How to Rid Your Tank of Goldfish Ich (White Spot Disease) in 4 Simple Steps

What is Ich?

Ich!  It sounds like what it is… a tiny little parasite that gradually covers the body and fins of your precious goldfish until they look like they’ve just come out of a snow-globe.  Ich, short for Ichthyophythirius Multifilis, is common in aquariums that contain recently purchased goldfish.  Does your goldfish have ich? Common symptoms include:

  • Flashing (scratching and rubbing on objects in the tank)
  • Clamped fins
  • Lethargy
  • … And white spots

Sometimes goldfish ich can cause difficulty breathing and red skin, but this is less common.  Once you’ve seen ich, there’s no mistaking it.  The manifestation of white spot disease is far different from the breeding stars that appear on the gill covers and pectoral fin rays of male goldfish during the warm months of the year.  Ich will affix itself to any part of the goldfish’s body, save the eyes, and continues to multiply with time.

If left untreated, the goldfish can die.  So what can you do to help your fish?  Understanding the life cycle of this pesky protozoan is the key to eradicating it from your aquarium.

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Tell Me More!

In a nutshell, ich is one of the most common parasites of domestic fish.  But the tiny white spots which can appear fuzzy up close are actually not the ich parasites – they are the goldfish’s immune reaction to the parasite underneath its skin.  You may not always see the visible white spots when your goldfish has white spot disease.  Depending on the conditions in the tank, this disease may only be detected with a microscope.  If your fish flashes, clamps its fins and acts lethargic, it may host a vast number of ich organisms though it shows no speckles.

Goldfish do not always come down with ich.  The goldfish may be able to fight off the illness on its own before any white spots ever appear.

The Life Cycle of Ich

Ich enters the goldfish tank through the water.  (Let me say one thing about this: when you buy a new goldfish, please do not dump ANY of the pet store water into your tank EVER.  You do not know what invisible pathogens it may contain.)  At this stage, the creature is “free-swimming” like a goldfish fry, and seeks to latch onto a host.  When it finds one, it buries itself underneath the skin (yuck) where it grows and grows until it the skin bursts, releasing a packet that falls to the bottom of the tank.  From there, it continues to grow until it bursts open to release thousands of more free-swimmers that begin searching for a new host immediately.  The process continues until the tank is completely infested.

Please continue on to the next page to learn how to treat and prevent goldfish ich.