Vitamin Deficiencies

Okay it's not really a disease, but the symptoms can often look like it...

This can also cause abnormalities similar to TB and Genetic defects. Lack of Calcium and Vitamin C are the two main culprits, resulting in bent spine and abnormally small fish.

Online Diagnosis

What to Look For

  • Scoliosis (Curved Spine)
  • Reduced Growth
  • Anorexia (Lack or Loss of Appetite)
  • Low fish weight
  • Lethargy

What's going on?

The lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the diets of freshwater and saltwater fishes and invertebrates can lead to health problems, a common one in fish being head and lateral line erosion disease.

How to Fix It?

The only treatment is to practice good fish keeping care. Below is a slated plan for what every tank keeper should do.

If you have a fish that you think might be a victim of Vitamin Deficiency, follow the below plan step by step:

1. Weekly feed your fish a minimum of 3 different types of food. (Example: Oscar Cichlid gets tropical flakes and floating cichlid pellets daily, once a week frozen blood worms are given.

2. Do Weekly 20% water changes accompanied with gravel washing.

3. That's it that's all you need to do to promote good fish health.

How to Prevent this?

Feeding your fish an improper diet is as common a mistake as overfeeding.

Providing the correct diet is essential for fish growth and health. Dietary deficiencies will not only shorten the lifespan of fish and cause many diseases, but will also contribute to a deteriorating water quality by polluting the water.

The diet of fish varies based on their individual nutritional needs. Some require meaty foods (carnivores), some plants (herbivores) and some a combination of both (omnivores).

Protein is necessary for growth and for repair of cells and body tissue. Proteins must be supplied regularly to ensure good growth and health. It is the most expensive component in feed and may comprise anywhere from 25 percent to 55 percent of the diet, depending on the fish species and size. While it is an important source of energy, excessive protein will simply increase ammonia production. Fish and shrimp meals are common sources of protein in fish feeds.

Lipids (fats and oils) are important to fish since they provide energy and allow the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins and other crucial nutrients. They are available from many sources, and extra fats can be stored in the body. Too much fat can affect the liverís ability to filter and cleanse the blood.

Like fats, carbohydrates provide energy for body functions. However, only omnivores (meat and plant eaters) and herbivores (plant eaters) utilize carbohydrates well; carnivores (meat eaters) do not.

What are you missing?

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin A

Functions: - normal vision, cell growth and resistance to infection Deficiencies: - poor growth, poor vision, abnormal bone formation and hemorrhaging at the base of the fins

Vitamin D

Functions: - calcium blood levels (?) Deficiencies: - unknown

Vitamin E

Functions: - antioxidant, may paly a role in muscle cell respiration Deficiencies: - anemia and poor growth

Water Soluble Vitamins

Thiamine (B1)

Functions: - aids growth, digestion and fertility, nervous system Deficiencies: - poor appetite, muscle atrophy, convulsions, loss of equilibrium and poor growth

Riboflavin (B2)

Functions: - vision, protein metabolism and enzyme functioning Deficiencies: - photophobia, cloudy lens, dim vision, abnormal colouration of the iris, striated constrictions on the abdominal wall, dark pigmentation, poor appetite, anemia and poor growth

Nicotinic Acid (niacin, B3)

Functions: - plays an important role in lipid, protein and amino acid metabolism Deficiencies: - loss of appetite, poor growth, lesions in colon, erratic motion and weakness, edema of stomach and colon

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

Functions: - adrenal functioning, cholersterol production, normal physiology and metabolism Deficiencies: - poor growth, sluggishness, clubbed gills, loss of appetite, hemmorhagic skin and cellular atrophy

Pyroxidine (B6)

Functions: - plays a vital role in enzyme systems and protein metabolism Deficiencies: - nervous disorders, fits, loss of appetite, poor growth, rapid and gasping breathing, flexing of opercles and hyperirritability

Cyanocobalamin (B12)

Functions: - enzyme systems, cholesterol metabolism Deficiencies: - poor appetite, poor growth, anemia and dark pigmentation

Ascorbic Acid (C)

Functions: - enzyme systems, bone, tooth and cartilage formation and healing Deficiencies: - hemorrhagic shin, kidneys, liver, intestine and muscle tissue, eye lesions and scoliosis of the spine

Biotin (H)

Functions: - enzyme systems, purine and lipid synthesis, oxidation of lipids and carbohydrates Deficiencies: - loss of appetite, poor growth, anemia, skin lesions and muscle atrophy


Functions: - good growth and food conversion Deficiencies: - poor growth, poor food conversion, hemorrhagic kidney and intestine

Folic Acid (M)

Functions: - blood cell formation, blood glucose regulation and fish metabolism Deficiencies: - poor growth, lethargy, dark skin, anemia and fragility of the caudal fin


Functions: - cell membrane permeability Deficiencies: - poor growth, distended stomach, skin lesions and increased gastric emptying time

p-Aminobenzoic Acid

Functions: - unknown Deficiencies: - no abnormal indication in growth, appetite and mortality

References & Sources: from Fruland and Miller 1980; Moyle and Cech 1982

Fruland, R. and W. Miller 1980. Vitamins and the marine aquarium.FAMA 3(5): 36-75.

Moyle, P.B. and J.J. Cech Jr. 1982. Fishes: An Introduction toIchthyology. Prentice-Hall, Inc., New Jersey.

Disease & Tank Problems

Common Problems

(80% of all problems aquarium issues)
New Tank Syndrome - Is your tank new? Do you have cloudy water?
Ammonia Poisoning - Fins are torn, red steaking on body.
Vitamin Deficiencies - Scoliosis (Curved Spine), Reduced Growth, Lack or Loss of Appetite
Bad Water - Gravel washed this week? Add new water? See Ammonia Poisoning
Swim Bladder Problems - Erratic Swimming Position, Loss of equilibrium.
Physical Injury - From fighting, bumping into things, etc
Stress - Acting weird? Hiding all day? Not eating?
Walmart Syndrome - Did you buy your fish there?


(Usually visual things/bugs)
Anchor Worms - Tiny white-green or red worms in wounds, Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
Black Spot - Small black speckles on body.
Ich - Small white "salt-like" pimples on fins & body.
Skin / Gill Flukes - Fish gasps for air at the water's surface, gills covered in mucus.
Oodinium (velvet) - Fine grey-gold to whitish 'dust' on the body.
Parasites (External) - Large ugly sores on body.
Planaria - Small White Hairlike Worms in the tank.

Bacterial Diseases

(Mostly Internal Problems or invisable problems)
Pop Eye - One or both eyes protrude from the head in an unusual fashion.
Dropsy - Huge, Fat, Bloated Belly, Lethargy and loss of appetite.
Fin Rot - Fins turn Jagged or whitish and die back.
Hole in the Head - Small holes in and around the head.


(Usualy white foggy type things)
Cataracts - White or grey "foggy" eyes.
Cotton Mouth - White "Cotton like" fungus on the mouth.


"My Fish is ALIVE! Thank you so much for your wonderful interweb site..."
- Jack R.