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Fantail with Dropsy

Guest purkamal

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Guest purkamal

I have two small fantails and not knowing enough about goldfish and their needs, I used to keep them in a 3 gallon tank without enough care and monitoring. About 1.5 months ago, one of them came down with dropsy. I started to read about it and along the way learned about goldfish care quite a bit. Realized that they were in a terrible condition. Don't curse me, I am not an ignorant pet owner, but having seen people keeping goldfish in little fish bowls, I thought I was pretty generous with a 3 gallon tank with filtration and air pump! After all that setup had cost me 10X the price of the fish themselves.

I started medicating the sick fish with metro med and added some epsom salt to their tank. I also gave it high concentration warm epsom salt baths daily. In the meantime I bought and setup a 36 gallon tank for my fish along with ammonia and other kits for water monitoring. The metro med seemed to work fine and the dropsy was gone after a couple of weeks. I was so happy because all the articles I had read were extremely pessimistic about the possibility of curing goldfish with dropsy. I thought my fish had dodged the bullet. But again, starting a few days ago, the fish started to bloat and it is showing the dropsy symptoms again (bloated with slightly raised scales). It behaves very normally, swims around and is active. Its appetite is great too. I have put her back in the 3 gallon tank (hospital tank now) and monitor the water quality carefully and do frequent water changes. BTW, forgot to mention that they had perfect water conditions in the 36 gallon tank that she had been in over the last month. She is on metro meds again and I am using another antibiotic powder that is supposed to get absorbed through the skin at the same time. The symptoms haven't gone away yet, but I am hopeful as the fish is very normal and active.

The reason I am here is to ask for help/valid information. I have read almost everything on the web about fish dropsy and I am going crazy as there are no two articles or comments that match. One says I should keep the fish cool, another says heat is good for the treatment. One says I should use high concentration salt bath for a few minutes everyday, one says add lower salt concentration to the tank, another says salt is bad for dropsy or has no effect. One says use aquarium salt, another says aquarium salt will kill fish with dropsy and I should use epsom salt. I was wondering if anyone here can give me some expert information that I can really trust and use? I am also wondering if dropsy coming back soon after going away is a sign of something, or is something usual? How can I get it to never come back? Looking at the bloated fish with raised scales is painful and really makes me sick. Please help if you can.

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  • Supporter

hello purkamal, welcome to kokos. i am sorry to hear that your fish are having some problems. can we start with you answering all the questions in the white box above of their current situation? we need to know the exact numbers for the water params, a few pictures of your fish from above and of each eye as well as what ornaments/gravel/plants you have in your tank.

please answer all the questions and we will see how we can help you.

dropsy is a symptom most commonly to a bad bacterial problem, by answering all the questions, you give us a better understanding of how we can help you and your fish.

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i am going to give you my take on dropsy. i have experienced it a few times in my tanks and this is how i understand it.

dropsy, it is a symptom, not a disease. a fish can experience dropsy for a few reasons that we already know.. immediate drastic changes in their environment particularly water temperature or bacterial related either internal or external. sometimes, a female fish can become egg impacted and the fouling eggs within her can cause bacteria.

in order to ascertain the cause, we need to begin eliminating what we think is causing it. ie, removing plants, gravel, cleaning filters, filter tubes etc.. anything where water will sit and stagnate or fish waste/uneaten food will be trapped and rot (this includes plant matter)

unfortunately, most often, we find that our fish's scales are lifting. this is often after the fish has become bloated, so we're already at stage two of the symptom. by this stage, we prepare a cycled qt and a heater to maintain the temperature at 80F. we maintain this temp for 2 reasons. 1. for the salts to work at a faster rate as well as the fish's motabolism to work faster. we need to increase the fish's motabolism so that the medicated food can be digested quickly.


there are two salts, epsom salt and aquarium salt.

epsom salt relieves fluid retention. aquarium salt does not. the salt we favour for symptomatic dropsy is epsom salt. as epsom salt relieves fluid retention, we need to use this at the dose of 1/4 teaspoon per 10US gallons of water. this can only be used for a maximum of 8 consecutive days. after a 3 or 4 day period of epsom salt use, you should notice a significant change in the reduction of swelling in your fish. if this does not occur, something else is wrong. i personally have noticed that if a fish has dropsy showing, the scales will not flatten until the swelling has gone down.

epsom, longer than 8 consecutive days use can cause these problems: burning of scales and skin, rotting of fins, anaemia and organ complications.

medicated food, you've chosen the best one to use. we often call for MetroMeds as it's active ingredient is Metronidazole. Metronidazole fights bacteria and parasites. it's often the successor of medicines used to fight bacteria related problems. this medicine can be used at the same time as the Epsom salt and should only be used for a maximum 30 days.

whilst Epsom and MetroMeds are used, if no other external symptoms are showing on the fish, there should be nothing more put in the water as the bacteria is internal. by adding more and more meds, you risk overmedicating your fish. if you overmedicate your fish, what will happen is the belly will go soft like jelly and the fish will most certainly die.


i have answered what you have asked from us. please now take some time to answer the questions asked of you at the top of this page. we would like to gain the opportunity to help your fish by beginning to understand more of it's environment.

Edited by stakos
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Helen has already given you some great info about this :)

Dropsy coming back - as dropsy is a mere symptom, it means that the underlying issue is still there. I would look for a larger QT container. You can get 10 gallon sterilite tubs at Wal Mart for roughly 10 bucks. They make fantastic QT containers. Just add the filter and air pump that you are currently using in your 3 gallon tank. The larger he water volume, the less stress for the fish, which will ultimately play a role in recovery also :)

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Guest purkamal

Thanks a lot for the information. So I will keep going with metromeds, keep the water warm and add some epsom salt to the water, but isn't 1/4 teaspoon per 10 gallons too low? I have seen higher numbers elsewhere. Here is the info you had asked for:

Test Results for the Following:

Other Required Info:

  • * Ammonia Level: 0ppm
  • * Nitrite Level: 0ppm
  • * Nitrate level: 0-30ppm
  • * Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines) : ~7.5-8.0
  • * Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)
  • * Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops? Drops for Ammonia and strips for nitrite and nitrate
  • * Water temperature? 74-76
  • * Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running? 36 gallons running for 5-6 weeks
  • * What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)? Aqueon 30
  • * How often do you change the water and how much? Have only done one water change on this tank so far as the test showed good water quality. I did a ~25% change last week.

  • * How many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change? 25%, a week ago
  • * How many fish in the tank and their size? 2 small (1-2 inch) fantails
  • * What kind of water additives or conditioners? Aquarium salt, 1 tbsp/5 gallons
  • * What do you feed your fish and how often? goldfish flakes, pellets, and green peas, once or twice a day
  • * Any new fish added to the tank? No
  • * Any medications added to the tank? No
  • * List entire medication/treatment history for fish and tank. Please include salt, Prazi, PP, etc and the approximate time and duration of treatment. The history was given in the initial posting.
  • * Any unusual findings on the fish such as "grains of salt," bloody streaks, frayed fins or fungus? No
  • * Any unusual behavior like staying at the bottom, not eating, etc.? No

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there is a chance you may be confusing the two types of salt with their doses..

aquarium salt:

0.1% = 1 teaspoon for every 1 US gallon of water. e.g, if you have a 10 gallon tank, you will put in 10 teaspoons of dissolved aquarium salt, after 12 hours, you can increase this to

0.2% by following the instructions above. and then after 12 hours, you can do this again to bring it to 0.3%

if you are at 0.3% and do a 50% water change (5 gallons), you need to add back 15 level teaspoons of aquarium salt dissolved.

epsom salt:

1/4 teaspoon for every 10 US gallons..

two different salts, two very different uses.

if your fish is retaining fluid in it's body, you need to follow the epsom salt guide. if your fish has abbrasions/scrapes, slime coat loss, fin damage, external parasites, then you use the aquarium salt guide.

your fish has dropsy, it's retaining fluid, you need to follow the epsom salt guide.


aquarium salt is not a declorinator. please purchase product Seachem Prime, you can find it online or at your LFS. here is a link to Seachem Prime from the Seachem website so that you can read how it works. http://www.seachem.com/Products/product_pages/Prime.html

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