So, hey all, new to this forum but not new to fish or goldfish keeping in general. I'd like to clarify this is not an emergency, but something that resulted in a death of a fish almost 2 months ago that I wasn't able to find any answers for anywhere, so I hope posting here to pick your brains in case someone with more experience may be able to shed some light on it. This victim did not make it, but I would like to know if I could prevent it from happening again. It seemed most reasonable to post in the disease section.
Mildly unpleasant description warning? Long post for sure. Thank you in advance if you read it.
The victim: female calico ranchu goldfish between 4-5 inches long, imported from Thailand(?) to the US at some point this year(?) from one of the main big importers here. Got her in March. Before then I had only ever kept common or oranda goldfish, so this is my first time having eggfish.
Tank setup: approx 20 gal tote with floating hornwort and HOB to get them used to my water until I haggle out the details of a new indoor stock tank (had other plans but they didn't work out). At the time of this story, she had 3 tankmates that were between 2-3.5 inches, so there were 4 eggfish total. Changed a portion of the water daily to help the HOB (10-30%) and still do about 10% despite only having two young fish left in there. I only have the liquid ammonia test kit (tested 0 ppm at this time) and some strips I'd gotten to read gh/kh, which says I had maybe 40-60 ppm in nitrates. (after this event I did a 50% change anyway) There's also a few of those aqueon pure enzyme/bacteria things sitting in the HOB as well (so I guess these work after all)
This was a reasonably healthy-looking fish and had even tried to spawn shortly after I got her. She would sleep right next to her "boyfriend" in a particular corner of the tote basically every night. One day I woke up to feed them breakfast and noticed she was sitting near the bottom, which was unusual. She normally begged the most. I had to go somewhere that day so I fed them (she ate a pellet) and went to do whatever.
Came back about 3 hours later and realized she was bottom sitting again, but now she was a bit pale. I used a net to bring her close to the surface, and she seemed rounder than normal and a little pale. Well, last time I had a fish with a round belly its organs had appeared to turn to bloody jelly under its skin and it quickly died (this one was male, also an import gotten around the same time from the same seller. I assumed his guts rotted or something because he was fine up until he wasn't, and then it progressed very quickly. When I isolated him for treatment he was just lethargic and bloated, but by the second day [when he died] he had the jellied abdomen when I tilted him with gloves on. Still don't understand what happened to him but I think perhaps he was harboring an aggressive strain of bacteria and the first day I noticed he wasn't feeling well I was moving them into this larger tote).
Naturally I was concerned, as she clearly seemed uncomfortable. I got a small tote of water set up and put epsom salt and aquarium salt in there and netted her into it. I waited about two hours, and she never pooped during this time so I assumed she was constipated or egg bound or both. I tried to offer some peas, but when she didn't eat any I decided to go manual. So I put on gloves and began gently massaging her sides as if I were to hand spawn, but even more gentle than that. I did this for about 45-60 mins, then left her alone to take a break, then resumed and repeat. I think I may have done this 3-4 times. I was only able to get a little bit of poop to come out, which reinforced the idea that maybe she was constipated.
At 6pm I could tell things were going south. She was twitching a lot and was getting fairly pale, and she'd swim in erratic bursts and run into the sides of the tote, like she was starting to have death seizures. I put on new gloves and went back to massaging. Here's where it gets pretty bad: as I massaged I saw a small, whitish, pimple-like/whitehead bump appear right below her vent, a bit to the side. I poked it few times and it was soft, but each time I massaged along her belly it seemed to get bigger...
And then the "bubble" suddenly burst and a ton of whitish pus came out. It was making the water smell bitter. So gross. Glad I had gloves on.
As cysts or abscesses go, typically to make it better a doctor will drain it first before applying something to disinfect. So I thought since it was already broken and oozing a lot, maybe if I drained it super fast I could relieve the pressure on her guts and save her, so I continued with a more "normal" hand breeding pressure. Didn't work. She just grew more and more pale as the pus came out and by the time it was mostly drained out I think she had already died...because when I let go she was absolutely 100% dead. Once the pus drained out, some poop was able to come out and it looked normal, other than the fact it came from a dead fish. I keep thinking if I had x-ray vision and could see what the real problem was then maybe draining it before she was having death seizure symptoms could've been enough to save her?
I had to leave her body in the tote to go do dinner things so the corpse was about two hours old by the time I was able to return for dissection (I had also wanted to dissect the male with the jelly belly but decided against it because I felt that it was quite evident that whatever was inside was just gonna come gushing out). Obviously not ideal, you wanna do it asap. I got some pointy surgical scissors, cut the skin along the belly starting from the vent (scales are tough, man) and poked around and couldn't find anything weird. No signs that her tissues ever held a bunch of pus. I quickly put her body in a bag as it was beginning to smell and had to throw it away instead of burying. I felt rather traumatized by the fact I tried to save her and she just died in my hands, and she had been 100% normal the night before.
A few weeks later I woke up late one day and went to check on the remaining fish only to find her "boyfriend" had died while I was asleep. I don't really know how long he was dead but he was floating and bloated and bacteria had clearly been working away at his corpse for awhile, so I removed it and did an immediate water change. Don't know much about goldfish thought processing but the remaining two females seemed traumatized by his death and stayed far far away from him until I removed the body, and they didn't resume normal activity until the third day after the fact.
I know I'm not the only person who has had trouble with imported goldfish -- plenty of people on facebook with far better setups than me have stated they've lost imported fish one by one to either mysterious reasons or to very obvious illnesses that no amount of medicine was able to treat (and no in between). However, I've yet to find someone whose fish exhibited the same symptoms as mine (jellied organs, pus buildup) and I know for every person who has bad luck there are also people who have had good luck. Was I just unlucky with this batch?? Or was there something else going on? What even happened that day? I know eggfish are somewhat more sensitive than fancies with dorsals, but the majority of other people reporting poor import results actually have orandas.
I also have 2 fish from another importer that I never mixed due to the fact that one of them is very fragile health-wise and despite all the things I do for them, he still gets sick on occasion and it feels harder to treat it every time... Due to the near permanent quarantine they seem to be in, these guys only have a big air stone and get daily 50% water changes instead, or more if they're currently actively medicated (I medicate both at once under the assumption that whatever he's having, his buddy probably also harbors). Someone on facebook thinks we're all changing too much water too often and that's why our imports are dying, but I would assume having clean water is more important...some breeders and importers that I know about do large daily water changes too, so that doesn't really make sense. So for all of these reasons, until I figure out what's going on or come up with a better option I'm no longer particularly willing to buy any more imported fish except under specific circumstances or assuming my experience was just a stroke of bad luck and nothing more. I do have a handful of fry from some of these fish who died but I'm not sure what all their genes are worth, but so far they seem lots hardier just by being born and raised in my water.