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Aquarium Fish Health: How NOT to Kill Your Fish.

Updated on July 1, 2017
Will Apse profile image

The author is a biologist who worked in conservation, aquatic biology, and woodland management over many years.

Overcrowding, sudden shocks, too much handling, can all stress fish.
Overcrowding, sudden shocks, too much handling, can all stress fish.

Fish are easy to keep if you provide the right conditions.

One of the biggest mistakes, though, is to believe that fish are not sensitive creatures. Just like us they are absolutely dependent on their environment. Sudden changes in their little world can be a shock.

It is impossible to keep every disease-causing organism out of an aquarium and anything that damages a fish's immune system, which certainly includes shocks and long term stress, is bad news.

Find out what matters if you want to keep your fish stress-free and fit enough to survive.

Careful temperature management is especially important with tropical fish.
Careful temperature management is especially important with tropical fish.


Water Quality

Aquarium fish are fussy about how their water tastes and what chemicals are floating around in it. One thing they hate is chlorinated water. Always let chlorinated tap water stand 48 hours before introducing fish. De-chlorinating chemicals from a fish hobby shop can be a good option if you are in a hurry.

Get to know the characteristics of your water supply and get to know what your fish like. Water with a lot of dissolved metals, like copper, is very bad for fish. Local fish hobbyists should know if the tap water in your area is OK and what local well water contains.

Water with the wrong amount of acid and alkali can upset fish and sudden changes in these things can cause big problems.

If the local water supply is bad for fish you might be forced to buy water from a pet store. If you have to, it is better to buy from the dealer who raised your aquarium fish so there are no sudden surprises.

One of the worst options is getting 'natural water' from a river or lake. You have no way of knowing what metals or other chemicals (like farm pesticides) are in it- or what diseases could be lurking there.

Overfeeding

Overfeeding fish will lead to a fouling of the tank. All sorts of bad things can happen if there is a lot of uneaten food decaying in the water. One is oxygen depletion as bacteria multiply. Another is a bad smell.

Aquarium Size

If a tank is too small for a fish, it will stunt the fish’s growth and this often results in early death. Overcrowding in any fish tank can also lead to stress. Fish like their space.

If you mix species make sure they are compatible.
If you mix species make sure they are compatible.

Mixing the Wrong Species.

Sometimes, mixing the wrong species can be fatal immediately. A large carnivorous fish like a cichlid will soon eat its way through a group of defenseless guppies.

At other times, fish can be harassed in harmful ways by aggressive species, especially in overcrowded conditions. Look out for chases, tail biting and other behaviors that can cause harm to the fish's skin. Missing scales open a fish to infection from fungi, one of the biggest fish killers.

The best thing is get advice about what fish mix well from hobbyists and expert store keepers.

Driving Your Fish Crazy with Too Much Attention

Stress also kicks in for fish with an owner who is just too much in love with them. Rearranging the furniture- moving plants, trying different ornaments etc- will stress fish as much as neglecting them. Fish like care but as little disturbance as possible. Every fish you ever meet will be an introvert and shy of busy hands.

Partying with Your Fish

Young children love fish tanks and they love fish. This is great if they only want to look. When kids get too involved, dropping sandwiches in the water, like taking the fish to look at out the window, drumming on the sides of the aquarium, then stress will hit your fish like a hammer.

If children are going to be around it's a good idea to chose a place for the aquarium where the fish won't be vulnerable to the wrong kind of attention.

Sudden loud noises, tapping glass to get fishes attention, can be stressful for your scaly pets.
Sudden loud noises, tapping glass to get fishes attention, can be stressful for your scaly pets.

Over-medicating

If your fish look under the weather be wary of over-medicating. It can be tempting to try treatment after treatment on the off chance one will improve fish health but this can mean the fish are swimming in a sea of chemicals that don’t go well together.

The best cure for any illness is information. Try other hobbyists, read books from your local library, get involved in online forums. The right medication is the only one you should be giving.

Other Things That will Promote Stress

  • Cats. Good covers are important if there are cats about. They are not that good at fishing but they are pretty determined.
  • Doors slamming nearby. If your fish jump every time a door is opened or closed, the aquarium might be too close. Try moving it to another wall or fitting a gentle door-closer.
  • Loudspeakers. Fish get used to background noise but a few hours of wild music can shred their nerves. If your Hi-Fi makes ripples in the water, the fish are suffering.
  • Going away on vacation without finding someone to care for your fish. A weeks supply of fish food before you leave won't do the trick. Most of the food will just rot. Fish can go a few days without food but after that they start to suffer.
  • Aquarium fish health is also improved by regular equipment checks, Descaling and cleaning of pumps helps prevent failures which can have very serious consequences.

Comments

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    • jamterrell profile image

      jamterrell 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the advises on taking care of fishes.

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      7 years ago from home

      Will,

      I live in Buffalo-NY outside fish have a 3-4 month lifespan-ina backyard-so I cant get a pond going in my yard easily...that does not mean i have not hought of doing one i have 2 extra tankslying in the basement....

      TH

      Th

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      7 years ago from home

      Will,

      I live in Buffalo-NY outside fish have a 3-4 month lifespan-ina backyard-so I cant get a pond going in my yard easily...that does not mean i have not hought of doing one i have 2 extra tankslying in the basement....

      TH

      Th

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      7 years ago

      I live in a hot climate these days and the tropical fish I have live pretty happily outside.

      My wife is convinced that whenever one of our fish dies it has been killed by rats (not cats or disease or simple old age).

      She likes cats too much to ever blame one. The only thing is, I have never seen a rat anywhere near our fish tanks and I am not sure how a rat could ever kill a fish! The cats, of course, are always curious...

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      7 years ago from home

      Will,

      My cats are funny- with the fish- the tank is far away from the furnitire so the cats cant jump on or near them, sometimes I'll watch the fish to relax-the cats will come on my lap and start watching the fish then coyly fall aslep on my lapI dont think they even care haha-

      I have tropical reg fish and an aquatic frog- I try to grow and raise real aquatic plants but the fish just munch them...every couple of months I have to re plant or replentish them, they eat elodea like its icecream the eat my snails and shrimp but I think thats all the fault of my plecostamus...

      I just lost my big angel fish- Gill- yes after the namesake in finding nemo- I bought him the day we say it in the theatre 2003?... so he was really old 7-8yrs for a fish....

      I blame dory a blue guarmi-

      the only fish left are my shark bruce- irridessent and some neon tetras - leon the neon and jim- along with Garfield the cat fish-

      heck- I died a couple of years ago- almost 4 and gill was there to greet me when i came home - its odd and I know he did not "recognizeme-but i would like to think he did....

      Great informativehubb- I loved it and i love talking about fish.. and cats but thats a "fish of a different color"

      TH

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      7 years ago

      Good point, Fish Lady. You never know what horrible infections might be in that water. You never know what strange chemicals there might be either!

      Thanks...

    • profile image

      That Fish Lady 

      7 years ago

      What a great article! You laid this out very well, although you might add something about not adding the bag water when you release the fish. :)

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      8 years ago

      Happy to help, Faith.

    • profile image

      Faith  

      8 years ago

      this has saved a fish I have.

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