It’s known that an extremely Fat Goldfish can not be attributed to the extra feeds it takes, but rather due to a conventional disease called Dropsy.

For some optimistic ears, Dropsy can sound innocent as a drop of water drizzling down on a light rainy day, but this experience can change its tone overnight if there is a sudden cloud burst.

Although this perspective can be taken otherwise, one thing can indeed be accepted with little doubt that the word ‘Dropsy’ doesn’t sound so pleasant if these imaginative situational phenomena are explicitly expressed in your Goldfish.

Let’s Take a Peep at Dropsy

Sometimes, one may think that the Goldfish is getting obese because of its chubby appearance, which can also be described as a Bloated Goldfish just about to spurt out excess gas out of the full Stomach.

We might even find them with protruded eyes precisely looking like a sort of swollen-eyed due to lack of sleep. We would want to believe these possibilities of silly imaginations to be true, but something must be wrong, and you feel you are right.

Trusting one’s senses in this kind of circumstantial evidence can be kind-a-smart because this disorder has a common occurrence in Goldfish.

About Dropsy

The term was derived from the Greek word ‘Hydro,’ which means ‘Water.’ The term, in its technical description, is not a disease or a specific syndrome. Instead, it is a clinical manifestation of numerous pathologies.

The puffy appearance of Goldfish is due to excess accumulation of water in the body as a result of kidneys failing to perform their excretory functions effectively.

In a single word, the Kidney is the primary organ of “Homeostasis.” typically, the Kidney’s job is filtration and maintenance of fluid pressure of the body with the outside environment. These functions are essential for the survival of any live organism.

Quick Comparison of Healthy Goldfish and Fat Bloated Goldfish

Characteristics Healthy Goldfish Bloating Goldfish
Color Glistening Faint
Dorsal Fin Stance Erect Flaccid
Fin impression Translucent Streaked with stain
Scales Packed Loosely attached
Eyes Within Socket Bulges
Abdomen No visible enlargement Extended

Symptoms of Dropsy

When it comes to determining any abnormalities in living organisms, for instance, Dropsy, the observable variations are the foundation for a tentative diagnosis so that the next course of action can be planned accordingly. Lets’ try to learn them.

  • Color -As we generally know, Goldfishes possess brilliant colors with a glistening kind of polished body surface.
    This color will lose its luster and may appear pinkish. The whitish part of the body will also appear milky.
  • Activity -The regular movement pattern may be difficult to use as a reference to ascertain the symptoms concretely. Their appetite doesn’t show any change concerning Dropsy.
  • Eyes -The development of protruded eyes can be taken as a good indication. Eyeballs usually bulge out of the socket.
  • Fins -For a healthy Goldfish, the dorsal fin stays erect while swimming, but in the event of developing Dropsy, they may appear to be flaccid. The other fins show lining and streak of hemorrhages.
  • Gills -They are supposed to be clasped entirely within the head. A partially closed or inflamed gill does indicate an underlying abnormality.
  • Scale -Loosen scales are evident in the initial stages. A single or a few patches of scales may lose their rigidity in the areas where ascites occur. The scales may even start falling off in Goldfish. Visibility of these signs is the perfect time to take curative and mitigation measures.
  • Abdomen -This is the part of the body where Dropsy would manifest distinctly. The Goldfish will appear bloated with a big belly like blowing up a balloon. These signs of swollen abdomen appear at the mature stage of the disorder, and steps have to be taken in totality.
  • Tail -Most often, Dropsy develops in the tail region and gradually progresses towards the middle part of the body. It exhibits ‘a fat-tailed goldfish’.
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Did You Know?  The classic signature color of Goldfish- Orange, Red, and Yellow are due to mutations and selective breeding over thousands of years.

Fun Fact: The outward protruding of eyes is called Exopthalmia.

Causes of Dropsy in Goldfish

Etiologically, various factors have relevance in its outbreak. One being the microorganisms along with parasites and the other being unknown factors. The easiest way to understand the causes is to classify them into a broad category listed below.

Expert Tip: In the occurrence of Dropsy, one or more causative agents can infect fishes simultaneously as they are prone to attack the immune-compromised fishes.

  • Non-Infectious Agents
    • Stress
      • If your Goldfishes are with other tank mates, they are most likely to compete for Nutrients, Oxygen, and Spaces irrespective of the species involved.
      • Goldfish produce a large amount of waste in the form of feces and excretion through gills. The chemical build-ups in this physiological process are toxic to them if left accumulated.
      • The quality and quantity of feed you serve can also be another factor.
      • The lighting duration influences the ‘Active’ and ‘Passive’ status of your Goldfish. Imbalances in these cycles can directly add more stress.
      • The pH level of the water changes concerning the substrate and metabolites generated in the tank.
      • Despite being considered cold water inhabitants, Goldfish are most comfortable with a temperature ranging from 20 Degree Celsius to 22 Degree Celsius. In contrast, a rapid change in water temperature can predispose them to develop Dropsy.
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What to Do if You Detect Dropsy in Goldfish

Starts the mission, ‘Save the Goldfish’, by first transferring them separately into another tank.

Monitor the tank daily for quality of water and temperature. Nourish them with a new variety of feeds. Further, to increase the chances of recovery, you can follow various protocols. Let’s discuss some of them in more detail below.

Treatment Methods to Counter Dropsy

It can begin after a successful diagnosis based on the signs and symptoms mentioned earlier,

  • Home Remedies -This strategy is the easiest to follow conventionally in the early stage. Several studies and research has suggested the following ways-
    • When immediately removed and placed into water brought from other locality than that in which they were detected ill, the affected Goldfish has a chance of quick recovery.
    • Adding Honey @ 200ml/Kg Body Weight in feed can have a therapeutic effect along with boosting their immune system.
    • Use of Epsom Salt @ 1 Teaspoon per gallon of water in a new tank will be beneficial.
  • Medicative treatment -This is a complicated process involving clinical and detailed analysis to determine the causative agent.
    In extreme cases where their life is compromised with no alternatives, broad-spectrum antibiotics are recommended along with other mentioned steps.
  • Supplementation
    • Adding 0.3℅ of Potassium Dichromate to the feed boost their immunity to fight the infectious agents to a large extent.
    • Including Mixed Herbal Supplementation @400-800mg/Kg Body Weight can trigger innate immunity of Goldfish against Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria.

Pro Tip: Water from another source or locality has the probability of being free from contamination of the same agent which made your Goldfish sick!

Limitations in Treatment of Dropsy

There are fewer options available for Treating Dropsy in Fish, significantly when it has already progressed towards late-stage, i.e., Distinctly Over-bloated.

The difficulty in remedial measures lies in the fact that comprehensive laboratory analysis is required to administer the correct course of therapy.

However, there is no reason to lose hope, and one might still be able to save them if detected early.

Authors Note: Most diagnoses of Dropsy are made only when they are in a later stage. The reliable method to identify the cause is through Necropsy (Post Morten)

Preventive Measures Against Dropsy

As the all-time maxim goes, ‘Prevention…than Cure’ we can initiate preventive measures when the Goldfish is new in the house. These simple steps are to be followed regularly:

Tanks -Keep it clean. An excess algal bloom is to be removed at regular intervals.

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Water Quality -The pH of water where Goldfish strive best is in the range of 6.5 to 7.5. Consider monitoring, as it can become acidic or alkaline over time.

Population -Ideally, a tank for a single Goldfish should be about 4-6 times the length of their body length. They should not be overcrowded beyond this formula.

Overfeeding -Just because your Goldfish eats everything dropped in the tank doesn’t mean they are starving. The quantity and frequency of feeding should be optimum. Twice or thrice feeding per day is good enough to keep them filled.

Is it Always Dropsy that Makes Your Goldfish Look Fat?

Besides Dropsy, there can be other reasons as well. Although you shouldn’t underestimate the probability of suspecting Dropsy in your Goldfish, some exceptions can make them look fat. Let’s learn about it.

  • Inflamed Swim Bladder -They are the bladder present in fishes that allow them to rise or sink in the water by muscular control of air volume.
    Inflammation can cause them to enlarge inside the abdomen, and Goldfish can appear fat.
  • Tumors -are the extra growth of tissues in any part of the body.
  • Pregnancy -Sometimes, one may mistake a pregnant Goldfish with a Swollen Abdomen for Dropsy.
  • Cystic Liver Disease is a disease where the liver develops multiple cysts (fluid-filled cavities) caused mostly by bacteria or parasites. Your Goldfish may look bloated as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can a Goldfish Live with Dropsy?

A Goldfish diagnosed with Dropsy can only live up to only four months if left untreated.

Can Dropsy Cure Itself?

No, a Goldfish with Dropsy cannot heal itself in an aquarium environment. There are chances of recovery in the wild if the causative agents are eradicated naturally through adaptation.

One should take a note that sometimes, they may seem to be healing with the disappearance of symptoms. Still, it is only temporary/intermittent for a few weeks because fatality is always inevitable if left unattended in an aquarium.

Can Goldfish Recover from Dropsy?

Yes, they can come with suitable measures described previously in the article.

What to Do with a Goldfish that’s too Big?

If your Goldfish looks too big, you should check for other signs and symptoms of Dropsy. If you’re not confident, one can always consult a Marine Specialist.

Is Dropsy Contagious?

It is not contagious as multiple factors are involved in producing it. Though the causative agents such as Bacteria, Viruses, or Parasites can be transmitted between fishes, they do not always manifest themselves as Dropsy in the outcome.

In Conclusion

Most aquarists must have encountered one or more forms of Dropsy. Many fishes, including Goldfish from the family Cyprinidae, are known to be very susceptible to this abnormality.

Though commonly occurring in aquariums, it is not something to be dreadful of as it is effectively preventable.

Providing a stress-free environment and early diagnosis is the key to keeping Dropsy at Bay.

About the Author

Dr. Vituotsolie Kiso

Vituo Kiso is a budding Veterinarian and marine species enthusiast. He did most of his internships in several Pet Clinics, Wildlife centers, and Farms across India. He has a passion for learning new things and writings besides giving consultations and treating pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Almost 3 years of experience as a Veterinary Practitioner
  • Online Pet Health Consultant
  • Verified Tutor

Educational Highlights:

  • Attended Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research
  • Currently learning Geography, History, Polity, Economics, Ethics, and International Relations.

Writing Experience

  • Wrote a White Paper on ‘The Aura of Pets and Humans’ for MaxCare Pets Inc.
  • Awarded the Best Article Writing on World Environmental Day 2020 on the topic, ‘Biodiversity.’

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