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An Urban Experience
C. Walster1
1Island Veterinary Associates, Stafford, Stafford, United Kingdom
The Island Veterinary Associates
132 Lichfield Road
Stafford ST17 4LE
A practice that solely treats ornamental fish? It’s already happened! Given the popularity of ornamental fish
e.g. a minimum of 40 million in the UK, then it seems strange that there are not more. However, one needs to overcome you can’t treat fish. Fish keepers do require the same services as any other pet and as a veterinarian, you already have 90% of the skills necessary, so what is stopping you?
Virtually all the equipment and facilities you need can already be found within your practice. At most, you might want to invest in a fish anaesthetic machine, around $80 for a pump, reservoir tank and foam inserts, to $1000’s for a real-time computer monitored model. Purchase
a textbook, Fish Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment by E.J. Noga, around $120, is a good, you might like to
join WAVMA ( or visit the resources available from the University of Florida (http://tal.ifas. A children’s paddling pool, heater and air pump can provide your fist hospitalization tank, maybe another $100, a water quality test kit ($50 to $1000’s). For an investment of less than the price of some orthopaedic implants you have a fully functioning ornamental fish practice. However, there are some differences to be aware of.
Initial marketing
Much the same as any other veterinary practice but remember people do not believe you can treat fish. Join or talk to any local aquarist clubs and post your services on social media. Something as mundane as removing a lump from a goldfish, can get you international exposure even on to TV.
Initial Contact
Receptionists need to be able to advise clients how to transport the fish, plastic bag, cardboard box, any need for oxygen, bring spare water (needed for the journey home and recovery from the anaesthetic), and a sample of water to test for water quality even if the client swears they do this routinely.
House visits can be more appropriate than a surgery visit, and receptionists need to be able to take a history and recognise when one might be necessary. Sudden death possibly suggests an environmental contaminant, lack of oxygen or electrical fault. Chronic illness suggests possible stress and poor positioning of the tank or pond such as in full sunlight or excess vibration due to noise. All these are easier to ascertain as possible causes through a home visit.
The Consultation
Diary slots need to be for around 30 minutes. Take a history, check water quality, sedate the fish for skin scrape, gill snip, faecal sample, blood sampling, examine the samples under the microscope and treatment. Time needed will decrease as you become more proficient.
It is acceptable to routinely use hobbyist test kits, where accuracy is needed such as in legal work then you need to use laboratory grade test kits or machines. Where possible, use a different test kit to the hobbyist as the results may well be different. Using gloves causes less damage to the mucous layer.
Charge for additional time as the system and the fish are relatively costly, fish such as koi or Arowanas can cost similar to or even more than expensive pedigree dogs. Fish are worth it.
Further diagnostics
Skin scrapes should always be taking during the consultation with gill snips and faecal samples if necessary. Examine them as fresh as possible. Seeing the odd parasite per field of view should be expected but if numerous are seen then the fish has a problem. Blood samples can be run through blood biochemistry machines using standard rotas but check first with your supplier. Blood counts and PCV’s should be done manually as fish blood is “different” to mammalian blood. An obvious issue is that fish red blood cells are nucleated.
Fish are perfect candidates for ultrasonography as they arrive enclosed in the perfect conducting medium of water. Probes designed for ophthalmology use (e.g.
7.5 MHz) are most useful depending on the size of the fish. Good for getting “whole body” pictures, retrobulbar abscesses, swim bladder disease and cardiology.

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