AQUARIUM DISEASE PREVENTION;
Steps to a Healthy Aquarium & Sick Fish
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A Healthy Aquarium; Disease Prevention;
Disease prevention is probably one of the most important aspects of keeping a healthy aquarium, although a generalized statement.
I have kept up many aquariums (marine and freshwater) during my years of aquarium maintenance.
So over the years, I have experimented with many methods to lower disease incidence and increase fish longevity. Since I had many clients with dozens of aquarium under contract, which allowed me to utilize controlled tests to back up my observations in my literally 1000s of aquariums under my care over the years.
Taking measures to lower the chances of fish becoming sick is the best remedy for avoiding illness-related issues.
These diseases are often the result of poor water quality management which can be outright prevented.
It is also noteworthy that all the medications in the world will not cure a fish when poor water parameters and related issues exist in an aquarium; these issues MUST be corrected first!!
Here is the progression of how much of what I recommended came into full fruition:
My experience maintaining literally 10s of 1000s of aquariums gave me a unique perspective as compared to a pure hobbyist.
In fact, my largest client (the Bahooka Restaurant) was gained because an employee of the restaurant had an Arowana that was sick and none of the medications being advised to her by others were working.
I later utilized about a dozen aquariums in a room as well as the use of multiple aquariums at my now largest client (Coaster Co. of America).
More recently I have spent 1000s of hours in researching many of the results from my tests along with other's tests in order to provide a better explanation of these results. I do this to separate real fish keeping facts from anecdotal observations.
Back to the subject; during my time performing aquarium maintenance, I had to look at EVERY parameter and way to keep a healthy aquarium.
Reference: Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle; Raw Shrimp Cycling
Another example of one such myth is one about bio wheels.
More noteworthy myths exist to which I conducted many controlled tests and later research to explain my results.
This aspect of chemistry along with Redox, The Nitrogen Cycle, and the use of UV Sterilizer are among some of the most misunderstood aspects of aquarium keeping I have found based on conversations, emails, forum posts, etc.
What I found is that if ALL points of disease prevention are practiced; the healthier, more colorful, and long-living your fish will be.
I have had many forums criticize me for trying to scare aquarists into needing equipment such as "true" UV Sterilizers (not the UV clarifiers that are passed off as Sterilizers sold on Amazon & elsewhere) or for explaining the science in my aquarium chemistry article.
I personally have resisted adding disease charts because these proliferate all over the internet & elsewhere.
I recommend reading the companion article below about Medications/Treatments for more information that will help you make an educated choice when treatment of fish is required, rather than using a “dart on the wall” approach.
Also, I recommend reading some of the specific disease articles such as “Columnaris/ Saprolegnia” and many others found Here (or other disease specific articles found on the internet or elsewhere):
Please read on; Each step listed below is an important part of the Aquarium/Pond disease prevention puzzle (in particular steps 1-10)!
If what you want is a healthy successful aquarium, it is important that ALL steps are followed with the exception of step #13 (which is an important step if you are starting over after constant problems).
Please note that these steps ARE NOT in order of importance!!
 Cleanliness (Aquarium Cleaning):
Regular “quality” water changes are extremely important. By quality I mean to not over clean the water by taking fish out of the aquarium and then utilizing methods of "over-maintenance" such as washing the gravel (thus often compromising the nitrogen cycle).
The use of a recirculating cleaning filter such as a simple Sludge Remover Vacuum in between water changes can increase the efficiency of a cleaning where a tank has high amounts of organic mulm or has been through a period of disease exposure.
You also want to de-chlorinate the water so as to not add stress to the fish or environment.
Regular small incremental water changes are one of the best maintenance procedures you can perform (if not over done).
Here is a list of Reasons why Water Changes/Tank Maintenance on a regular basis is often important:
Please see this article for expanded information of these “Reasons”:
Another note to regular water changes; these are also important WHEN your fish are sick as well, being performed before each treatment.
Water changes (which includes a thorough gravel vacuuming) are also recommended after a disease cure has been reached, for cloudy water, or after many fishless cycling methods that will often leave a tank with high nitrates (this generally is not as much a problem with the “seasoned filter media cycling method”).
For more information about the Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle, please read this article:
Generally when fish are present, changes over 50% are not recommended as larger water changes can be difficult for fish to cope with large changes in mineralization, pH, etc. (which affect osmoregulation).
This again is where a Sludge Removing Vacuum can be a good idea to lower decomposing organic mulm that can affect water parameters and in turn lower fish disease resistance and even harbor disease pathogens such as Aeromonas.
When fish are not present or if it you believe a larger water change is necessary, as the risk of osmotic shock is lower than that of other issues that may kill the fish are present, a 100% water change may be performed.
However it should be noted that a 100% or even double 100% water changes is not always the answer to a problem with pathogens or similar (such as cloudy water) as even with complete water changes with thorough vacuuming will not remove every Ich tomite, nematode, bacterium, or Saprolegnia zoospore.
As an example of what I am talking about based on my tests/studies, here are a few examples of why water changes are not a 100% positive method of eradication:
Another risk in "too large" of a water change is pH stress if new water alters the pH more than .5 on the logarithmic pH scale. Similar would be oxidative stress from too large a change in Redox.
The above examples are NOT to say that water changes (in particular a double 100% water change) do not improve the above situations, it is just that they should not be depended upon to be fail safe.
On the flip side, these large changes may be a good start in taking care of a non lethal detritus worm infestation, bacterial cloud, or even after certain methods of fishless cycling where being 100% certain is either not necessary or less of a concern.
For more about Aquarium Cleaning, please see this article:
 Good Filtration/Circulation:
I ALWAYS recommend two (or more) filters for redundancy, and I never totally throw out all media, rather I rinse part of the filter media in used aquarium water so as to preserve beneficial (aerobic) bacteria for proper biological filtration (ammonia and nitrite removal).
In most aquariums I would have at least one Sponge Filter (preferably the AAP Hydro Sponge due to much higher efficiency over all others, especially Chinese knock offs now sold as just as good, but are actually NOT).
Sponge Pre Filters also are a great addition to HOB filters in particular (or canister filters) as they improve bio filtration, especially during filter media changes where by bacteria is preserved in part of the aquariums bio filter when a cartridge or other filter media in the Power Filter (HOB Filter) is changed out. However these do not really count as redundanacy since your HOB or canister filter powers these and if they fail, so does your pre-filter.
Keep in mind that the primary function of filters is to remove waste mechanically and biologically (& possibly chemically as well).
For more information about filters, please see this article:
One question I am often asked is “Can I have too much Filtration”, the answer is yes, however let me qualify this answer; as many Reef Keepers can attest to.
So the point is to counter your aerobic bio filtration (which removes ammonia & nitrites but results in ever increasing nitrates) with water changes, use of micron cleaning filters, live plants such as Hornwort, products such as Purigen, Matrix, or Algone as well as de-nitrifying filter methods such as the use of live rock crumbles (marine tanks only), volcanic rock or similar that allows for anaerobic de-nitrification while not producing Hydrogen Sulfides.
Please see this article for more about Nitrate reduction including methods specific to marine or freshwater aquariums:
Circulation goes hand in hand with filtration and often with more than one filter you will achieve good circulation and gas exchange (oxygen/CO2).
An air stone coupled with an air pump can also improve circulation (vertical in particular) and even some filtration via water movement in the aquarium that bathes aerobic bacteria that often cling to surface areas or in the case of live rock in marine aquariums simple water movement actually performs considerable filtration when properly applied by moving water around the live rock (please see the above filtration article).
It is noteworthy that low circulation combined with high temperatures can be lethal, especially if CO2 is being added to the aquarium.
As with filtration, the question can be asked is "Can I have to much circulation?"
Here are a few suggested aquarium turnover rates:
 Use Level One or Higher Capable Ultra Violet Sterilization:
True Level One UV sterilizers help prevent many bacterial, fungal, and protozoa diseases.
The picture to the right documents this ability of a level one UVC Sterilizer to consistently lower oxidative stress in an aquarium!!
I would also state that some of the statements that UV Sterilizers are useless are FALSE and NOT based on any real scientific evidence, as they DO help for all fish.
Product Resource: Level One UV Sterilizers for Aquarium or Pond
Many quality UV sterilizers are not all that expensive especially when the cost of your fish, your time, and often the medications that may not be used are considered (which can easily cost more than the UV Sterilizer).
This said, with the cut and paste nature of the Internet, many less than capable UV Clarifiers are sold as Sterilizers, when in fact they are not.
Another point to the use of UV Sterilizers is proper maintenance; often aquarium keepers install a UV Sterilizer and then forget about this device, however it is important to change your UV-C Bulb every six months for optimum performance!
For more information about UV Sterilization, please see this article:
Although no one step as outlined here in this article will solve all your aquatic problems, it is noteworthy that the use a properly installed UV Sterilizer is a one of the more proven steps to a healthy aquarium & fish longevity.
Testimonial from Everything-Aquatic Forum:
In the end, I certainly understand budget or whether it is even practical to place a True UV Sterilizer on a 2 gallon tank or Betta Bowl. However purchasing an economy UV Clairifer such as a Green Killing Machine is not the answer to budget, and for small aquariums/bowls, this is why this is advisably not the best place to keep fish in for more reasons than just being able to utilize a true UV Sterilizer.
 Do not over feed!
 Watch Water Chemistry:
Important parameters include:
While most aquarium keepers understand the importance of the nitrogen cycle and resulting high ammonia dangers of an aquarium that is not fully cycled (if at all), the importance of Calcium, Magnesium and other positive mineral ions (electrolytes) are an often forgotten component of proper aquarium health, however they are ESSENTIAL TOO!
Unfortunately since GH test kits do not differentiate between minerals such as calcium that have lost their positive electrical charge and those still positively charged, this is not always a reliable method of discerning this (a GH of 200 ppm may still be lacking the necessary positive mineral ions).
This is why it is important to regularly change water with ionized water (most tap and well water have adequate ionization, while many bottled, RO, DI, and soft water does not), as well the REGULAR addition of minerals via Wonder Shells, Mineral Blocks, AragaMight, SeaChem Replenish or other methods is extremely important. I have personally found that the Complete Wonder Shells are the most effective and simplest method to achieve this for freshwater aquariums (I have also used these or similar products for marine aquariums too).
*Please note that an aquarium is a closed environment and you cannot expect even with regular water changes, for mineral cations to not get depleted in this closed environment! This is another aspect many aquarium keepers miss, especially those keeping Amazon River or similar environment (biotope) fish.
For more information about this, please read these articles (which include links to many research articles to support my points):
As to pH, many aquarists will spend too much time chasing a “perfect” pH when a STABLE pH is more important, which I can speak to in the 1000s of aquariums I have maintained at different pH and other parameters. I have seen Discus (a fish which comes from waters often under 6.5) breed in aquariums with a pH above 7.5.
What I have found FAR MORE IMPORTANT is electrolytes and calcium (which will also affect a good Redox Potential) present than a so called perfect pH.
*Back to the Nitrogen cycle; High ammonia and nitrite levels make fish extremely susceptible to infection and will eventually kill the fish outright, of which maintaining an environment conducive to a healthy nitrogen cycle is important. This includes being aware of the dangers of certain medications and realizing that low pH environments are not always conducive to proper nitrification, although at a pH of 6.7, most "total ammonia" is actually NH4 ammonia, but this can change quickly with a any condition that suddenly spikes one's aquarium pH, including a water change resulting in a sudden and deadly conversion of non toxic NH4 to very toxic NH3!
Prolonged nitrate levels above 50 ppm will stunt fish growth and lower fish immunity. Nitrates (along with Redox) are not a problems for fish health in the short term as ammonia is, however the statement that nitrates are not poisonous is another aquarium keeping myth. Nitrates over 30 ppm have been shown to kill cephalopods and nitrates over 20 ppm (some studies show even lower) have been shown to cause blue baby syndrome in humans, so why would long term exposure to higher nitrates not be detrimental to fish?
*Although not essential, knowing about Aquarium Redox Balance is another tool for keeping disease free aquarium. The simplest way to look at this is if you have Redox reduction (around +125 to -200 mV), your aquarium water would be like having anti oxidant vitamins in it. I should be noted that if correct cleaning procedures are met (with healthy new water, as not all new water has a balanced Redox), regular mineral cations, and UV Sterilization, your Aquarium Redox is most likely to be fine.
For more, please read this article: “THE REDOX POTENTIAL IN AQUARIUMS (& PONDS) AND HOW IT RELATES TO AQUATIC HEALTH”
The bottom line is that while many aquarium keepers understand the importance of low ammonia, nitrite levels, many do not understand the importance of mineral ions and a stability of water buffering; I cannot emphasize more that your aquarium will never be 100% if your water parameters are not 100%.
For whatever reason, improper water management advice seems to run high among Betta keepers (please take this as constructive criticism if you own a Betta or visit a Betta forum), yet once these water parameters are corrected including the use of properly mineralized water, in most instances the health issues decline or cease all together.
Although this is an area where I have incomplete evidence (this does not mean the assumptions are wrong, just not totally proven), it is still an area where one should not short change your fish. I should also note that this IS a proven area when it comes to healthy anemones and coral in marine aquariums and plants in freshwater.
This starts with adequate lighting (the watts per gallon suggestion is outdated but still a good starting place) as per watts, lumens per watt and PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation).
Honestly at the price of these previously mentioned light, there is little reason not to have the best lighting for your aquarium possible.
The SHO & T5 lamps/fixtures are an another alternative, while the Premium AquaRay GroBeam LED Lights are second to none in the light energy produced and how close these lights duplicate natural sunlight.
UPDATE: From Redox Potential; As it Pertains to Aquariums
Please read this article for MUCH more about correct aquarium lighting:
I will also add as to lighting, although this is not as important a piece of the fish health puzzle as say Aquarium Cleaning/water changes, it is still a part especially when view as how many aspects of life can be traced back to the sun, even if indirectly.
 Too Much Care
This section may sound ridiculous, however in both observations of customers who took care of their own aquariums (admittedly anecdotal) and my own my scientific tests of service clients aquariums I have noted that when a tank is “over cared for” that the end result is a more problematic aquarium.
What I mean by this statement are these points where both in tests and observations can have detrimental effect on an aquarium environment:
 Fish Old Age, Genetics, Irreversible Tissue Damage, or When NOT to Treat:
My apologies ahead of time for this section, as while I may seem harsh, it would not be honest of me to not provide a bit of a reality check in the care of certain fish. This does not mean we do not love our finned friends and provide them the best care possible, but sometimes this best care may not include dumping loads of medications in the water.
This is a subject I have made many observations over the years in fish "doctor" calls, etc.
An analogy would be expecting a miracle cure for a 70 year old person that has smoked a carton of cigarettes every day since 16 and who has had both parents die before 70 to respond the same way a 30 year old who never smoked, and still has grandparents alive in their 80s.
One thing is certain though and that is if a fish is not responding after making a couple legitimate attempts to treat, it is best to cease treatment, at least for a week.
As per "Old Age", this can vary greatly from fish to fish with genetics and water temperature playing a role as well.
While this might be more subjective in determining that this is the cause, what is not subjective is what to do to keep a fish comfortable during his/her last weeks as possible prolong the fish' life in a reasonably comfortable way (a fish that is still feeding is a good gauge from my experience).
Essentially most of the points outlined in this article apply just as much or maybe even more so to a weak geriatric fish!
As per medication use in older, genetically weak, or damaged fish; certainly the use of proven stronger medication therapy is worth attempting, however you will be doing yourself and your fish a favor to save your money and cease treatment if no improvement is forthcoming after a strong medication use is attempted.
Often with weak or older fish using generally more mild but safer treatments or simply boosting natural fish resistance is the best rout to follow
In the end if the fish ceases to eat, euthanization may be the best recourse.
 When you do treat for disease:
Another point is a that often a weak, old, or constantly stressed fish (such a Mbuna Cichlid that is at the bottom of the “pecking order” that is constantly harassed), will often be a starting point for opportunistic infections and as hard as it may be to do, removal of these fish which includes putting the fish down (out of his/her misery) is often albeit sadly a must do!
Also note that all the medication in the world will not help if you have not followed the above steps and keep good water conditions.
With this in mind, I strongly urge readers to read this article about the basics of successful fish treatment:
 Here are a Medications/ Treatments that SHOULD be kept on hand BEFORE you need them in an Emergency along a link for a product resource and with some information about each:
Please also remember to support the provider of largest FREE Aquarium/Pond information library ANYWHERE on the Internet before you utilize this information to purchase at Amazon, eBay or elsewhere. The provider is American Aquarium Products who also owns the "Aquarium/Pond Answers" website as well as sponsoring the excellent "Fish Beginner" website.
For more information about Aquarium Medications, please see this article:
 Purchase Fish from a Reputable Source:
This cannot be emphasized more, yet is quite simple, if you continue to have problems with a current source from your fish, try another (maybe you can get a good recommendation from a friend, etc.) If you find a good source, stick with it, even if the price is higher.
This is one of the more basic points in disease prevention/aquarium success, yet is one I have found many aquarium keepers constantly ignore.
 When you purchase fish (Quarantine, baths, dips);
This is also an important step that both retailers and retail buyers of fish often miss the importance there-of.The quarantine or at least bath/dip method of acclimation can prevent the many ectoparasites that are often present on fish brought in by retailers from large fish farms. This includes Ich, Monogeneans & Trematode Flukes & many more.
There is also often a high incidence of internal parasites such as many Nematodes (worms) found in imported fish from these large fish farms. These are more difficult to prevent, although medicated diets (such as those containing Metronidazole) can be effective, as well medicated baths (with salt, Metronidazole, Methylene Blue) can help somewhat as well.
Please see this study that verifies the importance of Quarantines or Acclimation Baths/Dips:
Whether simple acclimation or more advanced acclimation is used, this process is important even if your source for fish were 100% disease free (which none is), as the stress of pH changes, ammonia build up in the shipping bag, and more can causes stresses that add considerably to the chances your new fish will come down with a disease, OR WORSE; become ground zero for a new disease outbreak that infects your entire tank!
Additional Marine Fish Acclimation Info:*Besides the above, I ALWAYS at minimum provide a 3-5 minute pure freshwater dip (acclimated with marine buffers to the correct pH/KH to prevent stress)
This is 90% effective for prevention of Cryptocaryon and Oodinium. Consider the more advanced quarantine below.
Better or for fish shipped over longer time periods (such as fish purchased online or from overseas breeders, etc.)
Best Acclimation from Fish Store
Obviously time in shipment, amount of food in the fish’ gut at time of shipment, amount of fish and air in the bag will all affect how stressed the fish will be upon arrival especially as per CO2, ammonia/nitrites.
I should note that Kordon makes a “breathable” shipping bag that had quite an internet “buzz” going at one time, however my interviews with several international shippers gives a mostly thumbs down to this product.
Here are a few points (+ or -) about this bag:+ The bags allow oxygen and CO2 exchange which also lowers pH shock upon arrival.
+ Lowers size of shipping container as NO air needs to be added to the bag.
- The bags rupture easily; many shippers have told me that bag ruptures are triple normal.
- They still do not aid with ammonia/nitrites
- If bags come in contact with each other, they do not work well and packing them for the inevitable rough handling of shipping is nearly impossible or at least very time consuming.
- The bags do poorly with multiple fish per bag, in part because the bags are designed to hold small amounts of water so that fish can come close to the sides of the bags which multiple fish per bags usually does not allow.
- Higher cost.
- The bottom line is that the shippers I asked reported HIGHER losses with these bags.
Do not get me wrong, I think these are a unique idea, especially for smaller individual shipments, however based on my discussions with real world shippers that do not work well.
Cross Contamination of Equipment
As an aquarium maintenance professional for a few decades, this was a major concern and should be for any aquarium keeper who has more than one aquarium.
Steps to take (All are Important):
QUARANTINE OR HOSPITAL TANKS
If possible a quarantine or baths are good disease transfer preventative steps.
For a quarantine tank I recommend as large and aquarium as space allows for this, generally at least a 10 gallon (although this is not always possible and even a sterile 5 gallon bucket or Rubbermaid type container can work if need be).
I recommend a bare tank with a seasoned high capacity Sponge Filter such as the AAP Hydro Sponge Filter. Running this sponge filter with an air pump is recommended over a power head water pump as the air pump method will provide a more gentle current that is generally less stressful to new fish.
A saltwater quarantine tank for prevention or treatment may be set using live rock and an air stone for bio filtration.
Product Resource: AAP HydroSponge Premium High Bio Capacity Aquarium Sponge Filters
It is important to note that when quarantine tanks/hospital tanks are employed that I have aquarists inadvertently cause more stress using this quarantine/hospital due to high ammonia/nitrite levels which is why I strongly recommend keeping a running sponge filter or similar for your quarantine/hospital tank.
For treatment I recommend a Medicated Wonder Shell OR (not “and”) Methylene Blue combined with a Malachite Green products such as ParaGuard (use MG at half dose). For delicate fish, the Medicated Wonder Shell would be my choice since medications within the shell are introduced more slowly and this product also helps maintain a better Redox balance (which helps with fish immunity).
Metronidazole can be added to either the MB/ParaGuard method or Wonder Shell for added Trematode, Nematode, Monogenean Parasite prevention.
Finally, it is important to cover this quarantine or hospital tank with a towel or similar so as to keep in near total darkness. What this achieves is to calm fish, lowering stress which in fact speeds recovery and/or allows for better disease prevention of new fish arrivals in quarantine.
I also have a theory as to why keeping a hospital tank in the dark often helps considerably (sometimes even main display aquarium); Fish instinctually hide and get stressed for their own fear of being harmed or even killed by other aquatic inhabitants. This then causes fish to often get even more sick from this stress. By calming the fish, both the medications and the fish' own natural defenses can work together for a more quick recovery or sometimes recovery itself when just using medications fails.
Often a quarantine tank is not possible or practical (as in my aquarium maintenance business). This is where a 30-45 minute bath is very useful for BOTH freshwater and saltwater. I would make sure to adjust pH so that there is no pH shock, especially for saltwater fish.
A bath can be performed in as little as 1 quart of water (or even less) or in a 1 gallon Rubbermaid (or similar) container or a small BARE tank (not gravel, décor though). I generally use a 1 quart pitcher with ½ teaspoon of salt and several drops of MB (I also recommend rubber gloves and old towels, rags, paper, etc spread around since Methylene Blue is messy and stains).
For freshwater I would add Methylene Blue at double normal tank treatment strength (as per bottle instructions) then add salt (NaCl) at about 1 teaspoon per gallon (Epsom Salts can also be uses at 1/4 teaspoon per gallon in baths used for treatment, especially in cases of bloat, water retention, selling, etc.)
The salt (regular salt; NaCl) can be increased for difficult treatments, especially with salt tolerant fish such as livebearers (it is best to slowly add dissolved salt to increase levels gently in salt amounts over 3 teaspoons per gallon, even in salt tolerant fish). Generally for most fish (even catfish based on University of Florida studies) 2 teaspoons per gallon can be tolerated for up to 30 minutes (many fish can tolerate 4 teaspoons per gallon), although if unsure about your fish’ tolerance, gradually add the salt via a dissolved solution during the first half of the bath.
However, if a larger fish is in poor condition and question arises that the fish is already in a severely weakened condition, a bath or better, a dip may be attempted (see below for more about “dips”)
Potassium Permanganate can be substituted for Methylene Blue for treatment baths for ailments such as Flukes, cloudy eyes, & some parasite and bacterial infections. HOWEVER for "pure" preventative baths, ammonia poisoning or unknown problems, Methylene Blue is by far the better choice.
See this article under Potassium Permanganate or Methylene Blue for more:
Another key point is that Methylene Blue can quite SAFELY be overdosed as it takes high amounts with long term exposure to be toxic, while Potassium Permanganate should never be overdosed.
For saltwater I would add Methylene Blue at double normal tank treatment strength the Dilute the saltwater to 1.015 to 1.009, making sure your pH stays up by adding any buffers necessary before adding fish (1.009 is a must for Cryptocaryon prevention/removal).
Medications in Baths; Another options to baths is (IN ADDITION to the salts and Methylene Blue, but NOT combined with Potassium Permanganate), you can safely add many antibiotics at double normal recommended dose for the 30 minute bath, this can both increase the effectiveness of the bath and the antibiotic added.
Medications that generally are good choices for baths are;* Metronidazole which is s good choice for intestinal infections since it is not readily absorbed through the intestines.
*AAP Bettamx which combines Methylene Bue, salts, vitamins, slime stimulants and anti-microbirals in an easy to to use capsule.
* Kanaplex OR Minocyline for Columnaris, Dropsy.
*Nitrofurazone for Columnaris, Aeromonas or Furunculosis
* Usnea is an experimental alternative that has similar properties to Metronidazole and can also be effective for some viruses and possibly tumors. I use about 1 tablespoon per 6 oz. preparation for a 1 quart bath.
Please see this article for more about Aquarium Medications: “Aquarium Medications/Treatments; How they work”
Dips and similarFor known problems (or sometimes as a preventative for new fish from questionable sources) a 5 minute dip is even more effective (albeit more stressful to the fish). In a dip, I again adjust pH and add Methylene Blue, however in the case of the marine fish, I will use a specific gravity of 1.001 for the saltwater fish and a specific gravity of 1.015 for the freshwater fish. This dip should be no less than 3 minutes and no more than 5 minutes to be effective.
A dip is often a better choice than a bath for a large or otherwise “spastic” fish due to the much shorter duration. As well a dip, albeit much more harsh than a bath (when used as described), may be a better choice for a very ill fish that may be “at deaths door” and the risks of a dip are low when compared to the fact of the probable imminent death of the fish. A dip is also a good choice for problems that stem from fluid build-up and poor osmotic function, such as many causes of “Pop-Eye”.
*Another similar idea is to directly swab, drop, or “paint” with a Q-Tip (or similar implement) Methylene Blue, Potassium Permanganate, or Hydrogen Peroxide onto a problem area such as Saprolegnia/fungus, Columnaris, or similar. This can be VERY effective for stubborn external infected areas on a fish.
Potassium Permanganate & Hydrogen Peroxide are generally more effective for the above noted infections, but extreme care should be exercised that Potassium Permanganate does not get into the gills. A quick bath in water with a 2-3 times dose of Prime or similar water conditioner can help if this were to occur by accident.
For an expanded article about Fish Baths & Dips, please see this article/post from Aquarium Answers:
A FEW HELPFUL CONVERSIONS
*Teaspoon = 4.929 mL
 Aquarium Sanitation/Sterilization (Using Bleach or Salt);
Sometimes it becomes necessary to sterilize an aquarium after a disease or storage. Assuming you have not stored any chemicals nearby (especially with acrylic tanks which tend to absorb more).
All you need to do to sterilize an aquarium for use is to clean it with a saltwater solution (about 1.035 specific gravity or about 2/3 cup salt per us gallon). You can let it sit for a few days or just rinse out your tank after about 30 minutes with freshwater. For marine tanks, let the tank sit for about 30 minutes with freshwater first. This is effective for cases of restarting an aquarium after storage or uncertain water conditions.
Bleach (household bleach):
In cases where parasites, bacteria, or other unknown pathogens have ravaged your aquarium (major disease outbreaks that have wiped out a tank), the above salt method may not be enough and use of chlorine/bleach sterilization (usually at an approximate ratio of 20/1; water/bleach).
I recommend running the tank, ALL filters, décor WITH this bleach solution for 24-48 hours (make sure ALL carbon and other chemical absorbents such resins are removed). This may create quite a foam up, especially if you have a lot of organics in your aquarium, so do not be alarmed by this.
When you use bleach, make sure to use a de-chlorinator such as Start Right and rinse VERY well chlorine breaks down rapidly and the sun can also be employed for bleach removal)
You can also use chlorine bleach (no perfumes) to clean rocks, ornaments prior to introduction to your aquarium or simply to disinfect or clean. Contrary to some online urban myths, this is perfectly safe as long as you leave it either in the sun for a few days or what I and my other Professional Aquarium Maintenance colleagues do; soak them in rinse water that contains a de-chlorinator that contains Sodium Thiosulfate or complexed hydrosulfite salts (such as Prime).
For more information about the truths of water conditioners/de-chlorinators, please read this article:
Or for more information about chlorine (bleach) and more, this article is helpful:
I have only used and tested this method a few times, so I cannot provide as good of information as I did with the previous methods (my tests were more anecdotal than controlled).
What I will say is than from my observations this method is the least effective of the three (again this is based on observations, not controlled tests). As well make sue to neutralize the vinegar with baking soda after finishing the sterilization process so as to not leave residual vinegar that although not nearly as harmful as bleach (which bleach is Very easy to neutralize with most common aquarium water conditioners), residual vinegar can still alter chemistry if it slowly leaches out from seams of the aquarium, and this can result in dangerous pH drops, especially in tanks with low buffers (KH).
NEVER use detergents for cleaning an aquarium.
Without trying to sound too modest, I rarely had outbreaks of even common diseases such as Ich in the 100s of aquariums in my care (discounting my LFS quarantine system), as I was VERY careful to take EVERY step in preventative care.
Keep in mind that just because someone states that they have raised many fish in a certain way using a certain procedure that is not scientifically based, does not make it so, especially if this aquarist performs most other aquatic husbandry procedures to the best known scientific standards, these will often over ride the one or two poor procedures.
A little background (from “Aquarium Information”); when I first started writing these articles for the internet (something many of my clients asked for years), I made them VERY basic. My early feedback was rather harsh as many said it was "nothing special", then some who knew me better said that although they were still better than many in content due to less anecdotal information, they did not come close to the delivering the information they knew I could and that my constant research should be reflected.
I will make my point via a quote as to why I feel it is so important that these articles and their links/resources be read in full and not in snips which can result in anecdotal or poor information dissemination;
"In the 1980s I was mentored by an Endocrinologist (MD) whom was also an avid fish keeper (mostly marine). He helped me much understand the ins and outs of medications and one time gave me an in depth medical article that he thought had useful information that could be applied to fish as well. Much of the information was not readily easy to understand for me, so I skipped over many sections and gleaned the points I wanted.
My point is, often it is easy and unfortunately ALL too common in this hobby to read just what we want, and many web sites and forums (especially social media aquarium keeping forums found on Facebook) are good at satisfying this basically lazy desire (of which I too have been guilty of), however this often leads to poor understandings of the subject or worse.
Another point for those who stick to the closely held anecdotal beliefs that so badly permeate the aquarium keeping hobby rather than read researched articles such as these here or at Aquarium/Pond Answers, is best summed up by another Mentor of mine, (Reggie) at an aquarium supply wholesaler in Southern California that finished his business career there told me this (after most of his decades of business in different industries specializing in making poorly managed businesses successful again):
"I have never seen a more dishonest and back stabbing business than the Aquarium industry".
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