When might my fish need veterinary help?

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From time to time, aquarium fish can fall ill. But what fish diseases can be treated at home, and which ones need specialist help from a vet. Specialist fish vet Willie Wildgoose explains.

The majority of cases I treat are those that fail to respond to over-the-counter commercial medications, or where there are deaths of valuable fish.

As a result they are not a true reflection of all diseases that affect fish, which is why I rarely see whitespot or other common parasitic diseases. My most common cases are those with tumours, ulcers or buoyancy problems.

Many require simple routine veterinary investigations, such as water quality tests, microscopic examination of skin and gill scrapes and faecal samples, autopsies, biopsies of lumps and lesions, bacteriology, radiography or ultrasound scans.

Treatments will vary depending on the underlying problem, but may include injections of antibiotics, surgical treatment of wounds and reduction of tumours. In terminal cases, euthanasia may be the only option.

This item was first published in the October 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping. It may not be reproduced without written permission.