Pet fish medicine and surgery (Proceedings)


Pet fish medicine and surgery (Proceedings)

Apr 01, 2010

These notes are provided as an outline and brief review of pet fish medicine with emphasis on the clinical work up and standards of care. The further reading section contains a list of references that should be helpful to the clinician interested in learning more about the practice of fish medicine and surgery. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail with any questions or requests for information. I will do my best to reply within a reasonable time frame.

Clinical Work Up
      The history
As with any sick animal a good history can be the clinician's best friend; be sure and obtain a complete one. The clinician will require such important information as: How long has the client owned the fish? How experienced is the client? What and how often are the fish fed? Have any new fish been introduced into the aquarium or pond recently and if so were they quarantined? Have the fish been treated with any medications? Developing/utilizing a medical record form tailored to the fish patient that includes the history and water quality values is recommended.

      Water chemistry
Water chemistry is the most complicated part of aquatic system management and perhaps the most important. It is necessary to have an understanding of water chemistry principles in order to successfully diagnose and correct aquarium problems.

      Water testing
Obtaining a good and durable test kit that can be purchased for between $200.00 and $300.00 is recommended. Hach Co. ( and LaMotte Chemical ( are two reputable manufacturers and suppliers of quality water test kits. Regardless of test kit you'll want to be able to evaluate the water for dissolved oxygen, temperature, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, hardness, and total alkalinity.

All successful recirculating systems have at least one type of filter and many have two or more. A filter is just what it says it is; it filters or removes harmful or unwanted components from the water.

      Anatomy and physiology
Knowledge of normal anatomy is a prerequisite for practicing fish medicine. Fortunately, the vertebrate body plan is fairly well conserved, so much of what one sees in fish will be familiar, although there are some bizarre arrangements of the familiar (e.g. sea horses and flat fish), and many differences in specifics. Please contact me via e-mail for a review of fish anatomy and physiology, and/or, refer to the reference section at the end of these notes.