Koi Health Seminar

Published on May 9, 2009

Health 1

Editor’s Note: All across the koi world, people are flocking to koi wet labs, to better understand the diseases that challenge our fish, and how best to deal with them. One of the most widely traveled instructors is Vicki Vaughn of the University of Georgia. Here she tells us about the course she teaches.


The Koi Health Maintenance Course was established in 1996 at The College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens Georgia. I had been involved with The Fish Health Management Seminar offered by Dr. Jack Gratzek who taught fish medicine at the Vet School. I was the course coordinator for 3 years until his retirement in 1994. At this time, Dr. Branson Ritchie and I developed an SPF (specific pathogen free) aquaculture facility in order to provide aquatic species (primarily koi) for our research purposes as well as other institutions on a cost recovery basis. I became director of this facility and the fish health course was dropped as a continuing education course for the time being.


I was fortunate to meet Dr. Erik Johnson in 1996 when he visited my facility. He was like a kid in a candy store as he viewed the creatures at the aquaculture center. At that time I had thousands of koi, giant freshwater prawns, a 13 pound flounder we had adapted to fresh water, golden shiners, red claw crayfish from Australia- all kinds of neet things for the fish geek in all of us.


He was dismayed to discover that the fish health course had been dropped and he urged me to resurrect the seminar. After a moments consideration I told him NO (politely) because of the tremendous amount of work involved to coordinate such a course. He left with his head down and stated that he would do all he could to help and that he thought it a shame to loose the wealth of information that the course had provided over the years to veterinarians, hobbyists, breeders and retailers. “Sigh.”


Well, I thought about this for a couple of months and decided that I would tackle this project, but selfishly only focus on koi health. The fish health course covered such a broad spectrum of subjects that it held limited appeal for anyone (such as myself) that was focused on koi. It covered marine fish, reef tanks, species specific diseases with little focus on koi.


I decided that we would change the direction of the course and only offer information on koi and the identification, prevention and treatment of diseases associated with these animals. Dr. Johnson was instrumental in organizing the first course and we had the full support of the Atlanta Koi Club as well. We have had the input of numerous fish veterinarian over the years. Drs. Eric Johnson, Nick St Erne, Sandy Yosha, Julius Tepper, Tim Miller Morgan, Helen Roberts, Brian Plameiro, Branson Ritchie, David Perperian, and Steven Hernandez Divers, have all participated at one point in time.


We have also been fortunate to have many hobbyists and retailers participate and contribute much information about non disease issues. These subjects include pond construction, history of koi, koi types, filtration, and judging of koi . We have had many KHAs (AKCA’s Koi Health Advisors) involved from helping with the course material, setting up and helping with the wet labs, hauling books, barbequing pigs, making beer runs, and so forth.


The course consists of three days of intensive lectures and hours of hands on time in the wet labs. The course generally is held in February when most sane koi people (if there is such a thing) have some spare time to learn how to be better caretakers for their fish. We begin Friday a.m. and the first day culminates in a Cuban pig roast at a local art studio. The artist is Stan Mullins. Stan has completed several works with koi as the subject in many different media from paintings to marble and even bronze. He also has a large koi pond, which of course has some of my progeny swimming in it.


Breakfasts, lunches, Friday reception and all course materials are included in the course fee. A CD of all lectures will be offered next year in the all–inclusive $500.00 seminar fee. Lodging is very reasonable as we get a block of rooms at the Holiday Inn in downtown Athens, Georgia adjacent to campus. Athens is a vibrant college town with lots of nightlife and the University is the oldest chartered University in the US–lots of historic buildings and a beautiful campus.


Subjects covered during the seminar include, disease identification, use of the microscope for parasite identification, bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens and their treatment and prevention, history of nishikigoi, water quality, injection techniques, serology, bacteriology, necropsy, proper sampling techniques, culture and sensitivity, histology, water analysis, how and where to submit samples to reference labs, interpretation of laboratory results, proper pond construction and filtration, classification and proper use of antibiotics, wound management, surgery techniques, and we are constantly adding and updating material. We offer hours of closely supervised instruction in the laboratory section so that everyone is comfortable with the use of a microscope and the various procedures necessary to become proficient at disease identification and treatment. We have lots of attendees that return year after year to get exposure to the latest technology.


The Koi Health Seminar is accredited by the Georgia Board of Veterinary Examiners and offers 20 hours of continuing education credits to veterinarians and KHA’s. The attendees have an entire weekend to discuss koi related issues with some of the best minds in the country. We have round table discussions after each day of lecture when everyone gains tremendous insight as each individual contributes to the issues related to the proper care of our pets. The floor is always open for questions and we encourage attendee participation.


The next seminar will be offered in February 2010. For more information and registration go to the website www.koihealthsemiar.com.


About the Author

Vicki Vaughan has been involved in fish medicine for 15 years. She was director of the SPF Aquaculture Facility at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia.


She now owns and operates KOILAB which is a full service reference laboratory involved with the diagnosis and treatment of fish related illnesses. KOILAB also manufactures and distributes fish medications. Vicki developed and patented Tricide NEO, which is a potentiated antibiotic for fish.


Vicki is also owner of Flat Rock Koi Farm, which breeds domestic koi as well as direct importer from Japan.




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