“What’s wrong with my goldfish?!” you ask in a panic. “It looks sick!”
But before we go on, you should know this up front:
If your goldfish isn’t well, there is a big chance that it actually doesn’t have a disease.
Most goldfish who LOOK sick are really living in bad tank conditions. (The symptoms are often the same!)
The water may look clean, but it is actually filled with deadly poisons.
Some of these come in through the water you filled the tank with, some are actually made by the fish themselves as they respire and *eherm* go to the bathroom.
Ammonia and nitrite are two major culprits in causing sick fish. Even low amounts will cause irritation, stress and lethargy. But a low pH will cause many other issues because goldfish need the pH to be around 7.4.
How do you know what’s going on?
There’s a very important step every fish owner needs to take when confronting a problem:
TEST THE WATER.
A liquid water testing kit is something every fish keeper needs on hand at all times, especially for emergencies. (They are also more accurate than strip tests.) Think of it as a necessary investment you need to make in order to be a good, responsible goldfish owner. 😉
So without further ado, here is my complete list of common – and some not-so-common – goldfish diseases, that are actually diseases:
Parasitic Goldfish Diseases
1. Ich: Did it Snow on Your Goldfish?!
Ich (pronounced “ick”) is a parasite also called “white spot disease.”
The white spots of ich are actually not the parasite itself, but the skin of the goldfish stretching over the parasite.
Outbreaks are very common with new fish that have been stressed, weakened, kept in poor conditions or not quarantined (usually all of the above).
If left untreated, it will kill your fish.
Clamped (flattened down) fins.
Darting and scratching against on objects in the tank, aka “flashing.”
White spots that look like salt granules covering the fish from nose to tail.
Sometimes you might see irritation, lethargy and breathing hard.
If your goldfish has these symptoms, it sounds like you have a case of ich on your hands.
But you should know:
Not all goldfish who do have ich show the classic white speckles. They may just have the behavioral symptoms.
… And not all fish with white spots have ich.
You might see white spots in the wen of an Oranda that aren’t disease-related at all.
Raise the temperature up to 80 degrees (F). This will speed up the ich’s life cycle.
Salt the tank. You will need 3 teaspoons of aquarium salt for every gallon (a .3% solution), dissolved in a cup of tank water.
Wait for 7 to 10 days and keep the water pristine. If you do a water change, replace the amount of salt you took out.
If your fish have come down with ich, it’s a sign that something’s probably not right with your tank. It may be a good idea to take a look at your water change schedule or how many fish you have in the tank.
Want to prevent it in the future?
Keep stress low on your fish by providing them with clean water and enough space.
If you have more than one tank, don’t share equipment such as nets or siphons because ich can live out of water (yikes!). This is just asking for trouble.
And ALWAYS quarantine any new fish you get before introducing them to the others.
For advanced keepers, antibiotic injections can prove helpful if it is a life-or-death situation.
You should know:
A goldfish with very progressed mouth rot often is left with permanent damage. Often times the fish is no longer able to eat and will starve to death. If your fish is in this situation, it may be best to consider putting your fish to sleep.
Now you know why it is WAY easier to try to prevent fin rot than treat it.
Great water quality and properly stocking your tank are the two most important things you can do to stop your fish from getting this disease.
Epsom salts might help to ease the pressure from fluid buildup.
But treatment won’t help in less than perfect water.
How can we avoid this horrible condition?
The best way to prevent Dropsy is by keeping the water quality good at all times, feed sparingly and don’t overstock.
13. Cloudy Eye: It’s Kinda Foggy in Here!
Also called White Eye, this condition is most found on goldfish that have protruding eyes.
This is because they are more prone to injury and then infection by sneaky bacteria. The injury that causes Cloudy Eye could also be a burn from ammonia.
Just like it sounds, this disease makes the normally clear lens of a goldfish’s eye hazy or foggy-looking.
The fish may find it harder to see.
Cloudy Eye can be found alongside other symptoms, too.
Treatment & Prevention
With a little fish-safe salt (3 teaspoons per gallon), perfect water conditions and time, Cloudy Eye should clear up quickly.
To avoid it in the first place, don’t use decorations with sharp edges and keep the water conditions clean.
14. Fungus: Is there a Fungus Among Us?
Fungus is seen on fish weakened by stress, illness or injury.
A healthy goldfish won’t have fungus.
There are many kinds of fungus that show up in different places.
Here’s the good news:
Nearly all of them have the same symptoms and respond to the same treatments.
What are those symptoms?
White, cottony growths on the body or fins are a sure sign that your fish has Fungus.
If the case is really bad the fish may act droopy or lose interest in food.
On a fish like that Fungus can spread FAST, so you will want to act right away.
Treatment & Prevention:
Clean water while you treat for Fungus will make it much easier for your goldfish to recover.
Make sure the water isn’t very cold, too.
Pimafix (a natural anti-fungal medication) will usually bring things back in check.
Fungus is brought on by factors like bad water quality and poor handling.
Knowing this, you can avoid these problems in the future.
15. Tumors: These Bumps are NOT Normal
When cells are multiplying out of control, a tumor is created.
Goldfish can get tumors, too.
And in some cases, they can be cancerous.
They can also grow to get unbelievably huge, FAST. And multiply in number.
Goldfish can get tumors on the inside of their bodies or on the outside.
Some tumors even blind a fish by blocking its eyesight!
It may take a bit, but they DO kill goldfish if left untreated.
That’s why you need to keep reading.
It’s easy to tell when a goldfish has a tumor.
A small lump starts to grow on the fish, usually on the head or body.
The growth may be pink, whitish or even black.
It could be lumpy like cauliflower or smooth.
Sometimes the fish won’t eat or seems depressed.
Treatment & Prevention:
If the tumor is hanging on by a thread, you might be able to snip it off quickly.
Sedating the fish with clove oil can make this easier.
Now I get that not everyone is comfortable with doing this.
That’s when you might need the help of a veterinarian, if you have one in the area that sees fish.
Other than surgery… there isn’t a whole lot you can do.
Because exposure to poor water conditions and a diet laced with preservatives in the fish food can cause tumors, keep the water clean as a preventative. Some are caused by a virus so you can’t really do much about that.
16. Carp Pox: Warts that Don’t Come from Toads
Viruses in goldfish are becoming more common.
Carp Pox is one of them.
It is usually seen on goldfish kept in ponds, or even in aquariums.
Nobody knows how it spreads.
And this is good:
Carp Pox WON’T kill your goldfish.
Want to know the weird part?
It can totally disappear only to come back later!
Carp pox looks like smooth, white or pinkish “warts” on the edge of the fins or on the body.
Treatment & Prevention:
There is no absolute cure for Pox…
… And there’s not really a way to prevent it either.
But if you’re desperate, here’s something you can try:
Put the fish in warm water in a bath of at least 80 degrees for a while. Adding a fish-safe salt may help.
17. Lymphocystis: The Stressed-Out Virus
Like so many goldfish diseases, this virus attacks a weak and stressed fish.
It’s similar to Carp Pox in just about every way.
The fish will have white, crusty lumps growing on (usually) the edge of the fins or even on the scales.
These “tumors” are shaped like a cauliflower.
Treatment & Prevention:
Bathing the goldfish with a chemical called acriflavine is recommended.
With any luck, they will go away in a short time.
Because it is a mystery how goldfish viruses spread, the best way to prevent them is to keep the water clean.
Learn Something? Pass It On!
I know you have a ton of insights I didn’t cover in this post.
I’d love to hear anything you’ve picked up in your experience.
It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering insight. Even a helpful tip would be awesome.
So leave a comment right now with something you’ve learned.
But before you do…
Are struggling with this whole “goldfish thing” and feeling a bit lost?
Or want to learn emergency CPR for your goldfish, and the biggest mistake most people make when they encounter a problem?