There are steps you can take as a marine aquarium hobbyist to help ensure the health of your tank’s inhabitantsDistilled down to its essence, success in the marine aquarium hobby is about keeping fish and invertebrates alive and thriving. And while it may sometimes seem as though fate plays a major role in how animals fare under our care, several decades of aquarium-keeping experience (and more than a few missteps) have taught me that it’s largely in hobbyists’ power to avoid livestock losses. I’ve found the following 10 tips to be exceedingly helpful in maximizing the survival rate and longevity of my fish and invertebrates. Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list (after all, virtually everything we hobbyists do related to our aquariums influences the survival of our livestock, whether directly or indirectly), but it’s a pretty good start.1. Ban the impulse buy! I can’t tell you how often CC and I get questions from anxious hobbyists who have made an impulse livestock purchase only to discover after the fact that they can’t get it to eat anything they offer, it appears to be wasting away, it’s getting bullied severely by tankmates (or vice versa), etc. Unfortunately, such ill-conceived purchases too often result in the death of the specimen or one or more of its tankmates
The blue-throat triggerfish (X. auromarginatus) in my aquarium exhibited repetitive behavior prior to transitioning the system to a reefFor today’s post, I’d like to elicit your thoughts on an interesting phenomenon I’ve observed in my aquarium, specifically involving an aggravating repetitive behavior exhibited until fairly recently by my pair of blue-throat triggerfish (Xanthichthys auromarginatus). Allow me to set the stage: I introduced the blue-throats to my 125-gallon about a year and a half ago when it was still a FOWLR system. Their tankmates at the time included a one-spot foxface (Siganus unimaculatus), yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens), tomato clownfish (Amphiprion frenatus), and sixline wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia).The repetitive behavior I’m referring to—and both the male and female exhibited it—was repeatedly swimming around the base of a powerhead mounted at the far left end of the tank (as I usually face it—you can actually view the tank from either side and one end) about 5 inches below the surface. They would swim in a circle 10, 15, even 20 times or more, briefly break away and swim about half the length of the tank, and then come right back to the powerhead to swim another set of “laps.” Both triggers fed with gusto and would swim up to greet me whenever I approached the tank, no doubt assuming more food was forthcoming, and sometimes they would stop the lap swimming and explore more of the tank for brief periods. But they would always revert to that same maddening behavior. I tried moving the powerhead next to my overflow box and closer to the surface so it would be harder to swim in a loop around it, but the triggers just wiggled their way through the narrowed pathway anyway. Afraid they’d get injured or flip out of the tank, I moved the powerhead back to its original location.
Caribbean Chris and I get lots of excellent, thought-provoking questions from Saltwater Smarts visitors that we believe might be of general interest to other salties out there. So we thought it would be worthwhile to begin posting some of them here in Q&A format. Of course, you’re always welcome to join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comment section below or sending us your question.Question I was visiting an LFS in another part of the country while on a business trip. The store is highly rated on various social media sites, and I was impressed by the diversity and apparent health of the livestock in the first 10 or so display tanks that I viewed. Then, in the course of viewing the next 10 tanks, I saw three tanks that had at least one livestock specimen dead or clearly diseased in the tank (with other, apparently healthy livestock still in the tank). As a newbie, should this be a huge red flag for me that a store like this is not a great source of healthy fish?” – submitted by Robert Bruce Answer Thanks so much for your question, Robert. I think the situation you observed may be a red flag, which is why I list “healthy livestock” among my “Eight Traits of a Good LFS.” As I see it, the apparent health/physical condition of specimens offered for sale says a lot about a dealer’s level of concern not only for the well-being of the livestock, but also for customers’ future success.
Whitecheek Tang (Acanthurus nigricans) afflicted with Cryptocaryon irritansDuring yesterday’s Thanksgiving get-together, which my wife and I host for my side of the family every year, a teenaged nephew asked me about marine ich (Cryptocaryon irritans)—the one fish disease he’s heard something about from a friend who keeps saltwater tanks. As I explained the parasite and its lifecycle and why I think it’s so important to quarantine new specimens, he asked, “If ich spreads so easily, why aren’t all the fish in the ocean infected?” Thrilled that, for once at least, I could offer my curious young nephew something akin to wisdom, I explained that the following factors help keep ich infections at a manageable level in wild fish populations:The vastness of the ocean Even though coral reefs appear to be bristling with fish, the density of the fish population relative to the volume of the ocean is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a mere drop in the bucket. Remember, during the tomite, or theront, stage of the Cryptocaryon lifecycle, the free-swimming parasites must find a host fish to attach to and feed upon within a relatively short period or they die. In the vast ocean, with its limitless water volume and powerful, dynamic currents, only a very small number of tomites ever succeed in locating a host. On the other hand, in a closed aquarium system, even if the actual number of fish specimens is fairly small, the population density is still extremely high relative to the volume of water. Of course, the density of host-seeking parasites relative to the water volume is also very high.
This fish is mildly emaciated, which could be a symptom of internal parasites if it were feeding normallyWhen a fish in our care gets sick, it’s a perfectly understandable impulse to want to throw every cure we can lay our hands on at the problem. But sometimes rushing ahead with a medication or other treatment can do more harm than good. In the following excerpt from his book The Salt Smart Guide to Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Diseases of Marine Fishes, author Jay Hemdal explains why the Latin phrase “Primum non nocere” (“First, do no harm”) is so significant when it comes to administering treatments to sick fish.When the cure is worse than the disease With some fish diseases, a proposed cure may actually be more damaging than the illness itself. In human medicine, this is called the iatrogenic effect, where the proposed cure causes its own serious problems. To avoid this, aquarists must always be aware of the Latin phrase “Primum non nocere,” or “First, do no harm.” Problems in developing an appropriate disease treatment can range from treating an aquarium with a medication or dosage that ends up being lethal to the fish to procrastinating due to indecision, again with fish loss as a result. In between these two extremes are using products that simply do not work as advertised, treating for the wrong disease, or trying too many different treatments. Double check the dosage and stock up Always double check your dosage calculations before adding any medication to an aquarium. Some medications can be toxic to sensitive species, notably ionic copper and chloroquine