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goldfish at surface, bottom sitting, dying

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Hi all,

I have had several unexplained goldfish deaths in the past few months.  All had been running well for a year before and I had all my original fish.   The trouble started when I got a new, healthy looking fish in late May.  I QTed him for a week while treating with Parasite Guard as a precaution.  (I usually do two weeks but this time was traveling so  i ended it early--he went into the main tank in early June).  He was healthy, active, throughout.  Four weeks later, while still traveling, I was told that five of my then-ten fish had died, including the new one (I did not see, so do not what symptoms they had, was just told they died.)  5 weeks ago weeks ago I got some new fish and QTed for two weeks, again with Parasite Guard, then added to the tank.  All looked very healthy when added. Now I have just had four deaths  in the past 10 days and (2 original fish and 2 of  the new ones) and 2 more look like they are having issues. No bloating, no raised scales, no bloody streaks, no ulcers, no cotton wool , no bulging eyes--I don't know what to make of this.    The affected fish start hanging at the top, then start bottom sitting, then weaken over a few days, then die. 

One of the two fish beginning to have symptoms now, the oranda, does seem to have a white soft/slightly fuzzy-looking patch on the front ray of his dorsal fin. Not sure if it is torn and healing tissue or if it is fungus---it is minimal and no where else.  But  the other fish that died since I have been back had nothing similar.

This oranda is now hanging tail down at the surface and gulping air, though able to swim mid-level.  All the other fish are swimming around normally except a fantail.  That one seems weak, swimming around some, but otherwise bottom sitting.  If he follows the pattern, in the next day or two he will start hanging at the surface, then weaken and die.

Tested water today after a 30% water change (50% is changed weekly, this was a second water change) and nitrates were high at 80--not sure why.  Did  another 50% water change and now at 40.

 I did a full filter clean today before the first water change. (Fluval FX6--clean every 2 months). It wasn't very dirty.

What to do? I have on hand salt, metronidazole, triple sulfa, furan 2, kanamycin, neoplex, maracyn plus. Also something called Wipe Out that is a bacterial control oxolinic acid med. I have used no meds thus far.


Tank size:  100 gallons/running about a year and a half. Bare bottom. No live plants--it has one fake plant, an airstone, and fish--that's all that's in there.

Temp: about 75 degrees F (no heater-- I live in the tropics)

No of fish:  9 two weeks ago (then 2 died), 7 this morning (then 1 died), 6 now. 1 new fish added in June, 5 new fish added about 4 weeks ago-mid Sept. All fish were treated for parasites in QT.

Filter:  Fluval FX6

Water changes:  50% weekly on Tuesdays;  30% then another 50% today (Sunday).

PH:  7.6

Nitrates:  80 (!), then 40 after second water change today [I can't explain the high reading with the weekly water changes--maybe skipped last week?]

Nitrites: 0 

Ammonia:  0

KH/GH--very low (I can't remember the reading, but it is like the lowest or second-lowest reading on the chart).  I do not buffer the water.

Water additives:  prime only

Medications added to tank:  none

Food:  1/4 teaspoon New Life Spectrum regular goldfish food once or sometimes twice a day

Symptoms: hanging near the surface and gulping and/or bottom sitting, then weakening and dying. No bloating, no raised scales, no bloody streaks, no ulcers, etc. Fish look normal, but die. 

Any idea what this is and what to do to treat?  Appreciate your help!

Edited by spillie

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Please copy & paste the following form and fill it out to the best of your ability when requesting help for Goldfish Problems.  If copy and paste doesn't work for you, quote this post and fill in your answer after each question.

  • Test Results for the Following:
    • * Ammonia Level(Tank)
    • * Nitrite Level(Tank)
    • * Nitrate level(Tank)
    • * Ammonia Level(Tap)
    • * Nitrite Level(Tap)
    • * Nitrate level(Tap)
    • * Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)
    • * Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)
    • Other Required Info:
      • * Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops?
      • * Water temperature?
      • * Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running?
      • * What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)?
      • * How often do you change the water and how much?
  • * How many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change?
  • * How many fish in the tank and their size?
  • * What kind of water additives or conditioners?
  • * What do you feed your fish and how often?
  • * Any new fish added to the tank?
  • * Any medications added to the tank?
  • * List entire medication/treatment history for fish and tank.Please include salt, Prazi, PP, etc and the approximate time and duration of treatment.
  • * Any unusual findings on the fish such as "grains of salt," bloody streaks, frayed fins or fungus?
  • * Any unusual behavior like staying at the bottom, not eating, etc.?

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Your fish load is quite high. That may go towards explaining why your nitrates are high. You had 10 fish in 100 gallons. We recommend 20 gallons per fish. No less than 15. Can you show us a photo or video of the fish having issues? 

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Thanks, they seem to be doing better.  Not sure what the issue was/is.  I think my test kit (API drops) may be too old--could it be?--as I just tested my tap nitrates and it came up at 5 (which I know it is not) and I did all the proper bottle shaking/test tub shaking.  I also threw out the almost-empty bottle of pond prime, in case it was no longer working properly. I'll some back if I see the signs again, but for now, they seem back to normal.  The deaths started when I had added the new fish, but I'd had the original 8 in there a year without any issues (100G plus about 5 in the filter/50% weekly water changes).  Each set of deaths were very sudden and  within days of each other.  Then a few months with all being well between sets of deaths.  I only have 5 fish in there now, so we'll see how it goes.


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