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Aquarium Sick Fish Stress & Disease Identification & Treatment


Much has been written on the topic of stress & disease, below is summary to help guide you throughout Aquarium Fish Stress & Disease prevention and identification. Please feel free to send any comments or suggestions to Ask An Expert.

Major Fish Diseases:

#ImageDisease NameTop 3 Symptoms
1. Ammonia Poisoning
  • Red streaking on the fins or body.
  • Purple or red gills.
  • Fins are torn & jagged.
  • 2. Anchor Worms
  • Tiny white-green or red worms in wounds.
  • Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
  • Ulcers may appear.
  • 3. Black Spot
  • Small black speckles on body.
  • Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
  • Small black smudges on fish.
  • 4. Cataracts
  • White or grey "foggy" eyes.
  • Eye looks like it has a slime coat.
  • Tendency to bump into things.
  • 5. Cotton Mouth
  • White "Cotton like" fungus on the mouth.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • White spots on mouth, scales, and fins.
  • 6. Curved Spine
    (Fish TB)
  • Curved or Crooked Spine.
  • Lesions on the body.
  • loss of scales.
  • 7. Dropsy
  • Huge, Fat, Bloated Belly.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • Scales almost popping off.
  • 8. Fin Rot
  • Fins turn Jagged or whitish and die back.
  • Fins look like they were ripped off.
  • Fish is not eating.
  • 9. Hole in the Head
  • Hole in the head.
  • Small sore on head.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • 10. Ichthyophthirius
    (white spot or ick)
  • Small white "salt-like" pimples on fins & body.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
  • 11. Neon Tetra Disease
  • Restlessness.
  • Whitened areas deep into the fishes' flesh.
  • Spine may become curved.
  • 12. New Tank Syndrome
  • Sudden Death.
  • Cloudy Water.
  • Unexplained Death.
  • 13. Oodinium (velvet)
  • Fine grey-gold to whitish 'dust' on the body.
  • Very rapid gill movement.
  • Scratching or flashing.
  • 14. Parasites (External)
  • Large ugly sores on body.
  • Skin looks grey in patches.
  • Fish swim aimlessly.
  • 15. Planaria
    (white hairlike worms)
  • Small White Hairlike Worms.
  • Tiny, Wiggley Worms often found in the substrate.
  • 16. Pop Eye
  • One or both eyes protrude from the head in an unusual fashion.
  • 17. Skin / Gill Flukes
  • Fish gasps for air at the water's surface
  • Gills open and close rapidly
  • Gills are covered in mucus
  • 18. Swim Bladder Disease
  • Erratic Swimming Position
  • Loss of equilibrium
  • Fish will be unable to maintain buoyancy
  • 19. Vitamin Deficiencies
  • Scoliosis (Curved Spine)
  • Reduced Growth
  • Anorexia (Lack or Loss of Appetite)
  • View Symptoms per Vitamin


  • Stress & Disease: Key Points, Tips & Tricks

    1. Probably 80-90% of diseases in captive fish can be prevented by avoiding stress.
    2. Diseases and pathogens are almost always present in tanks, but a healthy fish's immune system will prevent them from being a problem.
    3. Sick or Diseased fish should be isolated whenever possible. You do not want to spread infections among other healthy fish. (IE Hospital Tank)
    4. There are literally hundreds of afflictions that can effect the health of your fish. The most common are discussed below.

    Things you need to know.

    Don't buy or add fish to your established tank that have any sort of the following symptoms:

    1. Don't buy fish from a tank with alot of dead fish in it. Most likely they have a disease.
    2. Any white mucus or Salt-like specks. (20-40% of all pet stores have diseased fish, be careful when buying new ones)
    3. Unusual swimming behaviour e.g. tailspin, rapid or jerky movement
    4. Signs of injuries to fins and body. e.g. bleeding, ulcers, skin or fin tear

    Pay attention to the fishes for at least a few minutes a day. Look for any of the following signs:

    Bad signs:

    1. The fish is scratching against tank decorations, rocks or sides of the tank.
    2. There are visible spots, lesions, lumps, or white patches on the fish's body or fins.
    3. The fish's tail or fins appear frayed at the edges or are breaking off, disappeared.
    4. Red streaks near scales.
    5. The fish gasps at the surface of the water.
    6. Gills that are puffy or swollen and the gill tissue is bright red or even a grayish color.
    7. Clamped fins
    8. Fish suddenly becomes really fat.
    9. The fish refuses its usual food for more than 2 days. The fish floats, sinks, whirls, or swims sideways.
    10. A normally active fish is still.
    11. A normally still fish is very active.

    Signs of Stress & Disease: Definitions

      Loss of Appetite
      The cause of a loss of appetite in tropical fish is most commonly stress. New fish which have just been introduced to a new aquarium are prime candidates to exhibit a loss of appetite. Your tropical fish can also feel a great deal of stress due to overcrowding. If you have just introduced new fish into the aquarium and the original ones are exhibiting signs of stress this may be the case.

      Clamped Fins
      Parasitism or water quality [especially pH crash] account for this. Clamped fins can be a very vague finding and usually means you have time to find out what's going on. Fish with clamped fins are ONLY unhappy, not about to die.

      Crashed on the Bottom
      Usually when a fish crashes to the bottom of your tank he is in his last throws. He no longer had the energy to swim and doesn't have much longer to live.

      Glancing
      Glancing or Rubbing on rock and other aquarium decorations is a sure sign that the fish is trying to rub something off of it's skin. It helps to alleviate the itching, investigate your fishes skin more closely.

      Gasping at the Surface of the Water
      Gasping at the surface of the water is usually caused be caused by a lack of oxygen in the water or by fish stress. Check to see if the filter that aerates the water may have been accidentally unplugged.

      This is also caused by and infection of the gills which restricts the oxygen process.

      Red or White Sores & Spots
      Usually sores are caused by two things. One is a physical wound healing, maybe a bite from another fish. The second is a type of bacterial infection that causes the sore.

    Major Fish Diseases:

    #ImageDisease NameTop 3 Symptoms
    1. Ammonia Poisoning
  • Red streaking on the fins or body.
  • Purple or red gills.
  • Fins are torn & jagged.
  • 2. Anchor Worms
  • Tiny white-green or red worms in wounds.
  • Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
  • Ulcers may appear.
  • 3. Black Spot
  • Small black speckles on body.
  • Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
  • Small black smudges on fish.
  • 4. Cataracts
  • White or grey "foggy" eyes.
  • Eye looks like it has a slime coat.
  • Tendency to bump into things.
  • 5. Cotton Mouth
  • White "Cotton like" fungus on the mouth.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • White spots on mouth, scales, and fins.
  • 6. Curved Spine
    (Fish TB)
  • Curved or Crooked Spine.
  • Lesions on the body.
  • loss of scales.
  • 7. Dropsy
  • Huge, Fat, Bloated Belly.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • Scales almost popping off.
  • 8. Fin Rot
  • Fins turn Jagged or whitish and die back.
  • Fins look like they were ripped off.
  • Fish is not eating.
  • 9. Hole in the Head
  • Hole in the head.
  • Small sore on head.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • 10. Ichthyophthirius
    (white spot or ick)
  • Small white "salt-like" pimples on fins & body.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.
  • Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
  • 11. Neon Tetra Disease
  • Restlessness.
  • Whitened areas deep into the fishes' flesh.
  • Spine may become curved.
  • 12. New Tank Syndrome
  • Sudden Death.
  • Cloudy Water.
  • Unexplained Death.
  • 13. Oodinium (velvet)
  • Fine grey-gold to whitish 'dust' on the body.
  • Very rapid gill movement.
  • Scratching or flashing.
  • 14. Parasites (External)
  • Large ugly sores on body.
  • Skin looks grey in patches.
  • Fish swim aimlessly.
  • 15. Planaria
    (white hairlike worms)
  • Small White Hairlike Worms.
  • Tiny, Wiggley Worms often found in the substrate.
  • 16. Pop Eye
  • One or both eyes protrude from the head in an unusual fashion.
  • 17. Skin / Gill Flukes
  • Fish gasps for air at the water's surface
  • Gills open and close rapidly
  • Gills are covered in mucus
  • 18. Swim Bladder Disease
  • Erratic Swimming Position
  • Loss of equilibrium
  • Fish will be unable to maintain buoyancy
  • 19. Vitamin Deficiencies
  • Scoliosis (Curved Spine)
  • Reduced Growth
  • Anorexia (Lack or Loss of Appetite)
  • View Symptoms per Vitamin


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