Why Fish In Captivity Get Sick

Paul B

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Why Fish In Captivity Get Sick

As some people may know I have been talking about how my fish have never gotten sick in decades and I have been offered many reasons why such as I am Lucky or my tank has some mysterious creature that eats parasites, my Undergravel sucks up parasites and diseases, the Ozone I use kills diseases (I have not used Ozone in almost 3 years) UV light won't allow diseases to flourish (I never used UV light) or a variety of other "explanations".

I am pretty sure I know the reason and I have known it for many years but never actually had proof. Now I do.

My wife has MS and has had it for over 20 years so I research all I can about it. My Grand Son and Granddaughter also have health problems that can be life threatening. Because of this I do a lot of researching of new therapies or any ideas or theories that may be pertinent to this.

Two of my friends are Neurologists and I have spoken to them on this also.

Ever since the 80s I have thought there was some kind of important connection between the organisms living in our, and animals guts and the brain. At first I figured it was slightly but not very important. Now I know differently.

I read all I can find on this relationship and in this months "Discover" magazine (Nov. 2020)

There are two articles on the subject. They mainly focus on mental health and Autism but they outline how gut microbes control our health. Something I have known all along but didn't put it all together so completely.

The article starts out by quoting the Doctor at UCLA in 1990. He started thinking about how tiny organisms, too small to be seen could function as "powerful, "self-contained machines" powerful enough to take over and destroy the Human body.

The gist of one of these articles is about a young boy who had Autism and severe gastrointestinal symptoms.

He then had new microbes introduced into his gut which changed everything. Within a year he was almost back to normal and no longer is considered to have Autism and his internal issues are also resolved.

"Our body, especially our intestines are teeming with thousands of types of bacteria but it was largely unknown how they affected the body besides causing illness.”

Then he thought, "Why would the human immune system which is designed to attack and destroy foreign invaders, allow hundreds of species of bacteria to live and thrive in our guts unmolested?"

The answer is, there must be some sort of benefit to both the microbes and the body.

A "Symbiotic System".

Early research was done on lab mice that were bred to have no bacteria in their bodies. It was found that those mice had a 30 to 40% reduction of a specific type of immune cell known as "helper T cells”.

Helper T cells help stop invading pathogens and it was found that germ free mice were far less robust than mice with a full complement of microbes.

Copper, antibiotics and most aquarium medications either kill or severely alter gut microbes

Those sterile mice were then given fecal transplants from healthy mice and within a month were just as healthy and had a strong immune response as healthy mice.

I realize mice, Humans and fish are different but we all evolved together and our gut microme, just as in a fish act very much the same in relation to health.

One of the biggest things this researcher found was a gut microbe named "B.fragilis" played a key role in preventing the immune system from attacking its host and protecting against autoimmune diseases. (We don't want to kill that one)

(I was very interested in this because my wife's MS is an autoimmune disease)

I don't know if fish get autoimmune diseases but it seems odd to me that many fish in quarantine or medicated for one disease, all of a sudden are afflicted with other, non-related diseases. You know and I know that is very common.

Quarantine by itself I don't feel will cause disease unless the fish is stressed as in a bare tank with PVC "decorations or if the fish is not being fed food with living bacteria (microbes) in it.

Getting back to the research. It was found that children with Autism had "leaky Gut Syndrome" which allowed microbes, one in particular called "4-ethylphenyl sulfate" to circulate in the blood.

Tests were performed on mice and it was found that if they injected 4-ethylphenyl sulfate into healthy mice, they were more easily startled and were less comfortable in large empty spaces than their untreated peers and an increase in anxiety-related behaviors.

Also (in mice anyway who have been given this molecule or have autism like symptoms) several important species involving the digestion of carbohydrates were severely depleted.

That sounds very similar to me to fish that are quarantined, on meds or not eating living bacteria and why many of them refuse to eat, stay hidden, and try to jump out or just die.

We humans are more bacteria than human. 1.3 to 1 to be exact. Our gut houses 100 trillion bacteria (I didn't count them) it is a complicated microbial universe which plays a very important part in our and our fish’s health.

These microbes help us digest food, keep harmful microbes at bay and control our emotions.

(Maybe Vulcans use these)

Continued below
 

Paul B

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In the 2000s a neurobiologist researcher in Ireland was studying gut microbes on the brain and how they and stress affected mental and gut health.

I don't want to bore everyone more with all this research but in short it was found that stress also affects gut microbes and gut microbe health can cause stress in us and I assume in fish.

When the salt water fish hobby started in the US, in 1971 in New York anyway where I live I bought the first salt water fish available which were blue devils.

(I wrote about this many times and it is in my book)

Those 7 blue devils were always sick and I had to keep copper pennies in their tank constantly

(Liquid copper was not available to me at the time)

The copper kept the parasites from killing the fish but the dosing and subsequent overdosing was tricky.

After about a year I discovered live blackworms and started feeding them to my fish. After seven weeks something happened. The fish became much "bluer" and looked so much better. I stopped using the pennies and the fish didn't die.

One of the fish became, or always was male and his clear fins also became royal blue. The 6 female’s fins remained clear but their blue was very blue.

They spawned, and continued spawning for many years. And that was in 1972, when most people didn't even know what salt was unless it was in a small container with holes in it on the table next to the pepper.

Since then I have been feeding live worms a few times a week. I can't get live blackworms now where I live so I raise (very easily) white worms which live in dirt.

It seems that those worms, for some reason, have the same good bacteria that our fish need for immunity because since then, none of my fish have ever been sick with any communicable disease like ich or velvet and in those fifty years I have added many fish.

Virtually all my paired fish spawn and the rest of them only die of old age, jumping out or being bullied.

They always eat, are social, get along (unless I stupidly add something that I should not have) and never give me any problem.

I have no medications, hospital or quarantine tank and after a few minutes of acclimation, put the fish right in no matter if the tank they came from was heavily infected with some sort of parasites.

I also feed shellfish and if I can get it live, I like it better because when we feed shellfish like clams, oysters or mussels we feed the entire creature and those creatures are almost all guts as they don't have arms and legs to waste nutrients on. Those guts seem to also have the living bacteria and parasites that will keep our fish immune.

(Fish, and us need to be occasionally exposed to disease organisms including parasites to stay immune to them)

I am not sure about shellfish sold as “aquarium food” because they could be old, deep frozen or irradiated to kill bacteria. Again, I am guessing here so I like to buy living shellfish and freeze it myself if I can.

But living worms seem to work just as well. White worms can be had by Googling "white worm culture" you get a small supply for about fifteen bucks that you put in a shoe box size plastic container with damp potting soil. Keep them under about 80 degrees and feed dry cat food or bread with yogurt on it. I have a culture going for many years and I get millions of inch long worms.

Fish disease is a non-issue for me and I believe it is due to the microbes in the food I feed and have been feeding since the 70s.

Store bought dry food, no matter what it is; will not have these healthy gut microbes, only living or freshly frozen "whole" creatures will have this.

Fish fillets, shrimp, octopus, scallop will also not as you are only getting the muscle of those animals and not the gut microbes.

This food does not have to be fed at every meal but “I” feel dry foods should never be fed except for short intervals like vacations.

Pro-biotics while great (I take them myself) will also not have the full complement of microbes that are needed for immunity. Only the variety of bacteria that exist in living, or freshly frozen animals will supply this.

So in short, I feel when we buy a fish, if we don’t already have a quarantined tank, acclimate the new fish, put it in your tank and the first meal should be something like live worms or fresh shellfish as I mentioned. Nothing else is needed and dry foods should not be used except for vacation but never at first. Whiteworms live in soil. Don’t be concerned if some of that soil gets in your tank. As a matter of fact, make sure some soil gets into your tank.

Someone posted not long ago that their fish died because it ate a piece of dirt! Really!. Fish eat poop, dirt won’t hurt them and is actually needed

If this is followed and our fish are in a proper, natural tank with natural hiding places (no stark white PVC or anything man made looking) and they are never medicated, they should end up immune from everything except jumping out or maybe your cat.
 

Koyfam16

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I agree. Gut health is important. My uncle (RIP) refused any medication and grew up eating stuff that fell on the floor. He never even got a cold as long as I can remember. He used to always say that germs are good. It keeps you healthy.
Not really the same concept but I feel it’s related.
We live in a world now where everything is sanitized over and over to keep us safe but is it making us weaker.
 

Paul B

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I had an uncle who died at 90 and never saw a doctor, dentist or paid taxes in his life. Pulled out his own teeth. He would walk on a beach and anything that moved, he ate. He was also stabbed a few times and wrapped a rag around the wound that he cleaned eels with.
They don't make them like that any more.
 

Petvit61

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Why Fish In Captivity Get Sick

As some people may know I have been talking about how my fish have never gotten sick in decades and I have been offered many reasons why such as I am Lucky or my tank has some mysterious creature that eats parasites, my Undergravel sucks up parasites and diseases, the Ozone I use kills diseases (I have not used Ozone in almost 3 years) UV light won't allow diseases to flourish (I never used UV light) or a variety of other "explanations".

I am pretty sure I know the reason and I have known it for many years but never actually had proof. Now I do.

My wife has MS and has had it for over 20 years so I research all I can about it. My Grand Son and Granddaughter also have health problems that can be life threatening. Because of this I do a lot of researching of new therapies or any ideas or theories that may be pertinent to this.

Two of my friends are Neurologists and I have spoken to them on this also.

Ever since the 80s I have thought there was some kind of important connection between the organisms living in our, and animals guts and the brain. At first I figured it was slightly but not very important. Now I know differently.

I read all I can find on this relationship and in this months "Discover" magazine (Nov. 2020)

There are two articles on the subject. They mainly focus on mental health and Autism but they outline how gut microbes control our health. Something I have known all along but didn't put it all together so completely.

The article starts out by quoting the Doctor at UCLA in 1990. He started thinking about how tiny organisms, too small to be seen could function as "powerful, "self-contained machines" powerful enough to take over and destroy the Human body.

The gist of one of these articles is about a young boy who had Autism and severe gastrointestinal symptoms.

He then had new microbes introduced into his gut which changed everything. Within a year he was almost back to normal and no longer is considered to have Autism and his internal issues are also resolved.

"Our body, especially our intestines are teeming with thousands of types of bacteria but it was largely unknown how they affected the body besides causing illness.”

Then he thought, "Why would the human immune system which is designed to attack and destroy foreign invaders, allow hundreds of species of bacteria to live and thrive in our guts unmolested?"

The answer is, there must be some sort of benefit to both the microbes and the body.

A "Symbiotic System".

Early research was done on lab mice that were bred to have no bacteria in their bodies. It was found that those mice had a 30 to 40% reduction of a specific type of immune cell known as "helper T cells”.

Helper T cells help stop invading pathogens and it was found that germ free mice were far less robust than mice with a full complement of microbes.

Copper, antibiotics and most aquarium medications either kill or severely alter gut microbes

Those sterile mice were then given fecal transplants from healthy mice and within a month were just as healthy and had a strong immune response as healthy mice.

I realize mice, Humans and fish are different but we all evolved together and our gut microme, just as in a fish act very much the same in relation to health.

One of the biggest things this researcher found was a gut microbe named "B.fragilis" played a key role in preventing the immune system from attacking its host and protecting against autoimmune diseases. (We don't want to kill that one)

(I was very interested in this because my wife's MS is an autoimmune disease)

I don't know if fish get autoimmune diseases but it seems odd to me that many fish in quarantine or medicated for one disease, all of a sudden are afflicted with other, non-related diseases. You know and I know that is very common.

Quarantine by itself I don't feel will cause disease unless the fish is stressed as in a bare tank with PVC "decorations or if the fish is not being fed food with living bacteria (microbes) in it.

Getting back to the research. It was found that children with Autism had "leaky Gut Syndrome" which allowed microbes, one in particular called "4-ethylphenyl sulfate" to circulate in the blood.

Tests were performed on mice and it was found that if they injected 4-ethylphenyl sulfate into healthy mice, they were more easily startled and were less comfortable in large empty spaces than their untreated peers and an increase in anxiety-related behaviors.

Also (in mice anyway who have been given this molecule or have autism like symptoms) several important species involving the digestion of carbohydrates were severely depleted.

That sounds very similar to me to fish that are quarantined, on meds or not eating living bacteria and why many of them refuse to eat, stay hidden, and try to jump out or just die.

We humans are more bacteria than human. 1.3 to 1 to be exact. Our gut houses 100 trillion bacteria (I didn't count them) it is a complicated microbial universe which plays a very important part in our and our fish’s health.

These microbes help us digest food, keep harmful microbes at bay and control our emotions.

(Maybe Vulcans use these)

Continued below
Really enjoyed your writing! I do believe there is truth in it. The relationship with bacteria and symbiotic being you're referring to is called the "microbiome," as I'm sure you know (but for anyone else who wants to read more!). It is likely/already is, in some aspects, the next frontier in medicine and is already being used to treat a good number of diseases!

This is a good (but dense and has medical jargon) read:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6314516/

This is more easily digestible, although still lengthy (pun intended):

 

Paul B

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Thank you, Those are some of the articles I research for my wife's MS.
We aquarists normally dismiss the role of bacteria in fish health which is why I have been trying to bring it up and get away from medications which usually just make it worse.
 

cthoughts1

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Paul B, thank you for sharing! If those worms and their feeding regime didn't gross me out so much, I'd be giving this a try ASAP. Thank you for sharing your experiences as this is how we really learn in life.
 

ducati335i

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Great stuff... just don’t let any fish get velvet. No fish is fighting that.. if you are confident enough try it out... Make an experiment... while yes I agree 💯 somethings like velvet or brook no fish is fighting off.
 

Paul B

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As you know I am hopelessly against qt and this is one of the main reasons. It totally stresses the fish and stress "causes" disease in fish. It affects Humans also but not to the effect as a fish.
We have a few options. We can leave, get divorced, quit out job, remove a tattoo of our old girlfriend who looks like a flounder, get a different car, buy a new parakeet, move to Tunisia, set up a tank that only has mud skippers in it etc.

Fish don't have many of those options, especially in quarantine. They swim around thinking things like, Wow, look at the 3/4" PVC elbow. I wonder if they got that in Home Depot or Loews. The Bar code is still on it and I can barely see printed under it, "Made in China".

Oh look! there is another one facing the opposite way. Now I can swim into one and circle around to the other one, what fun!!!
What is that I smell? Smells like old pennies and it is making me itchy. Oh No, I am getting itchy. I am doomed!!

OMG, here comes that Human again. Grrreat, he is sprinkling some of that freeze dried cardboard in here like I am supposed to eat it. I will eat that when he does.
 

ducati335i

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I am sure that in all these years I have added velvet and anything else a fish could get.
I have to disagree.. recently it’s pretty common... you just have been extremely lucky.. fish can fight off many diseases... never are they fighting off velvet..
I had friends give up on this hobby because they always ended up dying from
Diseases... I helped them and they currently are very happy w many tangs...
I do fully agree w them getting healthy, improving their diet and so on.. proper quarantine imo
Is absolutely the best thing you can do.
When I first started the hobby in 2000 w Salt water I never had a problem and laughed at qt.. I tried all Different fish.. as this hobby got saturated many diseases started showing as I started setting up different tanks. When I purchase fish regardless from any pet store they 7/10 times if not more have at least ich.. I’ve seen velvet many times as well.. I have bought hundreds of fish in the last 10 years.. established fish are always best and I still qt those...
ask that guy w the 17k gallon tank in Westbury if he qts...
I respectfully disagree and to each their own.. The info you are providing is excellent but velvet is where I draw the line lol.
If anyone has seen velvet in effect i think they would agree... I had it take down 40 fish and some were full grown huge fish that ate sushi grade nori, home made fish mixture, vits and so on.. taking years without a dot... I added two black clownfish w no qt... within less than 2 weeks fish turn to zombies, refuse to eat, swim in power heads, hide and so on..
I could not believe it. ( I think I actually almost died what stress)
Anyway this is just my experience, itvelvet that made me really qt everything including coral all for 80 days minimum...
Btw how many fish are in your system? Was it a few like less 20 or 40 plus fish? If you did this in a huge tank w a ton of fish I would actually be extremely impressed and why type of fish? Some fish at petstores (not tangs) May not get infected as easily because the stores run their salinity lower and run low copper... (I do agree w making a nice qt tank, mine all have sand and copper is fine w it)
 
Last edited:

Paul B

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Ducati, you don't live far from me, I am near Riverhead so you can come by and we can talk fish.
Let me know.

I have about 34 fish. Many of them are probably near the end of their natural lifespans and the oldest is 30.
I will try to list them but I don't know all the names.

1 copperband butterfly
1 Hippo Tang
2 spawning 6 line Wrasses
2 ruby red dragonettes
2 Possum Wrasses
2 Bangai Cardinals
2 Spawning Watchman Gobies
1 Sunburst Anthius
2 Spawning Fireclowns
2 Spawning Rainsford gobies.
2 by color bleenies
2 Stripped cardinals
1 Scooter Dragonette
2 (I think) Gecko Gobies
1 Janss Pipefish
1 Bluestripe pipefish
1 Purple something, I forget his name
1 Red something.
1 Perchlet
2 Hawkfish
2 green clown gobies, probably citron gobies.
1 black gobi looking thing.

I may have forgot one or two and if I look at the tank a while I am sure I will find more.

I must be very lucky to never have put velvet in my tank, especially buying a lot of fish from that place on Old Country Road.
 

ducati335i

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Ducati, you don't live far from me, I am near Riverhead so you can come by and we can talk fish.
Let me know.

I have about 34 fish. Many of them are probably near the end of their natural lifespans and the oldest is 30.
I will try to list them but I don't know all the names.

1 copperband butterfly
1 Hippo Tang
2 spawning 6 line Wrasses
2 ruby red dragonettes
2 Possum Wrasses
2 Bangai Cardinals
2 Spawning Watchman Gobies
1 Sunburst Anthius
2 Spawning Fireclowns
2 Spawning Rainsford gobies.
2 by color bleenies
2 Stripped cardinals
1 Scooter Dragonette
2 (I think) Gecko Gobies
1 Janss Pipefish
1 Bluestripe pipefish
1 Purple something, I forget his name
1 Red something.
1 Perchlet
2 Hawkfish
2 green clown gobies, probably citron gobies.
1 black gobi looking thing.

I may have forgot one or two and if I look at the tank a while I am sure I will find more.

I must be very lucky to never have put velvet in my tank, especially buying a lot of fish from that place on Old Country Road.
Impressive I would love to at some point... Like I said, it was just my own experience, maybe it was some super velvet I have no idea, but it was the devil I hope to never come across anything like that again.
 
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