Stress Is One Of The Biggest Killers

As the title of this post say stress is one of the biggest killers to both fish and corals in the home marine aquarium. Next to this will probably be bad maintenance and mis-management of the aquarium and last but not least will probably be laziness.

I remember as a child my dad being able to make up and read some great stories which brought my imaginative little mind into action!

Below is a little story that John has made up recently which I believe describes stress in marine fish exceptionally well.

“Out on the coral reef, thousands of miles from Europe, an angel fish has been caught and is now in an open topped holding tank on a boat. At the end of the day the boat makes its way to shore. The fish is taken out of the holding tank and placed in a bigger tank with many other fish.

After some time, the angel fish is taken out of the tank and placed in a bag, which is tightly wrapped. The bag, with many others, is placed into a large polystyrene container. When the container is closed, the fish is in darkness. Very highly stressed, it sits there.

The container sits around with others, and eventually, (hopefully with minimum delay but this cannot be certain), it is put into the cargo hold of an aircraft. Again hopefully, the aircraft takes off on time for a long journey to Europe.

On landing, the aircraft is unloaded and the container sits around in a much cooler climate awaiting customs clearance. This takes a little time, but fortunately the officials are aware that livestock is involved and delay is more or less minimised.

Off goes the container in the back of a large van, destination the main distributor. On arrival, the container is taken into the building and once again some delay occurs. The wholesaler is well organised, and turns lights off, switching on low powered red lighting. The container is opened, and the angel fish senses light for the first time in many, many hours. It is a good thing it has arrived, as the water in its bag is cooling, the pH is dropping, and the oxygen is low. Into a holding tank goes the fish. After some hours, the main lights are put back on.

The wholesaler inspects the fish. It hasn’t done badly, all things taken into account. It is subdued, and breathing rather rapidly, but should be alright.

After a day, a little food is offered, which is taken. The fish is swimming about.

A dealer arrives, looking for fish for his local marine shop. He looks at many fish, but doesn’t choose the angel fish.

The wholesaler catches the angel fish and puts it into a bag, then into another polystyrene container, but this time a smaller one. The wholesaler has received a telephone order from a marine shop two hundred miles distant. The container is closed, and once again the angel fish sits in darkness.

The container is put in a van belonging to a postal company. The journey is slow as traffic is bad, and the driver also stops for lunch.

On arrival, the container is removed. Half an hour later, it is opened. The bag with the angel fish, along with others, is taken out and left to float in the dealer’s tank. Not before time, as there is a leak, and the water, deteriorating in quality, was also getting low.

The dealer is pleased, as the angel fish feeds quite quickly. It also slowly swims round the tank with the other fish. Nowhere much to hide, and not much space to swim in.

It is Thursday and Jim, who has kept fish for a few years, comes into the shop. As usual he has a coffee with the dealer as they put the world to rights. Then off he goes to have a look at the delights in the display tanks.

Jim looks at the angel fish very closely. He has always fancied one of these beautiful creatures. He knows it will be suitable for his aquarium. Jim doesn’t hurry, however. He watches the fish swim, watches it breathe, examines the body and fins, also the eyes. The angel fish seems fine. After a little discussion with the dealer, the angel fish is caught, put in a bag, and is on its way to a new home.

At home Jim is very excited. He has a really stunning angel fish. He also knows that he must be careful. He turns off the lights, opens the bag, and runs a drip into the bag from his aquarium, after floating the bag in the aquarium for 15 minutes.. He allows the bag to fill three times, discarding half the water each time. The angel fish is then gently released from the bag into the aquarium. After going in a slow circle, and moving along the length of the aquarium twice, the fish goes into the rocks. Jim leaves the lights off. In bed, having read so much about the angel fish species when considering if he should purchase one, he reads the book once again.

In the morning, before the lights come on, the angel fish is out of the rocks slowly moving around the tank. The light come on in a ’dawn’ sequence, blue first, then halides. The angel fish retreated to the rocks, but was fine. The angel fish and its new companions have no problems. The angel fish feeds, too. Now Jim’s collection is complete.

Nine days later, Jim notices the angel is lethargic. Nothing can be seen to warn of problems. But is it breathing rather quickly? Can’t be sure. Nothing changes, but three days later, Jim notices the angel fish resting against a rock, breathing quickly. There is something wrong! But what. Jim studies the angel fish with care, and thinks the fish may have a dull body. What to do? Jim decides to bring the fish close to the front glass to examine, but as he puts the net in the angel fish disappears into the rocks. Jim doesn’t dismantle his carefully built reef. He never sees the angel fish again.

Distraught, Jim decides it was ‘one of those things.’

Five days later Jim notices that a fish has a‘sheen’ on its skin. Then he notices another. They are breathing rapidly. Then he notices another. Out comes the book. He decides the problem seems to be ’velvet’. Thank goodness it can be treated.

Then it becomes clear the treatment is copper sulphate. It cannot be used because of the corals in the tank.

Jim tries a ’reef safe’ cure, but loses six fish. Three survive.

If there had been a quarantine tank, the likely ending of that little tale could have been a happy one. The angel fish, kept in the quarantine tank, could have been treated with copper and cured. After a period to prove the health of the fish, it could have gone in the main display aquarium and had a long life. Nothing is copper-bottom guaranteed, but the chances are the happy ending would have occurred.”

  1. What a very sad ending to your story. Most of what you have said is the path of a typical fish.

    Some other things some hobbyists probably don’t know:

    1. What part of the ocean a fish comes from drastically affects it’s health. There are different laws and regulations which determine a fish is caught and handled – avoid the Phillipines.

    2. QT-ing with hyposalinity is an excellent preventive for fish, but it is even more important for corals. It is easy to track in flatworms, aefw, lrb, nudibranchs and sun dial snails, use a combination of ReVive and Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure.

  2. this post is very usefull thx!

  3. Pleasure.

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