Fish, Tanks and Ponds


Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Dropsy

Goldfish with dropsy
Goldfish with dropsy, Photo by BenTahiti

The photo above shows the likely outcome of dropsy if it is allowed to progress untreated. Even with treatment dropsy is very difficult to treat and the fish almost always dies.

Introduction

Dropsy isn't always a bacterial disease but a bacterial infection is one possible cause and that is why it is included here.

When a fish as dropsy the whole body swells up due to the build up of fluid within the tissue of the fish. This does immense damage and makes recovery most unlikely. I have never seen proof of a successful treatment for this condition.

Causes

Dropsy isn't a disease in it's own right but is a symptom of another disease or condition. There are many possible causes for dropsy, organ failure, wrong water chemistry, poor aquarium hygiene, disease, when a disease affects - gills, heart, kidneys or liver then dropsy is more likely.

Home diagnosis

Home diagnosis of the cause is almost impossible on a living fish but we can still narrow things down by testing all the water parameters making sure that both water quality and/or water chemistry are not the cause. We can also check the gills for parasites or other obvious disease. If the water or other treatable disease is found to be the cause then the fish may have a chance of recovery if action is taken soon enough.

It is often recommended that the fish is treated with an anti bacterial remedy when it has dropsy but unless there are signs of a bacterial disease present then at best this course of action will do nothing and at worst it will impede recovery. It is very important that only conditions which have been positively diagnosed are treated in order to avoid unnecessarily stressing the fish further.

Symptoms

The symptoms of dropsy are unlikely to be mistaken for anything else. The whole body swells up due to fluid collecting in the fish's body cavity. Fluid also collects in the actual tissue of the fish and eventually into the spaces between individual cells making the scales rise away from the body, something which gives the condition it's common name of pine cone disease. The eyes may also be affected and bulge out (pop eye)

Treatment

It is always worth checking the water as a possible cause and then checking the fish for any signs of disease. If nothing is found it is also worth treating the fish for a bacterial disease because this could be a cause and in the early stages it could be difficult to spot.

Finally if all else fails try adding some salt to the water which may help the fish's osmoregulatory system to get rid of some excess fluid. Don't use Epsom salts, use sodium chloride which is the only salt likely to be effective. If the fish has already become very swollen then any treatment is probably doomed to fail because the pressure from the fluid will have caused to much damage internally for the fish to recover. When this is the case euthanasia is the kindest course of action.

About Dropsy

Dropsy isn't always a bacterial disease but a bacterial infection is one possible cause and that is why it is included here.

When a fish as dropsy the whole body swells up due to the build up of fluid within the tissue of the fish. This does immense damage and makes recovery most unlikely. I have never seen proof of a successful treatment for this condition.