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Prevention is Better than Cure

Prevention is Better than Cure

You love your fish, right? We believe that you wouldn't be doing this hobby if you didn't. We have a lot of questions regarding various fish diseases, particularly White Spot. So instead of dealing with each individual case seperately, we though we'd share this information in an article instead.

Here we will be covering good practise basics when handling fish, feeding them and taking care of them when disaster does strike. We will also provide some good advice for best practise in the keeping of fish and good-to-have equipment as well. 

Handling Fish

 

You've collected your fish from your fish store and are eagerly anticipating it going into your tank at home. You get home and acclimate the fish for about 45 minutes (just as the book says), add the fish to the tank and then you feed the fish. This is wrong. While we do feed our fish every day, we generally do not feed immediately after we receive a shipment, this will be delayed until the next day. It is not a good idea to do this and there are several reasons why:

  • Introducing a highly stressed animal into your aquarium is not only stressful for the new aquisition but also for the already-established fish in your aquarium. This stressful time for all is a golden opportunity for disease outbreak.

  • The established fish in your tank will readily eat and generally will out-compete the new fish for food resulting in an even further stressed fish. This is why quarantine is so essential, but not everybody has the necessary space and funds available to create a quarantine tank of adequate size.

To further elaborate on handling fish, especially new ones, stress can be caused by the following:

  • The fish needs to be caught in our tanks. This is already a stressful event. We take great caution to prevent as much stress as possible, but generally speaking, nets are a great concern for stress for the fish has no where to escape to. 

  • The fish is then placed in a see-through plastic bag with limited swimming space. 

  • By the time the fish arrives at your home it has already gone through quite an ordeal and there is still more to come. But fear not, because fishes abilities to cope with various changes and stresses never ceases to amaze us. They truly are some of the most amazing creatures on the planet. 

  • Acclimating a fish is indeed also stressful as you slowly add water from your tank to the bag. This change could yield varying values of pH, salinity, Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates. Hopefully, before you've started to add fish to your system you have made sure that your Ammonia and Nitrite levels are both at zero. 

  • There are varying schools of thought regarding the acclimation of fish, but the generally accepted one is a slow addition of water to the bag over a 45 - 60 minute timeframe. While there are debates as to which method is the best, the only common rule is to not let any of the water that the fish arrived in to get into your system. 

  • Now comes the time to release the fish. How to do that without getting any of the water into your system is entirely up to you, but most people tip the bag into a bucket throuugh a net and catch the fish this way. While there is nothing wrong with this, you do still add stress to the fish by again, catching it in a net and lifting into the open air. Even for a few seconds this will stress the fish.

  • Lastly, you drop the fish into the tank and want to view your new aquisition in all its splendour, leaving the lights on to do so. This, in our opinion is wrong. Switching the lights off is a good idea as this is less stressful for the fish. The other fish in your tank will have a harder time finding it and will be less likely to irritate it in those crucial 24 hours after acclimation. Switching the lights off for even two hours will greatly help the fish come to terms regarding its new home. Sometimes, however, a dark period of between 24 and 48 hours may be needed. 

So you can see how many parts of just this process can cause stress for fish, and that's not including the hellish ordeal they have to go through just to get to us at Dorry Pets. The following statement is particularly true for freshwater fish: Up to 80% of deaths in newly acclimated fish can be directly linked to pH shock. For a general reference, our tanks are kept between 6.5 and 7.0 for acidophiles and betwen 7.5 and 8.0 for alkilophiles such as Malawis. Our marine tanks are normally kept at between 8.2 and 8.4.

 

 

Feeding Fish

When it comes to feeding fish, we have heard and seen some serious and potentially-serious problems in the way people approach this. The most common problem is this: you take a bit if fish food and throw it into the system. How hard could feeding a fish be? Well, it's not always as simple as that. The amount of food you throw into your system should be determined by how many fish you have in that system. Less is often more in this case. Take less food and feed the system and slowly add more food if needed. The fish should eat all of the food your provide within 2 to 3 minutes. 

Another cause for concern is throwing flakes into the system. The problem with just doing this is that flakes will float for a long time before finally sinking. This leaves room for two problems.

  • Often the fish will eat the flakes from the water's surface, but in doing so gulp down atmospheric air as well. It doesn't always happen but it can cause concern for the fish keeper as this can easily result in air getting stuck in the fishes swimbladders which results in the fish losing bouyancy and failure to orientate themselves in the water column. This problem often sorts itself out within a few hours but, if it remains persistant, could kill the fish. 

  • Excess flakes will go down the overflow into the sump (if you have one) and may or may not get trapped there. If left alone for long enough, this excess waste will start to deteriorate your water quality and thus alter the water parameters that often result in stressful fish. 

Our recommendation is to take the flakes in your fingers and dip them into the water to allow the flakes to soak for a second. Releasing the flakes after that will allow the flakes to sink and distribute throughout the water column. This method also prevents the fish from taking in too much atmospheric air from feeding at the surface of the water. Some fish will eat from the surface, like Betta Splendens, Archer Fish and Arowanas. Please note, however, that these fish are adapted to eat from the surface. Most marine fish, however, do not eat from the surface of the ocean and for good reason too. Predatory fish are found all over the reefs and in the open water. For a fish to the leave the sanctity of the reef would be suicidal. 

Another good tip to follow is to not only feed flakes. Make a concotion of food like flakes, pellets and mix them with Seachem's Vitality. Add vegetable based food with protein based foods as well to ensure that your fish have a varied diet that consists of both. Even premixing flakes, pellets and frozen foods into a tub or similar container is recommended. Also, most fish are grazers and require several feedings over the course of a day. So prepare enough food that will allow for 2, 3 or even 4 feedings. Feeding small amounts a few times a day far exceeds the benefits of feeding a large amount of food only once a day. 

 

 

Taking Care of Already-Established Fish

So your fish are already established in your aquarium and you have little to no intention of adding any more. Your fish are healthy, but this alone does not guarantee a problem-free aquarium. Below are some ideas for you to prevent fish loss, even at these later stages. 

  • The use of products like Seachem Vitality will add amino acids and vitamins to their food, boosting their immune systems to prevent any diseases. Even adding Vitality once a week to their food will greatly benefit fish health and appearance. 

  • We have discovered the use of Seachem's medicinal products such as Metronidizole and Focus to aid in ridding fish of any bacteria or paratites. We have used this specific combination to great success in our tanks. Don't believe for a second that the fish we get from our suppliers come in brilliant condition. Sometimes we need to do a little bit extra to get them looking their best and disease free. You could use this even if your fish are not sick. Prevention, after all, is better than cure. 

  • Allow for one day in a week or a month where you do not feed your fish. In much the same way that humans fast or detox, this allows fish to flush their systems of impurities that could lead to problems in the future. 

  • When doing a water change for a marine aquarium, adjust the skimmer to overskim for about 30 mins before doing the water change. Once it is done, set it back to where it was. 

  • Also, consider overskimming the system for a few days after the addition of new fish and invertibrates. This will do better to rid the system of excess waste. 

  • Adding activated carbon like Seachem's Matrix Carbon once a month is highly beneficial for any aquarium. Carbon absorbs potentially harmful substances that may have found their way into your system. Not only will it absorb most of the unwanted chemicals in your tank, but it will also give your tank's water that crystal clear, polished look as well. 

So, taking all of the above into consideration, one can easily see why aquarium-keeping can become difficult and it is entirely understandable why so many people out there lose their interest in this hobby. We are confident, however, that by just sticking with some of these tips, you'll find keeping your fish healthy a little bit easier. Please don't misconstrue this information as a problem-free guide to fishkeeping. Every aquarium is different and each presents its own unique set of challenges. There are myriad things that could create problems in any aquarium and it would be virually impossible to write about each thing here. Aquariums were founded on trial and error and slowly we learn. So we encourage you to tell us about problems you've had in your tanks and how you solved them. In this way, we learn from each other. 

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Mail to: centurion@dorrypets.co.za
Phone: 012 653 0351
Address:   Edison Center Shop 3
c/o Jacaranda Str & Edison Crescent
Hennops Park, Centurion
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