Aquarium Fish Developing Resistance to Antibiotics

Written by on January 20, 2013 in Fish, Marine Life
Discus fish, popular in aquariums, are one of the species that were found to develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Discus fish, popular in aquariums, are one of the species that were found to develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Photo credit: iFranky via photopin cc

A new study concluded that the ornamental fish industry faces new dangers from antibiotic-resistant fish.

Ornamental fish are typically tropical or colorful species that are popular in the aquarium trade and there are very few regulations about treating them with antibiotics. There are two main problems that come from this. The first is that antibiotics used to treat fish diseases may not work when needed; the second is that this is a new way for humans to be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“We expected to find some antibiotic resistance, but it was surprising to find such high levels, including resistance in some cases where the antibiotic is rarely used,” said co-author Tim Miller-Morgan, a veterinary aquatics specialist with Oregon State University. “We appear to already have set ourselves up for some pretty serious problems within the industry.”

The authors note that the risk to humans is probably very small, but the transmission of diseases from tropical fish has been documented in the past. Miller-Morgan explained that it would be a concern for anyone with a compromised immune system and those who works with tropical fish on a daily basis.

In terms of the ornamental fish industry, the risk of losing fish to disease is increasing. However, improvements could easily be made in this $15 billion industry with better screening and handling techniques, as well as using quarantines instead of antibiotics.

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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