Category Archives: Cases & Consults

The Ultimate House Call Kit

The Ultimate House Call Kit

I think it would be cool to have a house-call Dodge van, shaped just like a fish, and maybe five porters to carry my gear, but I travel, and I need my gear to be SMALL, so I put together this kit to use for seminars, pond calls, pet shop visits and trips to the wholesaler. It has just about everything I’d need except for ‘general-anesthetic-surgery’.

Minor surgeries, sure.

The kit is based in a box by Pelican. It's got two latches. They make a larger box with four latches but you just don't need a box that big.

Inside the kit are:

Test kit strips
USB Camera for microscope
Syringes and needles
A power outlet divider
A desktop lamp
My pointer
My thermometer
My oil of cloves
Slides and coverslips
My Swift FM-31 Field Scope (tiny!!!)
Nitrile exam gloves
Practice slides of Frog's Liver
Ziploc bags for samples, holding fish and mixing OOC

Here's the Swift FM-31 set up with the USB Camera mounted onto the eyepiece. I mean, you CAN use the scope without a USB camera but it's murder on your back perching over the thing. The USB camera attaches to your computer with a simple USB interface.

This one's smaller and the one I'm getting this year:

In case light is scarce, I have this little desktop gooseneck lamp for pinpoint lighting on what I'm doing. If the wet lab is in a darkened room, I can light up my work area without illuminating the front row lol. I leave the light in the box until or unless I need it.

This is an infra-red thermometer, which is used in the food industry to check temperatures on serving trays. You can check water temperature without contaminating a thermometer. Or bending over ha ha ha ha.

When you're teaching someone how to use a microscope, I like to have a box of "practice slides" which are made professionally and feature something like "frog's liver' and a person can truly SEE that they're adjusting the scope. When you start out looking at water, with bubbles in it; it's difficult to tell if you're in focus or not. Maybe the scope's broken?

These three bottles have been replaced by Tetra's new "EasyStrips Complete 7-in-1" test strips. They got them down to two sleeves sold in the same kit. Nice. I'll bring these to the seminar in case someone steals a can of strips, it wasn't expensive lol

You will think of a hundred uses for these on a pond call. But mainly I can hold a small fish for injection through the bag, and I can mix up an emulsion of Oil of Cloves without having to carry a jar with me! I can also collect a sample of water for later if I need to.

What is “Flashing” in Koi or Pond Fish?

What is “Flashing” in Koi or Pond Fish?

“Flashing” is basically just a fish that is “scratching” itself on the pond / tank bottom, or ornamentation. It USUALLY doesn’t mean anything, unless it’s “more and more common” or it’s happening at least hourly. There are lots of causes of flashing koi illuminated here (click).

Just some images (that may load slowly) of koi flashing:

flashing in koi

What is “Flashing” in Koi or Pond Fish?

koi itching

Salt Dosing Journal for Ich or White Spot – A Case

Salt is the greatest bath treatment of all time. This would have to be one of the single, uncontested assertions made in this website. Salt is both tonic to fish and toxic to parasite. It’s got a wide spectrum encompassing most of the ciliated protozoans and it can offset the negative effects of some water quality derangements such as Nitrite accumulation.

Salt can occur in numerous forms. The first salt I ever used was from the pet shop and cost quite a bit. It worked very well. It must have been very special. Perhaps distilled from the tears of Hawaiian orphans.

Many folks have used Kosher Salt, Water Softener salts, “Solar” salt, rock salt, Sea Salt, Ice Cream Salt, Synthetic Reef Salt (Instant Ocean®) Non-mineralized Salt blocks for cows, and table salt. Results with all of these have been excellent with the following notes: Sea Salt is rich in carbonates and will raise Total Alkalinity and pH which may be undesirable if there is a significant Ammonia accumulation or your fish are adapted to an acidic pH. Cow Salt Blocks occur in a mineralized format, rich in Magnesium and other minerals. You’ll kill your fish unless the salt lick is 99.9% pure salt without trace minerals. Make sure the label indicates the salt is not trace mineralized and that the salt is 99.97% NaCl.

No salt should contain Yellow Prussiate of Soda, or YPS. Another anti-caking agent contains cyanuric acid. Avoid this as well. The salt should contain no Iodine because while this will have no negative effect on the fish, it may damage beneficial bacteria.

Why is Iodine bad? Well, a hundred years ago when I first started using salt, I’d add it “all at once” and that caused osmotic ‘shock’ to the nitrifying bacteria and we’d see a pulse in nitrogen. I assumed it was the Iodine. That’s what I published. That misinformation’s hanging around to this day. My bad. Sorry.

Why is Yellow Prussiate of Soda “Bad?” Well, I didn’t know where that got started. I just read that. And a LOT of the time, the YPS didn’t matter so I started to think, “Ehhh who cares?”   but then something happened up in Tennessee that made me consult a chemist. A mess of fish got sicker and sicker with YPS salt being used. Why?

It turns out that YPS (Yellow Prussiate of Soda) turns into “Prussic Acid” in water. And normally that gets neutralized by carbonates in the water. But if there aren’t enough carbonates, the pH becomes acidic and can hurt the fish. So what I learned was: In hard water, YPS Salt is fine. In soft, low carbonate rich water, YPS can burn the fish. Or crash the pH.

On the other hand, the desiccant Sodium Alumino-silicate is just fine.

Salt for use against ick or ich white spot
Salt for use against ick or ich white spot

Salt Dosing Journal for Ich or White Spot

Indications for the use of salt include the elimination of parasitisms caused by vulnerable ciliated protozoan parasites, curbing the absorption of Nitrite, and reducing the osmotic pressure exerted by fresh water on any hole in the skin or gill.

Salt also makes popcorn taste great, and it melts the snow on your driveway in winter.

Dosing salt is usually simple.

The dose for 0.3% solutions is 1 tablespoon per gallon. This is the amount used for most protozoan parasitisms

The dose for 0.6% solutions is 2 tablespoons per gallon. This is the dose for salt resistant Trichodina and Costia. Dosing variations exist based on live plants, volume of the water, what parasite is targeted and what species of fish are involved.

The dose for 0.9% solutions (common in German texts) is 3 tablespoons per gallon.

First, you must remove any live plants of value from the aquarium.

  1. Perform a significant percentage water change before starting, because you will want to avoid water changes if possible after salting in order to maintain a stable concentration.
  2. At the zero hour” add one third of the total dose after pre-dissolving it in a small bucket of water.
  3. Wait twelve hours while the fish acclimate.
  4. Then apply the second ‘third’ of the salt dose, after pre-dissolving it.
  5. Twelve hours after that, you’ll apply the last ‘third’ of the total dose. The whole amount has been added over twenty four hours, and there will be nominal effect on the fish or filter.

Let’s work as example to keep folks out of trouble:

This fellow, whose name is Vino DePascagliatelli (he’s fictitious but the name is fun to say fast) has a fifty-five gallon fish tank full of fine Chinese Ranchu. (He never went for those big ugly-headed Orandas). Anyway, his fish break with Ich because he bought a new fish from an otherwise reputable dealer and did not quarantine it. The Ich is obvious because the fish have white spots all over their fins and bodies. So he checks out this book and quickly figures up his total dose of salt.

0.3% represents one tablespoon per gallon.

He has a fifty-five gallon tank and the fish are stable, so he figures the dose into “thirds” for gradual addition. That would be 18.3 tablespoons every twelve hours.

It’s ten o’clock by the time he gets home with the salt. He bought So-Lo® brand rock salt with Yellow Prussiate of Soda. He’s just about to burn his fish when his wife notices it: “Vino, Vino!! Oh my Gawd, Vino lookit he-ah! Lookie! Doc Johnsin’s book says not ta’ use no salt wit Yella’ Prussiate uh Soda in it!”

Vino grabs his receipt and runs down to the local mart, and exchanges the salt for Dandy® brand, which has Sodium Alumino-silicate as its anti-caking agent. This is fine.

He gets home just in time to meet his wife at the door. She’s going to get lunch with her friend Maria, and she still has curlers still in her hair.

He checks his watch. It’s noon. Vino adds 18 tablespoons of salt. When it dissolves it leaves a little sand on the glass bottom of his tank. No big deal.

“Docta Johnson din’t say nuttin’ ’bout no sand bein’ left behind in da tank”. He’s a little miffed but he ignores it, as he should.

Twelve hours later, at midnight, his wife wakes him up.

“Dincha’ hafta add some mowa salt ta ‘dat fish tank ovah daya?”

“Jeez Stella, ‘tanks fer wakin’ me up, I almast fa-got!” Vino rubs his eyes and applies another 18 tablespoons of salt to the tank. He goes back to bed. Stella still has the curlers in her hair.

It’s noon the next day when Vino walks over to the tank. (Well, Vino kind of struts like a large chicken, and he has a gigantic pompadour, but that’s another story). He leans down and notices the fish are perkier. The spots are still there, but he’s a trusting fellow. So he adds his last eighteen tablespoons and sits down to read the paper.

That night, Stella is counting all the white spots.

“One thousand eight hunnid and ninety seven! Vino! They’re goin’ away! Yestaday dare wuz two ‘tousand five hunnid and toidy!”

Vino puts his head in his hands. She starts counting the white spots all over again.

Forty eight hours later, she is counting the white spots again. She still has curlers in her hair.

“Jeez, Stella, are we gonna go to some kinda big Poddy at da end ah da munt? Whatcha wearin’ ‘dem ‘coilas fa?”

“Oh shut up, Vino!” she retorts. “I shou’nt tell ya dis, ’cause yer bein’ such a goombah, but, doze Ick bugs is all gone away!”

Vino jumps up and looks. Within about 72 hours after the last salt dose, at seventy-four degrees oF all of the Ich cysts have vanished from the skin. He leaves the salt in for ten more days just to be on the safe side. Later that week he wins the New York Lotto and sends Dr. Johnson a new Lincoln Town Car for all his careful advice in this great book.

If the fish are dying off quickly, it is advisable to add the salt dose all at once. This may have a negative impact on filter bacteria but may be life saving in the case of Chilodonella, Costia or even Ich in smaller fishes.

Is it possible to apply too much salt?

Well, it would be hard to do since Koi, goldfish and pond fish can handle high salinity. They will survive salt levels up to 0.9% and higher. However, this should be recognized as a stressful salt level and only used when absolutely necessary. Small, weak fish would do their best at 0.3% with observation. “Not Worse” is a good result. If the fish are ‘hanging in there’ after a day or two, then you can climb to 0.6% without losses.

This is a Koi, goldfish and pond fish health book but many people keep tropical fish with their Koi, goldfish and pond fish. Several species of catfish are negatively affected by salt. Er, well, that means they may stop breathing, severe stiffness results and they are not as entertaining to watch anymore. Examples of these fish would be wild caught Brokis britskii catfish, some wild caught Corydoras species, Rafael cats, Ramirez cichlids, and Rasboras. There are other sensitive tropical barbs, so any fish you are not sure of should be removed before treatment.

Salt Dosing Journal for Ich or White Spot

Air Sac Pneumocentesis

Air Sac Pneumocentesis

Air Sac Pneumocentesis is an important part of the management of Floater Syndrome wherein a fish becomes inverted and floats helplessly on the surface. Many factors contribute to this condition but the most common denominator is a proportional correlation (relationship) between higher Nitrate levels in the system and higher incidence of “Floater” and “Flipover” in the collection.

Floaters should be ‘reduced’ by a procedure called Air Sac Pneumocentesis. In this process, the air sac is defined within the body of the fish and is drained of air without risk to any important vascular structure or digestive entity.

A sterile 22-gauge needle on a 3-ml syringe is used to extract the air, but hitting the air sac without damaging another structure is of paramount importance. The needle is introduced perpendicular (90o) to the side of the fish to a depth of approximately half the fishes’ thickness. If you cannot pull back on the syringe’s plunger, you are NOT in the airsac. It is almost impossible to miss the air sac when you use the following landmarks.

Air Sac Pneumocentesis
Air Sac Pneumocentesis

The anatomical landmarks in Goldfish are as follows:

  • Longitudinally [vertically] you can define your landmarks by observation of the first ray of the dorsal fin. Coming straight down the side of the fish from this ray to the pelvic fins, you define your vertical axis.
  • Latitudinally, [horizontally] you come across at a point in line with the eye and slightly below the lateral line where it crosses your vertical axis.
  • Insert the needle at this intersection and withdraw as much air as you can. In large fish, 3-6 ml of air can be expected.

The fish will have lost all its buoyancy when returned to the tank. The fish will set on the bottom of the tank lethargically. There should be very little bleeding from the needle stick.

After Air Sac Pneumocentesis

If the fish is still inverted, give it time. The air sac will usually refill within twenty-four hours. If the fish refills completely, it will be floating upside down again the following morning. Hopefully, the fish will not refill completely and will be swimming normally the following day. Some people are putting Baytril injectable into the air bladders after they’re emptied.

If the case resists this treatment and returns to an overly buoyant and inverted condition, you will need to repeat the Air Sac Pneumocentesis and then perform and Quartz Implant Coeleotomy.

Loss of an eye sac in a Bubble Eye

The loss of an eye sac in a Bubble Eye

The loss of an eye sac in a Bubble Eye is usually disappointing, but you may be rewarded to know that the eye sac will grow back. In the first Bubble Eye I saw with this trauma, I was amazed to see a tiny sac coming back under the damaged eye and within a couple of months, the sac was almost matched to the original intact one.

bubble eye goldfish

Regrowth of the sac is not as likely to be as easy if water quality is poor. Make sure that all your nitrogen-parameters are ideal, including Nitrate. Check pH often to make sure this is not sagging as well.

The loss of an eye sac in a Bubble Eye

If the fish seems depressed or “sick” after the injury, it’s not a bad idea to apply salt. Here’s how.

bubble eye goldfish loses eye sac

Management of fish “jumpers”

Management of fish “jumpers”

When a Koi, goldfish and pond fish decides to end it all and makes the leap to the floor, there are several factors which may dramatically extend it’s survival on the ground until found. If the ambient temperatures are cool the fish will fare better. If the surface is non absorbent it is preferable. If the fish carries considerable water with it to the floor, it may last up to an hour. The longest I have been able to verify a fish out of water is approximately twelve hours: The fish departed a garden pond in the Fall of the year, and wriggled down a hillside into a muddy drainage area where is was encrusted in moist soil. There it lay until morning.

Fish that jump in the heat of summer will desiccate [dry out] quickly and are almost instantly beset with flies. Many will perish as a result of the flies’ breeding frenzy.

Management of fish “jumpers”
Management of fish “jumpers”

When a Koi, goldfish and pond fish is found out of water, do not give up on it unless one of the following is characteristic:

  • The skin features cracks in it when flexed
  • The fish looks like beef jerky
  • The eyes are concave instead of the usual convex appearance
  • The pupil is gray, which suggests death came and went more than four hours ago.
  • Part of the fish is missing and your cat appears to be quite sated.

If there is any hope that the fish is alive, you may wish to consider the following triage routine:

Immediately place the fish in cool water from the main aquarium. Gently rinse off the debris which is sticking to the fish. Do not rub aggressively or you may tear the skin of smaller fish. You should pry the gill covers open and ensure the passage of water over the gill tissue. Perhaps it’s Mother Nature’s engineering but you may be amazed to find that with the gill covers ‘glued’ shut by the fishes’ own mucus, they have remained quite red and wet.

You should pry the gill covers open!

Replace dirty water you’re cleaning the fish in, with clean tank water at this point. Aerate the water very well and place the fish in an upright position in front of (not in the path of) the airstone or circulation. You are not trying to blow water into the oral cavity. The goal is that if the fish attempts any respiration, it will be taking in the freshest, most well aerated water possible. I saw a person put the fishes’ mouth over a pump and blow its stomach (the ‘wide spot in the intestine’) to smithereens.

Very valuable fish that are discovered alive should be placed in a bag of tank water under pure oxygen. This is a very effective method but is not commonly available to the general hobbyist.  An injection of Dexamethasone has been shown to save a considerable number of ‘jumpers’ and in some minds, is mandatory for the success of ‘jumper recovery’. And I’m not talking about the fish that simply swims off when you return it to the water. Dexamethasone is for fish that don’t move when they go back in the water. When they’re “just about dead” time.

Saving fish jumpers
Saving fish jumpers – Audio podcast

After surviving the suicide attempt, you will notice that a considerable portion of the tail and fins will dissolve. The time spent on the floor will have ‘crisped’ the fins and they will die back to the last points of viable blood flow during the event. No treatment is usually necessary. The fish will probably be permanently disfigured but most of the lost fin tissue will grow back.

If sores develop on the body, it may be due to the Dexamethasone, which is profoundly immune-suppressive. Infection will try and set into the scrapes and contusions on the side of the fish from the trip to the floor. Aggressive antibiotic therapy will likely repel a bacterial attack and salvage the fish.

Management of fish “jumpers”

Overgrown Head Growth, Cap or Wen in Orandas

Overgrown Head Growth, Cap or Wen in Orandas

A peculiar disorder of goldfish is the overgrowth of the cap to the extent that the eyes are covered. In most instances, this does not matter to the fish. Blind fish can apprehend food as effectively as the sighted colleagues in the aquarium. However, it is true that sighted fish do ‘play’ and blind ones do not interact as profitably with tank mates.

The correction of the disorder is a surgical one. You should induce anesthesia with Oil of Cloves or Eugenol© and once the fish is still, you would lift the fish from the water. There are two pieces of equipment you could use for this procedure. One might choose a fine scalpel, which is what I use for a clean post-surgical look. A #10 scalpel blade is ideal for this procedure because it is big enough to manipulate effectively, and small enough to get near the eye. The blade is introduced adjacent to the eye and the cut is made at an angle to the eye, removing the tissue around the eye. Extreme care must be employed to avoid lacerating the globe. This is easier said than done because you cannot see where the tip of your blade is. Still, having handled a #10 scalpel more than several thousand times, I am fairly dexterous with it. I can complete the trimming within four to five minutes under the most arduous of circumstances.

oranda cap surgery
^Where to buy tenotomy scissors

There is a bone UNDER the eye which is essentially a ‘zygomatic process’ and can’t be cut. If you trim too aggressively you will leave no ‘socket’ for the eye. So be sparing around the eye.

One could also use a pair of Iris Tenotomy scissors. These scissors have a devilishly sharp set of points and could be used to pare away the excess growth over the eye.

oranda head growth can be trimmed with these iris tenotomy scissors
Oranda head growth can be trimmed with these iris tenotomy scissors

One conspicuous point about this surgery is that the head growth never attaches to the globe at any point. Indeed, it is possible cut away too much of the head growth and you may find the eyes protruding without support into the water.

oranda cap surgery
^Where to buy Oil of Cloves that’s pure

Overgrown Head Growth, Cap or Wen in Orandas

If the fish begins to struggle during the procedure, please place it again into the aerated oil of Cloves solution. If the fish is not struggling but has been out of the water for more than 90 seconds, please place the fish into well-aerated normal tank water for a ‘breather’. Then resume where you left off. In all instances, you should maintain the fish under a fairly deep plane of anesthesia where gill excursions are less than a flex per several seconds. During many of my surgeries, gill excursions occur at an interval of less than one per minute.

No sutures are needed. The fish will bleed very nominally after the procedure. It is remarkable to me how quickly the fish can clot up despite its aqueous recovery area.

Knowledgeable Chinese and Japanese breeders have told me that they would not perform this procedure because of genetic performance. Good head growth is a proud thing. Surgically concealing other defects is undesirable, as well. I do not question their motives but I must report that I’ve had great success and achieved very cosmetic results.

My Koi Ate TWO PECANS Whole! Should I Be Worried?

My Koi Ate TWO PECANS Whole! Should I Be Worried?

“Before I go any further, I am self employed, and nothing annoys me more than folks expecting me to do what I do for a living for free.  In this regard, I intend to pay you for any consultation, so please let me know your rates.”
(That was super classy, but I did not charge the fellow)
“Regarding Mini the chargoi, I spoke to Joe Hatter of the Koi Club last night, who opined that she probably either passed them through her gills or spat them out after she submerged where I could not see her.  He advised to keep an eye on her for the next couple of days, and check that she’s not swimming around with her mouth open.”
“This morning she was swimming around with the others, and came up to see me – so I fed them.  No apparent issues this morning…
I’m interested to hear your thoughts, Dr. Johnson.”
Kind Regards,

Koi Who Ate Whole Pecans

My Response:

Great case!
She’s big enough to engulf a PECAN?
Here’s something that you probably did not know. Well, you probably do know that Koi have teeth, in the back of their throat and those teeth go up against a diamond shaped bone to crush what they eat.
can koi eat nuts
They can crush a snail like it’s nothing.
If you got your pinky finger between the teeth in that bone, they probably would fracture it at the size I think Mini is.
I said all that to say this:
My wife and I used to target practice over the pond with Ruger P 89‘s which are 9 mm semi autos. Interestingly, they have a forward eject of the shells meaning that the casing flies away from the shooter and they happen to end up in the pond!!
Well, I didn’t think anything of it because they’re made of brass and that doesn’t dissolve into anything important, and why would a Koi eat a brass casing?
Well one day my doitsu Kohaku stopped eating and eventually wasted away. She was substantial so I put her under a flower pot so her bones would get picked and I could perhaps recover a sizable skull and teeth. It also helps to find out, postmortem, whether or not it was a piece of gravel that blocked them. Much to my chagrin, what I got was a 9 mm brass casing that had been flattened on the open end by her teeth.
koi ate pecan
9mm casings ejected into the pond were flattened by a 17″ koi and swallowed. Fatal outcome.

She had apparently carried it around chewing on it until she thought it was small enough to engulf and she swallowed it!!!

A decent size 16-17” Koi can crush a 9 mm brass casing!

A pecan is no challenge.

That other fella was right, the only time it goes awry is when the nut can’t get back to the teeth and fills the oropharynx and can neither be spat out nor passed out under the grill cover.
Diagnosis of an oropharyngeal obstruction is the Inability to eat, so if Mini is eating, you win!
I would not expect any problems, if however she stops eating, we might be having a problem with some of the shells in her stomach however I doubt it because in nature these animals have no problem eating whole snails and freshwater clams.

“Come on. What Do I Treat The Fish With?”

How to save your fish almost every time, by adding stuff to the water.

The most common approach to fish diseases, is just to put medicine in the water with the fish.

I have spent over 20 years trying to get people to be better at the hobby and learn what they are doing, and to prevent future disease outbreaks, what they are doing wrong.

That educational objective has been an absolute fail. To this day, most people just want to put the medicine in the water.

“Come on. What do I treat the fish with?”

And so in this protocol, all you do is “add stuff”:

  1. New water,
  2. heat,
  3. pH buffer,
  4. salt, and
  5. APIs General Cure.

That is literally “it”.

And while I will spare you as much learning reading and testing as possible, I do need to provide you with more details on specifically how to add the above “stuff”.

Here is how to save most fish, without getting better at the hobby at all. At the conclusion of this tutorial, you will have salvaged live, healthy fish. (Until they leave the hospital tank and go back into the main facility where the original problems remain unrecognized.)

The following protocol does not apply to Marine Fish. It does not apply to very large fish that would be inappropriately housed in a 10 gallon facility. Although, the protocol can be scaled upward to any size facility you need.

Step one, obtain a 10 gallon or larger container that can be heated, and covered.

For best results, ensure that the hospital facility is at least 1 gallon of water per 1 inch of fish.

Without understanding why, if it turns out your hospital facility is larger than your main facility, then you have just accidentally learned that your fish are overcrowded and that may be all that’s wrong with them.

Fill the container within 2 inches of the top with tapwater.

Apply de-chlorinator. (Buy)

Install a sponge filter powered by an air pump, and a small heater (100W per 10 gallons) to achieve a temperature of 78° in your hospital facility. The sponge filter (specifically) is much more important, and much more of a boon to this protocol than you should bother to learn. Just do it.

Okay okay okay….here’s a fact but I said I’d just show you how to put stuff in the water….  A sponge filter with <25ppi makes life hard for swarming parasites. Really hard. It can hold them long enough for them to die without a host. It’s not a ‘treatment’ but it IS an impediment of consequence to ciliate and other ‘swimming’ microscopic parasites.

Buy a spray of silk plants to put into the hospital facility to provide the fish with much-needed cover (a “hide”) to minimize the impact of stress and crowding.

Bio seed your hospital facility from your existing facility. Bioseeding is the transfer of bio-active-organics and beneficial bacteria from your existing, donor filtration system to the new, sponge filtration system. Sponge filters lend themselves especially well to this technology. Not hang-ons or canisters.

In the hospital facility, you will need to regulate pH to a species-appropriate level, so without learning about pH, this is how you do that:

Goldfish, and just about all the ‘bread and butter’ species in franchise pet stores are acclimated to Neutral.
South American tetras, cichlids, barbs, South American discus, catfish, Oscars, and most other South American fish will need a ph of 6.8 to neutral pH so you could use neutral regulator 7.0

African cichlids, mollies, guppies, brackish water fish, gobies, monos, scats, most live bearers, and many other African species appreciate a slightly higher pH and you would use “African Cichlid buffer”. Follow label directions.

For the most part, you will have addressed a pH problem without understanding it. Sadly, this will not prepare you to manage pH in the main system when the fish go back in. That would be a departure from ‘just adding medicine to the water’ which is the stated goal here..

Having done all of the above, you have created a suitable hospital facility of at least 1 gallon of water per 1 inch of fish, with an appropriate pH for the species, with some foliage-cover for the fish, well-aerated by, and filtering it with, a sponge filter, that has been cycled from the existing system, the water is dechlorinated, and heated to 78°. You have a hospital facility that is suitable for 97% of all weak or sick fish.

Feed freeze dried krill in sparing amounts, 2x daily which has been crunched down to a size that is appropriate for the fish you have in the facility.

Now you know how to make a suitable hospital facility without a shred of understanding as to why it all functions together to save fish so well.

Time to move fish:

Check the water temperature in the existing system, and check the water temperature in your hospital facility to make sure that they are within 5° of each other. That is, 5° FAHRENHEIT not Celsius.

It may be that the main system is far too cold, which was the problem in the first place but we didn’t want to test anything, we just wanted to add things to the water. So you may have just accidentally learned that the water in your main system is too cold.

Move affected fish from the mother system to the hospital facility.

The best way to accomplish that would be to net the fish into a bowl or cup, and move them over and slowly dip hospital water into the cup mixing gradually with the mother water and then after a minute or three, letting the fish go into the hospital system.

Watch the first fish you transfer for 15 minutes to make sure that there is no shock. If all goes well with the first fish, you may move the remainder into the hospital tank.

There is a 80% chance that the fish will immediately improve in the hospital tank because the pH is not crashed down to 6.0 …like it is in the main system, meaning that a crashed pH was the problem the whole time in the main system. Recall that the goal was not to test anything, but to just add things.

While the fish are in the proper pH in the spacious hospital system, there is a good chance they will just get stronger and stronger until you move it back to the main system with the crashed pH. Gosh if only we were willing to actually test the pH.

I would prefer that you leave no fish in the main system as they may harbor parasites-in-waiting, for the fish when they come back from the hospital system. If you leave fish in the main system, you will not have corrected their pH issues either, old-water quality issues, trematodes, or potentiated their recovery from bacterial infections.
In other words, while you will have blindly improved literally *everything* for the fish that go into the hospital tank, you will have corrected nothing for the remaining fish in the main system.

And, not understanding the impact and value of a proper pH, new water, high aeration and sponge filtration, bioseeding, and the effect of temperature on the immune system, the fish in the main system will not be receiving *any* benefit.

In a spacious hospital facility, under high aeration with sponge filtration recently bio seeded, dechlorinated water with the proper pH, plant material for cover, no stress, at 78°, the fish are ready for treatment.

That is simply salt at 0.3% and APIs General Cure which is Praziquantel and metronidazole.

What these two compounds treat is unimportant. We just want to add things. This combination of therapies addresses a multitude of pathogens from ciliates, to trematodes, to cestodes to hexamita, and will exert a complete control of 90+ percent of pathogenic issues without endangering the fish.

Please follow instructions in the salt article on my website at The nuts and bolts of that regimen involve the addition of a total dose of 3 teaspoons of non-iodized salt per one-gallon of water, spread over the course of 36 hours to systems containing no live plants nor any wild caught South American catfish.

Follow label instructions on the API General Cure. For the purposes of this ‘just add stuff’ treatment and sparing you the science behind the interval, that would be an application every other day for only three treatments.

Fish diseases Cured without learning
You can save most fish without learning anything by warming them to 78° and applying new water, salt and general care.

Without the slightest notion as to why the fish are recovering, they will strengthen.

Feed them per their species requirements, or feed freeze dried krill which is eagerly excepted and highly nutritious, keep them in the hospital facility at 78° with a properly buffered pH and a highly functioning air-driven sponge filtration system, under the elixir of salt and General Cure, until they are strong and then move them back into the main facility.

If parasites were suspected in the main system, they have to die.

You have two options. You can treat the main system with the salt and General Cure, or you can leave the main system fish free for two weeks at 78df – meaning you have deprived of parasites of their host and thereby extincted them.

But either way you should keep the fish in the hospital system with the salt for two weeks to make sure all their parasites have expired.

On return to their main facility, which is conceivably smaller than the hospital facility (please keep tropical aquarium fish at less than 1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water), they may be too cold (please keep aquarium fish at 78 DF), the pH may be too low (please buffer pH to neutral), parasites may still exist, they may have too-little foliage cover, high levels of background pollution may exist without adequate filtration (Please use sponge filters), water changes (please replace water frequently) or aeration, making illness an inevitable recurrence.
But the hospital facility will always be there, bubbling along at neutral pH, with superior filtration and oxygenation, and at 78df as an appropriate environment to recover the fish if they fail again.

Materials list:

10 gallon or larger aquarium or fish-safe container.
Thermometer x 2.
Air pump.
Sponge filter.
Plastic or silk plants.
Species specific PH buffer or Neutral 7.0.
API General Cure.
Non iodized table salt.
Fish net.
Freeze dried Krill.
Plastic cup.
Aquarium heater 100W per 10 gallons.

I cannot help but mention here that anyone keeping fish as pets should, whenever possible, employ a trickle water replacement system. Your “luck” with pet fish will be immeasurably improved. The fish will seem “bullet proof.“

Treating Fish Diseases Without Testing Or Training

Koi Fish Pond SuperCooling: What Is That?

Koi Fish Pond SuperCooling: What Is That?

SuperCooling, Common and Preventable


Supercooling – When you want a cup of coffee to lose heat, the fastest way is to pour it through the air from cup-to-cup until it has lost it’s heat.  

And in the same way a waterfall and fountain can propel your water through a thin-phase causing a convergence of air and water temperatures. This means that by day, your fish will warm faster because the water can pick up heat from both sun and air, but by night, the pond plunges down as the water gives up it’s heat passing through the water feature.

Here’s how the typical case appears. This is a true, documented case:

“This is real strange again. On Thursday a fish was laying on its side at the bottom of pond. For all appearances he was dead. But when I got the net out to retrieve him, he swam away. This is a 12″ Kohaku that is in my main pond outside….”

“An hour later he was back on his side so we netted him out and I did slides, 2 from gills and 2 from body. Nothing! The ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all zero. Ph was 8.2 which is normal for me. Water temps was 38 degrees. …”

“I put him in a 20 gallon tank inside and let the water warm up from the 38 degrees to about 62 on its own. He swims upright and does not lay on his side at all now that he is inside. There are no marks, ulcers etc anywhere on his body. Gills are bright red in color. He acts totally normal now that he is inside. Swimming and staying upright. My hubby said maybe he just wanted to come in from the cold so that is why he was playing dead. Surely that cannot be the answer!”

“We are having and been having big temp swings the past few weeks. I have been feeding Impact every few days if the water temperature warrants feeding….”

“This morning the outside water temp was 42 tonight at 6 PM it was 53.”

“The water fountain (3900 cal pump) shoots the water up 10 feet so it is not an oxygen problem…”

“The thing that bothers me is the 4 fish I lost in March did the same thing, they just laid on their side and moved when you tried to net them. They eventually died.”


“There’s the whole answer:

‘We are having and been having big temp swings the past few weeks. I have been feeding Impact every few days if the water temperature warrants feeding…..The water fountain (3900 cal pump) shoots the water up 10 feet…”

When fish are rapidly chilled they lay over. Laying over is seldom  more than a clinical manifestation of shock/severe stress.
When brought and slowly warmed up, they usually recover, but they ought to be injected with antibiotics at least once, or they will die a week after warming up. This is because the bacteria will traverse the gut when the fish is nearly frozen and proceed to kill it later.

Do not feed when you think, or even imagine, there’s even a 2% chance of dropping below fifty degrees (F) within three days of feeding..

This fish should survive, but you should evaluate for things which may cause “supercooling”. Waterfalls and fountains can make water and air temperatures parallel, which means that when the air temperatures plunge and your waterfall is running, so shall the water temps fall, and when air temperatures warm by day, if there’s a fountain or waterfall running, so shall the water be warmed, and thence when the air temps fall by night, so shall the water temperatures fall, and thence the fishes will layeth over….I need a cup of coffee…it’s early.”

Best Regards,

“Doc Johnson”


  • Maintain water circulation at all times but when the temperatures are dropping, the circulation should be gentle and minimally break the water surface.
  • To keep water moving under the surface, disturb the top HALF of the pond water only. For example, do not put the circulating pump on the pond BOTTOM – allow the bottom depths to remain minimally disturbed when it’s cold out. Circulators could be halfway down in the water column.
  • Do not feed when you think, or even imagine, there’s even a 2% chance of dropping below fifty degrees (F) within three days of feeding.. Exceptions would include those areas (Portland) where water temps do drop below fifty but never below forty..
  • When temperatures are climbing, you can employ any feature desired.
  • When ice is a threat, you may maintain a hole in the ice for gas exchange with a cattle trough heater (35$) which will NOT disturb pond hydrology or cause turnover in the water layers.
+ “Supercooling theory can be of some benefit if strategically used in the cool of the night or the heat of the day depending upon what your water temperature goal is. Running your pumps during the day can absorb heat and turning them off at night can conserve it.” Doc Johnson
+ Note From Doc Johnson
In the winter, I just run a circulating pump for underwater circulation, and I return my filter under water as well to minimize surface disruption. I do not remove water from the deepest part of the pond, preferring instead to let that water remain still for fish rest.” Doc Johnson

Koi Fish Pond SuperCooling: What Is That?