A piscine specialist can help you keep your pet healthy and happy.

How do you know when your fish is ill? You don't! That's why you need a veterinarian trained in piscine, or fish, medicine to identify and treat her aches and pains.

Because most veterinary schools exclude fish from the standard curriculum, doctors specializing in these quiet companions typically seek out training on their own. To find a competent "fish doctor" near you, consult pet stores, aquarium clubs, and veterinary schools with fish medicine departments.

What exactly can a fish doctor do? More than you might think:

  • Preventive care. Stressors in your fish's environment can suppress her natural immunity to disease. A fish veterinarian can advise you on water changes, cleaning schedules, water filtration and aeration, and water temperature. The doctor can also analyze water-quality parameters, including pH, ammonia and nitrate levels, and discuss environmental pollutants affecting outdoor koi or goldfish.
  • Nutrition counseling. While many prepared pellets and flakes are nutritionally balanced, some fish species require a different approach - live fish or a more plant-based prepared diet. Your veterinarian can recommend the right mix of foods to tempt your pet's palate.
  • Diagnosis and treatment. A veterinarian can use several diagnostic techniques to identify the problem, including examining your pet and analyzing fluid and tissue samples. The doctor may use a scalpel blade or glass slide to gather skin samples for microscopic examination, and a sterile swab to collect samples for bacterial testing.
For common illnesses such as ich, the doctor may simply perform a physical exam and collect samples. Fish with more elusive illnesses may need advanced diagnostic procedures. Believe it or not, your fish can even get X-rays and ultrasound examinations.

And just as they do with dogs and cats, veterinarians can sedate or anesthetize fish for surgical procedures, collection of blood samples and restraint. Before your visit, ask your veterinarian if you should bring extra tank water to supply sedation and/or recovery chambers.

You can easily transport your sick friend in a clean plastic container filled with aquarium water.

While there are no vaccinations to help pet fish ward off common diseases, you can work closely with your veterinarian to provide high-quality preventive care and treatment.