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This is a great resource for answers, help, & advice to aquarium and pond questions not found elsewhere; With regular posts & article updates.
In our research; we use aquaculture, horticulture, medical, & university research to compile many of our articles.
Aquarium Answers Index
Our newest articles are:
How to Treat Sick Fish
Whirling Disease (Myxobolus cerebralis) in Fish
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance
Use of RO, DI, Softwater in Aquariums
- How do Fish Drink, OSMOTIC FUNCTION- This article deals with the often forgotten yet very important subject of aquatic osmoregulation.
This is not only one of my more in depth and most updated articles this subject, but probably the most in depth anywhere on the Internet as well.
- Use of RO, DI, Softwater in Aquariums- An article dealing with the subject of RO (reverse osmosis), DI (de-ionized), or softwater for aquariums. This is a subject that has a lot of miss-understanding surrounding it. As well this article cover subjects such why soft water via a home water softener should NEVER be for aquarium
A companion article to the above "How do Fish Drink, OSMOTIC FUNCTION" article.
This is a MUST READ article if you are thinking of investing in one of these systems or use softwater in your home for your aquarium
- Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance- This article looks into several methods for maintenance of reef aquarium chemistry.
The article focuses on calcium and alkalinity with a snapshot of minor/trace elements as well as the affect of methods on ionic balance upon reef chemistry such as increasing sodium.
- Hydrogen Sulfides- Hydrogen Sulfide production in anaerobic De-Nitrification for Aquarium/Pond Nitrate Removal.
- Salt in Freshwater Aquariums- The use of Sodium Chloride more commonly known as just plain salt seems to be a constant source of controversy among aquarists. This article deals with the known facts and myths about the use of salt in FW Aquariums.
- Aquarium Nitrates- Although less toxic than ammonia and nitrite; nitrate (NO3) as a nitrogen compound also causes stress at all levels making a fish’s organs work harder to adjust to it’s new environment, especially at levels higher than 100 ppm)
- Aquarium or Pond Bio-Load- This article looks at what the definition of an aquarium or pond bio load, As well this article examines what affects the bio load and its affects on water chemistry.
- TAP WATER USE IN AQUARIUM; From Chlorine and Chloramines to Phosphates -Regularly updated information about the use of tap water in aquariums as well as removal of toxic elements there in.
- AQUARIUM TEST KITS; use & importance- Aquarium/pond Test kit basics and what they should be used for as well as general water parameters to achieve with your test kits.
- Plaster of Paris in Ponds/ Aquariums- This article deals with poor chemical comparisons to mineral block (such as Wonder Shells) and Plaster of Paris (as perpetuated in some backward forum posts). Also the article contrasts the chemical composition of the ocean.
AQUARIUM DISEASES, TREATMENTS AND SIMILAR
- How To Treat Sick Fish- An article any fish keeper should read FIRST!.
The purpose of this article is not to provide any specific treatment regimen for the readers fish, rather to provide an outline that will provide a better chance for success over the typical "my fish are sick and what medications & how much should I dump into my aquarium" question.
- Fin/Tail Rot; Treatment and Prevention in Bettas & ALL Fish (including Arowanas)- "Fin Rot" is a generic term that does not define any one disease, rather there are many causes of this Symptom; of which Fin Rot is better described as a symptom with more than one cause.
This is a practical article for ANY fish one considers to have "Fin Rot" regardless of whether or not the fish is a Betta.
- TB in Fish; Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
A look a rare but deadly and frustrating infection of fish; Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.
CLEAR Identification, treatment, & prevention is given, as well as some excellent resources for further information.
- Fish Eye Infections; Streptococcus Gram Positive Bacterial Infections in Aquarium -As well as common eye infections, This article deal with the most common gram positive bacterial infection affecting fish; Streptococcus iniae, and agalactiae as well as closely related bacterial groups; Lactococcus, Enterococcus , and Vagococcus.
- Fish Baths, Dips, Swabs- Fish Baths/Dips for supplemental (& even primary) treatment of Bacterial infections, wounds, sores, Fungus (Saprolegnia), parasite infestations, poisoning & more.
- HITH; Hole in the Head Disease in Fish- Information that is regularly updated about this often controversial disease/syndrome that afflicts Cichlids in particular.
- Whirling Disease (Myxobolus cerebralis) in Fish - Similar to Ichthyophonus in fish symptoms and similar in that this is spread in cooler waters.
- Ichthyophonus in fish- Ichthyophonus (Ichthyphonus) fungi are one of the more devastating aquarium diseases. It is nearly impossible to treat, however it is easier to prevent.
- Whirling Disease (Myxobolus cerebralis) in Fish- Similar symptoms to the symptoms of Ichthyophonus (Ichthyphonus) fungi.
Whirling disease is a disease of freshwater fish caused by the myxozoan parasite Myxobolus cerebralis. This infection/infestation is most commonly found in the wild found in the salmonid family of fish.
What is noteworthy mostly for prevention is that the parasite has two hosts — the fish itself and a freshwater oligochaete worm, popularly known as the Tubifex tubifex..
- Fish Parasites, Detritus Worms, Anchor Worms - Information about Trematodes, Nematodes, & Anchor Worms in Fish as well as Detritus Worms, planaria, and feeding worms such as Grindal Worms.
- Angelfish Virus, Aids- Although not as common as in the 1990s, this viral infection can devastate an angelfish population (& potentially other fish).
- NEON TETRA DISEASE; Identification, Prevention and Possible Treatment -Information about a fish disease that is often is often a catch all name for diseases of Neon Tetras specifically and many other fish as well.
- FRESHWATER VELVET (Piscinoodinium pillulare) & Costia (Ichtyobodo)- Identification, Prevention, and Treatment of these two somewhat less common diseases.
- Molly Disease, Livebearer, Disease, Shimmies- Cause and treatment of this common problem that is not technically a disease, rather is caused by poor water chemistry.
- Lateral Line in Fish - Information about Head and Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE) which affects primarily marine fish.
- DROPSY in Fish -prevention, causes, and possible treatment of this malady that is often a symptom of other problems.
- Fish Anatomy, Fin Identification- This Aquarium Answers Post is simply for Fish Fin and Fish Anatomy identification.
- Molly Disease, Care of Mollies- Molly Disease ("Shimmies") as well as basics and water parameters for Keeping the popular molly fish in aquariums, including the importance of GH of salt.
- USNEA; USING USNIC ACID AS A FISH REMEDY -How Usnic acid and Mucilage which are both found in Usnea lichen can be used as effective alternative aquarium and pond fish treatments.
AQUARIUM FILTER MEDIA, CONDITIONERS, SIMILAR
- Aquarium & Pond Filter Media- In this article I will discus three basic filter media types and subtypes of these.
These filter media types are Mechanical (such as Micron), Biological (Such as Ceramic Bio Media), and Chemical (such as Carbon).
- AQUARIUM (& Pond) WATER CONDITIONERS - their ingredients (where available), what chemical functions they perform and uses based on my opinions of each based on using these products in a professional capacity as well as tests and available research.
- Activated Carbon for Aquarium or Pond- The pros and cons of carbon use; what carbon can and cannot remove and much more.
AQUARIUM & POND FILTERS, PUMPS, LIGHTING & OTHER EQUIPMENT
- PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting
PUR stands for Photosynthetically Useable Radiation. It is also known as "useful light energy". This is more important for determining your aquarium light source than PAR.
- Lighting Theory of a Planted Aquarium- RQE, PFY, PAS, & PUR The debate of what light energy is "useable" for plant photosynthesis or what's Photosynthesically Usable Radiation for planted and coral aquariums.
- HEAD PRESSURE in Aquarium and Pond Water Pumps
An in depth article explaining the affect of head pressure on water flow in aquariums and ponds. This is a must read for those attempting to determine the best fit for their UV Sterilizer, water features, and over all water flow scheme for their aquarium or pond.
- Marine (Saltwater) Aquarium Protein Skimmers & Ozone Generators- Useful opinions about Protein Skimmers & Ozonizers based on my use and other aquarium maintenance professionals experience.
This article is based on "hands-on experience".
- Aquarium and Pond Pump, Power Head Review- Useful opinions about pumps (power head, propeller, etc.) based on mine and other aquarium maintenance professionals experience.
This article is based on "hands-on experience", however it is still a more subjective article as with the article above
- AQUARIUM HEATERS- Types of Aquarium Heaters, how they work, temperature guide for selecting heaters, as well general care/information.
- POND VEGGIE (PLANT FILTERS)- The Basic types of Veggie Filters and how to install them, based on many years experience using this method (long before it became a fad).
- Do Bio Wheels Really Work- An excellent fact based study of the often over hyped Bio Wheel used for biological aquarium filtration.
FISH CARE, HELP, BASICS, ALGAE & MORE
- Basics of Shipping Fish- Tips and basics about shipping, Problems to be aware of, Methods and products.
- Aquarium Size, Fish Stunting- This article deals with often controversial subject where anecdotal information is most often treated as facts, such as the 1 inch per gallon rule. Regularly updated!
- Aquarium Moving/ Power Failures- Opinions and methods for Aquarium moving based o many years experience moving aquariums both short and long distance. This article has some information in common with the Fish Shipping article.
- AQUARIUM ALGAE; Removal, Control- Information about these algae: Brown Diatom Algae, Common Green Algae, Thread/ Hair Algae, Marine Hair Algae, BBA/Black Brush Algae/Black Beard Algae/Red Algae, Cyanobacteria (Blue Green Algae).
- Blue Green Algae in Aquariums (Cyanobacteria)- more in depth information that is regularly updated about Cyanobacteria.
Not to be confused with Spirulina Algae such as found in Spirulina 20
- Betta Fish Wild Habitat & More - information about the natural habitat of the common Bettas and how it can relate to their care domestically.
- SEXING FISH -Basic information about sexing some freshwater fish for beginners (not an article for experts.
- STARFISH; Chocolate Chip, Knobby and Fromia.
- Octopus as Aquarium Pets
- Cyclops, Are these freshwater copepods dangerous in an Aquarium- Information about Cyclops and also Predatory Damselfly larvae that occasionally find their way into aquariums and especially ponds.
GENERAL AQUARIUM/ POND CARE INFORMATION
- AQUARIUM SILICONE APPLICATION; Aquarium Repair, Construction- What Silicone to use and what not to use; Also DIY Aquarium Glass Thickness recommendations, repair video, and more.
- Aquarium Gravel/Substrate; including pictures - Aquatic substrate recommendations/basics.
As I also note at Aquarium & Pond Information although some of these articles/posts are more basic in nature, many are more in depth and require a thorough reading to fully understand and picking out snips without reading the full article may yield incomplete information.
A little background; 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.
Many experts in SEO told me similar as well. So now, although some of the articles are still more basic and not all that unique, most however will have well researched information you will not find elsewhere in one location and this information is only best understood when read in full.
I will make my point as to why I feel it is so important that these articles 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 though 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.
Later I was making some points to the Dr. and he stopped me and said I was incorrect and if I had read the article in full, to which I replied, 'no'. He then said that there is no way I could understand this article without reading it in full and applying ALL the information contained there in".
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 (such as about.com) 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.
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Other Recommended Reference/Product Sites
The article below is a MUST READ for anyone interested in moving from basic aquarium keeping to more advanced aquarium keeping, including better improved Redox Balance:
Aquarium & Pond 'TRUE' UV Sterilizer Use
Freshwater Aquarium Care
Aquarium Light Information
This is THE article for in-depth, researched, and regularly updated information on the subject of aquarium lighting; a MUST READ!
POND CARE INFORMATION; for a "Clear Pond"
FISH AS PETS AQUATIC NEWS
Fish as Pets with articles & commentary of Interest to the Aquarium Hobby
Including these MUST READ articles:
*PUR or RQE, YouTube Video Fail- Guide to lighting a planted tank
*Common Aquarium Keeping Myths
*EcoTech Radion Versus TMC Aqua Ray HO LED Aquarium Lights
*Reef Central; Aquarium UV Sterilizer Hall of Shame
Fish Diseases | How to Treat Sick Fish
By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 35+ years experience
The purpose of this article is not to provide any specific treatment regimen for the readers fish, rather to provide an outline that will provide a better chance for success over the typical "my fish are sick and what medications & how much should I dump into my aquarium" question.
Obviously the starting place is aquarium disease prevention, but many readers will be too late to this aspect of fish husbandry, which is the point of this particular article.
A good article for prevention of aquarium disease is this one:
"Aquarium Disease Prevention; Proven Steps for a Healthy Aquarium"
Every single step in the above article should be followed to a T and I can guarantee that the incidence of disease will go down greatly.
Hopefully readers will acquaint themselves with this above referenced article which will in part form a basis for this article as I go forward.
As well this article is another good read before one goes forward with any fish treatment:
"Aquarium Medications; Part 1"
I cannot emphasize more that many if not most fish diseases, especially bacterial or fungal in nature (including secondary infections to parasitic infestations) have a background issue. Failure to eliminate this background issue will often result in failure of treatment.
Often the "background issue" is more than half the problem, so a good part of the treatment plan is REMOVING this background issue!!
A good analogy I like to use as to why it is so important to eliminate these issues is this:
"Not correcting causes or background issues is akin to standing in a burning building asking for a treatment for burns, while not leaving the burning building"
Unfortunately in my dealing with questions of what one should treat for a given set of symptoms, I have found that for the majority of these questions, the person asking the question either only addresses underlying issues in part or not at all.
Often this is not because the person does not want to, but they simply do not have the means or the availability for whatever reason to do so.
I would also point out, and while this may seem a bit harsh, it is still the reality, and that is this is still not a valid excuse to continue to ask for alternative treatments or complain to persons such as myself that the treatment failed when proper procedures have not been completely followed.
I personally spend a copious amount of time writing articles, answering questions, or even paying staff to help for free, but please remember that one needs to obviously follow the medication course prescribed, but just as importantly if not more so, deal with ALL underlying causes to a given fish illness problem. So repeatedly going in circles when not following exactly advice given is in my opinion disrespectful to the person who is trying to help you with your fish illness issue.
When you are asking others for help, whether it be online or at your local fish store, make sure you ALWAYS provide background first; including ALL water parameters (mineral Cations too), filtration, maintenance, feeding, & fish kept. Past fish treatment history is important too.
As an analogy; your personal Doctor always has your history, takes your vital statistics, etc., so why should we expect those we are asking to help us with our sick fish to guess, especially when one considers we often are asking others to help us sight unseen and with far less tools at our disposal than a Doctor would have?
Here first are basic procedures to check off before treating any fish sickness issue:
- Make sure ALL water parameters are as they should be. This includes well known and obvious parameters as well as less obvious parameters. This is part of the "background issues I mentioned earlier.
- Ammonia; under .5 ppm (best .25 or less)
- Ph; stable within the generally accepted target range of the fish to be kept (if the target range is 6.5 to 7.5, stable at any number there-in)
- KH; this too can vary depending upon fish kept, but generally anywhere from 50 ppm to 150 ppm
- Flow and oxygen levels; most persons do not have an oxygen test kit, so having a water flow turnover rate of 5 times for an average non-planted freshwater aquarium usually will indicate adequate oxygen levels
- Bio Load & Decomposition & DOC; a high bio load, often compounded by decomposition of organic and high dissolved organic compounds will often be a breeding ground got Aeromonas and Saprolegnia. Fixing this is as important as any treatment regimen.
Further Reading; Bio Load in Aquarium or Pond
- Redox and Mineral Cations; this is an aspect of fish care that continued research both in and out of the hobby/industry is proving to be key.
In diseases such as Columnaris, having a less than optimum Redox whether it be the electromagnetism of the water, missing mineral Cations, low water rH, or simply too many free radicals (oxidizers) making for an unbalanced Redox; this is a major aspect in whether you will be successful in treating or just as importantly not have this disease present in the first place (since it is an opportunistic infection).
Other diseases such as HLLE have a direct relation to Redox (or a Redox quality/balance measurement called Relative Hydrogen aka rH). In freshwater, rH should be 23 to 26, otherwise your aquarium may not be as conducive to good health as it could be.
Further Reading; Aquarium Redox
- Follow ALL professional based treatment regimens when you treat for a disease.
This includes full dose of medications for the recommended days, any baths, swabs or similar if required, increased or decreased water temperatures if required, and use of sodium chloride salt if required (as an example, the last two are required for Columnaris treatment).
This also includes synergistic combinations such as Kanamycin WITH Nitrofurazone for Columnaris and other infections. Using just one or the other as per many professional recommendations is a recipe for failure.
Another common medication mistake is using "first aid" treatments such as Melafix for full blown infections, this is analogous to using Neosporin for a staff infection in a human.
In other words, if a fish bath, dip, or bare isolation/hospital tank is called for in the treatment regimen, this should be used, otherwise do not expect optimum results.
Aquarium Answers article about Fish Baths
- Follow ALL recommended fish husbandry aspects of fish care, including water changes, good filtration (including true germicidal filtration), proper mineralization, feeding, even optimal tank size, tank mates and places to hide from aggressive tank mates (example would be a small Mbuna/African Cichlid aquarium with little rock structures for weaker/submissive fish to escape, which can result in stressor that allow a disease such as Columnaris to get a foothold and then even spread to stronger fish in this aquarium).
I have addressed this in part in the overview section of this article, but since optimal aquarium conditions are one of the key aspects of most ALL fish disease treatments, I will note this again and expand a little more on it.
A common line I hear from well meaning aquarium keepers or even well meaning persons giving advice is: "Yes, my water conditions are good, I feed a good fish food, & I used what you stated".
Then I dig deeper and I find out that only part of a treatment is followed, they did not maintain a stable KH, proper mineralization and Redox, and what they assumed was a good fish food is what the person at PetsMart told them was best or they purchased from a large online marketer such as Amazon.
Even if a person has a UV Sterilizer, it often turns out to be just a Clarifier such as a "Green Killing Machine" or the many HOB UV filters they purchased on Amazon that might be great for green water, but does little to address disease prevention.
I cannot emphasize more the reading of these articles:
*"Aquarium Disease Prevention; Proven Steps for a Healthy Aquarium"
*"Aquarium Redox Balance"
*"Aquarium UV Sterilization; Facts & Information"
- Consider an online fish care forum that is based on honest researched information, healthy interaction/discussion; and with members that are NOT about popularity and insulting others.
Here are our suggestions (for sick fish care & prevention):
Next, here are causes for failure of any fish illness treatment regimen:
- My first thought here is to point out that even a Medical Doctor with her/his years of college and later internship and experience along with the medical equipment and test at her/his disposal cannot cure everything, but not addressing underlying issues only complicates any human medical treatment further.
An analogy here is a patient who asks the doctor why he/she had a heart attack at only 42 years old, but fails to recognize the doctors advice that he/she is obese and needs to stop eating a Big Mac burger for breakfast, lunch, & dinner.
The other aspect of this bullet point is even is you were to follow everything correctly, have all the resources possible, and remove underlying causes; success is NEVER guaranteed.
- Failure to follow medication treatment regimen or substitutions for what ever reason.
This is very common cause of failure.
Examples include using just Kanamycin when the synergistic blend of Kanamycin and Nitrofurazone are called for to treat infections such as Columnaris. Either one or the other will generally result in failure!
Or another example is if a Medicated Wonder shell is needed in addition to the above noted combination example to lower oxidative stress for a serious multi-pathogen or unknown issue, the chance of success on a likely difficult situation will be lower.
Reference: "Aquarium Medications; Part 1"
- Genetics & poor breeding.
This is more common than many know, especially with fish such as Betta and goldfish which are heavily inbred for certain attributes with fish physiology be damned, thus resulting in very genetically weak fish (think about how many pedigree dogs are also over bred).
- Poor care such as over crowding with resulting high ammonia exposure at some time in the life of the fish resulting in permanent organ damage that makes a fish susceptible to disease and treatment difficult later in life.
This is common with carnival goldfish, but again common with Bettas in how they are shipped and kept right up to their purchase.
As noted in the first section, as to following ALL optimal husbandry practices, when this is not done this can make a treatment less effective or not effective at all.
Often the result is that a more mild treatment regimen that WOULD WORK IN OPTIMAL CONDITIONS will not work, while a strong, sometimes harsh treatment, still will work. Then anecdotal observations that treatment A does not work while treatment B does, when in reality using more scientific method, we find this observation is not true by virtue that that treatment A was not given a fair chance to succeed via better fish husbandry standards.
I have seen this incorrect observation in social media as per ParaGuard versus Quick Cure for Ich treatment or General Cure versus Levamisol for worm treatments (the first in each example representing the more mild treatment).
- Poor Diet.
This also does not need to be a current poor diet, it can be a past poor diet (and in fact generally is since diet issues rarely show up immediately).
Diet issues include renal (Kidney) failure due to incorrect or poorly optimized protein levels, too low fiber, and fatty liver disease from too high of energy levels again instead of optimum levels (optimum is 280 energy points).
These are unfortunately quite common as even most of the best of fish food diets that use top notch ingredients do NOT optimize! This is even a bigger problem with most common fish foods fed.
A few examples as per exceeding optimum energy levels are: New Life Spectrum at 329, Cobalt Fish Foods at 420, and Wardleys' at a whopping 501 energy points!
Unfortunately once the fish is sick due to past poor diets, even improved diets often cannot correct the issue, thus resulting in failure of treatment. This is especially true for Dropsy and other causes of bloating and even for Columnaris.
Reference: Fish Nutrition
Recommended Fish Food:
AAP Custom Premium Optimized Fish Food
Other Recommended Reference & Product Sites
AAP Hydro Sponge Filters
THE PREMIUM Aquarium Sponge Filter with as much as 5 TIMES the bio and mechanical capacity of commonly sold Chinese knock offs!!
Definitely worth the extra $1-3
UV Replacement Lamps/Bulbs; Aquarium or Pond
For TRUE High Output, Hot Cathode, Low Pressure UVC Germicidal Bulbs, for aquarium or pond
NilocG High Growth Liquid Plant Ferts
NilocG Aquatics PROFESSIONAL GRADE planted aquarium liquid fertilizer products. Products designed for persons who want to have a more advanced planted aquarium without the hassles need for a degree in science to do so. Meant for use in "The Estimative Index of Dosing, or No Need for Test Kits" method of planted aquarium aquascaping. Products work for both low light and high light planted aquariums, just different dosages.
PUR or RQE, YouTube Video Fail- Guide to lighting a planted tank
AquaRay Ultra Premium Aquarium LED Lights
Highest in PUR, The ONLY LED with an IP67 rating or higher for water proofing along with a full 5 year warranty to back them up! Why purchase brands without this rating such as the Finnex, Current, or Fluval only to be essentially placing an electronic light emitting device over your humid aquarium with little or no guarantee? In the long term, you WILL PAT MORE!
TMC V2 RO Filter systems; the very best you can buy with TDS meter (far superior to 4 stage RO/DI systems sold via Bulk Reef Supply, Amazon, or eBay that use the inferior cellulose triacetate membrane made by Dow):
Reverse Osmosis Aquarium Water Filters; with TDS Meter
Hanna Instruments Aquarium Testers & Meters; For Freshwater and Saltwater
Hanna instruments is a global manufacturer of analytical instrumentation. Hanna offers multi-parameter bench top portable meters and testers.