Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

How and What To Use To Make a Medicated Food For Fish Part 4

How and What To Use To Make a Medicated Food For Fish Part 4

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Now you know a new way to bind medicine to Koi and goldfish pellets in order to get medicines into the fish orally. It’s pineapple flavored, safe, easy to make and not oily. You don’t have to make paste foods, and the food stores well. The fish take it very well, it can be made on a base-pellet of your choosing and it’s very flexible limited only by what you can obtain to mix in it. Continue reading How and What To Use To Make a Medicated Food For Fish Part 4

New Way to Make Medicated Feed For NON-Food Fish (Part 2)

New Way to Make Medicated Feed For NON-Food Fish

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So now we can take advantage of all the legal workarounds available to us by choosing especially privileged vets (the ones somehow above the regulatory restrictions that brick-and-mortar vets face), and “pet” pharmacies with enough lee-way to sell is what we want without regulation. Continue reading New Way to Make Medicated Feed For NON-Food Fish (Part 2)

New Way to Make Medicated Feed For NON-Food Fish

New Way to Make Medicated Feed For NON-Food Fish

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FDA has downregulated medicated food to be available only by prescription. The manufactured food “of choice” is made with “Aquaflor” which is Florfenicol. It’s good, but the only Vet that can legitimately prescribe it will have been directly-and-in-person to your pond.

Continue reading New Way to Make Medicated Feed For NON-Food Fish

1 MICROSCOPY – Tutorial

1) Microscopy Tutorial



Tutorial Contents

Unboxing the Scope

The Optics (Magnifiers) 

The Screen on the Scope

The Stage & Its Adjustment

All About Lighting and Adjustment

Adjusting the Lighting and Focus

Using Practice Slides to Focus 

Sample Collection (Several Methods)

Skin Biopsy

Gill Biopsy One

Gill Biopsy Two

Intestinal Snip for Worms Etc.

The Parasites Overview 

Flukes Under The Scope

Costia Under The Scope

Ich / White Spot Under The Scope

Chilodonella Under The Scope

Trichodina Under The Scope

Miscellany and a 5 Minute Biopsy Collection Video 


Why the Celestron? 

It’s the best scope you can get, for anywhere near the price. It’s got a mechanical stage and a video screen PLUS video capture and the whole scope is less than 175$

The intent of this tutorial is to teach hobbyists how to use a microscope. This is not a five minute thing to learn. So if you’re in a rush, skip it.

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?


PH Pills – Making them for support of PH – The pH Pill



“pH Pills” Made with safe Plaster of Paris, (details provided) Support pH and Carbonate Alkalinity Against Crash – by supporting carbonates.  Well, it’s been interesting preparing the report on the “pH pill”. Some of the initial (and follow-up) research has yielded some interesting data. I will go through it all for you, from basics to “brass tacks”

NOTE: You could KILL your fish if you add Plaster of Paris to the water as a powder. I have no idea why Plaster of Paris has to be cured to chalky before it’s truly ‘safe’ for fishtanks and ponds.

The “pH pill” is a home-made pill, puck, or chunk, of white chalky material you can toss into the pond or aquarium, and it will slowly dissolve, liberating carbonates, Calcium, Magnesium and gypsum. The dissolution of the “pH pill” increases hardness, alkalinity and more in the water being treated.

It remains to be seen, but some enterprising individuals plan to borrow this technology and incorporate some medications into it for slow infusion into a system. For example, Dimilin (Diflubenzuron) would be ideally suited to this form of dosing.

TRADE SECRET: The “pH pill” is composed of nothing more than pure Plaster of Paris. For the research we did, we used high grade Plaster of Paris purchased at Home Depot. The ingredients are:

C.A.S. Limestone 50%
C.A.S. Gypsum 50%
…with no hardeners or setting agents added. You should be cautious to read the contents label, because some of the plasters-of-paris I saw at hobby shops had stabilizers, binders and hardeners to hasten the set up of the plaster.

Wanna hear something unbelievably stupid? The pundits (who didn’t have ANY idea what CAS stood for) decried this information, saying you don’t want to put Calcium Sulfate in your pond!!!! Remember these are the ‘know-it-all’ ass hats that are saying this. CAS stands for Chemical Abstracts Service. Not calcium sulfate.

There are precautionary statements on the bag, which suggest the dust from this compound can be eye irritant and should not be breathed. The bag weighs twenty five pounds and cost under nine dollars.

We mixed up the Plaster of Paris using regular tap water. Before it had a chance to set, we poured it into cupcake tins, making our initial batch of test-pills the size of small hockey pucks. [Two-and-a-half inches in diameter and one inch thick). It was very difficult to get them out of the pans, so we tried plastic containers the next time and had much better results.
From a friend/hobbyist: 12/19/98 (Yeah old)
“I’m using the pH Pill in my 500 gal. hospital tank (in which I always have trouble keeping the total alkalinity up) and it seems to be working just fine. BTW, a styrofoam egg carton works well to cast the Plaster of Paris into. The resulting puck has good surface area and can be easily broken into various sizes (now have 13 lumps in the tank – seems stable). I will try a little Pam spray as a release agent in my next casting (I’m using an 18 egg carton and Home Depot PP – works well.)” ~SC
Plaster of Paris sets up in less than ten minutes, so if you’re not pouring pretty expediently, you’ll have a chalky, lumpy mess, which will not pour. We found we could make it as thin as we wanted and it would still set up and harden. The more water in your mix, the more shrinkage will occur as it sets up. The quality and performance of the final product is unaffected.
In total; four ponds, and twenty-one aquaria were treated with varying numbers of these “pH pills” and the results have been very good. No toxicity or ill effect was noted in any dosing regimen.
We put whole-pucks into thirty-gallon aquaria, with tropical and coldwater fish, and they worked fabulously, lasting up to seventeen days. The PH of tested systems was always near neutral and best of all, water clarity was enhanced. More on this later.
We put whole pucks into thousand-gallon-ponds and found they dissolved fairly rapidly, but were not adequate to support the pH under heavy loading. In one pond, of twenty two hundred gallons, it took six or eight “pH pills” to support the pH and the pucks lasted nine days. It is now our recommendation that for large ponds, you can mix up a shallow plastic pan full of the Plaster of Paris, then liberate the entire slab from the pan when it is completely dry. The slab is struck in the center (or can be scored for neat breaks) and larger pieces should be used in larger ponds.
My own pond is now being supported by two pieces which are one-and-a-half inch thick and measure six-by-nine inches across the face.
We did notice that the dissolution of the “pH pill” can be slowed by the
addition of other carbonates to the system. When water is pre-treated with Baking Soda or Neutral Regulator, the “pH pills” lifespan is increased.
Placement of the “pH pills” is paramount. They MUST Be employed in the main water flow of the system. This can be either the pulling or pushing segments of the plumbing. For example; in my main system, the chips are used in the skimmer and a slow draw of water ensures their eventual dissolution. In aquariums, if you’re using undergravel filtration, best results are had when you lay the pill on the gravel near the “stacks”. You can even put the “pH pill” in the filter box hanging on the back if you use that type of filter.
There are some precautions concerning the use of “pH pills”.
First, to get good results, you must place the “pH pill” in the main pull or push of the water way as we have already mentioned..



Second, do not breathe the powder, or allow the dust in your eyes.
Finally, do NOT use the “pH pill” until it is chalky, and bone dry. If it still feels slick or cool to the touch, it may not be “cured” and it MAY comprise a liability to the fish in that condition –  at the very least causing clouding instead of clarifying it. Funny how an extra day of curing works.

When completely dry, the “pH pill” weighs relatively little, and is chalky and dry. When placed in the water, thousands of tiny bubbles will escape it’s surface. This is perfectly normal and will subside once it’s let off its trapped air.
One interesting note on the “pH pill” concerns its composition. The “pH pill” is made of pure limestone (75%) and Gypsum (25%). Dr. Claude Boyd discusses the use of Gypsum to clarify pond water in his book, released through Auburn University entitled “Water Quality in Ponds for Aquaculture“. The book is superb and it’s availability from Auburn is discussed in the resources pages of my textbook, Koi Health and Disease.

In Dr. Boyd’s work, he found that Gypsum was a very effective water clarifier, and we have found this to be true in our own testing of these home made “pH pills”. Dr. Boyd’s book mentions and compares the clearance of certain turbidities with Gypsum so the benefit is not universal, and depends upon the cause of the particular turbidity. The turbidities I have found it to clear most propitiously are suspensions of the pond’s organics and “fines”. I doubt Gypsum’s ability to clear a bacterial haze.

Limestone is nothing more than pure Calcium and Magnesium carbonate. The limestone used in our Home Depot Plaster of Paris is extremely clean-dissolving, unlike agricultural or dolomitic Limestone. The dissolution of the “pH pill” liberates Calcium and Magnesium, which increase water hardness and is beneficial to juvenile fish that can use aqueous Calcium for bone building. The pill also liberates pure
carbonates, which stabilize and actually increase pH. I could not raise the pH of any system tested above 8.3 regardless of how much “pH pill” I used.
To test the higher end safety margins of the home made “pH pill”, I simply put three pucks in a ten gallon facility and had no mortalities among the following species: Goldfish, Koi, Tetras, White’s Tree Frogs, Alligator Snapping Turtles, and Plecostomi.

To close this discussion, I would mention that graphics (pictures) in support of this technology are available at phpill. I encourage you to click over there soon and see the actual plaster used, the pucks we made and the systems tested.
I do not recommend that this technology is a replacement for pH monitoring. It could [unfortunately] evolve that folks are using the “pH pill” and not checking their alkalinity or pH. The assumption would be made that in the presence of a “pH pill” there can be no pH crash and that the pH is optimal. Indeed, depending upon the start-condition of your water, the “pH pill” may be entirely unnecessary or even harmful. [For example, hard water areas].

But in this technology, we do have a back-up means of maintaining a suitable pH for Koi and Goldfish with the simplicity of manufacture, and an element of affordability which make it a treasure. I hasten to assure you that I still check pH, I still use neutral regulators, but I no longer worry that I am going to miss a day of testing and suffer a pH crash. The use of sufficient “pH pill” material, whether used as pucks or slabs, obviates this possibility.

“It turns out that if your system is grossly overloaded, or if you’re retail, the pH Pill may not dissolve fast enough to support the PH against high CO2 – carbonic acid loading. You may either need to use more pieces than the average hobbyist or more work might need to be done to find a carbonate that dissolves more responsively.” ~ Doc Johnson
“Using plaster of paris other than the one clearly denoted at right is a fool’s way to kill fish. Don’t do it!” ~ Doc Johnson

Making Dechlorinator – Sodium thiosulfate

How should I make a good dechlorinating solution? I have read about some pretty high doses, like 250 grams in 500ml of water to make a stock solution.
A: First, let’s tell our reader how to get dechlorinating granules, Sodium Thiosulfate:

See below for link to find like, 5 pounds of sodium thiosulfate for overnight delivery.

If you put 130 grams in a liter jug, then add water quantity sufficient to make 1 liter, your stock solution will contain 130 grams/Liter.

Each teaspoonful [5 cc] will contain 650mg active Sodium Thiosulfate. This is a 13% solution.
Simply add 2 drops of the stock solution per 1 gallon of the body of water to be treated . One liter of your solution can treat 10,000 gallons. Over-dosage is virtually impossible.

Another method with the same results is to put 500 grams in a gallon jug, q.s. to 1 gallon then you have the same 650mg per tsp. [13% solution] Add 2 drops of the stock solution per gallon.
One gallon can treat 37,850 gallons or more. 

Why you need dechlorinator (Click)

Making Dechlorinator – Sodium thiosulfate


A Topical For Bacterial Sores or Ulcer Disease in Koi

A Topical For Bacterial Sores or Ulcer Disease in Koi

With bacterial sores, one of the key elements is killing ALL the germs in the area. removing as much dead tissue and grossness as possible in ONE PASS and leaving something disinfectant in the vicinity as long as the water will let it stay. That seems to require a “stain” like Mercurochrome or similar.

Except Mercurochrome is pretty much straight-up mercury and good luck getting that (You can, lol – just click here).

An old standby for me is Iodine. But you need an aggressive staining iodine and you need to be able to get it ON a wound while getting dead-stuff OFF the wound.

Enter, Tincture of Iodine, 7% – 10% very strong.

And WOVEN gauze sponges. (See below) Most of what you find these days are “non woven” because they are considerably softer and MORE ABSORBENT. Finding “woven” gauze is kind of hard these days.

Ulcer disease in Koi debridement wounds iodine
^ Where to buy: WOVEN gauze sponges.

But when you’re debriding a Koi or other fish wound, you don’t care about absorbent, you need a “gentle roughness” for scrubbing. Not scrubbing, more like, rubbing. Kind of rubbing, but mainly “removing” dead stuff and “stopping while you’re ahead”.

You get the idea from the above that it’s a “finesse” sort of “experience” thing.

A Topical For Bacterial Sores or Ulcer Disease in Koi

Tincture of Iodine is available in several strengths. I used to buy the two-percent solution off the shelf at the drug store, but I felt like I needed something stronger. So I inquired of my local pharmacist and he supplied me with a seven-percent solution, which is fabulous for wound cleaning. Care must be taken to avoid using it near the gill. It may run under the gill cover and damage gill tissue. Fish hate that. ‘Really.

Tincture of Iodine will stain you severely, but does not ‘hurt’ the skin. It could do serious eye damage and so I must recommend that you wear protective eyewear. If this compound gets on the cornea of the fish, it will be of no consequence, as the cornea of the fish seems able to withstand this compound easily.

Use of this and almost any other topical should be limited to a single use. Once the wound has stopped bleeding, seems less red, and the edges seem to be ‘organizing’ into a thick white rim, do NOT re-apply any topical. You will disrupt the necessary migration of epithelial cells across the wound. This is the only way that large sores will heal. If you’re doing daily scrubs on the wounds, they cannot heal. A vicious cycle is propagated.

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.

Floating Goldfish Swimbladder Flipover Disease


By Vincent Ling

“Why does my goldfish tend to float at the surface of the water and have a hard time going to the bottom of the tank?”

Because it’s got swimbladder disease.

Swimbladder disease is a multifactorial illness which primarily affects ornamental goldfish which have globoid body shapes, like orandas, ryukins, and fantails. It most often presents as a fish which floats at the surface, or a fish which stays on the bottom and doesn’t seem to be able to easily rise. A fish which has normal buoyancy but is listing to one side or the other often does not have swimbladder disease, but may have other diseases.

Floating Goldfish Swimbladder Flipover Disease
Floating Goldfish Swimbladder Flipover Disease

In order to understand swim bladder disease, a cursory discussion of fish anatomy and physiology is necessary. The swim bladder is a small epithelium-lined sac in the anterior abdomen which is responsible for maintaining buoyancy. It has a close association with blood vessels such that gases can diffuse across into and out of the sac according to the needs of the fish. The sac inflates if the fish needs to be more buoyant, and it deflates if the fish needs to be less buoyant. Goldfish and some other fish have a special addition to this system called the pneumocystic duct, which is a connection between the swim bladder and the esophagus, allowing additional adjustment of buoyancy by letting air out through the digestive tract.

People have debated for years over the cause of swim bladder disease. It is pretty well established now that a number of things can cause swimbladder disease. Some of the things which have been suggested are:

1. A virus. The virus attacks the epithelium of the sac and inflammation occurs which makes the epithelium too thick for gases to diffuse across. Thus the fish is stuck at a certain buoyancy because gases have nowhere to go. This may be more of a factor in non-goldfish species.
2. A Bacterium. There is little evidence to support this, but it’s widely known that bacterial infections can cause the same kind of thickening of the swim bladder epithelium as viruses.
3. Anatomy. Globoid-shaped fish like ornamental goldfish are predisposed to problems with the swim bladder because their guts are all squashed up in their abdomen. This arrangement predisposes to food impactions, which in turn clog up (or kink) the pneumocystic duct.
4. Diet. Feeding dry foods which tend to take on water like a sponge and expand in the fish may predispose to food impactions.
See #3 above.


1. As always, the golden rule of fish disease is WATER QUALITY. If swim bladder disease does have an infectious cause, your fish will be better able to resist this infection (and others) if your water quality is good. Periodic water changes and water testing are a must.
2.Pre-soak your flake or pelleted food. This will allow expansion to occur prior to the fish eating it, and will lessen the chance of impaction.
3.Even better, switch to a gel-based food or other food source, i.e. frozen or live food.


(Note: Some of this stuff is pretty far out, but effective.)

1. Feed your fish a couple of peas. That’s right, peas. Just get some frozen peas, thaw them, and feed them to your fish. A professor of fish medicine at N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine has done this in several cases with very good results. He thinks that the peas somehow encourage destruction of the impaction. No hard scientific data yet, but it’s worth a try.
2. Periodic aspiration of the swim bladder (sometimes) works very well. Basically, you stick a needle in the swim bladder and suck out some of the air. Not something to be entered into lightly, but (sometimes) does work well. This is not a cure, but a successful treatment.
3. Fast your fish for a couple of days. Withhold all food for three or four days, and sometimes this alone will break up the impaction and return things to normal. Most fish can go a week to ten days without food and be just fine.
4. Partial pneumocystectomy. This is another word for surgical removal of part of the swimbladder. I mention this less as a practical option but more just to let people know that there are vets out there doing X-rays, surgery, general anesthesia, even cancer chemotherapy on fish.

But the best thing to do is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

The above, courtesy of Vincent Ling and his excellent site: Oranda

From Rick Copeland: Floating Goldfish Swimbladder Flipover Disease

Hi Doc,

I regularly exchange emails with Janet Breslin so I’ve been following the Eve saga pretty closely. Congratulations on another success! I thought I would send you some notes on what’s been working for me in terms of reducing swim bladder problems in goldfish to an almost non-existent event. I’ve listed these in order of significance in what I believe are factors determining my success.

1. Quality of fish. For over two years I have exclusively bought fish
from Rick Hess. I think his sources are the best. His recovery methods for when he receives the fish (a lot of your suggestions according to Rick) and his 30 day quarantine. Plus Rick’s shipping is top notch.

2. Water quality. In all of my tanks the nitrates are in the 5-10 ppm at
their highest (measured just before weekly water change). PH is from 7.2 to 7.6; ammonia and nitrite are always zero. Each tank receives a weekly 50-70% water change. To the consternation of most of my fellow goldfish keepkeepers I still use gravel and UG filters in most of my tanks. My thought on this is that it is the most stable and cheapest bio-filter around. My success with UG filters is due to weekly vacuuming of the gravel during water changes.

From Doc Johnson: I like Undergravel filters unless they’re neglected. There is no better way to avoid anaerobic spots in the gravel and it makes great filtration. ELJ Running new water all the time is also superb for water quality and keeps sponge and UG filters in top notch shape by reducing DOC’s and background pollution. (2019)

3. Diet. I feed my fish once a day. Usually fast them one day a week.
Also, I try not to feed pelleted food two days in a row. The pelleted food I feed is Sho Gold; no presoaking. I alternate Sho Gold with frozen peas and cooked shrimp. When I run out of things to do I’ll start researching different home made recipes.

So in a nutshell I think the best treatment for swim bladder is preventing it. I still have the occasional problem fish. Right now I have a Japanese Ranchu that when he’s with other fish (Ranchus) he is such a hog he always floats for 8 hours after feeding from over eating. Kept by himself where I can control the amount of food he does fine.

Just some thoughts. They pretty much coincide with what you’ve published on the subject…


Floating Goldfish Swimbladder Flipover Disease

Note From Doc Johnson
“Some of the above information is not exactly correct. While it’s true that floating foods will worsen a flipover or floater, the floating pellets do not actually cause it.” Doc Johnson (2019)

“Do not under-estimate Krill or Freeze Dried Krill as a great food source or treat for your Koi and Goldfish.” Doc Johnson

Swim Bladder After Water Change