Hey saltwater aquarium fans,
The most problems that occur in any saltwater tank happen to the marine creatures themselves; fish, invertebrates and especially corals.
These problems will show themselves as changes in appearance and behaviour of your pets. Your marine life itself is the most important indicator of what is going on in your aquarium.
When this happens most people (hopefully not you readers!) fly into a panic, ask some pet shop guy what the problem is instead of researching it themselves. This can easily result in an incorrect diagnosis as usually the pet shop dude is just guessing and/or the symptoms are just being described instead of the guy (or girl) taking a look for themselves.
Incorrect diagnosis usually causes more deaths than the disease itself! Marine diseases like marine velvet are quick acting, you usually only get 1 chance to get it right before the poor fish is stricken.
The best chance you have to combat disease is to stop it occurring in the first place, if you are paying attention yes, I have said this many times before!
Lets look at how we do this:
- Learn about the species before you buy, especially in terms of the environment and diet it requires. Remember that environmental stress caused by sub-optimal conditions is the number one cause of disease and healthy marine life rarely gets diseased.
- Learn how to carefully select the perfect example of the species you want. Don’t rush it and be patient; shop around if you have to. Make sure you observe it eat (a few times is better) and if it is new to the store give it a couple of weeks to see how it adapts to the stresses of captive life and of its capture which is the single most stressful time of a marine fishes life!
- Maintain optimal water quality at all times. Having a stable, pristine environment is key to ward off disease.
- Quarantine all new additions to your aquarium for around 2 weeks. This greatly reduces stress and will give any potential disease the chance to show itself before your new addition is added to its other tank mates. Additionally a sick fish immediately removed to a quarantine tank will minimise spread of the disease to other marine life and enable that fish/invertebrate to be medicated in a stress free environment where treatments cannot adversely affect other individuals (for example the some Ich medications contain copper which kills corals and other invertebrates), this procedure will maximise chances of speedy recovery.
- Learn how to acclimate your marine life correctly; and by this I mean emptying the bag with your new pet into a bucket or small plastic aquarium, then adding aquarium water drop by drop using thin tubing and clamp over an hour or so until the fish is swimming in 90% aquarium water and has been gradually acclimatised to its new homes’ specific gravity, temperature and pH.
- You need to know the correct way to carry out medication and dips/baths for your marine life. Dips are an important technique for medicating (methylene blue works well and is harmless) and getting rid of potential parasites that will literally swell up and burst from the osmotic shock of the freshwater! A freshwater bath should be done in 80% fresh water and 20% aquarium water adjusted to the temperature and pH of the aquarium using sodium bicarbonate. If rapid breathing or distress occurs put the fish back into the aquarium. Never leave the fish in there longer than 10 minutes. Dips are an excellent precaution for new livestock as part of the quarantine process.
- Last but not least, avoid at all costs putting pathogenic organisms into your aquariums by using the above methods especially quarantine and freshwater dips for your new additions.
So as you can see problems with your saltwater aquarium can be kept to an absolute minimum just by being informed and not taking shortcuts. A lot of marine aquarists make a lot of mistakes because they don’t know any better, if you adhere to my rules there will be very little need for trouble-shooting because there will be no trouble!