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”:
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.
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. Bioseedingis 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.
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.
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.
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
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Dr Erik Johnson is a Marietta, Georgia Veterinarian with a practice in small animal medicine. He graduated from University of Georgia with his Doctorate in 1991. Dr Johnson is the author of several texts on Koi and Pond Fish Health and Disease as well as numerous articles on dog and cat health topics.