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Related FAQs: Tank Troubleshooting1, FAQs 2, FAQs 3, FAQs 4, FAQs 5, FAQs 6, FAQs 7, FAQs 8, FAQs 9, Treating Disease, Puffer Disease

Related Articles: The Three Sets of Factors that Determine Livestock Health, Toxic Tank Conditions, Environmental Disease (incl. Lymphocystis), Nutritional Disease, Infectious Diseases, Parasitic Diseases, Wound Management (/aquarists), A Livestock Treatment System

/The Conscientious Aquarist Series:

Tank Troubleshooting: Livestock, Part 1 of 2

By Bob Fenner


Over to Part 2 of 2 of Tank Troubleshooting

Many potential and real issues go into considerations of "tank troubleshooting"... from selection, install, maintenance of gear, controllers... But the vast majority of questions and difficulties here deal with (though not starting there necessarily) livestock. Their appearance, behavior. 

For here, we'll limit our discussion of troubleshooting tank problems that deal directly or ultimately with livestock issues.

Many people are fascinated by gadgets to test and modify their systems physical and chemical parameters (ex. of Marilyn at Petco, transits for shooting levels...), but the single, most valid measure of your system's viability (ability to support life) are its living components.  

Here I will introduce a very useful model for understanding the three sets of factors that determine (not influence) livestock health. Credit Stan Sniezsko.

There are many different kinds of disease and ways to define their sub-sets... by cause, appearance, susceptibility to different modes of treatments...

Common categories of fish, invertebrate disease include, parasitic (protozoans on up), infectious (bacteria, funguses, viruses), genetic, nutritional, environmental, social... There are many others. 

There are many things you can do as a "fish god" in controlling, directing the small aquatic worlds you create. Looking thoroughly into the species you intend to keep and their environments, need. Knowing how to pick out the best specimens. Doing your best to properly introduce the new livestock. Developing and adhering to good upkeep procedures. Altogether being careful to keep disease-causing organisms out of your systems.

This model represents a way of looking at all aspects of nature that contribute to the balance of health/disease in living organisms.

Through an understanding in practice of this model you will be able to keep your sanity by in turn knowing the "what" and "whys" of how you can maintain an optimized system for your aquatic charges. 

Human examples of someone sneezing, cat run over... 

The initial state of health of livestock comprises two components, their genetic background and ontogeny/development.

A basic "nature versus nurture" non-argument. Can you become something more than your genes allow? By the same token, can  environment improve  your DNA in one generation?

Ex. species that look alike yet have very different likelihood's of surviving in captivity. A "Poor Man's Moorish Idol" and the real thing. 

It's well known that the same species coming from different areas of the world have diverging rates of survivability... How can this be? Collection practices, holding facility standards, care in captivity during the holding interval... so much more impact and impinge on the DOA and vitality of received livestock at the wholesale distributors end... and beyond. Ex. an P.I. and Australian Choerodon fasciata... 

What to list here? Reduction oxidation potential? We measure nitrogen in a few ways and soluble phosphates... but what about potassium? Scatols, phenols, short-chain fatty acids? 

Food formats, digestibility, palatability, when offered, how... and more are all important aspects of nutrition.

Light duration, regularity, quality, intensity... and species specificity.

A pertinent example as the effects of metabolite build-up and bottle-necking have been and still are the single-largest source of stress, subsequent loss of aquatic livestock, is the relationship between pH, ammonium and temperature. General fundamental relationship is shown as pH increases slightly, temperature goes up, ammonia/um toxicity increases non-arithmetically.

Some products sold in the pet fish interest are valuable for lowering pH alone.

Not often discussed is the types and extents of social stress that exist in our aquariums. Who goes in when, at what size, of what sex, in what numbers is often critically important... Almost all systems are too small, too crowded for what is thrown in together.

Some illustration will serve to enforce these ideas. Many species kept in our interest live in haremic settings, with one male or female having a few to several cohorts of the opposite sex. Some form pair-bonds for life. These relationships should be recognized, emulated in captivity if possible. 

Crowding implies many ills, both metabolic and mental. Many animals produce and release chemicals that delimit the life of others of their own and/or dissimilar species. Example of Alcyonaceans.

A very common cause of problems in crowded systems is gas exchange, in particular in events of electrical loss and/or high temperature.

Psychological ill-effects of crowding should not be discounted.

As touched on before, foods, feeding are of paramount importance as "aspects of your livestock's environment"... So much so that this question: "Are they feeding" is used as a benchmark of selection.

Ideally foraging species would have something to seek out at all feeding times... Hence live rock, substrates/interstitial fauna and refugium use. 

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