Marine fish and invertebrate animal health are associated with the proper environmental conditions, good diet, and the absence of parasites that cause disease. |
The marine aquarium environment is likely the most important minute-to-minute factor that determines the health of a marine organism. The table below summarizes the basic water chemistry of a healthy marine aquarium:
There are other trace minerals that are needed by organisms, ranging from iron to iodine. See the water quality section for more information.
||72°F to 80°F
||1.021 to 1.025 g/ml fish only,
1.023 to 1.026 g/ml corals
||Fish: < 50 mg/L, Corals: 0 to 10 mg/L
||KH (Total Alkalinity)
||8 to 14 dKH, Ideal = 10 dKH
|Phosphate||0 to 0.03 mg/L
||pH||8 to 8.3
- Diet is an important factor that determines the health of a marine organism. Diet cannot be satisfied by a single food source, even for herbivores.
See the diet section for more information.
- Herbivores of the sea, from lawnmower blennies to naso tangs, do feed on high quantities of algae material. But, along with their algae, comes a multitude of copepods and unicellular protozoans that were on or associated with the algae. These small animals are an important part of their food chain, and provide much needed protein supplementation in an otherwise low protein diet.
- Carnivores are not exclusive feeders on animals, which are low in certain vitamins and antioxidants. While many fish are zooplankton feeders, they also feed on unicellular algae that are in the water column. This is a significant part of their diet and an important source of vitamins. The digestive tracts of the copepods, shrimp, and plankton they eat also contain algae material that is beneficial to the carnivores health. The digestive tracts of processed and frozen shrimp are often devoid of food, and benefit the carnivores that eat them less.
- Omnivores feed at multiple food chain levels and so naturally require both algae and animals to feed upon. They are more likely to easily acclimate to aquarium life because of their varied dietary preferences.
Diseases can occur in marine aquaria despite the greatest preventive measures. An unhealthy or diseased state can be brought on by parasites, viruses, bacteria, environment, and even intervention procedures themselves. It is VERY important to have a 10 gallon aquarium with lid, heater, and powerhead to serve as a quarantine tank. New additions should always be sent to quarantine and observed for AT LEAST several days before introduction to the show aquarium.
See the disease section for more information.
- Parasites that attach marine organisms include worms, copepods, isopods, protozoa and more. They are generally introduced to an aquarium by the addition of new stock. They can spread rapidly and kill resident fish quickly, so treatments must be rapid. Solutions of copper, malachite green, formalin, chloroquine, and more.
- There are a number of gram negative bacterial species that attack marine fish, and they generally reside in the aquarium as part of the plankton or attached to the rock or sand bed particles. They will generally not cause disease until a fish is already stressed. Most parasitic infestations are accompanied by bacterial infection. The parasite was often introduced while the bacteria were already present. There are a few bacteria, such as Mycobacterium, that are not part of the normal flora of an aquarium. Therapies generally require antibiotics, including kanamycin (which is absorbed well by fish) and Furanace® (nitrofurazone - not absorbed by fish), and many others.
- Viruses attack fish and are very difficult to identify. They cannot be directly observed or cultured. There are few drug therapies that directly combat viruses. Generally, if water quality is improved and diet is enhanced, fish may overcome a viral infection on their own.
- Environmental factors can lead to the diseased state. High levels of nitrate or ammonia are destructive to the gills of a fish, leading to labored breathing and even death. Salinity, water hardness, pH, and temperature, and more all affect the health of a marine system. Collection techniques can lead to swim bladder and gas issues within the tissues of a fish. Excess copper or other trace minerals can be toxic to invertebrates. Any and all factors in the marine environment should be suspect when disease strikes.
- Interventions themselves can cause problems. Overfeeding and antibiotic use can lead to high levels of nitrates and ammonia, which must be remediated. All drugs have side effects, and the side effects must be addressed while a fish is isolated in a quarantine tank.