Successful treatment of a sick fish depends on a variety of factors. Water quality and the condition of the fish prior to the onset of illness, the swiftness and accurateness of treatment and the severity of the disease all affect how well an Arowana heals. Many of these factors are controllable, and a proactive approach to your Arowana’s health aids recovery from illness or disease.
The Quarantine Tank
Even with years of trouble-free Arowana care behind you, it is extremely wise to keep a Quarantine tank running. If you house tank mates with your Arowana, use it to isolate and observe new arrivals for several days prior to introduction to the main tank. Fish that appear to be stressed or becoming ill outside of the observation period can be removed to the Quarantine tank for treatment. This prevents dosing the main setup and disrupting biological filtration. It also prevents exposing healthy fish to antibiotics unnecessarily.
If you keep only one Arowana, a small quarantine tank is still a wise investment. It can be used to isolate live foods and plants for observation and parasite control. A quarantine tank can also serve as a place to administer healing salt baths should your Arowana become ill or stressed. In the event of a tank emergency, it is always of benefit to have a fully cycled, smaller tank on hand. A 55 or even a 29 gallon tank can suffice as temporary Arowana housing.
Three Types of Fish Medication
There is a wide variety of fish medications available on the market. It is extremely important to spend some time learning how to use basic medicines. Not only must you be able to identify Arowana diseases, you must know how to treat them swiftly and safely.
There are three basic types of fish medicine: Bacterial antibiotics, anti-parasitic medications, and antifungal medications. Regardless of the name brand, each group contains specific drugs or chemicals that function similarly. Aim to become familiar with at least two drugs within each group. Be sure to have enough of each on hand to treat an Arowana for 10 days. Many medications require only a few days of dosage, but it is best to be prepared for more aggressive treatment.
1. Bacterial Antibiotics:
These work by stopping the growth or killing off bacteria. Broad spectrum medications are effective against a variety of bacteria, while narrow spectrum antibiotics only affect a few.
Some bacterial antibiotics destroy beneficial bacteria in your tank. Pay particularly close attention to water quality during treatment with these medications, as many also require the removal of carbon from filtration units. In the interest of preserving your tank’s water quality, it is best to use bacterial antibiotics only in a Quarantine setting.
Common antibacterial medications: tetracycline (minocycline), erythromycin, nitrofurans, quniolones.
2. Anti-parasitic Medications:
These are designed to treat the many parasites that can infect Arowanas. There are three types of parasites: single-celled protozoa, worms, and crustaceans. The latter two are often visible to the naked eye, and the protozoa “ich” can also usually be spotted. In other instances, magnification may help with parasite identification.
Some anti-parasitic medications are effective against more than one parasite. Some are harmful to plants or rays, and some may affect biological filtration. Many color tank water and require safe handling procedures. While quarantining generally prevents parasite infestations, if your main tank becomes infected it must be treated for complete elimination.
Common anti-parasitic medications: Malachite green, formalin, copper, and quinine.
3. Antifungal Medications:
Fungal infections often attack an Arowana at the site of a wound. Injury or parasite infestation commonly initiates fungal growth. Water molds begin to feed on fish by secreting enzymes which digest tissue cells. True fungal infections are challenging to treat, and repeated or extended treatments are often necessary.
Common antifungal medications: Malachite green, formalin, copper, methylene blue.
Some medications are designed to be used together and are effective at treating more than one illness. A good example is malachite green and formalin which are often sold as one treatment. Copper is another multi-purpose remedy. These medications may treat both parasitic and fungal infections. If you suspect your fish has secondary infections from parasitic wounds, try a dual purpose medication.
If you are uncertain about using two medications simultaneously, look for a quality manufacturer and contact them directly. Alternatively, you could consult with a veterinarian or professional Arowana keeper. Never simply “guess” at what medications to use in combination with each other. Fish medications are essentially chemicals and require special handling and care.