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My three year old 29" Amazon Redtail-Tiger Shovelnose Hybrid Catfish had surgery on March 20, 2006 to remove a golf ball sized tumor which started developing two years ago.  The operation was a complete success and the fish began swimming normally immediately after returning to its 2,400 gallon aquarium home.
Revised: April 16, 2006

At home in 2400 gallon outdoor
heated aquarium

In transport tub at:

Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital

Equalizing temperature before
moving to treatment aquarium

Setting up the ventilating pump to
keep water running over the gills.

Making ready the clove oil to
anaesthetize the fish

After a few minutes the fish is turned
on its back and stopped struggling.

Dr. Roger Hancock, DVM inspects
the tumor; fortunately it is attached
only to the fin and not the torso.
The fish is lifted out of the holding
tank and prepared for surgery.
The anesthesiologist positions the fish
ventilator pump hose to supply
oxygenated water to the fish’s gills
during the 20 minute surgery.
The 50% fatty tissue tumor is cut
away from the pectoral fin.

There is an artery feeding into the
tumor which must be severed.

The tumor has been cut away cleanly;
will it grow back? Time will tell.
Find the exact position of that artery;
a suture must be taken to close it.
Keep the water flowing over the gills
while the suture needle is prepared.
Tying the knot in the suture; the
bleeding is almost stopped.
A hand compress stops the bleeding

One minute later the fish is cleaned
up placed in new heated fresh water.

The fish wakes up and quickly and
regains stability in a few minutes.

Ready for transport back home in
heated aerated water.


We say goodbye to the Pilchuck
Veterinary Hospital in Snohomish






































Surgery Update: 4-16-06

The Red-Tail Tiger Shovelnose Catfish hybrid has fully recovered from its surgery and is eating and swimming normally.  The area where the tumor was attached is completely healed and has a skin color similar to the adjacent area on his body.


My complete story follows:


What kind of bandage do you use on fish after surgery?


A fish story by Ted Griffin.


“OH!  The poor fish; does that thing hurt him?”  When visitors come to see my aquatic collection they only see and remember the fish with the golf ball sized tumor on its fin.  For two years I have been listening to their low level grumbling.  “Can’t you do something for him Ted”?


The 29” Amazon River Redtail-Tiger Shovelnose hybrid catfish is one of my favorites.  He is otherwise strong, healthy and swims all night in front of the 7 foot window in his 2400 gallon outdoor aquarium.  I do not want to lose him.


The question I have been asking myself is, “What is the risk of surgery?”  I called Washington Koi and Water Garden Society club member Dr. Roger Hancock, DVM.  After a brief conversation I set the appointment for 1 PM Monday 3-20-06; then proceeded to tell him how to remove the tumor. 


Two years ago the fish was 12” long and nearly died of a fungal infection covering most of its body.  The fish’s fins entirely rotted away; its skin peeled off over a 2 week period.  I moved it to an unoccupied 600 gallon aquarium, added enough Home Depot type evaporated sea salt for a .2% solution and waited. A month later the hybrid catfish’s fins were growing back nicely and its skin looked good; then I noticed the reddish bump growing on its pectoral fin.  Two years later the tumor was the size of a golf ball.


With no difficulty I netted the fish out of the 2,400 gallon aquarium using a 30” diameter, rubber web, catch-and-release type net.  I was on the road at noon and just after 1 PM my Red-Tiger hybrid was in the anesthetic clove oil bath at the Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital in Snohomish.


As the fish went under the anesthesia the gill irrigation pump was made ready.  After 15 minutes the fish was sedated.  I lifted him out of the large aquarium containing the clove oil and placed him on a pad resting on a grate suspended over the aquarium.  For the next 20 minutes Dr. Hancock’s assistant / anesthesiologist held the irrigation pump hose in the fish’s mouth to circulate oxygenated water over the fish’s gills.  The anesthesiologist’s job requires skill and strict monitoring to watch for the fish’s reflex gill action every 8–12 seconds while making sure the water is passing uniformly over the entire gill structure.


With the expression in his eyes: “This is going to be fun”, the doctor called for; “Scalpel and Pad!”  In 5 minutes I was looking at the large tumor in the doctor’s hand.  “I had to cut through an artery; a suture will be required” he calmly announced.  I did not have to be told; there was blood streaming out of the fish at the point of the tumor’s former attachment.


When the stitch was taken, the bleeding nearly stopped.  With a gentle thumb and forefinger squeeze applied to a gauze pad over the exposed area, the bleeding stopped entirely.  The fish was wiped clean and put in new water where he started breathing on his own almost at once and fully recovered in a few minutes.  The entire procedure from start to finish took less than 1 hour and was very well done by Dr. Roger Hancock, DVM.


I packed up my friend and started the heat and air supply for the trip home.  An hour later he was back swimming in familiar surroundings.  He poked at his dinner that night but did not appear to take in any food.  The next night, Tuesday, he gorged himself on a favorite meal, hot dogs.


“What is the value of this fish to me?” you might ask.  We fish fanciers become attached to our piscatorial pets, they respond to our attention and for my part, I never saw the blemish that others spoke of.  The cost of the surgery was very little in comparison to the pleasure of the fish’s company.


If you have questions about your fish’s health you might contact:


Dr. Roger Hancock, DVM

Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital

11308 92nd St. SE

Snohomish, WA  98290


Phone:              360-568-3111

Website:           www.pilchuckvet.com





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