Crash Course on Stunting- What does it mean for your fish?

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OraLacerta
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Crash Course on Stunting- What does it mean for your fish?

Post by OraLacerta » Wed May 31, 2006 11:23 am

OK my knowledgeable friends,
This may be a very dumb question or it may not be:
I really would like a little crash course on what stunting means (besides the obvious implication). I know it shortens the lifespan of a fish, but why? What are the health problems that are associated with a "stunted" fish?

I also think that there should be an explanation of this in the library somewhere because when someone says an inadequately sized tank will stunt a GSP, I don't think most people know what that really means.

I want to know because of my Iridescent Shark since he's probably been stunted. He's 6 years old -almost seven by now- and lived in a 20 gallon long his whole life until I adopted him. If he is stunted, he may not reach the usual huge size of these fish, but I want to know what health problems he may have resulting from this...
Guess I'm just hoping he may still have a chance to live out his life with out dying in a few years...


Thank you for your patience with me :) I'm looking forward to learning more about this.

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Post by kass » Wed May 31, 2006 11:56 am

From what I understand, it basically means that the fish stops growing but its organs continue to grow...

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Post by RTR » Wed May 31, 2006 1:28 pm

Personally, I think there is a lot more to stunting than just one or two big items. Fish health and the ability to reach full genetic potential depends on a multitude of factors – including the genetics, a healthy near-environment (basically water quality for fish), an appropriate environment (this includes décor, swimming space, refuge, current, lighting), and suitable food in sufficient quantity but not in excess.

You need to know how big the fish should be (Fishbase is a reliable source for this), what sort of water and physical environment the fish lives in (TPF and the Puffer List and Ebert for this), and what its lifestyle is – schooler, lurking predator, active hunter predator, whatever, whether or not it allows or even may need conspecific or perhaps dither tankmates, or none at all. Any of these can and likely will change during development for any given fish.

Tank size hits several of these points – it allows for areas of current, for visually complex setups to explore, and space for swimming. Plus, it plays on PP’s signature line of “the answer to pollution is dilution�. With increased water volume, pollutants of whatever type will be at lower concentration than the same bioload will give in smaller quarters.

Many or most fish seem to like areas of current, many do “play� or exercise in the current. Hunters get some just by exploration of a complex environment. Schoolers (Auriglobus when young, Colomesus throughout their life) absolutely must have it or they will show “caged animal� stereotyped behavior just to work off activity normal and in effect hard-wired into the animal. Fish need exercise. All mobile animals need exercise. Koi kept in shallow ponds do not develop normal configurations. They are too long and slender. They need depth as well as length and width. Without exercise, muscle mass will not be in normal proportion to frame and internal organs. Puffers have less structured skeletons than most fish (adaptation to puffing), so IMHO they need to have whatever exercise they are willing to do to allow normal physical development. The space or volume bit has impact here as well. Pollution, whether from metabolites or hormones of general organics, suppresses normal growth and development. What levels of which are important? We do not know. We do that it varies from family to family for various pollutants over a substantial range. It is highly likely to vary from species to species within a family. In the best of all possible worlds, tanks would all be a high multiple of the length of the fish housed there. In reality, we rarely can provide that other than for the smallest fish. But we try to just as much volume as we can. We provide both current and relative calm, without having totally dead areas, in the tank, and we match the décor to the lifestyle of the fish.

Naturally, we feed both well and wisely. We meet the fish’s nutritional – and for the special needs of puffers – and physical food suited to the particular fish. We provide enough to allow the fish to grow normally, but not so much that the fish is obese. Obesity is as great an issue for fish as for people and dogs. Too much food, not the best food, and feeding too often, all lead to problems.

Water quality I’ll assume as a given. Un-oxidized metabolites (ammonia and/or nitrite) are never detectable, oxidized metabolites (nitrate) are as low as is practical for us to provide, but certainly below 40 ppm nitrate, better below 20 ppm, best at or below 10 ppm. Organics are kept low by large water changes at sufficiently short intervals that hobby testable water parameters are never far off from the source water used for the tank (whether tap or processed or otherwise modified). That means the water you remove should be quite close to the water you will replace it with, excepting perhaps the nitrate titer, and the organic (which we cannot measure).

IF you can provide all of this, your fish will, on the average, exceed the normal lifespan of the species in the wild, and frequently will be as large as if not larger than the wild counterparts. Anything less is stunting. Anything less will result in lower health and shorter life.

To me stunting is insufficient space, improper diet and exercise, and both chemical and physical environmental deficiencies. Any or all of those lacks can contribute. Any or all can result in a stunted fish.
Where's the fish? - Neptune

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OraLacerta
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Post by OraLacerta » Wed May 31, 2006 2:12 pm

Thanks for responding to my question so quickly:

Is what Kass said true- that a fish that is stunted stops growing but its organs continue to? If that is true it's terrible to think of my fish going through that.

RTR: You, as always, brought up some very good points. That definitely affirms to me that my Pangasius Catfish is stunted. He was in a small tank, with no exercise, terrible water parameters, and he has never had another of his kind to school with, which is what Iridescent Sharks need.
Also, I have read of some of his kind growing to one foot in a year... he is under a foot and he is almost 7 years old... It looks like he is stunted quite badly.

Is there any way to help him now? As soon as I got him I put him in a larger tank (I'm still looking for an even larger tank for him), and he's kept in perfect water conditions with a strong current and a nice open area for him to swim with only a few plants and rocks for the smaller guys. It seems like the only way I can help him is to continue to do what I've been doing... keep him in a healthy environment.

I still would like to know if anyone knows what occurs to the fish when it is stunted: is it just a fish being "malnourished"/ill-kept so it can never reach a normal size (such as a human that gets little nutrition young is often short as an adult)? Or maybe does stunting interfere with organ/sexual development which harms the fish?

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Post by Phaedrus » Wed May 31, 2006 3:10 pm

I've stickied this cause I think it's a really great source of info worthy of the library or a permanent sticky in the hospital for future reference.

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Post by RTR » Wed May 31, 2006 10:41 pm

Fish never stop growing, so a move from poor conditions to good conditions is always beneficial. However, IME, once a fish is stunted, it will always be a runt to greater or lesser degree. Runts in farm animals with multiple litters are based on early feeding alone, but still do not develop fully and may or more often may not be as healthy as their siblings. In captive fish subjected to multiple stunting influences, the situation is more severe.

I have no info on whether or not the organ growth verus muscle mass and body size or growth is real or myth. I have an old feeder goldfish who is severely stunted, nowhere near normal size, genetic hash, but still apparently healthy I think somewhere in its midteens. I am uncertain of the exact age. It is the final survivor of a batch for a frog, the only one still available when the frog died and I neglected to return it to the LFS until the poor fish became a pet. It is apparently healthy, but will never be "normal". I imagine its lifespan will be shorter than it could have been, but certainly far longer than the original tankmates... everything is relative in the end.
Where's the fish? - Neptune

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Post by Meander » Wed May 31, 2006 11:17 pm

As to whether the internal organs continue to grow out of proportion to the body size, I'm a little skeptical. However, I do believe that the poor stunted guys can suffer organ damage or failure which while different in cause is similar in result.

A dear friend and I stole a starving and mistreated puppy that our vet later told us was a 6 month old puppy and should have been nearing two thirds her adult size. She was very, very small and could not stand on her own. Eventually she fattened up and walked again though she always ran a bit oddly. She lost 4 teeth at two years old though her nutrition since adoption (theft) had been impeccable. She never reached full size and died of an enlarged heart at 4 years old. She should have reached 12-14 years at least. Her last three and a half years were good. If she was in pain it never showed. I guess my point is if the fish were mine, I'd just give it excellent care until it died and give it the best life it could have regardless of whether it was a shortened life or not.

I doubt the shark's internal organs are squeezing together inside his body. I doubt he is suffering now that he's safe and well cared for. So just treat him well and don't worry too much about his future. It's all you can do for him.

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OraLacerta
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Post by OraLacerta » Fri Jun 02, 2006 2:40 pm

Thank you so much for the help Meander and RTR.
Meander: I don't know what the circumstances were, but good for your for rescuing that poor animal... I wish more people had your guts... many times animal rescue groups are too slow or are bound by dumb rules and animals die before they can be saved. Thankfully your dog got to have a quality life before passing on.

RTR: Your feeder goldfish definitely gives me hope. I suppose my catfish has an even better outlook than your lucky old fellow, considering Jaws probably had it a bit better than your poor thing did in his feeder-fish life before he became your pet.

Whatever the consequences of his former living conditions, I will continue to give him the best care for the rest of his life,and, like you said Meander, won't worry about how long/short that may be.


As a side note, I hope the fact that even a feeder fish lives to be in its teens (despite any genetic/environmental factors working against it) will open up people's eyes about the longevity of fish when kept properly- in all the ways RTR listed: space, complex/correct environment, healthy food, exercise, and water quality.

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Post by reginator » Sat Jul 01, 2006 10:41 am

I have a staffy bitch who was born half the size of her sibs without fur and with her back legs deformed. I was told by the breeder that he intended to destroy her due to the fact that she would never be healthy and would probably die within a year, so I took her. Well, 6,000 pounds sterling and two years later she had fur and could run and play like any other dog, and is still with me now at the grand age of 12, very energetic and my local vet reckons she'll live at least another couple of years. One of my other dogs is a "banned" dog (mastiff/pit bull cross) and I rescued (read "stole") her from abusive owners at about 8 months old. She cost a whopping great 11,000 pounds over the course of 3 years to put right, and now is 100% healthy. I guess that most things can be put right with care and devotion as long as it's caught early, and if not at least you can ensure that the animal is as happy as possible for the time it lives, a fine result for an animal that would otherwise lead a very sad short life. I take my hat off to any who think about their animals happiness first, and even if your efforts fail, the animal appreciates what you do :wink:

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Post by MinPins3 » Mon Sep 18, 2006 12:17 pm

I found a link on this discussion at another web site. Quite interesting.

http://forums.about.com/n/pfx/forum.asp ... uaria&nl=1


MinPin Mon

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Post by RTR » Mon Sep 18, 2006 3:14 pm

Sickening is better - all that is bad in this hobby in one thread. I did not finish it, just too much of a bad thing.
Where's the fish? - Neptune

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Phaedrus
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Post by Phaedrus » Tue Sep 19, 2006 12:13 am

The first post from that link was sickening, but the very next one and all following were stern rebuttals. Much better than I anticipated.

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Post by Boxermom » Tue Sep 19, 2006 9:16 am

They weren't as stern as I would have liked, and the third poster has a bunch of jellybean parrots and badly overstocks so he's not much better IMO.
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Phaedrus
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Post by Phaedrus » Tue Sep 19, 2006 10:05 am

Well at least they didn't cheer him on. 90% of people who keep fish overstock. It's an uphill battle.

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Re: Crash Course on Stunting- What does it mean for your fish?

Post by davew » Sat Apr 03, 2010 5:11 pm

is there any scientific evidence to support fish stunting ,i'm not saying that it doesn't happen i just think the idea that body stops growing but not the organs a bit strange, i've seen fish stunting quoted on several forums but have never read any studies on this, anyone got any links i could read :)

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