Friday, February 22, 2008
Remember the part in the movie Finding Nemo when the gramma freaked out when Nemo told them that he was from the ocean? Then the cleaner shrimp cleaned Nemo and all was well? If only disinfecting fish were that simple in real life! Though cleaner shrimps do help with cleaning their fellow aquarium inhabitants, they are not miracle workers. That is where we as aquarists come in. We must quarantine and medicate new arrivals to ensure their health and the health of the overall fish community they will be living with.
Unlike their freshwater counterparts who come from breeders or fish farms, most marine fish come from the ocean. The problem with this is the fact that the ocean is filled with all sorts of diseases and nasty little bugs that may hitch a ride on the fish. These little bugs, if allowed to proliferate, can cause disease and wreak havoc in an aquarium. That is why it is so important to quarantine. If any new fish are carrying diseases, we do not want them to spread that to the other fish. To disinfect new fish and maintain the health of all the animals, all new fish must be separated from the others in a quarantine area. There, they are treated with a variety of medications before they are allowed to join their new roommates in the Aquarium. Some of the most common medicines are:
Copper sulfate- the most common disease found in marine fish is Cryptocaryon irritans or ich for short. This is a disease caused by protozoans on the fish’s skin that manifest as white dots. If left untreated, this disease can be fatal. Copper is the most effective at curing crypto.
Formalin- Brooklynella is a parasite that attacks the gills. Formalin is very effective at taking care of this parasite as well as many other kinds of external parasites.
Praziquantel- A medication for internal parasites like tapeworms.
Nitrofurazone- This is one kind of antibiotic that may be used to clear bacterial infections. Often, one disease will leave an animal wide open for a secondary infection.
Freshwater- Like all the other medications, this works on the principle that it will kill everything but the host. Most bugs in the ocean cannot osmo-regulate themselves but fish can. When exposed to freshwater, many disease-causing bugs will swell up and burst while the fish is just fine.
All fish are quarantined for a minimum of 6 weeks before they are put on exhibit. Any fish that are still healthy after 6 weeks will most likely stay healthy because any disease the fish may be carrying will typically show signs by that time.
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