Protecting your fishes vital slime coatBy: Jbeing75
The protective coating of fish….. A little anatomy knowledge goes a long way in fish keeping.
It is always amazes me how many fish keepers know so little about a fishes anatomy. Knowing and understanding the anatomy of the fish you keep can drastically improve the life span and health of the fish you choose to keep.
One of the most important disease prevention systems a fish has available in its anatomy is its protective coat or slim coat. Many of you may be fisherman and have caught fish from local streams, lakes, or rivers. Stream or river trout are known for a very thick coating of slime coat. Catfish are also another species of fish that have a very thick layer of slime coat. You may have felt these slime coats when you have caught these species in the wild. All fish have this protective layer on them and it acts as the first line defense against parasitic infections, bacteria, and other diseases that a fish may contract.
So now we know what the slime all over our fish is and what it does. Now we need determine what arrests or harms the slime barrier or coating that is natural to our fish we keep. There are many reasons a fishes slime coating may be deteriorated. The first and most common reason for deterioration of slime coating is stress on the fish in the aquarium setting. So what causes stress to fish in the aquarium? The main causes of stress are poor water quality, fish compatibility, incorrect water changes, and also constant movement of the fish we keep.
First we will discuss poor water quality. Poor water quality consists of many water perimeters. Each fish we keep requires different water perimeters and thrives in a different type of water setting. Ammonia and nitrite poisoning are the two most common types of erroneous water quality. This stems from un-cycled tanks and housing too many fish with too great of a bio-load that the filter can not hold. When water perimeters are consistently above acceptable levels the fish has an increased stress level as it is harder for them to even do the very basic swimming and hovering around the tank after extended times. Poor water quality causes the fish to become lethargic and the slime coating of the fish begins deterioration. Nitrates, gh, and kh can also be causes of poor water quality.
Second we should discuss fish compatibility. No two fish are always going to be compatible with each other. Fish that are not suited for same aggression, size, water temperature, or even water perimeters will suffer increased stress and allow for the deterioration of their protective slime coating. For example goldfish and tropical fish should not be kept together as they require different water temperatures. The water temperature will not be adequate for one or more fish in the tank and cause increased stress and could lead to the most common tank infection, ich. Also fish that are different sizes and aggressions should not be kept together. Fish that are smaller and less aggressive will be tormented and tortured until finally they those their slime coat and end up falling victim to a bacterial infection.
Third we should discuss incorrect water changes. New water added to the tank causes increased stress to the fish if not properly treated and the temperature controlled before entering the tank. Inconsistent water temperatures and water quality during water changes is a large part of increased fish stress as well. Chlorine entering the water kill beneficial bacteria and harm the fishes slime coating if not properly treated with a product like prime, stress coat, start right, or aquasafe. Water conditioners should always be used in water changes to eliminate the harmful chlorine and chloramines in tap water.
Finally we should discuss constantly moving the fish. Fish will not tolerate constant changes to there environment. Many fish will pout or refrain from eating for many days after being moved to a new setting with different tank conditions. This is not extremely harmful if they will not eat though. Fish have fatty oils in their livers and can live on days from the fatty oils that are naturally provided to them in digestion. However constant netting of the fish or contact with the fishes body, for example petting the fish, deteriorate the fishes slime coat and make it very susceptible to bacteria or infections. The constant stress caused by chasing the fish while netting it also causes a great deal of stress. If you have ever watched the local fish store net your fish you will see that the fish loses its color commonly while be netted and transferred. Many times it will not regain the color until days in your tank. The color loss is caused by increased stress and this also depletes the much needed slime coat.
In conclusion a fishes slime coat should not be disturbed at any time unless absolutely necessary. Not bothering the fishes slime coat will allow the fish to live longer, more stress free, and be prone to less bacterial infections or parasites. When netting a fish or after a water change use a product like stress coat that will add electrolytes to your tank and also increase the fishes natural slime coat.
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