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/The Conscientious Aquarist

Treatment of Marine Livestock Diseases: Medicines/Treatments,

A Livestock Treatment System

Bob Fenner Test Kits, a must

A systematic scientific approach to aquatic life keeping results in reduced costs and increased efficiency and enjoyment. One aspect of the livestock hobby and business that sorely needs improvement and continuous updating is disease diagnosis and treatment of livestock both on arrival and ongoing for perceived maladies.

A search of the scientific and popular literature results in incomplete and conflicting reports of how to deal with any given disease condition. Relying on experimentation and hearsay, especially in the case of little or no adequate quarantine is courting expensive disaster.

This particular Section deals with developing and installing a system to accumulate and make useful data on how to acclimate new livestock and diagnose and treat on-going diseases.

First of all a definition and a very useful model of disease. Disease is "any condition deviating from a normal or healthy state". As such there are several ways to classify disease conditions.

Genetic Disease:  

Concerns inherited disorders.

Environmental Disease

Developmental disorders resulting from chemical and physical anomalies.

Social Disease:  

The manifestation of disorders as the result of interaction or lack of interaction of an organism with others of its own or other species.

Nutritional Disease:

Results from chemical imbalance due to improper feeding and diet.

Infectious Disease

Those conditions attributable to bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Parasitic Disease:  

Those conditions attributable to "organisms living in or on another species in which the host is harmed" including protozoans, "worms", crustaceans and others.

Much has been written regarding the interactions between water quality, stress and propensity for disease. It is critical to understand the relationship between your livestocks' 1) Initial State, 2) Suitability of the Environment you're placing it in and 3) Pathogenicity, or degree of infectiousness of disease-causing organisms.

Towards the ends of fostering understanding regarding the relationships between these sets of factors I'd like to introduce a model popularized by the late Dr. Stan Sniezsko:


The three interlocking circles symbolize the interrelationship of these factor groups. All conditions of health/disease are environmentally mediated. Indeed, an organisms "life-state" is the manifestation of agreement between itself and its indistinquishable environment.

Generally, by optimizing two of these three sets of factors, you will be able to keep livestock alive. In particular, it is important to pick out organisms that have an initial state of health and potential (genetic heritage) for continuing in your set of conditions.

The System: Rationale

The advantages to a systematic approach to managing livestock are obvious. In view of the many hours and money that can be can be lost, the varied tasks and skills involved, the separation of duties, a working systems program to livestock management is vital. Relying on oral tradition or "hoping" your dealer knows

and will do "what needs to be done" is risky at best.

The best way to guard against oversight or ignorance is to "take the bull by the horns"; documenting, developing and implementing a treatment system. In particular, livestock management: introduction, diagnosis and treatment.

The System:

I have done this for small and large retailers and wholesale shippers; saving everyone tremendous headaches and providing a format for everyone involved's input. A great learning experience.

May I suggest that you develop a card-catalog file/reference system for treating livestock on arrival and for on-going maladies? This involves a five-sectioned box or boxes with alphabetical indices for keeping index cards filed.

Box/Section One:On Arrival

One section/box includes cards for types of fish kept in your system. These cards how to deal with the livestock on arrival. Example:

Clown anemone fishes

Dip: None; sensitive to formaldehyde, copper, KMnO3

Temperature: Keep warm; use heaters or upper tanks

Chemistry: Place in invertebrate system, turn flow rate down, no metal dyes.

Food: Next day, everyday, medicated flake for bacteria, protozoans for two weeks.

Box/Section Two:On Going Treatment

Section two involves on-going treatment of livestock.

Example: Surgeons, tangs, doctorfishes.

Water flow: High turnover twice per hour plus.

Food: Marine algae blocks, fresh material, medicated flakes.

Quarantine Time: One week minimum.

Treatment instructions: Freshwater dips, for Ich, copper, raise temperature to 80's. Flukes: copper/formalin dips, lower specific gravity.

Warnings: Group is sensitive to malnutrition; have some food available continuously. Some (achilles) require high spg.

Box/Section Three: Symptoms, Treatments

Section 3 involves diseases, observable symptoms and treatments.

Example: Ich; white spot disease, Cryptocaryoniasis

Cause: Ciliated protozoan, always suspect on wild fishes, waiting

to super-infest fish in weakened state. Usually brought on

by poor acclimation and drop in water quality. Some species

especially prone, some relatively immune (sharks).

Appearance: Small white dots, @ 1/16 " diameter spread over fish.

Warnings: Easily spread with nets, water. On-going, strong

strains harder to defeat.

Treatment: Early diagnosis, lowered specific gravity, copper.

Box/Section Four:Medications

Section four is an indexed reference to Medications, Food Preparations, other concoctions.

Net dips, for example.

Preparation: About one ounce of stock formaldehyde solution in one half bucket tap water.

Duty: Made up first thing every day by the Facility Manager in wholesale, retail setting. For hobbyists, for handling new stock.

Use: specimen containers and nets dunked in between use in tanks

Purpose: Reduce spreading of infectious and parasitic diseases

Alternative: Permanganate solution

Box/Section Five: References:

Section five is your reference file. Example, Nelson Herwig, Treatment of Fish Diseases; good practical information for specifying treatments. Get and use a copy for your company library.

References are listed by name and page number on the back side of cards in boxes/sections one through four.


Treatments are necessary on arrival and on-going to ensure adequate health of livestock. The development and use of a Treatment System as detailed here, serves to educate, train and with proper application, systematically reduce losses. The actual treatments must be recorded and analyzed in a reasonable, consistent, documented process; in a Treatment Book and/or with a marking system on the tanks.

You may have the savvy and want to computerize this Treatment System and develop it in your own way. Whatever is decided, do it! Amongst the worst feelings is finding out too late that you could have avoided losses, or that you've "lost" or can't remember what you did "that other time" that saved your entire collection.

There are no bibliographic/further readings for this piece; I penned it from memory. The graphic is from my files.


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