There are a lot of responses to this article – I’m very happy to have helped so many sick goldfish. If you notice goldfish disease symptoms and need help, please scan the comments/replies already made before writing a new comment or email. Your question might be already answered!
This is the first part in the goldfish disease series. In this three-part series, you’ll learn…
- How to tell if your goldfish is sick (we’ll look at 14 goldfish disease symptoms)
- How to treat 7 of the most common goldfish diseases in aquariums and freshwater ponds
- How to keep your aquarium completely disease free by solving common tank problems
Goldfish are remarkably hardy creatures and don’t often fall prey to goldfish diseases. You just need to maintain good water quality, keep up with tank maintenance, feed your goldfish a varied diet, and test the water regularly. In fact, chances that you’ll find goldfish disease symptoms are slim if your goldfish are kept in a healthy aquarium environment with proper goldfish care.
You may be surprised to find out that most experienced aquarists have very little experience treating fish diseases. This is because they are experts at keeping their fish healthy. – David E. Boruchowitz, author of Aquarium Care of Goldfish
But even under the best conditions, goldfish aren’t entirely immune to diseases.
When you have sick goldfish, you want to catch goldfish disease symptoms early on to prevent goldfish diseases from spreading and infecting other fish in the aquarium.
Some infections are even fatal and can quickly kill your goldfish in a matter of days. This makes it even more important to have a medication like this on hand and treat goldfish disease symptoms quickly.
Treat Sick Goldfish Early
There are two types of goldfish diseases: those that are contagious and those that aren’t. Even if the infection isn’t contagious, you should still put your goldfish in a “hospital tank,” a smaller tank separated from the other fish, so that your goldfish can recuperate without being stressed out. Separating the infected goldfish prevents your healthy fish from receiving medication they don’t need (what is called being “over-medicated”).
First, we’ll look at abnormal behavior signs that could hint that something’s not quite right in the aquarium. Next, we’ll dive into the visual signs of diseases on the body and fins. Later, I’ll walk you through your next steps after you’ve discovered potential problems.
Let’s take a look at a few goldfish disease symptoms to look out for. If you notice any of these symptoms in your own aquarium, it might help to write them down on a notepad to make it easier later when you’re ready to determine what caused the goldfish disease and how to treat your sick goldfish.
Goldfish Disease Symptoms in Behavior
- Gasping for breath, rapidly breathing, or hanging at the water surface – This is one of the first signs that something is wrong. You may notice that one or more of your goldfish are gathered at the surface of the water, noisily gobbling up packets of air or sucking in oxygen just below the surface. This usually happens when the water isn’t oxygenated enough for your goldfish to breathe comfortably (poor water quality). So sick goldfish will try to find any means they can to get more oxygen. If water quality doesn’t improve, the stress of not breathing in enough oxygen will lower the immune system and cause other goldfish disease symptoms to develop.
- Refuses to eat or losing weight – This is another goldfish disease symptom you should catch early. Goldfish are naturally ravenous creatures and will eat just about anything if given the chance. So a goldfish refusing to eat or showing noticeable signs of weight loss should be a warning sign that there’s a problem that needs closer looking into. Your goldfish might be suffering from internal parasites or poor water quality.
- Erratically swimming or swimming upside down – Erratic swimming is a sign of buoyancy problems. Trouble swimming could be caused by swim bladder disease, dropsy, or improper feeding. Poor water quality might also be the culprit (or a result of overfeeding). If you look closely, are there other goldfish disease symptoms you may not have noticed?
- Listless or laying at the bottom – Healthy goldfish actively swim around and interact with their environment, so if you have a sick goldfish that never gets up from the gravel, something is seriously wrong and you should take immediate action to find the underlying cause. Usually sick goldfish that are listless are also suffering from poor water quality or an infection.
- Slow to react to disturbances and stimuli – Are you about to feed your goldfish, only to find that one of them doesn’t seem to notice the food until it’s smack against his nose? Sick goldfish often have trouble reacting to certain things in their environment. Look for other goldfish disease symptoms, test the water quality, and do an immediate water change if test results are less than ideal.
- Rubs against the aquarium glass and other surfaces – This could be a sign of parasites, like ich, or even a fungus infection. At least, something is making your goldfish very itchy. If your goldfish is just rubbing his nose on the glass whenever you come nearby (what I like to call the “goldfish dance”), it could just be a friendly greeting and a demand to be fed (of course, don’t give in to those demands if you already fed your goldfish just moments ago).
Goldfish Disease Symptoms on the Body or Fins
- Clamped or folded fins – Maybe your goldfish constantly holds his fins close to his body or he’s lethargic and doesn’t move around much. There are actually a few potential goldfish diseases that can cause your fish to act this way, and your job is to look for other goldfish disease symptoms that might give the disease away. It might just be a case of poor water quality or parasites. Testing the water with a freshwater aquarium testing kit will give you a better idea of what is causing the problem and how to make the aquarium environment healthier for your goldfish.
- Torn or frayed fins – This is often a sign of stress, especially if you notice little red veins branching out in the fins. Simply changing the water and separating your goldfish from more aggressive fish can quickly solve this problem. If you find that the fins are actually starting to deteriorate into a stump, your goldfish may be experiencing fin or tail rot, which is caused by bacteria (and could attract fungus infections).
- Fluffy patches, discolored spots, or raised bumps – Do you notice a slight fuzz in some areas that shouldn’t be there? If your goldfish has discolored patches on the body or fins, chances are that he’s suffering from fungal or bacterial infections. Hospitalize the goldfish immediately and run some water tests on the main aquarium to determine what caused the goldfish disease symptoms. If the discolored patches actually look like little white specks of salt, your goldfish is suffering from ich, often known as white spot disease. Ich is fairly contagious (even common) in aquariums. If black spots are visible, your sick goldfish have an ammonia burn or parasite infection (this parasite is very rare in aquariums).
- Bloated or has raised scales – If one of your goldfish is abnormally round, large (be careful not to mistake this for a maturing female goldfish), or even resembles a pine cone, he may have dropsy (often caused by bacterial infections and sometimes incurable). A bloated sick goldfish might also be overfed or, if your goldfish have buoyancy problems, filled with packets of air after extended periods of time gasping for breath at the water surface.
- Pale gills – Pale gills can be caused by a number of goldfish diseases, including parasites. Salt is a popular treatment in this case, though you should also consider medications. Medications will depend on the type of parasite that is infecting your fish and can be determined by other goldfish disease symptoms.
- Noticeable lumps or parasites – External parasites are usually visible on the body or fins, and many will cause ulcers and lumps along the scales. Such parasites include ich (white spot disease), anchor worms, fish lice, and flukes. There are many ways you can get rid of parasites, ranging from medication to salt baths. You can even have them manually removed (though I don’t recommend this unless you know what you’re doing).
- Protruding eyes – If one or both eyes of your goldfish are abnormally large (don’t mistake this for natural characteristics in black moor or telescope goldfish), this could be early goldfish disease symptoms of dropsy, ich, or pop eye. Your goldfish could also be suffering from a bacterial infection.
- Bleeding wounds, sores, or missing scales – Do you have aggressive or territorial fish in the same aquarium? Solving this problem could just be a matter of finding a separate tank to house your goldfish. Your goldfish could also be infected with parasites, causing him rub on gravel or other sharp objects.
By catching goldfish disease symptoms ahead of time, you can prevent infections from getting worse, spreading, and taking over the aquarium. And by taking immediate action to treat the disease, your sick goldfish has a better chance of surviving through the infection.
It’s always a good practice to watch your goldfish on a daily basis for signs of abnormal behavior or growths. A good time to do this is right before or during feeding.
Once you’ve noticed signs of a potential disease, you’ll want to put the sick goldfish into a hospital tank as soon as possible so that other fish in the same tank don’t get infected. Then you’ll need to determine what caused goldfish disease symptoms (so that you can effectively treat the disease) and identify problems running rampant in your tank (so that you can take measures to ensure your other goldfish don’t get similarly infected).
Test the water with an aquarium test kit will help you identify tank problems. Also think back to events that led up to this point. Did you recently just introduce a new goldfish to the aquarium (without quarantining him first)? Did you just add new water to the tank without letting it adjust to room temperature?
Instead of looking for terrible diseases, you should concentrate on keeping your fish healthy. – David E. Boruchowitz, author of Aquarium Care of Goldfish
Remember: the best cure for any disease is prevention. By keeping your goldfish in a healthy environment, you reduce their chances of getting fatal goldfish disease symptoms. And it’s much easier to care for healthy fish than it is to treat sick goldfish.
How About You?
What sort of goldfish disease symptoms have you noticed? How did you treat your sick goldfish? Are there any goldfish care tips you can offer to help prevent infections? I’d love to hear from you!