Success in your saltwater aquarium hinges on the appropriate management of fish disease and parasites yet the topic of fish health is the most widely neglected aspect of aquarium husbandry. For many, the process of quarantine is intimidating and the availability of trustworthy guidance is next to obsolete in mainstream aquarium media and literature.  

Elliot Lim from Marine Collectors joins forces with Ryan to change the way we think about and approach fish health, quarantine, and disease prevention in our saltwater aquariums. This introductory episode lays the groundwork for a detailed 15 part series that will provide hobbyists of any skill level an obtainable system for the management and treatment of common fish diseases and parasites. 

Psychedelic Mandarin DragonetPhoto Credit: Marine Collectors

Mindset for Success

Having the right mindset is your first step because without having that mental focus and discipline, it's much tougher to accomplish disease prevention and eradication effectively.

What Does "Healthy" Look Like?

You will never obtain success without knowing what it looks like. In our saltwater aquariums, that goal is to simply keep your fish alive for as long as you possibly can. If you do this successfully, they will outlive their wild counterparts in many cases because the quality of life is superior. Adopt this goal of doing everything in your power to ensure your fish live long healthy lives. 

Do Your Best!

There are multiple components or steps to comprehensive disease prevention and eradication. It's realistic to know that you probably cannot do everything at home and you should pick the procedures that are manageable for you. When you perform those procedures or routines, do them to the very best of your ability.  It is better to do one thing very well than a few things fractionally. 

Start with a Healthy System

If you discover diseases or parasites such as ich or velvet in your tank, don't add more fish until you have taken the necessary steps to properly eradicate the problem. While this can sometimes be easier said than done, this discipline is critical for ensuring you don't proliferate problems and create a constant cycle of failure. 

Wild Caught Percula Clownfish
Photo Credit: Marine Collectors

Quarantine Is Not Up for Debate

Medicated Fish Quarantine

While quarantine and medicating is a big step that many hobbyists choose to ignore, it's the most effective way of preventing an outbreak in your tank. It is achievable for anyone willing to put forth the effort and will dramatically increase your rate of success. Even if you have not quarantined the fish you already have in your display, it's never too late to start a medication routine with future additions.

Quarantine Your Coral

Corals can and will carry fish parasites into your display aquarium. The age-old debate of whether or not you should quarantine your coral really isn't a debate at all. The only way to be thorough is to properly isolate your corals and separate them from your fish. 

Barbonius AnthiasPhoto Credit: Marine Collectors

Effective Techniques to Control Fish Disease & Parasites

Avoid the Ich-Magnets

Steer clear of the fish that are highly susceptible to protozoa and parasites; Powder Blue and Powder Brown Tangs for example are often dubbed "ich magnets" because of their susceptibility to external parasites. More often than not, these fish become infected in an otherwise healthy display. This infection increases the population of parasites which causes a widespread infection to your previously healthy fish.

Nutrition & Diet are Critical

Nutrition is one of the most critical aspects of fish health but is surprisingly one of the most overlooked. Most fish will naturally have very specialized diets and just because the fish eats the food, doesn't mean it's the right kind of food. Tangs are a classic example of fish that are naturally an herbivore but are generally offered a more omnivorous diet in our tanks. Incomplete nutrition most definitely affects the overall health of the fish, including the fish's ability to fend off disease and parasites. The frequency and methods of feeding are equally important to ensure you are meeting the fish's metabolic needs.

Take the time to understand how and what your fish naturally eat. Offer those foods and accommodate special feeding requirements to support the best possible health in your tank.  

Population Control with UV

A UV sterilizer is an effective way to reduce the population of protozoa in your aquarium. By reducing the population of parasites, you're increasing your chances of success but not eradicating the risk altogether. 

Sediment Filters

Sediment filters can physically remove protozoa from the aquarium water. Simply filter your tank water through a small micron sediment filter to reduce the population of parasites. Remove and dispose of the filter every 1-2 weeks to get rid of parasites and keep the populations down; this is especially useful in recovery after an outbreak in your display but can also be an effective method of prevention.