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Brooklynella

This protozoan parasite so commonly affects imported wild clownfishes that the suite of symptoms it produces is often called "clownfishes disease." Fish are listless and refuse to eat, may show

Amiloodinium Fish Parasite
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One reef aquarist's medicine chest: Copper sulfate and formalin, for quarantined fishes; preventive dip and Lugol's Solution, for treating corals.

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256 Natural Reef Aquariums labored breathing as with Amyloodinium, and, in particular, produce such copious external mucus that they appear to be sloughing off layers of skin. Commercial preparations containing formalin and malachite green are an effective treatment, but copper is not. Clownfishes should be treated immediately upon discovery of the problem, which usually manifests itself within a day or two after the fish arrive in the retail shop. Hatchery-produced clown-fishes are seldom affected by Brooklynella, probably due to higher standards of sanitation in the facilities, compared to conditions to which wild clowns are exposed while awaiting export to this country.

Other Parasites

Marine fishes are subject to infestation with various kinds of flukes, worms, and crustacean parasites. These problems are much rarer in home aquariums than the hobbyist literature might lead one to suppose. Further, hobbyists are not likely to be able to treat such problems effectively. In the case of external parasites, professional help will usually be required to determine not only the identity of the parasite, but also an appropriate treatment. Internal parasites are, for all practical purposes, untreatable.

Only one external worm parasite is common. It is also easily treatable. This is Black Spot disease of tangs. The agent is a small flatworm that burrows under the fish's skin, making it appear as if the fish has been dusted with black pepper. Yellow Tangs are frequently reported as having this problem; their coloration makes an infestation especially obvious. A dip in a bucket of seawater containing a solution of picric acid formulated for the purpose is an effective remedy. The medication is commercially available. Most of the time, the dealer, rather than the hobbyist, will be the one carrying out this treatment, as fish showing the black spots will be avoided by customers.

Bacterial Infections

Marine fish can also become diseased as a result of a bacterial infection. Eff ective treatment of bacterial diseases requires 1) identification of the causative organism; 2) antibiotic sensitivity testing; and 3) appropriate dosage and route of administration of antibiotics in a timely manner. Small wonder that attempts by the hobbyist to treat bacterial infections usually fail. Antibiotic preparations available in aquarium shops are likely to be inappropriate for the disease they purport to treat and are often too stale to retain potency. In addition, they generally are supplied in a form inadequate for proper administration and come with dosage recommendations that are far below therapeutic levels. According to the manufacturers' recommendations, virtually all of these medications should simply be added to the water, but this route of administration is seldom able to achieve a high enough dose to do the fish any good.

Widespread use of antibiotics by hobbyists is also to be discouraged because of the likelihood of creating resistant strains of bacteria. The subtherapeutic dosage and lack of targeted administration suggested on the packages of these medications is, ironically, the perfect scenario for developing resistance.

Fish that are suffering from a problem that is not amenable to copper treatment (or one of the other minor problems mentioned earlier) should be euthanized, or the assistance of a veterinarian should be sought. In any event, the infected specimen must be isolated from its tankmates.

One possible exception to the use of antibiotics is for the prevention of infection in wounded specimens or those that have suffered skin damage (from jumping out of the tank, for example). If the wound is localized and not near the gills, antibiotics are not needed. Simply painting the damaged area with a swab dipped in a mixture of one part ordinary mercurochrome and one part aquarium water is usually ef-

Chapter Eleven 257

fective in preventing infection. However, for a more generalized treatment, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound, such as one in the nitrofurazone family, at 50 mg per gallon every other day for a week, may be effective.

The United States Food and Drug Administration is currently considering restricting the availability of antibiotics to home aquarists. In my view, this action will not create a significant burden.

Acclimation

The process of introducing a fish to new water conditions is called acclimation. Probably every aquarist is aware that some sort of procedure is necessary, and everyone has a preferred method. However, my experiences with hundreds of marine fishes indicate that most of the usual methods are of little benefit if the intent is to get the fish slowly accustomed to the new water. Most acclimation procedures call for about an hours time for the transition. This is simply not sufficient for the fish to make the necessary physiological adjustments if water conditions in the new location are significantly different from those to which the fish was previously exposed.

Efforts to maintain specimens in good condition will be thwarted if they have not been packed properly for travel from the shop to your home. Even when the customer lives near Slow-drip acclimation: a bagged specimen gradually adjusts the shop, attention to details can make the difference between to temperature, pH, and specific gravity of a new system, a fish arriving in the hobbyist s tank in the best possible condition and arriving in severe stress. One of the most accom- different shipping techniques and to keep track of the results plished aquarists I know is Jackson Andrews, whom I first in terms of the size of the fish, the species, mortalities, and met while he was with the National Aquarium in Baltimore. so forth. The study accumulated a lot of data, but Andrews He is now Director of Operations and Husbandry at the Ten- summed it up in one sentence: "The more water there is in the nessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. While at the National shipping container, the lower the fish mortality."

Reef Aquariums Pictures

Aquarium, he was responsible for collecting operations in

Along with plenty of water, specimens should always the Florida Keys that stocked the aquarium's giant coral reef be given ample room in the shipping container. In my ex-fishes exhibit. Here was an opportunity to experiment with perience, a 3-inch fish needs about a half gallon of water,

258 Natural Reef Aquariums

into good water as soon as possible. (Never add shipping water to your system or even to your quarantine system.)

If the specimen does not exhibit signs of stress, as is most often the case, the water used for transporting it should be tested with the same equipment in use on the aquarist's holding tank. If these tests show that temperature, pH, and specific gravity of the transport water are similar to conditions in the holding aquarium, release the fish (separated from its shipping water) into its temporary quarters. If, however, there are significant differences in water conditions, do not add to the fish's stress unnecessarily with a sudden transfer.

The first step should be to equalize the temperature between the transport container and the holding/quarantine tank. An increase in temperature is easier for the fish to handle than a decrease. Therefore, if the bag is cooler than the tank, which is the most common situation, float the un-and an equal amount of pure oxygen, in the shipping bag. To opened bag in the tank for a half hour or so to allow the ship fish long distances by air freight or for an overnight car trip, they should be packed in at least two layers of plas- if the tank is cooler than the bag, it is better to turn up the tic bags. These are placed in an insulated container and sur- thermostat and warm the holding tank to a temperature rounded with loosefill (Styrofoam "peanuts") to absorb equal to or up to 2 degrees F greater than that of the bag shocks and to help keep the temperature stable. Packed this before proceeding. Once the temperature has equalized, way, they will survive a surprisingly long time in perfect open the transport container and drop in an airstone. Adjust

Reef Aquariums Pictures

Simple quarantine set-up: 10-gallon tank and cover, heater, thermometer, air-driven filter, and PVC hiding places.

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shipping water to warm to the tank temperature. However, i t 1" h f* f-o tn \r 1 c thin f n /=» Knrr it ie npffpr f-r^v fiirn ii shape. (My record is 69 hours.)

the airflow so that a good stream of bubbles is produced, but

Over the years, I have developed some specific recom- not so much as to slosh the fish around in the bag (this will mendations for handling recently shipped fish. First, it is only increase its stress). Carbon dioxide builds up in the important to stop and think about the nature of the jour- shipping water as a result of the fish's respiration. If the con-

ney the fish has made from the dealer's tank to your home centration of C02 becomes high enough, the fish will die

If the dealer is ten minutes away, the water in the transport of respiratory distress, even if there is abundant oxygen pre-

bag will of course be in better condition than if the journey sent in the water. Fish in respiratory distress usually exhibit has lasted several hours. If the specimen appears to be in rapid, shallow opercular movements. Aeration of the water severe distress, open the bag, pour out as much of the ship- in the bag eliminates a lot of C02 quickly, but check the ping water as possible and then dump the fish into your holding tank immediately This may add to its stress, but it journey has been a long one and will become more toxic to will be of greater value in the long run to get the specimen the fish as the pH rises due to aeration of the water. If am-

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transport water for ammonia. It may be present if the fish'

Chapter Eleven 259

monia is present, transfer the fish into ammonia-free water 11311(11101 M 3 N H 6 FlSfKjS immediately.

Once the fish is in the holding tank, it will probably Fishes are susceptible to skin infections if they are appear somewhat disoriented for a few minutes and will roughly handled. Try not to use a net to catch a fish. In-soon seek shelter and hide. At this point, turn out the room stead, if right-handed, hold a wide-mouth clear plastic con-lights and walk away. Leave the new arrival alone for 24 tainer in your left hand and use your right hand or a net to hours to allow it to become accustomed to its new environ- herd the fish into the container. This takes practice but saves ment in peace. Offer fresh or frozen food after the first 24 fish lives. Traps are available for those who lack the dexter-hours. Some fish will start eating promptly; others may take ity. Traps are essential for removing a fish from an established three or four days to settle down and start feeding. Observe tank with lots of rockwork, where the risk of damaging in-the fish carefully for signs of disease: scratching, rapid vertebrates while chasing the fish is very high. As a last re-breathing, sores or lesions, lethargy, etc. After the third day, sort, hook and line may be used. Experienced aquarium healthy fish should be normally active and searching for fishermen report that the hook size must be chosen with food. If disease symptoms are apparent, take appropriate care, and, of course, the barb must be removed from the treatment measures. Check pH, ammonia, and nitrite in the hook, holding tank, and make appropriate adjustments if necessary. Otherwise, continue feeding for two weeks, then move In summary, all wild marine fishes must be placed in a the fish into the display tank.

Ideal handling of a fish that must be moved: avoid nets in favor of traps or wide-mouthed containers into which the target specimen is gently guided separate tank for at least two weeks before being introduced to an established display aquarium. It is likely that any disease problem (probably caused by one of two microscopic parasites) will become apparent during this time. Treatment for either problem with copper sulfate is straightforward and usually effective, provided the aquarist learns to recognize when a fish is in trouble. More exotic problems, with one or two exceptions, are probably beyond the abilities of the home hobbyist to manage without professional help. In particular, bacterial infections may require the assistance of a veterinarian. Fortunately, the most difficult diseases to treat are the rarest. Aquariums that are main tained under good conditions are rarely troubled by disease outbreaks, and the fish in them often live longer than if in the sea.

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