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Here are our considered answers to your problem enquiries.

We hope that you will find them of value but we can't guarantee success - there are just too many variables in fishkeeping (especially if there's a vital fact you omitted to tell us in the first place!)

If you disagree with our suggestions, or know of a better remedy, we offer you space on these pages for your point of view too.

Click HERE to send your views - help save fish in distress TODAY!


I have just been reading some of your letter problems. I have a Shubunkin called Tilly, she is about 6 years old now, she had swimbladder problems where she was either floating, being vertical, and now she's lying on the bottom of the tank, like in another letter someone sent you. She can appear to be dead, but when I call her name she bounces across the pebbles.

She has had swimbladder problems for over a year and was told she could live like that, she is on her own in the tank which is about 2ft, she knows when it's feed time but she has problems feeding now, so I actually hand feed her flakes or Bloodworms which is accepted quite happily.

I haven't the heart to stop feeding her so that she will die or do anything else, is there anything I can do - or shall I carry on with what I'm doing now? Mandy

What an agonising predicament to find yourself in, Mandy. Part of you wants to end Tilly's suffering but another part can't bear the thought of her not being with you. By the sound of it, she is quite happy (in our terms, of course) with the way she is being cared for and you are to be admired for your patience and care towards her.

Sometimes swimbladder conditions can be alleviated by keeping the fish in shallower water, but as Tilly has been a sufferer for so long it probably wouldn't make too much of a difference now.

The answer, unfortunately, still lies with you and sometime along the way you will have to make that dreadful decision unless Nature decides otherwise.


Is there anyone who can advise me about snails please?  I am quietly loosing my marbles.

I have been keeping tropicals for ten years or more, one Angel and a few Tetras, all happy and Tetras breeding.  Some months ago I was given a much larger tank (Rekord 120) and thought my angel fish would like some real plants to browse on for a change.  No mention was made of the possibility of snail eggs on the plants when I bought them, but a couple of weeks later the tank was full of the critters.

Two months later, I have been daily manually removing every one I have seen - yuk - and last weekend started using Aquarium Doctor snail smasher but, four attempts later (the maximum suggested) the little blighters are still appearing all the time. I have stripped out all artificial plants/stones etc and washed with very hot water but nothing seems to work.  Today, desperation had me microwaving a rather large plastic plant with disastrous results.

Any help you can give would be very, very much appreciated. Lindsay

Your marbles are safe Lindsay, although snails can cause quite a lot of bother as you've found out. Snails not only chomp on aquatic plants but also will eat fish eggs.

Controlling snails can be done using several methods. The first one (which no one hardly ever uses!) is obviously not to introduce them in the first place! All decorative additions to the aquarium (especially those from water) should be examined for snail eggs, little blobs of jelly usually sticking to the underside of plants. Plants could also be given a rinse or brief soaking in alum.

Once proliferating, snails can again be attacked in several ways. Clown Loaches, and other Botia species, are said to be fond of sucking snails out of their shells and freshwater Pufferfish can crush them whole!

Over the years, various snail remedies have run their courses and whilst many of them appear successful it should be emphasised that the removal of dead snails is of vital importance before their decomposition causes oxygen depletion in the water.

A favourite practical method is to hang a piece of lean raw meal on a string in the tank overnight and remove it, together with its load of snails, in the morning. Alternatively, baiting a small, narrow-necked bottle with meat and leaving on the substrate overnight will have similar results.

You can kill off snails using a small 4.5v battery. Just attach two wires to the battery and dangle their bared ends in the water at opposite ends of the tank. The very weak electric current will do the rest. Again, remove all carcases.

Snails come in two basic types – the red round-shelled ones which you can see on the plants and the conical shelled burrowing species which live (and lay their eggs!) in the gravel. Needless to say the latter type is more difficult to clear out.


I have just found your web site, totally fascinating.  I just wonder if you can help me with a query.

I have made a wild-life garden pond, it was completed a few months ago and I am pleased with the wild-life that it has already attracted. To replicate one that I had in our garden over 40 years ago when I was a child I wish to place minnows in it in order to add interest. The pond has a continuous running water-fall and I'm quite sure they will live there successfully. As a child I used to catch them in the river using a small net and a jam jar.

Being much older now, I don't think I'm quite up to that.  I certainly don't want to put goldfish in it but wish to use native fish.  Do you know if it is legal to catch fish with a small net these days, I was thinking of doing so with my young Grandson? If it isn't, do you know of anywhere that I can obtain some suitable native small fish legally?  I would also appreciate any other comments you may care to make regarding this.
My pond is approx. 3mtrs by 3mtrs and about 2' deep at its deepest part.
Thank you, Leslie Evans.

There are many new rules and regulations about what fish can (and cannot) be removed from native streams and we believe that there are no restrictions on the Minnow. As you have already surmised, Minnows need well-oxygenated water to thrive so your pond's continuously-running waterfall should fulfil this need quite adequately. As your pond also has more than a reasonable depth, the fish will be able to survive the winter just as successfully as they would do in their normal habit.

The Minnow feeds on small waterborne animal life and so it seems important that the pond is well-established in order for a sufficient source of this food to exist. In other words, some detritus on the pond base is not such a bad thing!
Whilst soil is to be discouraged in the pond (to prevent aquatic plants rooting in it and becoming too rampant) some pebbles or shingle might not come amiss, as Minnows can use them as spawning sites. It may be advantageous to put some gravel or shingle on the 'plant shelves' (if your pond has them around the edge) so that the fish can spawn in the warmer shallower water. Some free-floating aquatic plants such as Hornwort or Elodea will also make good spawning sites.
Male Minnows develop a pink tinge to the belly when in breeding condition and also have small white spots on their gill covers.
Some of the larger, aquatic centres around the country may stock Minnows. Wildwoods Water Gardens Theobalds Park Rd, Crews Hill, Enfield, Middlesex EN2 9BP (tel: 020 8366 0243) often have native coldwater fish.


Help! I am very new at this!

I have recently moved into a house, and inherited a mature pond with a selection of fish (some over 25 years old). One of the fish, I believe it's called a Shubunkin has a growth on its front left fin that was white and is now turning pink. Here's a picture of the fish and even though it's taken whilst the fish is in the pond the growth is clearly visible. Any ideas as to what it is and what I should do? Martin

At this time of year, male Goldfish begin to show signs of coming into breeding condition. They develop white spots on their cheeks (gill covers) and also on the leading edges of their pelvic fins. Your fish may be showing an exaggerated form of this or maybe it has contracted a seasonal disease called Lymphocistis, which looks a bit like a piece of cauliflower stuck to the fish. Fortunately, this is a disease which is usually self-righting and comes and goes without disturbing the fish too much and no treatment is required.

If you are worried about the fish, you could take it out of the pond (easier said than done?) and put it into a small tank or basin with water to which you have added a tablespoonful per gallon of sea salt. This often helps to clear up any parasitic attack which might be in progress, but do remove the fish from the salt bath if it becomes distressed. Otherwise keep the fish in the bath for a couple of hours before returning it to the pond.


I was advised to feed my 2 Orandas only on pellet food and not flake.
Can you confirm if this is the best for them. They still eat the pellets but it must be getting a bit boring for them. I do now feed them frozen Bloodworm twice a week (after reading letters/advice on your site).

My water is slightly milky. I have been cleaning the water with tap water. I take it this could be the cause (again from reading your advice). What 'additive' would you recommend when doing a water change? Thanks for your help, Steve

The most important factor when feeding fish is the quality of the food, rather than its actual physical composition. This aside, the next important factor is the amount of food actually consumed, as any surplus uneaten food (or even any food that passes straight through the fish without being digested) will pollute the water.

In the pond, it may be difficult to accurately assess the latter point, hence the suggestion that floating pellet (or stick-type) foods should be used so that amounts given can be judged more accurately. Faster sinking foods such as flakes and granules may simple reach the bottom uneaten and unnoticed by the fishkeeper.

In an aquarium, things are a look more under control so there should be no risk of overfeeding and in this case there should be no worry on the choice of foods fed.

To alleviate your concern over the fishes' boredom with a fixed diet, you should vary the brand name of the pellet food so as to give them a slight change from time to time.
The addition of occasional treats of frozen (or even live) foods will help keep them in good condition.

Goldfish (Fancy or Common) are notoriously 'dirty' fish especially if fed well.
Foraging around the substrate usually stirs up a fine mist into the water and an efficient filtration system is the answer, together with regular, partial water changes. You should add some water treatment to any new tap water before adding it – any of the well-known brands of dechlorinators (Tap Safe, AquaSafe etc are likely names) will be adequate. Sludge-busters and Silt-eaters may help break down waste products but may not be entirely necessary if a good water management routine is followed.


Hi there,

I was wondering if you could give me a bit of advice?
Last year after my mum had moved out of her house, I rescued the Goldfish that had been left behind. We are going on holiday soon for 2 weeks and have no one to look after her.

I have tried food blocks in the tank and they don't seem to dissolve very well, a weekend block can take up to a week to dissolve, I know that you can get a block that lasts 2 weeks, which would cover the period we are away, but I'm just worried in case this does not dissolve.  We have a Fluval 1 filter in the tank which is approx. 18 x 12 x 12, and I do frequent part water changes.

The fish means a lot to me as she was originally my daughter's before she moved away, and we have had her for 6 years; any advice you could give me would be very grateful. Many, many thanks Debbie Western

Fish are not quite so dependent on us as we often would like to think. The 'problem' of holiday care comes up regularly but, under general situations, it needn't be quite the threat we imagine it might be.

It is usually accepted by fishkeepers that, in an established furnished tank – ie one that is well maintained (as yours is) and has a reasonable growth of plants etc – the fish can be left for two weeks without any attention. If you leave the tank light off, there will be less stimulus for activity in the tank too. People are often surprised on their return by how 'tidy' the aquarium looks: obviously the fish do a great job of scavenging around which perhaps reflects on just how likely we are to overfeed our fish!

With, say, a Goldfish in a less furnished aquarium there may not be quite some much 'sustenance' around but, providing you feed the fish well (but don't overdo it!) in the weeks leading up to the holiday, it should be fine fending for itself.

In the event that you could get someone to pop in to feed it, don't trust them with a pot of food. Make up small feeds in twists of paper for them to use, say one every other day at most; even a twice weekly food would help the fish – and your holiday period concerns.

Have a good holiday!



For many years now I have been a keeper of both native and tropical marines and have a particular interest in European Blennies and Gobies, having kept at some point almost all the species native to British waters and have always caught my own stock.

I would love to be able to obtain some of the gorgeous Mediterranean spp. but have never come across any dealers in Med.stock. Obviously it is impossible for me to collect these myself, both legally and logistically and with this in mind I wondered if you were aware of any such dealers in the U.K?

I've contacted people in mainland Europe who collect their own but as you will be aware it would be impossible to get them back to the U.K. Perhaps I should move to Spain? Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to offer,

Best wishes, Steve. Stephen@haleys50.freeserve.co.uk

We've drawn a bit of a blank on this one Steve. Try contacting 'Marine World' magazine or dropping a line to our Malta Society.

If there's anyone out there with some constructive suggestions, please drop us a line and we'll forward it on to Steve.


Last updated June 10, 2005