it’s easy to panic when you see dam­age on your fish, but here’s how to re­act to and treat mi­nor phys­i­cal in­juries.

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: Steve baker

How to treat mi­nor phys­i­cal in­juries in your fish.

We all get cuts and grazes from time to time, whether it’s a child fall­ing from a swing, or an adult cut­ting their fin­ger while chop­ping veg, but hope­fully we all know how to deal with mi­nor in­juries. Clean it, pro­tect it, let it breathe and keep it dry, sim­ple. Plus, we have use­ful reme­dies to en­cour­age the heal­ing process, like aloe ex­tract to help tis­sue growth, and Vi­ta­min C tablets to help the im­mune sys­tem fight in­fec­tion.

When it comes to our aquatic pets get­ting in­juries, we need sim­i­lar ac­tion (apart from keep­ing it dry, of course) but with dif­fer­ent equip­ment. In aquaria, there are far fewer cases of phys­i­cal in­jury (not least be­cause fish don’t tend to chop veg­eta­bles…).

But be­cause most fish­keep­ers don’t deal with th­ese sit­u­a­tions very often, they often lack ex­pe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence in what to do. Here, then, are some guide­lines for deal­ing with a fishy flesh wound.

Mi­nor wounds First, it’s im­por­tant to di­ag­nose the rea­son for the wound. Phys­i­cal dam­age to fish can oc­cur be­cause of fight­ing and bit­ing, scratch­ing on a rough sur­face, get­ting trapped, heater burn, rough net­ting/han­dling, par­a­site dam­age and bac­te­rial in­fec­tions. In ponds, there’s also a risk of wounds caused by preda­tors such as herons and cats.

What­ever the cause, an open wound is at high risk of in­fec­tion from bac­te­ria and/or fun­gus – more so in wa­ter than out – so we need to ad­dress tank/pond clean­li­ness and hy­giene.

With mi­nor dam­age, some­times all a fish needs to re­cover is a few ex­tra wa­ter changes and a good diet (maybe us­ing vi­ta­min ad­di­tives), much the same as us clean­ing a wound reg­u­larly and eat­ing healthily. The trick in this sce­nario is to watch that dam­age like a hawk, so at the first sign of any in­fec­tion you can act quickly with a rem­edy. Nat­u­ral/her­bal reme­dies based on tree and plant ex­tracts, such as Me­lafix by API, can be use­ful for mi­nor is­sues and as a pre­ven­ta­tive treat­ment against fun­gus and bac­te­rial in­fec­tions. They can also be ef­fec­tive at en­cour­ag­ing tis­sue growth, when used af­ter treat­ment for more se­vere in­fec­tions, to help speed up heal­ing time. Note th­ese treat­ments can’t be used with labyrinth fish, how­ever, as they cling to and block the labyrinth sys­tem, so don’t use them with Bet­tas, gouramis, snake­heads and other an­a­ban­toides – al­though there are en­zyme-based treat­ments aimed at speed­ing up re­cov­ery that are safe, such as Bal­ance en­zyme by aqua­source.

Deal­ing with in­fec­tion Stronger treat­ments will be needed for more ad­vanced bac­te­rial or fun­gal in­fec­tions. Many bac­te­ria and par­a­site med­i­ca­tions also treat for fun­gus – handy, as a wound with a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion will often be­come af­fected by fun­gus as a

sec­ondary in­fec­tion (also the case with par­a­site dam­age). There are many broad-range bac­te­ria and fun­gus treat­ments avail­able. Here are some points to bear in mind when us­ing them:

You must know the vol­ume of your tank and treat ac­cord­ingly. Over­dos­ing may be toxic to your fish; un­der­dos­ing may be in­ef­fec­tive and al­low the in­fec­tion to ad­vance.

Check the warn­ings on the bot­tle – some fish species or groups of fish can’t tol­er­ate par­tic­u­lar in­gre­di­ents and many treat­ments can’t be used with in­verts such as shrimp and snails.

The ad­di­tion of any treat­ment will dis­place dis­solved oxy­gen. Coun­ter­act that by in­creas­ing sur­face wa­ter move­ment and/or add an air stone (run by an air­pump) for the du­ra­tion of the treat­ment.

Re­move any car­bon or ze­o­lite from your fil­ter and turn off any UV lights as they will ab­sorb and break down med­i­ca­tions, ren­der­ing the treat­ment use­less. If you’re us­ing any other ab­sorbent me­dia, check the man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions to see whether it should be re­moved.

As with hu­man an­tibi­otics, al­ways fol­low the full course – don’t be tempted to stop a seven-day treat­ment on day five be­cause the fish look a bit bet­ter. Chances are the in­fec­tion will re­turn with a vengeance, pos­si­bly with a re­silience to the med­i­ca­tion. Don’t mix treat­ments un­less it’s ad­vised in the man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions. Con­tinue treat­ing. If health is im­prov­ing but not fully healed by the end of the course of treat­ment, most med­i­ca­tions can be con­tin­ued for a few more days, or re-dosed af­ter a week, but do a wa­ter change or two be­fore con­tin­u­ing. Plac­ing some car­bon in the fil­ter af­ter suc­cess­ful treat­ment will soak up any residue of the med­i­ca­tion, par­tic­u­larly heavy me­tals like cop­per, used in many treat­ments. Top­i­cal treat­ment When larger fish are wounded, it’s often more ef­fec­tive to treat the wound top­i­cally – clean­ing the area and ap­ply­ing treat­ment to the wound it­self. This is com­mon prac­tice with Koi and big cich­lids. It takes a lit­tle leap of faith to han­dle your first top­i­cal treat­ment, but once you’ve

done it you re­alise it’s not so dif­fi­cult.

The first con­cern is anaes­thetis­ing the fish. This isn’t some­thing you’re likely to have done be­fore, but fol­low the in­struc­tions, keep a close eye on the fish and its re­ac­tions, and you should be fine.

Be­fore you start, set out all the equip­ment and tools you need.

Fun­gus and bac­te­ria can quickly in­fect a small wound.

ABOVE: Sapro­leg­nia fun­gus.

BE­LOW LEFT: Ripped fin with slight in­fec­tion.

BE­LOW RIGHT: Clean ul­cer.

Use Virkon to ster­ilise equip­ment be­fore and af­ter use. Clean the wound.

Bring them back to health.

Fight bac­te­rial and fun­gal is­sues.

Boost the imune sys­tem.

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