The temperatures are gradually on the rise, it's springtime. It's a time when you've got to observe your Koi carefully and watch for any unusual behaviour.
We've been contacted by a customer this morning with concerns about three small Koi in his pond, they appear to be clamped up. What he means by this is that they're swimming very slowly, mid-water, they've got one pectoral fin holding tight to their bodies, and they're swimming along aimlessly.
Testing the water parameters first
We've checked the customer’s water paramteters, they've all come back good or reasonable, so the next step is a microscopic examination of the mucus sample to identify if there are any parasites present.
Of course, if there are parasites present then we can give the correct medication to knock the parasites back. This time of year is a time when your ponds can be susceptible to a parasite outbreak, the temperatures are rising the parasites are getting going, the same as your Koi. The Koi immune system is still quite low, so this time of year, if we do find parasites and we knock them back it gives the Koi a chance to build their immune systems so they can fight their own battles in the spring.
Preparing for the Koi scrape sample
So to do the sample, we've asked the customer to bring the three small Koi to our premises. The Koi will remain in the customer's car - no Koi from external sources are allowed into our shop as part of our bio-security procedures. We'll go out to the customer's car and we'll take the sample from the Koi, and by using a microscope in the shop we'll then be able to identify if there are any parasites present.
So what we need is a good plastic scrape card. You may see some people using slides but we don't recommend this because if the fish flicks while you are scraping you could cut them quite easily, so we always use a plastic card to take the sample. Always wear your disposable gloves when dealing with the Koi just in case there is any bacteria, obviously you don't want it going into any cuts on your hands.
A top tip
Here's a little trick that we use for getting your gloves on. We don't use powdered gloves, we like to use just plain gloves, so all you do is use a bit of Envirex over your hands and your gloves will slip on perfectly, without ripping.
Doing the scrape
So now the customer has arrived to have his Koi scraped. We got a clean slide which we'll position on the microscope, and we'll head outside to the customer's Koi with our plastic card to take a mucus sample.
So the first inspection of the Koi is to look and to see how they are acting. They look healthy but the customer tells us that one has been clamping up on its right-hand side, one has been clamping up on the left-hand side and the third one has been flashing a lot.
So now we check the Koi more closely. The belly is nice and clean, and the fins are not splitting, so no signs of infection there, and they don't feel excessively mucussy.
To take a scrape we use the card and scrape straight from the head towards the belly, just applying enough force to take some of the mucus. We then repeat this step to take a mucus sample from all three Koi. It's always good to scrape around the pec fins, the gill area, and the anal fin, and if you're struggling to get a mucus sample you can always take the bit from the head.
So to move the mucus from the slide, I just slide down onto my thumb and position it on the slide. I then use the plastic card to chop up and spread out the sample, and if it's a little bit dry you can add a drop of a pond water. Then I put the slip on top of the slide and gently press, that's our sample ready to go onto the microscope.
Checking the results
On our microscope there are four optics, we always start with the smallest one, which gives 40x magnification. So looking on the slide, firstly looking in favourite spots, I'm looking for White Spot, Trichodina, and Flukes. You'll spot them all at this magnification, and because I know where I'm looking I can also spot Costia at this magnification.
I can see parasites are there, there are two Flukes. At this time of the year we quite often witness outbreaks of Flukes. Gill Flukes have four dots at the end of their body, they are very distinctive and they are much smaller than Skin Flukes. With Skin Flukes you can quite often see the small developing Fluke inside the adult.
So there are two Flukes identified, what we'll do now is go through some of our recommended treatment options with the customer. In this case the two recommended treatments at this time of year are either Kusuri Fluke P or Lernex.
Our Koi scrape service
These scrapes are a free service for our customers. If you require a scrape please telephone us first on 07561 804 263 to ensure we have space in our work diary and that the microscope is set up and ready to use.