Goldfish Dropsy Disease


Goldfish dropsy is not a medical term and it’s not technically considered a disease. The term refers to the combination of symptoms that ‘dropsy’ will display. The symptoms of dropsy are the result of an internal bacteria infection in the kidneys. The infected kidneys retain water, become swollen and throw of the homeostasis of the goldfish’s osmoregulation. Osmoregulation is the ability of a goldfish to keep its internal fluids in balance with the external water. In the late stages of dropsy, a goldfish will have a swollen belly so severe that its scales are raised outwards. A sick goldfish with dropsy may or may not have problems swimming but it typically becomes lethargic, has a loss of appetite, and just looks unhappy.

brown and gold fancy goldfish


The problem with curing a sick goldfish with dropsy is that most obvious symptoms are a sign of late-stage dropsy; most cases at this point are terminal and no goldfish care is likely to help. Even if you are able to treat the infection with antibiotics, complete organ failure can likely follow. However, if dropsy is caught early on, a goldfish can survive. Take the sick goldfish and place it into a quarantine tank for treatment. Dropsy isn’t contagious which means it’s not necessary to treat all the goldfish in the tank. In the quarantine tank, add 2 teaspoons per ten gallons of Epsom salt to help draw out excess fluids in the goldfish. Epsom salt is different than regular aquarium salt because it contains magnesium sulfate, not sodium chloride. Next, add Maracyn Plus AntiBacteria Therapy or Kanamycin to help treat gram negative bacterial infections and feed the goldfish with antibacterial food or soak fish flakes in Neomycin.

Maracyn Plus can be harmful to the kidneys and Kanamycin absorbs into the kidneys better.


Most cases of dropsy are diagnosed too late and lead to the death of the goldfish; prevention of dropsy is the best option. Perform regular water changes and maintaining optimal water parameters. Keep the stress of the goldfish to a minimum by proper handling and proper aquarium setup. Use an Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Stress Coat whenever a goldfish losses a scale, gets a scratch, or even looks depressed.

Reviewed By: Tim Winter

Tim Winter has a strong affection for pets and wildlife. His years of experience caring for various types of pets has led him to share his knowledge with others on the best practices in pet care. Tim holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications.

21 thoughts on “Goldfish Dropsy Disease”

  1. My two goldfish are 29years old. However. One of them is bloated eyes are bulging mouth Redisham. And scaling. I have them in a large tank with u2 filter also air pump with small bubbles what can I do? Thank you

    • Hello my goldfish is sick to and it looks like a parasite on his tank thy look like little tiny threads short threds but thy move and are alive. Would you know what this is. I’ve had my goldfish 16 years he is dying and I have no idea on what to do

  2. Not to be a Debbie Downer but… I’ve dealt with dropsy with a few of my pond comets over the years. I did absolutely EVERYTHING I could to save them. Followed all protocols to the letter and have found that maybe at best it might extend their life a bit, (albeit suffering longer than maybe need be) only to die. One of the problems when removing fish from their environment for treatments, is that handling of any kind by hand or net is very stressful for them, especially those in an already weakened and sick condition. That alone makes them much worse. I absolutely watch over my fish daily to check on each and every one. After an exceptionally brutal cold winter here in the Northeast where almost weekly we’d have -single digits for 2 to 5 days, then 50 degree days then up and down like that nearly the whole winter… my fish are struggling. I found one dead last week ? and today I see one pine coning and slightly bloated with swollen eyes lying on the bottom and I see him gasping at times. It’s killing me to see him this way and I wish I could end his suffering but don’t have it in me to put him to sleep. I’ve had this happen in the past with another fish and I did EVERYTHING for him. He lasted about 3 months with diligent treatments but died anyway in the end… which I believe is basically what will happen to most if not all of them once they show signs of pine coning. So to treat or not to treat? That is the question. As the treatments definitely stress them out, and nothing kills better than stress when your a little fish who has no clue what is happening to him when he’s poked prodded handled netted bathed in salt and medicine who is already not in good condition. I don’t have an answer (and I have searched high and low for years) other than in my experience of having pond fish for 16 years, and learning a lot along the way, that aside from doing the most important thing which is keeping water quality as excellent as humanely possible – everything thing else is a crap shoot, and maybe even harming them further, who knows?

    • I have my goldfish for nine years,he started to be blower in August 2019
      Website said to feed him with peas ,I did and I could see he got better
      But know a week ago ,he started again ,I did the same but didn’t help
      So I follow another instructions that could be an infección. Bought the medicine,but I do not see any improvement. He is still under the filter,I hope he is not suffering,because I do not know what to do
      I am very sad

    • Thank you for your suggestion. I have my beautiful pink goldfish ( 17yrs old) that is showing all the symptoms of Dropsy and is killing me to watch her/him like this. But I have noticed that red gold baby fishes and baby subukin is taking good care. They always swim to pink one and it feels like they showing their love and care. I am keeping watch out daily but I feel helpless.

  3. My goldfish is about 10 inches long and probably 8 years old. Thought maybe getting full of eggs. But really bloated now, eyes bulging some, labored breathing, tilted at times, hard to swim to top to eat, at times seems to rub it’s bottom side on something, very lethargic. Scales looked stretch in buldging area but not sticking out. What can I do?

  4. Hello, I know these postings were from awhile ago but I just had the best I of luck with my goldfish who had Dropsy. I noticed she was sitting the corner of the tank not eating for about 3 days. When I went to do a 100% water change I noticed the pineconing and she was really really bloated. At this time I wasn’t sure what Dropsy was. So I did some research and I was able to save my goldfish. She is around a 1lb so I put her I her own 10gal tank. I then added the aerator with NO carbon filter. And I then added 10 tsp of Epsom salt, and I did a treatment of antibiotics called, “API Melafix” and “API Triple Sulfa”. I was unable to get a heater to raise the temp but I was somehow lucky not to need one. I am unsure how long the symptoms were there so I don’t know if I caught them right away or if I was a little late.
    I am only writing this for future people who need some help saving their fish. I wish everyone good luck with their fish as well!!!

  5. how do i prepare the isolate tank i have API Stress Coat and API Stress Zyme should i put this in the tank and have the temp at 80 degrees? or just Tap water? I’m trying save my gold fish that is now showing pineconing:(

    • you should never use fresh tap water, it needs to be about 5 days old in a container,(the gasses and Chlorine need to be released)

  6. I would like to know what I can do to help prevent dropsy in our Pond, which is approx 18x 15 and approx 5-6 ‘ deep, has waterfall and filtration light to help keep water clearer, but water is till murky.
    Just lost one of our goldfish (about 2-3 lbs) to dropsy and don’t want to lose any of our precious koi, what can I do to help keep this dreaded condition away??? Thanks

    • I just cured my goldfish. He was in the early stage of dropsy. For several days it stayed in the corner of the tank, with its fins deflated, abdominal swollen, and not eating. With no money, I used what I had. I isolated it in a tank, and gradually increased the temp. to 80. Then, I ground together a chrorella, garlic, selenium, and prebiotic tablet. I put small amounts, like 1/10th in the water, 3 times over 24 hours. In 24 hours, the dropsy was gone! Now my goldfish is back in its tank with his friend, active, eating, and grateful to me!

      • Was this cute permanent or did the dropsy come back not long after? I’m dealing with this now in my pond, have lost two fish and now a third has it.

  7. Fish friends its time to organize our data with the sad Dropsy syndrome. We are researching bits and pieces…a struggling start for needed better results. Prevention is the more productive point. For those who want to participate…here are some suggestions. If we our input together can become a graph,we will advance together. Correlation between like conditions in our data inputs will teach us valuable help. Examples:
    Indoor tank with what range of water temp fluctuation
    Outdoor tank/pond with what range of temp fluctuation
    What fish is affected most with Dropsy
    What is the fish diet (describe also if using granulated or pellets)
    Is there ever extra uneaten food visible
    Tank fish mates
    Is carbon,charcoal or UV lights used and how often
    Juvenile,or adult Dropsy victim
    Your personal opinion to the cause….at least a guess
    By no means is my purpose to direct traffic away from this helpful site.I can coordinate and input the data to be viewed at blog site
    This has been motivated by five living creatures…gone to Dropsy. Beautiful “Ruby” is now showing symptoms. Enough already…!

  8. I have had fish with dropsy but never been able to save them i only ever get it with comet goldfish dont know why sorry not good news for you

  9. Always practice hygiene measures to avoid any illness in the body. Kids are love to have a pit like fish as wasting time. Thus, they never know the consequences on having it at home. Before buying anything, try to ask facts about that thing that will not lead into harm.

  10. We have a fancy goldfish-Lucy she is the only fish in a 20 gal. Tank fairly large apx the size of an adult hand. Lucy started showing signs of Dropsy- she bloated and scaled began to protrude or pine cone; apx 4 weeks ago. I immediatly did a good tank cleaning and started pima fix and meta pix along w internal atibiotics and medicated food.the swelling started to decrease apx a week ago then came back w a vengance and now a few of her scales of bubbled. I have been adding epsom salts to her tank along w salt baths (i do this while im doing her water changes). Ive read just about everything i can on the internet regarding goldfish dropsy and really dont know what to do from here.
    I have heard of ppl using needle aspiration to draw out the fluid even? Also rapidly increasing the water temps?
    Would any of these help?
    Lucy is eating her medicated food although she doesnt exactly care for it. She is swimming normally and does not have any discoloration or red spotting like i have read in many other cases.
    Outside of epsom salts to draw out the fluid is there anything else i can do?

    • You are doing everything I would recommend. I’m not an expert on dropsy and have not had to treat it yet. I think you should go to a fish store and ask the fish expert about your treatment options. Another good idea is to ask this question on one of the fish community forums. Try this one, there are some knowledgeable individuals the frequent these boards

      • Use chrorella tablet, garlic tablet, selenium tablet, probiotic tablet and grind together. Sprinkle small amount 3 or 4 times over 24 hours periods to cure in 80 degree (gradual increase sick tank) and for prevention use as treatment once a week.


      • Thanks Kerol Rae for sharing. May i know your isolated tank size? Do you feed the sick fish with the solution or just desolved it into the water?

Leave a Comment