Something Is Wrong!


So there it is, a beautiful marine aquarium. Maybe it’s a fish only system, a coral only system or a mixed reef.

The latter is my system type. Soft corals swaying gently in the seawater currents, decorative algae coloured pink, deep brown and medium green. No trouble from the horrid algae types either. Just a couple of fish cruising about, sometimes arguing but mostly all is at peace. The boss is a flame angel (Centropyge loriculus) and the other a blue Fiji damsel (Chrysiptera  taupou). The fish population had been restricted to help maintain seawater quality and, along with regular maintenance including partial seawater changes, seawater quality has always been very high. The reef inhabitants have reflected this.

Feeding the fish daily is never a chore. Out they come, responding to my movement and begging for food. The damsel spent all the time cruising about waiting. The angel hunted continuously for food, disappearing for periods into the rocks. These fish types seldom present feeding problems and there have never been any.

Tests showed that the reef system was mature on 21st October 2002 so after checking a few times to ensure initial maturity had in fact been achieved soft corals were introduced. These various types and shapes went in fairly rapidly as corals don’t have an effect on seawater quality to the extent that fish do.

The system was then left to settle and indicate any problems. There weren’t any indications so on 1st April 2003 fish were introduced. As said, these were a flame angel and a blue damsel. They went in together and settled, feeding well.

The whole system has been fine. Checks of the fish at feeding time have never suggested any problem of any type.

Going to the aquarium for feeding has never been a chore just a pleasure. But then, in mid-March 2013, at feeding time…… ‘Oh, I wonder what that is?’

Both fish were eating normally and swimming normally but the blue damsel seemed to have damaged the right gill. ‘No problem’, thought I, ‘it’ll have caught on a rock or perhaps there’s been an unusual skirmish between the two fish. It’ll clear itself up.’ But it didn’t.

Over the following period the gill slowly protruded more and more. The damsel continued to breathe, swim and eat normally. In early April eating started to decrease though swimming and breathing seemed normal. At this point I considered catching the damsel. As said, it’s a reef system so this would have been difficult. Normal capture would have entailed damage to the reef and very high stress to the fish. There is another method and that is placing a mesh catch net half way down the aquarium in the area where the fish feed. The net is left in place for days and hopefully the fish become used to it. Then, when the fish is feeding the net ascends rapidly and the fish is caught. However, I considered what I could do for the fish – and had no idea. There would be severe stress to the fish which would be very unhelpful and how could I treat something I didn’t recognise? So the fish was left in the reef in peace.

Though the fish continued to come out at feeding time the amount of food taken continued to reduce.

One day the blue damsel didn’t appear at all. I waited hopefully but no, nothing. The angel continued to be fine with no problems whatsoever.

On 11th April 2013 I discovered the damsel lying dead at the very front bottom of the aquarium. The fish was removed with a pair of tweezers. I examined the gill but did not recognise anything though there was an obvious growth there which had been the problem  – nothing I could have done anything about.

It was only a little blue fish. Nevertheless, it’s death caused me much sadness. It had been with me for 10 years and had added to the pleasure of the reef. I like to think that it had a good life under my care.

There wasn’t any rubbish bin for the fish. It was buried in the garden.


  1. Sounds like he had a great life. I lost my Damsel fish and felt exactly the same. He had annoyed me for years pestering other fish to protect his territory. But when he was gone it was certainly noticed. 10 years is a long time for a damsel fish. My aquarium store has just aquired a regal tang that was kept by an old man for 20 years. Beautiful

  2. Another comment I missed Nick, that makes two! Again I don’t know how it happened, my apologies to you as well. Though they’re only fish we do get attached don’t we. Long lived fish is certainly what we want.

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