Sigh. Strange how this hobby can one minute be so much fun and uplifting and the next minute be sad and depressing. No sooner do I post about a wonderful little fish than I post about him being deceased. Yeah, that same little gregarious ocellatus that I posted about Sunday passed away overnight.
Not really sure what happened to him. I came down to feed last night, and he was perched on top of a ceramic cave, which itself was sitting on top of a couple of rocks. I knew immediately something was wrong because 1) shell dwellers don’t normally park on top of things like that, 2) he had a shell, which is where he should have been, 3) his color was mottled, and 4) his mouth was agape. If you’re familiar with ocellatus, then you know they’ll turn a mottled color of brown when they’re stressed. He definitely was stressed. I immediately went to net him, and he hardly tried to avoid the net.
I didn’t have a vacant/sick quarantine tank up and available, so I had to grab a breeding box. I netted the little guy and placed him into the box, which I anchored to the bottom of the tank (see photo above). It has a lid, so he was protected from any harm. Generally, I would isolate a struggling fish in a tank by itself with some fresh, clean water if I can. However, I had just changed 50% of the tank water the day before, so I was more concerned about other fish having access to him.
It’s hard to say what got him. Could have been aggression or could have been something else.
One good thing about moving fish into solitary is that, if they have been beaten by a tankmate, they not only are removed from the threat but they’re also separated from the chemical cues emitted by other fish. Regardless of whether one fish can see another, in a closed system fish are aware of the presence of others. Like smell, they know another fish is there.
Removing an ailing fish from a community tank and giving it a tank by itself subsequently removes the chemicals exuded by other fish. This does two things. It lets the ailing fish know there are no tankmates and, presumably, relieves the stress associated with that. Even though I put him in a clear box to protect him from others, he was in the same water and knew others were around somewhere.
Without knowing what killed him, I’m only speculating on whether moving him to a separate tank would have made any difference. He didn’t appear beat up, but a physical confrontation isn’t always visible. A couple of good shots from another fish can cause internal damage that’s both unnoticed and unrecoverable.
And if you’re wondering if maybe the water was the problem, I checked it. I didn’t need to though because I’ve done this long enough to know when there is a water problem. The water was not the problem.
Regardless, I am saddened by this.