Maintenance Feeding and Medications
Maintenance Feeding and Medications: No one knows precisely the best temperatures for exotic tropical marine fish. Safe ranges are found hit or miss, but there are certain guidelines that work and certain rules that keep problems to a minimum. Both Atlantic and Pacific tropicals will do well in temperatures as low as 70°-75°F (21°-24°C), and in my own tanks I keep Atlantic tropicals at temperatures between 80°-82°F (26°-27°C).
The most important factor is maintenance of a stable temperature - no matter what range. Daily variations of more than a few degrees should always be avoided. A 5 degree variation can cause stress and encourage disease. Buy a good heater and a reliable thermometer, and keep variation to a minimum year round. Clean water is essential. Change the volume by 1/4 at least once a month, especially in smaller tanks. The color of the water can be a good indicator of the "health" of the tank. When it begins to yellow and lose its crystal clear look, a water change is overdue.
If you want to replace the water volume lost through evaporation, remember one fact: the liquid has evaporated, but the salts remain. Therefore, replace the lost volume with distilled or aged tap water. Use your hydrometer to check salinity in the tank. The hydrometer will indicate when the salinity has dropped enough to use seawater instead of tap water. Optimum salinities are 1020-1025 at 75°-80°F.
Do not overfeed. I feed my fish and invertebrates twice a day, and I believe it is better to feed small amounts more often rather than one large feeding each day. The more you can vary the diet, the healthier the fish will be. I prefer to feed frozen and live brine shrimp (both baby and adult forms) daily, a dry food once or twice a week, and keep marine algae in the tank. Marine algae and plankton (live, frozen, or freezedried) are good food sources. They help to keep the colors of the fish bright. In addition, algae is a necessary part of the diet of tangs and parrotfish. Other foods to consider are chopped beef heart, shrimp, oysters and clams, freeze dried foods such as krill euphauids, tubifex worms, and micro- and macro-plankton (which includes rotifers). When feeding invertebrates, remember that Some are filter feeders and feed only at night. I use live baby brine shrimp which I place in the tank after the lights are off. Clam juice is good for flame scallops and featherduster worms. Liquid fry and finely crushed dryfoods are also 20 very good for gorgonians.
With the continuing advancements in product research within the marine aquarium industry, many companies are developing foods and diets to maintain many more fish and invertebrates successfully. One of the most common calls I receive are from people who have little white "bugs" crawling on the glass. The bugs are non-parasitic copepods that occur where there is a high bacterial build-up in an aquarium, often due to fouling of water by overfeeding. Shortly after the copepods appear, the tank may go bad and a fish kill might result (although, fast preventative action can result in no fish loses). This can be corrected by an immediate water change of at least 1/2 the volume. As you change the water, agitate the bottom media to remove the excess food waste. Another common question I am asked is, "What do I do with diseased fish?"
Never medicate in your main tank. If fish are sick, remove them to a "hospital" tank (a 5- or la-gallon aquarium). A medicine tank is set up with an undergravel filter, bottom media, and habitat. A copper test kit is also necessary. Using the copper test kit and your copper sulfate solution, stabilize the tank to 0.2 ppm (parts per million). Copper sulfate will combine with the carbonates (your habitat and bottom media); with each temperature and/or pH change, the copper will go back into solution. However, some of the more recent copper medications (such -as Copper Power) stay in solution and do not combine or precipitate out as readily. Copper can also distress or kill invertebrates as their tolerance for copper is even less than fish.
All fish (collected or purchased) should be held in quarantine for at least one week before they are moved to your main aquarium. While under quarantine, their food should be treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic solution (such as INTRACL~E, which is sold as internal medication in pet stores). To make your own copper sulfate solution, dissolve 10 g copper sulfate crystals (CuS04· 5 H20) and 3 g citric acid crystals in 100 ml of distilled water. This will make a 10% solution which is added at 1 drop/gallon water. Keep in mind that a 20 gallon aquarium does not contain 20 gallons of water when bottom media and habitat have been added. A cure commonly recommended is to increase the temperature. While it sounds good, the advice is bad.
(1) It puts the fish under tremendous stress which means the disease gets a better foothold.
(2) It does not cause the disease to "burn" itself out in 5, 7, or 8 days as claimed. It takes at least 14 days in high temperatures to stop most disease cycles.
In all cases, increased heat only compounds the problem. There is an excellent book on the treatment of marine fish diseases, Dr. Kingsford's Treatment of Exotic Marine Fish Diseases, which gives the methods to cure various diseases, the duration of treatment, and the concentrations of chemicals required to effect a cure. Remember that disease spots, wounds, and frayed fins do not disappear or heal instantly. It will take 2, 3 or more days for the situation to clear up and in some cases, it may require a second treatment a week later to remove all traces of the disease. This is why an ultraviolet system is important because it attacks disease causing organisms in the water column, preventing them from passing from one fish to another while maintaining good water quality. In addition, germicidal ultraviolet lights are capable of breaking down organic matter in the water without changing the basic water chemistry, and you cannot overdose with ultraviolet. The one important point to always remember is exposure to the germicidal ultraviolet light can cause blindness to you or the fish and that is why the light must be shielded when it is turned on. I run my UV system all the time and replace the bulbs once a year. I feel it is the ultraviolet that has permitted me to keep fish for 6-7 years without any medication or special treatment and maintain more fish/tank than general filtration calculations suggest.
The best way to prevent disease is to choose your fish carefully. If you dive for your own, collect them from clean water areas and do a preventative dip and medicate them before you introduce new fish to your main tank. Learn about a pet store before you buy fish. A good store owner will work with you. You should expect healthy fish and long survival if you place them in a balanced tank. If you can, be sure the fish are feeding before you purchase them. Most good aquarium stores hold fish from new shipments until they have been medicated and are actively feeding. Remember that you have an obligation to your pet store owner, as well. If you goof and do something wrong, don't blame it on the store. One of the little tricks I do with store bought fish is in the manner in which I acclimate them to my tanks. I float them in their sealed bags in my medicine tank until I feel the water temperatures are both the same. Then, I open the bagged fish and add some of my tank water to it - being very careful not to get any of the pet store water into my tank, wait 15 minutes and then pour out and discard all the water in the bag; catching the fish in a net and put only the fish into the tank.
Most pet stores doing good business have two or three shipments or sources of fish each week and medicate their systems. I do not want any of the problems they might have inherited from their shippers nor do I want their medications to upset my tank, so I don't mix their water with mine. There are lots of excellent marine disease treatments on the commercial market. Try them and find out which best serves your setup and situation. Saltwater aquariums can be a rewarding, satisfying hobby. There are thousands of hobbyists across the country who are very willing to help and share their ideas, techniques, and enthusiasm with you. If you follow the ideas I've outlined, you should discover the pleasures and joys of a saltwater aquarium. And best of all, you should have success with the fewest possible problems.
Maintenance Feeding and Medications.