Submitting fin fish for lab examination

If you have sick or dying fish which need to be submitted for examination and diagnosis by a fish pathologist, follow the instructions listed below.

  • Select 6 sick fish, or 25-50 larval fish, typical of the problem for examination.
  • You may send live fish or preserved fish.

How to send live fish

  1. Place fish in a thick plastic bag partly filled with water and containing air or, preferably, oxygen.
  2. Place this bag in a second thick plastic bag and then into an aquaculture-standard coolite box and attach a completed fin fish specimen advice sheet (PDF, 74KB).
  3. Contact the laboratory and advise them how and when the fish are coming.

How to prepare preserved fish

Use only live, sick fish for preservation.

The preservative used is 10% seawater or freshwater saline formalin solution; depending whether the fish were in seawater or freshwater:

  • formalin (37-40% w/v formaldehyde solution) 100mL
  • saline solution* (0.73%, 73g salt per 10L water) 900mL
    * saline solution may be replaced with seawater for marine fin fish.

Always wear gloves and protective eye wear when handling preservatives.

How to send preserved fish

If cultures for bacteria are required, a few fish need to be killed, wrapped and sealed in plastic and kept on wet ice (0°C) until they reach the laboratory. This is in addition to the fixed fish specimens.

Use the following steps:

  1. Kill fish with an overdose of a fish anaesthetic or cut the spinal cord behind the head. For larval fish, place fish in the preservative whole.
    • For fish less than 4cm long, cut open the abdominal cavity and place in preservative.
    • For fish longer than 4cm, dissect each organ: gills, heart, liver, spleen, head kidney, caudal kidney, stomach, intestine, skin, muscle, brain, swim bladder and any lesion.
  2. Place the tissues from each fish in a separate container/bottle with the preservative.
  3. Ensure that there are about 10 volumes of preserving solution to each volume of fresh tissue.
  4. When you are sending preserved material to the laboratory, pour off the preservative, place fish specimens into a plastic bag, remove excess air, and seal with heavy packing tape. There should be no free fluid in the bag. A piece of paper towelling or cloth may be placed around the fish specimens in the bag to keep them moist and to absorb any free preservative.
  5. Place the bag and fish specimens into a second plastic bag, remove excess air and seal with heavy packing tape. There should be no smell of preservative from the package.
  6. Label each bag if more than 1 lot of fish specimens is to be sent in the same box.
  7. Place labelled bags containing the fish specimens into a strong cardboard or aquaculture-standard coolite box.
  8. Add packing to prevent fish specimens being damaged during transport.
  9. Complete the fin fish specimen advice sheet (PDF, 74KB), place it in an envelope and attach it to the exterior of the box containing the specimens.
  10. Contact the relevant Aquatic Pathologist or Veterinary Officer before sending samples to the appropriate laboratory, as listed below.
  11. Alternatively, the containers with the tissues still immersed in the preservative could be sent to the laboratory if they are well packed in a suitable leak-proof container and if the transport company will accept the carriage of a preservative.

Submitting samples

Contact the Duty Pathologist before sending samples.

Routine aquatic animal samples

Submit routine aquatic animal samples for testing to:

Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory (BSL)
Health and Food Sciences Precinct
Specimen receipt (Loading Dock 12)
39 Kessels Road
COOPERS PLAINS  QLD  4108
Phone: (07) 3708 8762 (Aquatic Pathologist - submission enquiries)
Fax: (07) 3708 8861

Further assistance

If you need further assistance, please contact our Customer Service Centre.

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