How to do Fish ‘Surgery’ (Remove a Growth)
How to do Fish ‘Surgery’ (Remove a Growth)
My pleco, Peru, started with a very small nodule looking growth on the side of his mouth, less than a year later it was big enough to fit into his mouth & at times could be partially swallowed. This, along with the fact that it doubled in size in 2 months meant it was time to remove it.
After much thought (& discussion with fish forum members, fish store employees & vets) & plenty of research, my options were to cut the growth off, or tie it off and hope it would die and fall off – I decided I would tie it & hope it would fall off. I figured this gave my pleco the best chance at survival.
Tying a growth off sounds simple enough, but if you are squeamish like me & doing this procedure alone it can be a nerve wracking & daunting task!
I had a lot of time to plan & think things through. I gathered a combination of things I would need, even a cardboard box I could use to elevate my pleco off the table so his mouth & the growth were able to hang over an edge. I also realized that some people could do this quick procedure without sedating the fish, my 8in pleco definitely needs sedation (for my stress level, but more importantly his stress level!)
Clove Oil (can be found at pharmacy in first aid section)
Dropper (eye drop container worked for me)
Bucket – to put the fish for sedation
Plastic baggie (to mix clove oil)
Air tubing – in the bucket for sedation
Dental Floss (no wax) or String
Towels….lots of towels!
Pillowcase – having 2 is good but not needed
Gloves (thin latex is better than thick regular rubber gloves)
Nerves of Steel!
**Clove Oil – it is used by vets to sedate fish at 5 drops for 1 gallon of water…but DO NOT add 10 drops for 2 gallons of water!!!! Only use 1 extra drop per gallon (2 gallons use 6 drops!!) This is the best way to not cause an overdose! After 5min if the fish is not asleep add 1 drop. Sometimes this process takes time, but is worth it.
I set up my hospital tank in advance, I put a cave & driftwood, but no substrate. I set up the table where I was going to do the procedure & I laid a towel over all of this.
I put a little more than 2g of tank water in the bucket added the airtube, then my pleco. I put a small amount (maybe ½ cup) tank water in a plastic baggie & added 6 drops of clove oil (this is where the ‘dropper’ comes in – I put clove oil into a very clean old eye drop bottle) closed the bag up & shook it like crazy for a bit – it doesn’t stay white, but it looks white for a few seconds when its mixed well. I wasn’t sure how my pleco would react (I heard some jump) so I placed a towel over the top of the bucket when I poured the clove oil in – my pleco didn’t do anything!
After less than a minute I was getting stressed Peru wasn’t moving & wasn’t rolling over (clear sign they are asleep) I moved the water around & he still didn’t move I poked him…nothing!
I took the pillowcase wet it with tank water (you can also wet it with the clove water) & quickly took my pleco out & had the pillowcase under his body as well as over the top of him (its softer on a fishes body & should be between them & the towel – plus it keeps them wet)
His mouth & the growth were hanging over the edge making it easy for me to work I grabbed a long piece of dental floss. I had to move the feeler on the side of his mouth away from the growth otherwise it would have gotten tied together. With my hands shaking I was able to tie the growth really tight twice before trimming the edges of floss. I had the pillow case covering all but the mouth – for my sanity – but I could see his lip/mouth moving so I knew he was breathing.
I poured a small amount of tank water over him & picked him up & held him in his tank – he was already wiggling a small bit, but came too within seconds in the water & wanted to swim away.
While Peru recuperated in the tank I finally stopped shaking & cleaned up the mess!
A few hours later I saw that my awesome fish was back to regular and eating I went to the tank to get a closer look at the growth & see if anything was happening.
Success!!!!!!! Or so I thought!
I looked and looked & finally spotted the dental floss as it floated by!!!!!!!!! It had come off!
Round Two – Friday afternoon
Only a couple hrs after the initial procedure I set everything back up again & went through the same sedation & (not as much) stress to do it all again. I was a little worried about sedating again so soon, but he appeared to be fully recovered.
Within ten minutes and with less shaking I had Peru back in the tank ready to recover again – this time I had tied the floss 4 times!
Round Three - the charm?
Within 24hrs I could tell the floss was coming undone again. I waited until Sunday afternoon & decided this time to use string, maybe this would hold up to my rambunctious pleco.
I set everything up again, got my pleco in the bucket, added the clove oil & waited…10min & he was still flopping slightly when I tried to pick him up! Another drop and 5 more min & he was out. I dunked the pillowcase in clove water, picked him up & because he was very out of it I laid him down & was able to relax & really look & move the growth & make sure I tied it well & TIGHT! The string tied well, I did three knots & picked up my fishy & put him back in his tank. I held him closer to his head for a min (with all the clove oil this time he was very sedated!) it took a minute or two for him to start to come around & I was able to get a quick video just as he woke up & started to swim away.
Six hours after tying the string 95% of the growth has fallen off!!!!!!!!! The string is still tied around a small bit of the growth & I think it will come off on its own.
Peru is dancing & eating like crazy & after a yr of looking at him with this ugly thing on his mouth he looks really good!
Since I had to handle him so many times he did end up with a few splits in some fins, but nothing that won’t heal in a few days!
So far so good!