Dropsy / bloat in fish can be fatal if the fish is not treated quickly. An orange and white fish is shown here in an aquarium.

One of the most common fish diseases is dropsy, also known as bloat. If you recognize signs of dropsy in your fish, it’s important to quarantine the fish and immediately begin treatment. 

Bloat/dropsy in fish can be fatal when not treated as soon as possible, but with some care, your fish may be able to recover.

What is Dropsy?

Bloat, or dropsy, in fish is characterized by a swollen, sponge-like body, bulging eyes, loss of color, and protruding scales due to a buildup of fluid inside its body cavity or tissues. The bloating can be caused by a bacterial infection, parasitic infection, stress, or liver dysfunction.

If bloat in a fish is a bacterial infection, the name of the bacterium is Pseudomonas, of which there are nearly 200 species.

What Causes Dropsy in Fish?

Poor water quality is one of the top causes of dropsy in fish, which is why maintaining a proper water change schedule with RODI water is so important. RODI water allows you to start with a cleaner slate, so the water quality can be easier to maintain.

Other common causes of bloat in fish include:

  • Spikes in ammonia
  • Sudden changes in temperature
  • Prolonged, unusual stress levels that lead to infection
  • Overfeeding fish, leading to excess waste in the tank

Treating a Sick Fish

If you recognize signs of dropsy in a fish, move it to a quarantine tank, both to protect it and to keep other pets from getting sick.

Add one teaspoon of salt to the quarantine tank, which would act as an anti-inflammatory solution. Treat the fish with antibiotics while it is in the quarantine tank, and be sure to feed it with high-quality foods.

Preventing Bloat in Fish

Basic fish tank maintenance and fish care are the best ways to prevent dropsy. In addition to regular water changes and fish tank cleaning, dropsy prevention tips include:

  • Avoiding overcrowding in the tank
  • Not overfeeding fish
  • Offering a variety of fresh, nutritious foods

If you need assistance caring for a sick fish, contact us as soon as possible by calling 602-628-7270.

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