Category Archives: Freshwater Tropical

What Are The Perfect Conditions to Make or Keep Fish Healthy?

Perfect Aquarium, Hospital Tank, or Quarantine? Everything Perfect to Make or Keep Fish Healthy

There are a few essential criteria for improving fish health and if you’re not already “doing it thusly” perhaps it’s time. There are TONS of ways to “do it right” but the following is how I treat fish, and house my tropicals. Goldfish benefit from all the same. At my house, this isn’t just for hospital tanks. This is exactly how I keep my community tanks. Continue reading What Are The Perfect Conditions to Make or Keep Fish Healthy?

Vitamins For Freshwater Fish Are a Waste of Money

Vitamins in teleost freshwater fishes are another way to spend money. But before you buy vitamins for freshwater fish, please put the money in an envelop and mail it to the Department of Labor. It will do you about as much good there as it will in your fish tank.

Freshwater fish are inundated by water through their skin and gill. Indeed, if they never took a single sip of water, they would always be over-hydrated. And so they are. Their kidney is engineered to excrete colossal amounts of water all the time, while recovering precious electrolytes and solutes. The freshwater fish never does take a sip.

So how do the vitamins get into the fish?

“Indeed, they are absorbed!” reply the marketing weasels.

“But nay” say I, “The fat soluble vitamins cannot passively cross the gill membrane nor the skin.”

“So perhaps the water soluble ones can!” Exclaim the marketing weasels.

“But they don’t!” I say, “Because as soon as an organic water soluble vitamin encounters another organic molecule of almost any type it becomes bound out of solution, not to mention that most of these vitamins are already so unstable they must be kept in brown glass bottles. How long do they actually last in the water, so that they might be absorbed by the fish?” I query.

“Less than five minutes.” Comes the sheepish reply.

“Perhaps we could recommend that the vitamin-fortified liquid we have put so much ‘R&D’ into could be applied to dry food and fed.” Suggested the other weasel, nodding hopefully.

And so they did.

Phosphate Removers Are A Waste of Money

You should be aware that in the normal scheme of things, phosphates cause algae to flourish. As such, phosphates became ‘the enemy’ to marketing weasels who would have you believe that algae are the bane of our existence. Phosphates are not considered overtly harmful to fish in naturally occurring amounts. Phosphate removers will attempt to remove phosphates from the water, but you should know that the products are just an exhaustible resin.  Once they have accomplished their goal, and your water is blissfully free of phosphates, you will probably have poor-doing plants because plants tend to require Phosphates, Nitrate and iron to flourish. You will probably have higher than ideal Nitrate levels because they are not being used efficiently by plants. Worse; the fish will soon be fed, and then have a bowel movement, which completely replaces your preciously reduced phosphates. It’s a losing battle. When the phosphate removing resin is completely exhausted, you can replace it and start over again.

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

Epistylis

Epistylis in Koi and Pond Fish Ponds

Epistylis is a relatively uncommon parasite of Koi, goldfish and pond fish. Indeed, it is so uncommon, that I do not have any good graphics of it. What you would see clinically is a tuft of whitish fluff coming out from under a scale, or from some other wound on the Koi, goldfish and pond fish. It gives the impression of a fungal infection but looks radically different under the microscope. Usually, fish with Epistylis are rather hale, considering they are parasitized. Epistylis does not occur in tanks or environments which are clean, and which have a low organic load. You would normally expect to find Epistylis in unfiltered ponds and lakes on common pond fish. I have not recovered Epistylis from any of the finer, aquarium raised Koi, goldfish and pond fish. I have cleared the few cases I have seen in ponds with massive water changes, removal of the organic load in the system, and the application of 0.3% saline.

The organism is clinically relevant because many people treat these cases as if they were funguses; eventually killing the fish with useless treatments and arriving at the conclusion that fungus is hard to cure. Indeed, they were treating Epistylis with anti fungal remedies and not addressing the true cause of the Epistylis infection = Filth!

The condition of Epistylis is prevalent, but not very common in the typically cleaner environments encountered with Koi, goldfish and pond fish keepers.

Epistylis in Koi and Pond Fish Ponds

control of epistylis

Freeze Dried Krill: Four Things To Know

Freeze Dried Krill: Four Things To Know

I’ve been giving freeze dried krill since it came out in pet shops. I found it to be the BEST food I ever gave to my Bumble Bee Gobies, they never did as well on anything else. No, I cannot explain how nutrition so narrow could be so good. Where’s the soluble fiber, water soluble vitamins and calcium?

Freeze Dried Krill: Four Things To Know
Freeze Dried Krill: Four Things To Know

I go over four things, including a story about how a guy DIED from Freeze Dried Krill.

how to feed krill

 

krill

Freeze Dried Krill pushes growth like nothing I’ve seen

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Stable pH Is Easy

Stable pH Is Easy These Days

The most common cause of fish illness in the “established” aquarium is a sagging, or even “crashed” pH.

This is because literally EVERY biological process in the tank is bringing the pH down.

  • Fish breathe carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.
  • Plants respire at night –> carbonic acid
  • Decay of fish wastes and bacterial processes –> carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.

With all that going on, the pH would fall overnight EXCEPT there’s “carbonates” in the water that buffer that. Until the carbonates are “exhausted” then the pH *does* crash overnight.

pH crash
Dead fish. pH was not buffered, and the gravel offered no carbonates, either. Crashed pH.

So what you have to do is supply “carbonates” to the system. And you can do that with several things. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with all of them.

Compounds Which Stabilize pH

Oyster shell – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Crushed coral – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Neutral Regulator – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives. Contains phosphates which MAY contribute to algae growth in high lighting situations. Limit photoperiod to 8-10 hours a day and you’re golden. (Click to find it)

avoiding a low ph

Baking Soda – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives BUT doesn’t last long at all. No phosphates.

PH Pills – Made of Plaster of Paris. They work great, and last a long time. You can “SEE” whether they’re still there, so you know they’re working. Cheap. (PH PILLS)

Testing pH is simply a measurement of the free hydrogen ions(H+) in a system. pH is measured on a scale of 1-14, anything below 7 being acidic, and anything above 7 being basic. But the pH required for aquatic life ranges between 5.5-8.0. Koi and goldfish can, and do, tolerate a very high pH measurement.

People spend a lot of time and money trying to bring down the pH, but this is unnecessary unless there is also an ammonia accumulation in the system. The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic. Below a pH of 7.2, most ammonia is ionized to “ammonium” and is far less toxic. This has relevance if you are considering raising the pH in a system with accumulating ammonia.

The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic.

The pH level impacts fish in several ways. First, if it is too low, a condition inside the fish called “acidosis” results. Symptoms are a loss of appetite and then production of excess slime, as well as isolation, resting on the bottom of the pond, or piping at the surface. This is followed by a streaking of the fins; then death will occur. If the pH is too high – say, over 10.0-11.0, the fish will produce excess slime and gasp at the surface. Losses can be major. This condition, called alkalosis is hard to rapidly reverse once it occurs. pH is prone to decline in systems which do not contain sufficient pH buffers or carbonates, and pH can also decrease quickly due to oxygen consumption, accumulation of carbon dioxide, decay of fish and other wastes, and the normal activity of nitrifying bacteria that reduce ammonia to nitrite.

Crashes from a midrange pH all the way down to 5.0 can occur overnight. The pH doesn’t drop below 5.0 because at 5.5, the beneficial bacteria that may have contributed to the crash will cease to function and shut down, preventing the crash from dropping any further. In systems where pH has been chemically stabilized by the addition of carbonates such as baking soda, oyster shell, or any of the commercial buffers, the pH crash phenomena is not commonly seen. pH is supported by alkalinity, or carbonates. Without carbonates, the pH of the system will undoubtedly crash.

It is also worthwhile to note that in ponds built with natural rock aggregates, these construction stones and gravels, depending upon their type, can contribute a great deal of carbonate activity to the water, thereby reducing the need for concern regarding the pH. In other words: a pond made with Tennessee field stone is relatively safe from pH crash due to its possession of carbonate-donating rocks. Regular testing of pH will tell you if you have carbonate donating aggregates in use or not.

Top 10 Things

The Top Ten Things You Need To Know and Master For Success With a Koi Pond

The Super Basics of Koi

Figures out all the following:
Inventories quality, informational resources for a deeper understanding

But the most successful garden-variety hobbyist:
Feeds decent food, redundantly supplies their pond electrical, supports lively water movement and intercepts temperature impacts, knows their water’s quality via periodic basic water testing with strips, feeds sparingly and never gets new fish. Removes excess fish each year and avoids any drastic changes in population or water. If new fish are in the plan, quarantines new fish before deploying.

1. Crowding

You should have one inch of fish per ten gallons of pond water. You can have a bunch more koi than that IF the filtration and water quality will support them. To calculate pond volume figure out approximate length, width and depth in inches. Multiply them thusly:   Length inches x Width inches x Depth inches = Product    then divide the product by 231 and there you have US Gallons. If you have a mess of small fish, like goldfish and under 6″ you can have a lot more than an inch of fish per ten gallons. But the larger koi have more “mass” and oxygen requirements and put out more wastes and so they push the number down to one inch per ten gallons.

LINK TO CROWDING DETAILS

2. New Fish
The main source of parasites / germs is new koi. For the most part, “closed collections” don’t get parasites as a “new thing”. To avoid parasites and even some germ infections, quarantine is imperative which stymies the pathological “impulse buyer” but you know, live with your decisions.

LINK TO QUARANTINE VIDEO AND HOW TO DO IT AND FOR HOW LONG

3. Their water:

Water Movement is probably the most important thing in a pond. Most of the time when fish have poor body language, clamping and lethargic, it’s a lack of aeration and water movement in warm weather. How much water movement is needed?
Aeration is the single most important parameter with a close second being pH because of ‘crash’
Another area NOT to be ignorant of is water chemistry. Seriously. Flying blind is just ignorant unless your collection of koi is entirely expendable. MOST people have their koi and pond problems from chemistry, especially pH.

Chemicals like pH, and nitrogen.

Nitrogen is represented by Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. You should understand the basics of all of these. You’re not going to do “okay” for very long without understanding how Nitrate comes back to bite you in the butt. It’s the SINGLE MOST COMMON cause of chronic illness in the ponds of “know it all” pond and Koi keepers. They do a LOT correctly except they make VAST assumptions about their water quality because they think they can eyeball water quality.

Ammonia Discussed: When it happens, looks like, what to do.  (Video)

Nitrite Discussed: When it happens, looks like, what to do. 

Nitrate Discussed: When it happens, looks like, what to do. 

pH and pH crash are perhaps the most common water “quality” problem. Newbies won’t succeed long without a handle on this. Link to Video.

New Water

Water needs to be turned over and replaced with new water from time to time. At LEAST 10% per week. I run a constant slow water drip all the time. That’s because I’m lazy and don’t like to change water. Topping off the pond is not a water change unless the pond leaks. Evaporation CONCENTRATES chemistry. Doesn’t dilute it. When you replace water “fill and drain style” you need to apply a chemical “dechlorinator” to neutralize caustic chlorine that’s added to city water to disinfect it. If you’re using well water it’s not a “thing” but you might check the pH of the well water to know if it’s low.

Well water video

Dechlor video

Pond location and impact of temperature

If your pond is in the shade then it might get lots of leaves in it. And if it does, those leaves will decay and reduce the pH. If the water gets stained a “tea color” with leaf tannins (from leaves on and off the tree interestingly) the tea colored water will usually have a low pH, will slow healing of wounds in the Spring, and never grow algae. Tannins are anti-algae.

A pond in full sun  is prone to algae blooms, won’t have leaves in it, will not have much in the way of leaf-pH dynamic. But the water will be warmer and WARM WATER carries less oxygen so water movement and aeration are critical. If water movement fails in the hot pond in mid summer because, say, power outage, the Koi are gonna die.

4. Koi and Pond fish filtration:

So when you start out or you inherit a pond, the “filter” might sound simple but usually it’s not. They need maintenance of some kind. And they may or may not be “big enough” and an assessment is needed. I use ecosystem ponds with plants and gravel and a waterfall, happily. It takes MAJOR maintenance once yearly. I also run some systems on Bead Filters which pass the water through beads to clean it. VERY easy to clean, but frequently, and they can jam up suddenly, they die in the sun if the power goes out, and are a little expensive.

koi and pond fish do extremely well in eco system ponds.
In “ecosystem” ponds like Aquascape’s, the filter is actually PART of the pond and is invisible.

In any event, you should learn about filtration in earnest. For the beginner, an ecosystem installation or a bead filter would be your two best, scalable options. Cleanliness and maintenance of said filtration and water are paramount. Get educated by a knowledgeable installer or retailer of filters.

Ecosystem ponds

Excellent bead filtration I

Excellent bead filtration II

When filtration is needed or not 

Well if the pond is large and the fish load is quite small, you probably won’t need a filter. If there’s a lot of water movement and the water is clear and there’s not a bunch of cloudiness or particulate clouding, you might not need a filter. If the water tests okay with dip tests, you might not need a filter.

5. Their feeding

Overfeeding is super common. Just don’t. Koi do best when you have a ten year old feeding them and they forget to feed every fourth day or so. Underfeeding is better than overfeeding. If your koi are fat, something’s wrong and your water quality is probably paying a price. Fat koi are just fine. Feed twice a day, tops. Feed what they wanna eat in under ten minutes. Five minutes would be even better. Don’t feed near the skimmer or it’ll take the food and give it to the filter unnecessarily.

What to feed.  Feeding the right food is pretty important but really, in the scheme of things, it’s uncommon for a poor food choice to kill or sicken fish. Even catfish chow (while really inadequate) will just result in fatty livers and increased vulnerability to disease, not kill them.  Here’s where to learn all about Koi foods, and even some recommendations.

When Not to Feed and Why. So if your pond is large, natural and has ecosystem forage (plants, tadpoles, swimmy bugs, stuff like that, and the fish load is light, you might not need to feed. If the pond is a tech-pond without plants nor gravel you need to feed. There’s no natural forage.

6. Fish Body Language

Koi and pond fish body language is just an Early warning system for disease or poor water quality.

Here are some pointers:

  • If the fish are moving around, curious about food they’re probably okay
  • If the fish are NOT using their pectoral fins (the ones behind the head) they’re sick.
  • If the koi are wagging their bodies to swim, and not using fins at all, they’re about to die.
  • If the fish have clamped fins but then swim normally when you show up, something’s going on. Like a too high temperature or a sagging pH.

Survival is suggested by at least some willingness to eat, moving around.
Body wag is probably a goner.

7. Parasites

Where they come from? Parasites CAN “just happen” and they can be “carried” for a long time without causing disease until Winter reduces the fish’s immune system. Or, more commonly, parasites are not a “thing” until you buy some WITH PARASITES already on them. Quarantine fixes and prevents that. It’s easier to treat in quarantine and keeps your existing koi safe. VIDEO ON QUARANTINE

How’d you know they had them? Poor body language is an indicator something’s not right. Usually that’s a sagging pH and or a low dissolved oxygen. But if those two aren’t going on, maybe parasites are a “thing”. Fish will scratch on tank / pond surfaces and rocks, like “flashing” and they’ll also show up with red skin, red veins in their fins, stop eating and develop a slimy skin. (All those symptoms happen in pH crash, too)

Parasites may be controlled by several medications, such as Salt, and API’s General Cure.

-Water quality is 3 to 1 over parasites for the source of illness. Yes and that’s annoying. People OFTEN contact me and ask what medicine to use for this or that symptom they’re seeing. Or the medicine isn’t working. The koi gets worse. So I ask them what the pH is. What the Ammonia is. What the Nitrate is. And they get back to me with a number WAY out of range, they fix that, and no medicine was even needed.

What you can do: A video introduction to the major categories of parasites and some treatments worth knowing.

8. Bacterial Infections – Rot

What sores mean:  Sores just mean the fish have “gone through something” that broke their immune system. Cold water, over crowding, high nitrogen levels, a low pH, wintertime, low dissolved oxygen, cold water, excess handling and parasites chewing on the skin are all very common causes. Just exposure to bacteria (even the baddest of the bad) don’t CAUSE bacterial infections.
What you can do: You have to diagnose what happened, what “they went through” and then fix that. Provide an optimal environment. And then perhaps apply antimicrobial treatments to the water, in the food, by injection. Literally everything you would NEED to know in order to deal with bacterial infections is at my DrJohnson Youtube page. But also:

Ulcer Disease I, II, III

What you can probably not do: You can’t save fish that are:
-Too far gone
-You may not be able to obtain or give injections of antibiotics but they work great. Perhaps you could find a vet that can help. Injections for really valuable ones
Water treatments for other cases like Potassium permanganate or Chloramine T.

9. Viral Infections

What viruses are there, in general: If you don’t get more fish, viruses aren’t a “thing” for you to worry about. But there are viruses out there which will kill almost all your fish. The main one is Koi Herpes Virus. It depends on water temperatures to kill fish. Under 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s inactive. Above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it dies off. Fish are saved. If you quarantine fish according to the video mentioned above, and the fish achieve a temperature in the low eighties, Koi Herpes Virus is a non-issue.
Other viruses include viruses that cause warts, little waxy droplets on the skin, and are not lethal. Spring Viremia of Carp is a common disease that appears to be endemic (in everything) to north America and causes depression of the immune system potentiating bacterial infections. You wouldn’t know if your fish had this, because if you test for it, you’re likely to get a positive, and then you will have your pond closed, killed off, and quarantined.

10. Shutting down for winter

When not to feed:  Koi and pond fish do better in very cold water WITHOUT food in their tracts. It’s a good idea to suspend feeding when the water temperatures sail down below 55 DF — IF you can anticipate the temperatures are going to decline FURTHER like a typical temperate climate. (North American near freezing) – However in Portland and other geography, the ponds might hit 55 and NOT go down, so those aren’t “heading to icy” and so if the temperatures are going to hover above 40 DF you should feed Cheerios.

When to shut down the filters?   You can keep your filters running unless it’s going to freeze and you have to “winterize” the filters, so you ought to talk to your installer or filtration manufacturer about how to deal with temperatures prevailing in your area. If your filter has a return under water or which won’t super cool the pond, you can leave it on. The biological activity of the filter will be sadly lacking so feed less, or feed Cheerios.

How to turn water over
-When you don’t really have to:   When water is in the low forties and lower, it carries all the oxygen it can. So water movement isn’t a “thing” at that point. I mean, SOME water movement is important but that’s mainly for gas release (CO2 etc) rather than Oxygenation.
-Striking the ice –  It is a myth that if you strike the ice over pond fish, they will die or go deaf. In fact, sometimes fish die under the ice and that had NOTHING to do with someone breaking the ice. Usually it’s the fact that they even HAD to break ice. Ice need to have a hole or gas exchange gap in the surface. If you have to use a floating cattle trouble heater, do it.
-What Springtime means: Springtime is tough on Koi and pond fish because typically:

  • The fish have gone hungry all winter
  • The fish have been cold and their immune system is warmth-fired.
  • Parasites don’t care if it’s cold and can strike in cold water with extra vengeance.
  • Water bacteria (purification bacteria) are largely dormant so water quality is at it’s lowest.
  • A winter’s worth of fish excreta and plant material / last year’s mulm are all suspended in time, and break down as soon as water temps rise. It’s a surge in algae / bacterial nutrition.

Stable pH Is Easy These Days

Stable pH Is Easy These Days

The most common cause of fish illness in the “established” aquarium is a sagging, or even “crashed” pH.

This is because literally EVERY biological process in the tank is bringing the pH down.

  • Fish breathe carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.
  • Plants respire at night –> carbonic acid
  • Decay of fish wastes and bacterial processes –> carbon dioxide –> carbonic acid.

With all that going on, the pH would fall overnight EXCEPT there’s “carbonates” in the water that buffer that. Until the carbonates are “exhausted” then the pH *does* crash overnight.

pH crash
Dead fish. pH was not buffered, and the gravel offered no carbonates, either. Crashed pH.

So what you have to do is supply “carbonates” to the system. And you can do that with several things. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with all of them.

Compounds Which Stabilize pH

Oyster shell – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Crushed coral – (click) Dissolves too slowly to “fix” anything but really “keeps it there.”

Neutral Regulator – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives. Contains phosphates which MAY contribute to algae growth in high lighting situations. Limit photoperiod to 8-10 hours a day and you’re golden. (Click to find it)

avoiding a low ph

Baking Soda – Works great and “fixes” a crash in time to save fish lives BUT doesn’t last long at all. No phosphates.

PH Pills – Made of Plaster of Paris. They work great, and last a long time. You can “SEE” whether they’re still there, so you know they’re working. Cheap. (PH PILLS)

Testing pH is simply a measurement of the free hydrogen ions(H+) in a system. pH is measured on a scale of 1-14, anything below 7 being acidic, and anything above 7 being basic. But the pH required for aquatic life ranges between 5.5-8.0. Koi and goldfish can, and do, tolerate a very high pH measurement.

People spend a lot of time and money trying to bring down the pH, but this is unnecessary unless there is also an ammonia accumulation in the system. The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic. Below a pH of 7.2, most ammonia is ionized to “ammonium” and is far less toxic. This has relevance if you are considering raising the pH in a system with accumulating ammonia.

The toxicity of ammonia is influenced by pH. At higher pH values, ammonia is more toxic.

The pH level impacts fish in several ways. First, if it is too low, a condition inside the fish called “acidosis” results. Symptoms are a loss of appetite and then production of excess slime, as well as isolation, resting on the bottom of the pond, or piping at the surface. This is followed by a streaking of the fins; then death will occur. If the pH is too high – say, over 10.0-11.0, the fish will produce excess slime and gasp at the surface. Losses can be major. This condition, called alkalosis is hard to rapidly reverse once it occurs. pH is prone to decline in systems which do not contain sufficient pH buffers or carbonates, and pH can also decrease quickly due to oxygen consumption, accumulation of carbon dioxide, decay of fish and other wastes, and the normal activity of nitrifying bacteria that reduce ammonia to nitrite.

Crashes from a midrange pH all the way down to 5.0 can occur overnight. The pH doesn’t drop below 5.0 because at 5.5, the beneficial bacteria that may have contributed to the crash will cease to function and shut down, preventing the crash from dropping any further. In systems where pH has been chemically stabilized by the addition of carbonates such as baking soda, oyster shell, or any of the commercial buffers, the pH crash phenomena is not commonly seen. pH is supported by alkalinity, or carbonates. Without carbonates, the pH of the system will undoubtedly crash.

It is also worthwhile to note that in ponds built with natural rock aggregates, these construction stones and gravels, depending upon their type, can contribute a great deal of carbonate activity to the water, thereby reducing the need for concern regarding the pH. In other words: a pond made with Tennessee field stone is relatively safe from pH crash due to its possession of carbonate-donating rocks. Regular testing of pH will tell you if you have carbonate donating aggregates in use or not.

“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 DrJohnson.com. 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.
Dechlorinator.
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

Diagnose A Fish Disease in 20 Steps Every Time

The diagnosis of your fish health problem is in one of these twenty videos and frankly, honestly? Most people have the problems figured out in the first 5. Because almost ALWAYS it’s a thing with crowding, or water quality, and then a parasite that responds to BSDT.

Start the Diagnosis Step 1 of Twenty

Diagnose A Fish Disease in 20 Steps Every Time

Diagnose A Fish Disease in 20 Steps Every Time
Diagnose A Fish Disease in 20 Steps Every Time

I did the videos in order of “most common cause of illness” down to video #20 that picks up viruses and further resources. I mean, not EVERYTHING comes from crowding1, water quality of five(2-5) kinds, failure to quarantine(6), seven(7-13) kinds of parasites, their treatment (14-15) fungus (16) bacteria (17) their treatment (18) and viruses (19).

Oh, wait. YES THEY DO. Every time. And that’s what those twenty videos are about.

But, if you’re like almost everyone, and won’t spend time learning and understanding this stuff and just want to fix it without improving as a hobbyist: Just buy these test strips, check your water, bioseed or provide new water, and throw some BSDT into the tank. You’ve got a 80% chance of fixing things.

Diagnose A Fish Disease in 20 Steps Every Time

  1. Handling Stress -Have the fish been handled recently? Why that matters.
  2. Winter Stress -Temperature. Is it winter? Summer? Why that matters
  3. Feeding or Underfeeding – Feeding and Underfeeding. Why that matters.
  4. Ammonia Toxicity -Ammonia and it’s super common, why it matters and what it looks like.
  5. Nitrite Poisoning -Nitrites and what THAT looks like, why it matters and what to do about it.
  6. Nitrate Poisoning  –NitrAtes –  especially common fish killer / weakener in established pond.
  7. pH Explained -pH is the most common deadly water quality parameter to check. Crash discussed.
  8. Oxygen Levels – Oxygen levels. Why it might sag, impact of heat and plants, what to do about it.
  9. CrowdingCrowding. How many is too many. What does that do to fish?
  10. Still and StaleWater movement and turnover. Common. Stale, still water. Fish weakener.
  11. MetabolismTemperature; it’s influence, it’s pitfalls, the ideals for fish recovery
  12. InjuriesCuts and bruises. Is that an ulcer, or a gash? How can you tell. When and if you treat.
  13. Cleanliness Cleanliness – Is the pond clean? Properly maintained? Can fish recover in unclean ponds?
  14. Germs & MicrobesBacterial infections – a usually unnecessary video because 90% of people have figured out the source of a disease is in their water quality and husbandry. Injections, treatments, etc all discussed.
  15. FungusFungal infections, you’d be surprised the cause, and the treatment (or lack thereof)
  16. Bugs & CrittersThe Parasites, this is pretty common. What you need to know about them, and their treatment.
  17. Viruses like KHVViral diseases, like Koi Herpes virus and some of the skin-viruses that cause warts.
  18. Video 18 –> No video 18 lol
  19. QuarantineQuarantine. If you did it, then the list gets shorter. If you didn’t do it, (and how to do it) the field remains very wide.
  20. Further ResourcesResources for more help, diagnostics, fish vets who still do it.

Here’s a good video to kick off with: