Sleeping sickness is a stress response to disease in koi and carp populations. Without treatment, the fish will slowly perish. Infected fish demonstrate energy loss and swim slowly. They will swim near the surface and lie on their sides. Sleeping sickness does not have an specific medicine or treatment process; treating the sickness requires deductive reasoning to determine and fix the root cause. Fortunately, restoring the fish to full health is possible.
Parasites and Viral Infections
Sleeping sickness and lethargic behavior are a response to extreme stress. Stress is often caused by parasite and viral infections in koi populations. Complete a thorough visual inspection of the fish to determine common problems. Cloudy eyes, rotting around the tail, white fungus and flakes on the gills are some of the common symptoms that affect koi. Determine the specific disease or infection according to the symptoms and proceed with an over-the-counter medicine. If the disease affecting only a few of the population, quarantine all the sick fish to prevent further contagion.
Water Quality Issues
Water quality is critical to fish health. All fish species have a tolerance range for water quality and pH levels. When the water tolerance is violated, the fish exhibit odd behavior. Koi are especially sensitive to water quality and you must maintain a healthy pond system. Run a pH test and make adjustments to reach a level between 7 and 8.5 for ideal acidity.
A simple salt bath is a common treatment for koi sleeping sickness. Salt baths are especially useful when no other diseases or infections are present. Add a single pound of salt for each 10 gallons of water in a quarantine tank. Increase the temperature to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and keep the affected fish in the solution for five minutes. Return the fish to normal conditions after the bath.
Reduce environmental stresses as a preventative measure against stress and sleeping sickness. Add rock ledges and structures to the pond that the fish can use for hiding when they feel threatened. Add natural vegetation to mimic a natural environment. Use a bubbler for oxygen and a filtration system for a constant supply of clean water. Place indoor ponds close to windows for a natural light source.
Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.