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Prevention and Cleaning a Diseased Fish Tank

Brief Description

At some time or another all fish keepers will experience some form of disease in their tanks, this is the downside to this wonderful hobby. Most medications are designed to deal with this problem and remove the disease from the fish and hopefully remove it from the tank altogether. Sadly this is not always the case especially when the disease is actually a viral infection or parasitic infection that has attacked the tank inhabitants, lowering their immune system which then results in the fish contracting diseases as a side effect. Effective tank maintenance should lower the possibility of this occurring by a large margin but there is always the chance that your tank that has been lovingly looked after will fall victim to this situation.

The good news is that there is no situation that cannot be resolved, the key to dealing with this is not to panic but attack the problem even though it can mean a time consuming process to eradicate the disease and infections completely. Basically a full tank clean is required to remove the problem and to get the tank back into top shape. Parasites and nasties can survive in the substrate etc. for periods of time before reappearing and launching another attack on the fish, everything will need to be cleaned but it also needs to be done in a specific order.

Cleaning your diseased fish tank

The correct order for giving your tank a full clean is as follows:-

  • Clean all of the inside glass, remove the décor to clean thoroughly, clean the outer glass and any external lighting units., finally clean the filtration system.
  • The reason that the inside glass needs cleaning first is that during the cleaning process, debris or detritus will fall from the glass onto the décor and substrate. All of the tank inhabitants should be moved to a quarantine tank or a holding tank while this process is completed. At this stage it is advisable to save a bucket of tank water, this will be used when cleaning the filters. The inside glass should be cleaned with a sterilising fluid, the same that is used in baby’s bottles or you can also use a mild bleach. The glass will need to be scrubbed with suitable algae pads or algae scrapers to leave the glass spotless and algae free. You may have noticed when cleaning the tank glass while the tank is running that any algae has a rough surface, this can harbour diseases and viruses. Once you are happy that the tank glass is clean remove all of the décor and the substrate for intense cleaning. Using the same cleaner, any ornaments can be scrubbed to remove any detritus that can harbour nasties and if you have plants in the tank , they can also be dipped in a mild bleach solution for 2-3 minutes to remove any alien life forms on them. The décor and the plants is the easy part, now it is time to clean the substrate thoroughly.
  • Whether you have sand or gravel in the tank the method is the same, prepare a solution of sterilising fluid in a bucket and add portions of the substrate at a time. The gravel or sand will need to be stirred around to make sure that all of it comes into contact with the sterilising fluid, this has to be repeated until all of the substrate has been cleaned thoroughly. Before adding the substrate back into the tank it will need rinsing thoroughly, do this in the bucket changing the water 2-3 times to ensure that all of the sterilising fluid has been washed away.
  • Once your substrate and décor has been thoroughly cleaned it can be added back to the tank. This is an ideal time to give your filters a thorough clean out as well. Rinse the filter media in the bucket of tank water that you saved at the beginning and check all of the pipework plus any impellers and shafts, clean these if required. I have found the best impeller cleaners to be an old tooth brush, you can get right into the impeller blades and the shaft leaving them looking like new. Once the filter has been cleaned it can be re-connected to the tank, now the tank can also be refilled with treated water. Once the tank is up and running again keep testing the water, the reason for this is that with everything being cleaned it may have weakened the bacterial colonies and your water parameters may have been affected. These should settle down in a couple of days.

Preventative measures to keep diseases out of your tank

There are many ways for diseases to enter your tank but taking a few precautions can minimise these a great deal.

  • When purchasing new fish do not add them straight into your main display tank, equip yourself with a quarantine tank where the new arrivals will be placed for a couple of weeks. During this time you can look at the fish daily for symptoms of any disease and medicate the quarantine tank if required.
  • Keep your hands out of the water in the main display tank if possible. There are going to be times when you have to stick your hands in the water i.e. tank maintenance or when vacuuming the gravel, just try to keep this to the minimum.
  • Only use one net to one tank. Never place a net into different tanks, this is a sure way of spreading diseases.
  • Keep your tank clean and vacuum the gravel at least once a month to remove debris and detritus, any alien matter trapped in the substrate can act as a host for pathogenic bacteria.
  • Keep the lid or tank covers clean, any accumulated dust can fall into the tank water and this can also act as a host for diseases that will soon take hold of your tank.

Cleaning your tank after a disease is a long process and can be very frustrating, prevention is better than a cure so always be vigilant with your tank and hopefully you will never have to go through this process.

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