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Aquatic Pets

Dr. Emily Cornwell is our Certified Aquatic Veterinarian.  She sees a variety of fish here at our clinic!  If you have a fish and are concerned, have questions, or think they need to be seen please contact us and we can put you in touch with Dr. Emily!  

Fish care in Gaithersburg, MD Muddy Branch VeterinaryTaking your fish to the vet
Do you have fish at home?  Have you ever wondered what you would do if your fish got sick or how you would even tell they were sick?  Fish can get sick and when they do, it is a good idea to seek the advice of your veterinarian to figure out what is causing your fish to be sick and how to fix it.
How do you know if your fish might be sick?
Regardless of what is causing your fish to be sick, there are some signs to look out for to let you know something may be wrong.  If you see any of these signs or have a question about how your fish is behaving, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian:

  • Not interested in food
  • Sudden change in behavior (i.e. when an otherwise social fish starts hiding)
  • Fins clamped against the body
  • Faster than normal gill movements
  • Buoyancy issues (swimming upside-down, at an angle or floating or sinking more than normal)
  • Flashing (rubbing against structures in the tank)
  • Distended coelom (bloated appearance)
  • Appearance of growths on the outside of the fish

What could be causing my fish to be sick?
Fish can get all sorts of diseases, but two of the most common reasons fish get sick are due to poor water quality and infectious diseases.  There are over 27,000 different species of fish and all these species have different requirements for their environments.  Inadequate water quality is the most common reason for fish to get sick.  It is important to keep track of pH, temperature, alkalinity, salinity, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates when monitoring water quality.  Researching the ideal water quality parameters for the species of fish you are keeping is an important part of keeping your fish healthy.  Your veterinarian can also help provide recommendations on water quality for the particular fish in your collection.  Additionally, checking your water quality with a good quality test kit regularly is important to make sure everything is within the normal range for the species you are keeping. 
The second most common cause of disease in fish is infectious disease.  Fish can get bacterial infections, fungal infections, viral infections, and parasite infestations.  The best way to prevent your fish from contracting an infectious disease is to (1) make sure their immune system is in good shape to fight off opportunistic infections by ensuring they are not stressed by poor water quality or aggressive tank mates and (2) to quarantine any new fish you might add to your collection in a separate tank for 28 days to make sure they are healthy before you add them to your existing collection.
What happens when I bring my fish to the vet?
When you and your fish arrive, you will be asked several questions about your fish’s history and care.  Your veterinarian will go over the history with you and ask some follow up questions, then perform a physical exam of your fish.  The exam starts with observation to see how your fish is behaving in the container, what its body condition is, and a measurement of opercular rate (analogous to respiratory rate).  We will then test the water quality to make sure it is within an appropriate range for your fish.  A skin scrape, gill and fin biopsy, and fecal sample are important parts of a physical exam on a fish and can help rule out many causes of disease.  If your fish is uncomfortable being handled, your veterinarian may recommend sedation so that your fish does not get too stressed while taking these samples.  Based on your fish’s history, water quality, and the diagnostic test results, your veterinarian will may recommend various treatments.  Sometimes these treatments can be administered while you are at your visit but sometimes they should be given at home.  There are various ways to administer medications to fish including orally, by injection, or by immersion (dissolving the medication in the tank water).  Sometimes, additional diagnostics such as bloodwork, radiographs, or ultrasound may be recommended to help determine what is making your fish not feel well.
If you have any questions regarding your fish, please do not hesitate to contact us!