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Biosecurity materials for ornamental fish

Ornamental Fish

Like all animals, aquarium fish can carry and transmit disease. This includes parasites, bacteria and viruses. These diseases could seriously affect our wild fisheries, waterways and aquaculture industries if they escape from aquariums into the environment. These materials provide information and advice on how responsible aquarists can help Australia prevent ornamental fish disease outbreaks.

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Aquarium fish can spread disease

  • Dispose of dead fish safely
  • Do not release aquarium fish into waterways or stormwater drains
  • Get advice on maintaining a healthy aquarium from your pet retailer or veterinarian
  • If you suspect serious disease, contact your veterinarian or state laboratory

Like all animals, aquarium fish can carry and transmit diseases. This includes parasites, bacteria and viruses. Some of these diseases can spread to other fish in your aquarium and affect your home collection when you introduce new fish. Buy healthy fish to avoid introducing serious diseases to your aquarium.

Aquarium fish can spread serious diseases because they are transported live. These diseases could seriously affect our wild fisheries, waterways and aquaculture industries if they escape from aquariums into the environment.

Australia needs the help of responsible aquarists to be on the look out for emerging disease problems.

Some irresponsible pet fish owners have illegally dumped their aquarium fish, plants or tank water into public waterways. Such actions can spread disease into our aquatic environment. Aquarium fish, alive or dead, should never be released or disposed of into waterways. Return unwanted live fish to your retailer.

Dispose of dead fish by securing them in a plastic bag and placing them in your household waste bin.

Helping reduce the risk of disease escape

  • Never release aquarium fish into any waterways
  • Always dispose of aquarium tank water down a household sink. Do not dispose of water or sick fish into stormwater or street drains
  • Ensure outdoor fish ponds cannot overflow into creeks or into storm water drains
  • Seek advice on keeping a healthy aquarium and if you suspect a serious disease, contact your veterinarian or state laboratory

Signs to look for that might indicate a disease issue

  • Loss of appetite, and loss of body weight
  • Skin ulcers and eroded fins
  • Loss of bright colours
  • Bloated belly
  • Loss of buoyancy control
  • Abnormal swimming behaviour
  • Bulged out eyes

Case Studies

gourami fish showing iridovirus
Top: Sick gourami, the
day before death.
Bottom: Normal gourami.

Case study 1: Gourami i​ridovirus

Some gouramis are known to carry a serious virus. Not only can this virus make gouramis sick, it can spread and cause the death of other fish species. This virus can infect and cause death in murray cod.


goldfish showing ulcer disease
Photo courtesy of
Richard Loh

Case study 2: Goldfish ulcer disease

Goldfish can become infected with this bacterial disease. Disease signs include missing scales and red-white ulcers. This disease can also cause serious losses in salmon and trout.


Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline

If you see any unusual symptoms in farmed or wild aquatic animals, play it safe and report it immediately to the disease watc​​h hotline. Early detection is the key to effective response.