Disease in the Reef Aquarium

Prevention, Acclimationy and the Simple Realities of Keeping a System Healthy

Marine fish have amazingly tough constitutions. I have seen them survive wounds of the sort seen in B-grade horror movies: an eye torn from the head, body parts shredded to ribbons, appendages mangled to mere stumps. Fish jump and crash into the glass canopy above them with surprising force. Imagine running at full speed into a plate-glass door. Tve found fish lying on the floor, covered in lint, nearly crisp from desiccation, only to have them recover completely after being returned to the aquarium. So why do marine fish have a reputation for extreme delicacy and susceptibility to disease? Probably because too many aquarists fail to anticipate problems and are then unprepared when they arise. Despite the frustration that often results from attempts to cope with disease outbreaks in marine aquarium fish, more than 90% of the deaths could probably be avoided.

The basic rules for disease prevention and control are simple:

1. All new fish must be placed in a separate isolation tank for a minimum of two weeks prior to introducing them into an established display aquarium. Period. No exceptions.

Health care on the reef: cleaner shrimp and gobies groom a Nassau Grouper, seeking parasites and dead flecks of skin.

2. If disease becomes evident in an established reef aquarium, there is no known way to treat the problem successfully without removing the fish to a separate tank.

3. Only one medication is widely effective, widely available and easy to use: copper. For best results, however, it must be administered in a separate tank.

Note the repeated admonition of "separate tank." Without this essential tool, you must choose between having a reef system with no fish or with the virtual certainty of losing the entire tank of fish at some point. No sense hiding this unpleasant truth. Now for the good news: there is only one disease syndrome that you need to worry about (with a couple of exceptions). I use the term "syndrome," because two very similar parasite infestations account for the vast majority of sick marine aquarium fishes: Cryptocaryon irri-tans (white spot, marine ich) and Amyloodintum ocellatum (oodinium, marine velvet, coral reef disease). Both produce the same symptoms, and both respond to the same treatment regime.

Whether or not the dealer carries out his or her own quarantine procedures, it is still best to place newly acquired fishes in their own tank, apart from the main display tank, for at least two weeks. There, one can observe them for signs of disease and treat them appropriately. Treatments cannot

Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

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