So, what is it that you need to look for when buying a fish? To evaluate a fish there are two basic areas of observation to look at; appearance and behavior. Look closely at the eyes, fins, mouth, skin, scales and abdomen, keeping the following points in mind when observing a potential new purchase.
- Skin & Scales
The eyes should be bright and clear and normally set in the head. Internal bacterial infections are often first seen as a gray cloudy film or light misty appearance in the eyes. A fish with sunken eyes, ones that seem to be too small for their sockets, is not a good sign, especially when the fish displays shallow breathing and little activity. This condition may be a result of exposure to a poison, such as cyanide, and its future probably does not have a sunny outlook.
The fins should be crisp and clean with no rough or ragged edges. Many times when a fish has ratted or frayed fins it may be a sign of ammonia burn from collecting, poor water quality or fighting with other fishes, which can make it an ideal candidate for bacterial infection or other diseases. The fins should not be clamped down or unable to be completely extended once in a while, as fish normally do.
The tissues of the mouth should be firm and uninjured. An injury in the mouth area could cause lack of interest for the fish to eat and can be a potential site for fungus and bacterial infection.
The skin and scales should be smooth and well colored. Indistinct, discolored blotches on the upper sides are usually a sign of an internal disease, especially if associated with rapid breathing. Uplifted, raised or missing scales are also a bad sign.
The stomach (or abdomen) area should be well rounded and slightly convex (curved out) in a healthy fish. As the fish looses body mass, the abdominal profile becomes straight and then concave (sunken in). The condition of the abdomen can offer clues to the recent history of the fish and some indication of how easy it will be to get it to eat. Beware the sunken stomach! Feeding is a very important sign of well being and if a fish is feed properly and eating well, the chances are that it is either in good condition or strong enough to shrug off any minor ailments or stresses of moving to a new home.
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