Aquatics retailers face big challenges in keeping their livestock healthy. With so many fish and invertebrates moving through the store, there are bound to be occasional problems.
But, unhealthy fish can create problems in customers’ tanks. So, it’s always worth your while to ensure the health of your aquatic livestock.
“Retailers don’t have it easy when it comes to maintaining fish health, most don’t have the facilities nor the staffing to quarantine fish separately from their sales floor so all their fish are on display to their customers at all times,” Mike Tuccinardi, marketing director at Segrest Farms, said. “This makes it essential that all their fish are looking their best. Really staying on top of water quality is key as is learning to recognize and treat disease before it turns into an outbreak.”
What is the most important practice Segrest Farms uses to keep their fish healthy?
“I think it really comes down to the visual inspections our fish health staff do multiple times a day,” Tuccinardi said. “Having someone knowledgeable and experienced actually walking through our buildings, taking the time to look at each tank and spot check fish for signs of disease or stress is the single best way to prevent health issues before they have a chance to get out of control. And that holds true whether you’re a small retailer or large importer/distributor.”
It’s All About The Water
While observation is key for heading off fish health problems, there also are numerous products available to prevent health problems by maintaining water quality. Keeping excellent water quality makes it much less likely that a problem will develop.
It’s good practice to use a few of these in-house and observe the results. This will help you better advise customers who are having problems with the health of their own fish.
Many products support fish health by removing toxins or impurities from the water. No matter what the exact water quality issue may be, there is likely a product to remedy it.
These include Anti-Nitrate Media and Anti-Phosphate Media from Cobalt Aquatics. These are resins that absorb the respective toxins, creating healthful conditions for fish and invertebrates, although the Anti-Phosphate Media should be used carefully in planted tanks because plants need some phosphate in the water.
Chemipure from Boyd Enterprises is a multipurpose filter media. Chemipure is a blend of activated carbon and resins designed to stabilize pH and remove ammonia, nitrate, copper, other metals and phenol from the water, ensuring a healthy environment for the fish. The Chemipure Elite line adds ferric oxide to the original Chemipure media, so it will filter out phosphates and silicates as well. Chemipure is safe for freshwater and marine tanks.
AquaSafe PLUS BioExtract formula water conditioner from Tetra, United Pet Group, neutralizes harmful chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals, making tap water safe for fish.
This product contains seaweed extracts, which support the development of beneficial filter bacteria for healthy and clear water. It is safe for marine and freshwater fish.
EasyBalance Plus water treatment, also from Tetra, benefits water quality in many ways. It reduces phosphates, stabilizes pH, and replenishes essential trace elements and minerals.
This formula contains Nitraban, nitrate-reducing granules. These are biodegradable and are broken down by the beneficial bacteria present in the tank.
Tim Plafcan, senior product manager at United Pet Group Aquatics, believes that alkalinity and pH decline are likely the move overlooked factors affecting fish health.
“Studies have shown that even monthly 20 percent water changes may not be enough to replenish essential buffers and minerals,” he said. “In turn, long term pH decline can cause problems, and that’s why we recommend using a product such as EasyBalance.”
Keeping Them Healthy
Tuccinardi also swears by the addition of aquarium salt.
“The one thing that I think is most overlooked by retailers is the use of salt as a stress reducer and disease preventative,” he said. “Having the right TDS [total dissolved solids] levels can mean the difference between a system full of fish that arrived rough but look great the next day or a systemwide ich outbreak. Just make sure you’re testing levels and adjusting as necessary. A $30 TDS pen can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in losses over the course of a year.”
Don’t overlook the role that diet plays in keeping fish healthy. It’s important feed a high-quality diet appropriate to the species in question.
“All of our flake and pellet feeds include probiotic bacteria in the form of Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis in a concentration of 1,000,000 CFU/g,” Les Wilson, cofounder of Cobalt Aquatics, said. “When the food is consumed, the probiotic bacteria populate the gut of the fish and support a healthy digestive system. In addition all of our foods contain the Cobalt Blue flake that is super-packed with immunostimulants and a triple-vitamin boost which help the fish fight off disease and helps keep it in top shape and color.”
Keeping the fish and invertebrates you sell in top condition is the first step to helping your customers avoid fish health problems. To get their return business, offer them a wide range of health-maintaining products and your expert advice to address their particular needs.