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Keeping a Disease free Aquarium - by Carl Strohmeyer

Aquarium Disease Prevention;
This is probably one of the most important aspects (although a generalized statement) of keeping a healthy aquarium.
I have kept up many aquariums (marine and freshwater) during my years of aquarium maintenance. It was more of a challenge than my personal aquariums as many of customers overfed or did not tell me fish were sick until it was too late. That is why prevention is the best remedy.

[1] Cleanliness:

Regular quality water changes are extremely important. By quality I mean to not over clean the water by taking fish out and washing the gravel. You want to use a gravel vacuum and do partial water changes that disrupt the fish as little as possible. The purpose of this is to remove organic debris before it can fully go through the Nitrogen cycle, eventually increasing your Nitrates and lowering your ph. You also want to de-chlorinate the water so as to not stress out the fish or environment. There are many good products for this:
Prime , Start Right, Stress Coat, just to name a few.

Another note to regular water changes; these are also important WHEN your fish are sick as well, performed before each treatment. These water changes should also include a thorough “wiping down” of the glass (on ALL sides) to dislodge algae that can harbor disease pathogens.

[2] Good filtration:

I recommend two filters for redundancy, and I never totally throw out all media, rather I rinse part of the filter media in used aquarium water so as to preserve beneficial (aerobic) bacteria for proper biological filtration (ammonia and nitrite removal).
Sponge Pre filters are a great addition to HOB filters in particular, they improve bio filtration, especially during filter media changes.

Keep in mind that the primary function of filters is to remove waste mechanically and biologically. If your filter is not performing these basic tasks, you need to change or improve your filters.

If you have a bowl, this task is more difficult, so regular water changes (in a bowl I recommend approximately a 2/3 water change) and the addition of products such as Wonder Shells to aid in water quality in between water changes is important

[3] Use ultra violet sterilization:

UV sterilizers prevent many bacterial, fungal, and protozoa diseases. In addition they help with oxidation properties (Redox Potential) of the water and in so doing, water clarity.
For more information about UV Sterilization, please see this article:
“ULTRAVIOLET STERILIZATION (How UV sterilization works)”

[4] Do not overfeed!
Use quality, aquatic based foods, not foods high in cereal, beef proteins and fats, and soy proteins. Some good brands: HBH, Ocean Nutrition, Blue Lagoon, Sanyu, Hikari,
Spirulina 20, Omega. Some brands to avoid: Tetra, Hartz.

[5] Watch water chemistry:

Such PH, ammonia (0), nitrites (0), nitrates (below 30 ppm), hardness, KH (80 ppm or higher, depending on the fish), ECT. Note that ammonia is more toxic at a higher ph! A GH around 80 ppm provides the needed calcium for proper osmotic processes and healing from infections and wounds. Calcium, Magnesium and electrolytes are an often forgotten component of proper aquarium health, however they are ESSENTIAL! For more information about this, please read this article:
“CALCIUM, KH, AND MAGNESIUM IN AQUARIUMS; How to maintain a Proper KH, why calcium and electrolytes are important.”

High ammonia and nitrite levels make fish extremely susceptible to infection and will eventually kill the fish outright.
Prolonged nitrate levels above 80 ppm will stunt fish growth and lower fish immunity.

[6] When you do treat for disease:

Do not over medicate or under medicate, then change water. Medicated wonder shells work well for ich and are buffered, which makes one of the active ingredients; malachite green, safer (malachite green is more toxic at lower ph). There are many other excellent treatments such as Pimafix (a great Natural remedy for fungus and flexibacter.
Also note that all the medication in the world will not help if you have not followed the above steps and keep good water conditions.

[7] When you purchase fish;

First make sure all the fish in the aquarium are healthy (if the fish store has a centralized system [which I do not recommend], check ALL the aquariums). Second, float your fish in the bag for 30-60 minutes for temperature and osmotic stabilization, then open the bag and SLOWLY add your aquarium water to the bag. Third, dispose of the water in the bag to avoid contamination. Fourth, add a shock preventative like Start Right, ECT.


Without trying to sound too modest, I rarely had outbreaks of even common diseases such as ich in the 100s of aquariums in my care (discounting my LFS quarantine system), as I was VERY careful to take EVERY step in preventative care which includes the right water parameters for the fish kept (such as a KH and GH of 80 for general aquariums and 24 + for livebearers), regular and PROPER water changes (proper meaning good vacuuming procedures even in “live sand” of reef tanks that many say should not be performed, the key is the correct way), and finally the use of properly installed well made UV Sterilizers (not the cheap UVs sold by many internet retailers for $40)

For the full article with more information, please visit this URL:http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/Aquarium_Disease.html


Professional aquarium maintenance experience since 1978 as the owner of one of the larger aquarium maintenance companies in LA, CA.

I have been in the hobby since 1969.



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