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Would You Take Your Fish to the Vet?

Published on January 12, 2016

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Yes, you should take your fish to the vet!

When I mention to people that one of my interests is in fish medicine, the most common response I get goes something like, “people take their pet fish to the vet?!”  In fact, many people do take their pet fish to see a veterinarian and there are many things a veterinarian can do to help keep your fish happy and healthy for longer.  Transporting your fish to the vet may seem overwhelming, but in fact is pretty simple – and we are happy to provide advice if you have any questions.

When should you take your fish to the vet?

There are many causes of sick fish that your veterinarian can help identify and treat.  Unfortunately, many different diseases in fish show themselves in similar ways so it can be difficult to figure out the cause of the disease with only obvious signs or symptoms.  With a thorough physical exam and diagnostic tests, a veterinarian can help distinguish between different illnesses that have similar symptoms.  Signs that you should seek veterinary care for your fish include:

  • Decreased interest in food
  • Fins clamped against the body
  • Abnormal position in the tank (either hiding when the fish is normally social or spending time in a different area of the tank)
  • Buoyancy issues (not swimming in a normal position)
  • Rapid gill movements
  • Flashing (rapidly turning to the side so that a “flash” of scales are seen)

Fish Care

One of the most common causes of sickness in fish is due to improper water quality. Fish are a diverse group of animals (there are over 27,000 different species of fish!) and each species has specific needs to help it thrive.  Different species can need different amounts of salt in the water, different pH levels, different temperatures, and many other factors.  Your veterinarian can help advise you on the most appropriate care requirements for the fish you are keeping.

Infectious Diseases

The second most common cause of sick fish is infectious disease.  Infections can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic in nature. They are so common that part of a complete physical exam in a fish involves looking for evidence of infectious disease through a fecal test, skin scraping, which involves scraping the scales and looking at the scraping under a microscope, and a gill and fin biopsy, where a sample of cells from the fish is taken and examined to determine if disease is present. Although some infections may lurk unnoticed in a tank for quite some time, the most common source of an infectious disease outbreak in a fish tank is adding a new member to the tank family.  This is why it is so important to keep any new fish in a separate tank for the first month.

If you have any questions regarding the health of your fish, please do not hesitate to contact us at (703) 591-3304.

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