place them in immediate quarantine.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationOther General Fish Afflictions

Head and Lateral Line Disease (previously known as Hole-in-the-Head disease)
Symptoms Begins as small pits on the head and face, usually just above the eye. If untreated, these turn into large cavities and then the diseas progresses along the lateral line.

Head and Lateral Line Disease is attributed to a nutritional deficiency of one or more of: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. It is thought to be caused by a poor diet or lack of variety, lack of partial water changes, or over filtration with chemical media such as activated carbon.

  • HLLE has been reversed by one or more of the following treatments:
  • Increase frequent water changes.
  • Add vitamins to frozen foods.
  • Add the addition of flake foods, as they are enriched with vitamins.
  • Add greens, either frozen or in leaf form, to the diet.
  • Decrease the amount of beef heart as it lacks many critical nutrients.
  • Remove activated carbon filtration.

This disease is often confused with another disease called ‘Hexamita’, because both these diseases are often seen simultaneously in the same fish. Hexamita is a protozoan disease that attacks the lower intestine. Discus and other large cichlids, especially Oscars, are especially prone to Hexamita.

Eye Problems
Symptoms Cloudy cornea, opaque lens, pop eye, swelling, blindness.

  • Cloudy cornea can result from a bacterial invasion. Antibiotics may help.
  • Opaqueness can result from poor nutrition or a metacercaria invasion (grubs). Try foods with added vitamins and changing the diet to include variety.
  • Pop eye (exophtalmia) can result from rough handling, gas embolism, tumors, bacterial infection, or vitamin A deficiency. Gas bubble or bacterial infection can be treated successfully with penicillin or amoxicillin.
  • Blindness can be caused by poor nutrition or excessive light. Lowering the light level and a change of diet to include lots of variety may help prevent it.

Swim-bladder Disease

Symptoms Abnormal swimming pattern, difficulty maintaining equilibrium.

Swim bladder problems usually indicate another problem listed here. If you suspect swim-bladder problems in a fish, first check and treat it for other diseases as listed below:

  • Congenitally deformed bladder.
  • Cancer or tuberculosis in organs adjacent to the swim bladder.
  • Constipation.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Chilling or rapid fluctuations in temperature.
  • Serious parasitic infestation.
  • Serious bacterial infestation.

If you have eliminated other causes, make sure you are feeding the right food and make sure the fish is not constipated. Give it live food for awhile, or squashed frozen peas to ensure it is getting enough roughage. Also, check the temperature for your fish’s requirements and keep the temperature stable.

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationTumors
Tumors can be caused by a virus or a cancer, but most tumors are genetic. The genetic tumors may be caused from too much hybridization, common amongst professional breeders.
Practically all tumors are untreatable. If the fish is in distress, it should be destroyed.

Congenital Abnormalities
Abnormalities usually occur when professional breeders are trying to acquire certain strains in breeds. Most are beneficial abnormalities like albinism or extra finnage. But undesirable abnormalities crop up and are usually culled out by the breeder. However, such abnormalities sometimes happen in the amateur aquarium.

If the abnormality is not life threatening or degrades the quality of life, just leave it be and brag to your friends about the unusual inhabitant. Otherwise, the fish should be humanely destroyed.

Even in the best of aquariums and under the supervision of the most astute aquarists, injuries occur. Some times a bully fish is the culprit, or sharp decor. Sometimes there appears to be no explanation. As in the human world, accidents happen.

If the cause of the injury is obvious, it should be remedied. Then the injury should be treated. The injury should be touched with 2% Mercurochrome, which is supplied commercially. Also, depending on the fish’s tolerance to water conditions, keeping the fish in slightly acid water should speed recovery (pH 6.6). Minor injuries, if the water conditions are good, should just heal themselves.


Some fish are more susceptible to constipation than others. Usually fish with more compressed bodies like angelfish and silver dollars. Symptoms are loss of appetite and swelling of the body. The cause is almost always diet.

Usually, with a change of diet, the condition rights itself. But in stubborn cases try dried food that has been soaked in medicinal paraffin oil. Glycerol or castor oil may also be used. If the diet is changed on a regular basis and live foods offered occasionally this condition may never occur.