Marine decompression injury is an important and potentially fatal condition that affects marine fish. It occurs when a fish is exposed to rapid changes in pressure due to sudden changes in water depth or the introduction of air into an aquarium. When this occurs, the gas bubbles can form in their tissues and cause damage, including tissue death and organ failure. Symptoms of decompression injury include lethargy, appetite loss, eye discoloration, and swimming in circles.
The primary cause of marine decompression injury is rapid changes in water pressure. Large aquariums that don’t have adequate ventilation or filtration systems may be unable to keep their water pressure constant. This can lead to rapid changes in water depth which can then cause gas bubbles to form in the tissues and cause decompression injury. To prevent this, aquarists should provide adequate ventilation and filtration systems that can maintain a constant water pressure. Marine fish should be slowly acclimated to new aquariums over a period of several days before being introduced to the tank.
Symptoms of Marine Decompression Injury
Symptoms of marine decompression injury in marine fish can be severe and potentially fatal. Common symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- Eye discoloration
- Swimming in circles
The gas bubbles that form due to decompression can cause bubbles to appear underneath their skin and can even lead to tissue death or organ failure. If untreated, decompression injury can lead to death.
Diagnosing Marine Decompression Injury
Decompression injury can be difficult to diagnose in marine fish, because its symptoms are often similar to those of other aquarium illnesses. To properly diagnose the condition, a veterinarian should take a full history of the aquarium and examine the fish for signs of distress. Blood tests could be recommended to check for elevated levels of gas bubbles in the bloodstream. An x-ray or ultrasound may also be used to confirm the diagnosis.
Stages of Marine Decompression Injury
Marine decompression injury can be split into three stages.
The first stage is the onset of symptoms, which include lethargy, appetite loss, eye discoloration, and swimming in circles.
In the second stage, gas bubbles begin to form under their skin and can cause tissue death or organ failure.
The third stage is the recovery stage, where the fish can take several weeks to return to health if treated correctly.
Treating Marine Decompression Injury
Treating marine decompression injury requires careful management of the aquarium environment. This includes providing adequate ventilation and filtration systems that can maintain a constant water pressure and slowly acclimating fish to new aquariums over a period of several days before being introduced to the tank. Medications such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and oxygen therapy can be prescribed by a veterinarian to help reduce symptoms and promote healing.
Preventing Marine Decompression Injury
The best way to prevent marine decompression injury is to maintain a consistent and stable water pressure in the aquarium. This can be accomplished by making sure that there are adequate ventilation and filtration systems that can keep the water pressure constant. Marine fish should be slowly acclimated to new aquariums over a period of several days before being introduced to the tank.