Sand and sun, barbecues and parades; everyone loves the summer! Unfortunately, "everyone" includes aquatic bacteria, which thrive in warmer waters. To fishkeepers, summer is a time where serious diseases like columnaris and septicemia seem to pop up at of nowhere. Fish store stock is suddenly plauged by disease, and shipping can be a nightmare for any breeder when day to day temperatures may fluctuate anywhere from 60 to 100 degrees. In short, summer is unkind to our fish, and nerve wracking for fishkeepers. So, here are a few summer tips on how to help keep your bettas healthy this summer season.
Is it Hot in Here?
To those of us who lack air conditioning, a summer of fishkeeping becomes a summer of nervously watching the tank temperature rise while desperately thinking of a way to cool things down safely. We may think of water as a way to stay cool in the summer, but if temperatures are consistently in the 90's indoors, you can make a fair bet that temperatures in your fish tanks will spike into the upper 80's. Not only can excessively high temperatures damage your fish's health, but they can also lead to the rapid advancement of diseases like columnaris. In fact, one of the leading causes of columnaris is a temperature spike. So, here are a few tips to help you "beat the heat."
The Ups and Downs
Though a house at 90 degrees runs the risks of high tank temperatures, a house with AC has many challenges as well. Many homes run the AC only at certain times of the day to save energy. Others turn the house into a freezer, with temps lower than the standard winter room temperature. Still other air conditioners run continuously regardless of the room temperature, which can cause a great variation throughout the day. In short, having an air conditioner doesn't make your fish safe; while cooler temperatures may discourage rapid bacterial breeding, inconsistent temperatures weaken the immune system. Here are some air conditioning related tips to keep your water temperature more consistent.
Coolers are Good for More than Pop!
Do coolers ever get more use than in the summer time? Picnics, summer outings, barbecues, and of course - wild pool parties - are always marked by the ever present cooler, stocked with ice and drinks. But did you know that a cooler's usefulness goes far beyond storing ice and keeping drinks cold? Indeed, coolers are wonderful because they keep temperatures stable based on what is put in them, holding in coolness or warmth while the outside air temperature may vary dramatically. But what does this have to do with fish? Everything, if you're buying (or in this site's case, rescuing) new fish.
When you get into your car after a half hour in the store, what is the temperature like? If you've ever burned your hand on a seatbuckle, you probably know the answer: friggen hot! Considering the fact that the fish you just bought came from an air conditioned store whose temp was probably low enough to have allready weakened his immunity, do you really want to now put the said fish in a 120 degree car and wait for the AC (or in my case, opened windows) to cool things down? Of course not.
My suggestion for transporting newly purchased fish in the summer is to bring a small cooler, or insulated lunch box, with you when shopping for fish. Put nothing in it but some padding to keep the bag/cup from knocking around - you want it to stay the temperature the fish is allready in. Regardless of how many store clerks stare at you like you have five heads, bring it right on into the store and put your fish inside (after purchase, of course). Then load him into the car and drive home with peace of mind knowing that he isn't going through wild temperature changes in addition to the stress of transport. Considering how many of us rescue fish, temperature spikes are the LAST thing our little sickies need on the ride home in that dirty water!
Is Your Food Stale? So is Your Fish Food!
Anyone who has reached into a bag of rubbery potato chips, or bitten down on a soggy pretzel, knows that heat and humidity kills food fast. What many people don't realize is that their pet food is probably getting equally stale unless it is stored properly. I often wonder how many bettas who regurgitate food are doing so because the food has gone bad, and the fish know better than us if it doesn't feel right. So, let this be your brief reminder to secure all of your food jars, double-check the seal on bagged food, check the expiration dates on your frozen food, and force any extra air out of those Hikari pouches. While you're at it, you might want to check mesh screens for food that got stuck and is now going bad; evaporating tank water condenses on the screens and often catches food. A moldy bit of food that got stuck in the mesh weeks ago can be a real health hazzard to your betta if it falls in the water.
While you're out having fun in the sun, please don't forget about your bettas. They can't drink a bowl of cool water like your dog, or hop in a bird bath like your parrot; as aquarium fish, they are completely at your mercy. Please, put the extra effort into keeping the tank temperature safe. Don't let your preferred room temperature take priority over their healthy room temperature. Do not let your new rescues wind up with columnaris because of something as preventable as a hot car ride. And do not cause internal infections and malnourishment with something as avoidable as food spoilage. With a little extra care and consideration on your part, this can be a safe and healthy summer for all of your fish.