Fish Illnesses

by | General Pet Care |

We have had fish for quite some time, since my stepson was young in fact. My husband was beaming when he introduced us to the newest additions to our family, two small goldfish and their shiny new tank. I am confident that at least one goldfish was named “Nemo” after the popular Disney movie, however the rest have had names like “Goldie” or “Fishy”.  (We let the little guy do the naming!) As many things seem to in households, the upkeep of the fish and their tank fell to me.

Over time, as the fish would grow older and eventually swim their way to fish heaven, we would replace them with new ones. Rather, – I – would replace them with new ones. I enjoy seeing their little shimmery bodies sparkle in the mornings, or even on a rainy day.

I thought I could handle the cycle of fish “coming and going” until I purchased a hefty little goldfish. I cannot recall his breed of fish, but he was substantially bigger than the other goldfish we have had. He continued to grow, and now it is three years later and the Fish-With-No-Name is now going on four years old and still going strong. There have been quite a few times over the last few years when I thought he was a goner, but somehow he hangs in here and torments the new and smaller fish in his tank, when he’s not busy eating all their goldfish flakes.

Recently, he was under the weather (or I perceived him to be) because he would not swim up to steal all the goldfish flakes first, nor would he swim over to me when I go say hello by his tank. Oh yes, and he did the standard “fairwell, cruel world float” that goldfish seem to do in their final days.

Obviously concerned about my big old guy, I realized I could not take him to the vet, and the typical cure for a sick goldfish seems to be a trip to the bathroom instead. Not willing to part with him, I turned to trusty “Google” and searched for what his ailment could be.

It turns out goldfish have more diseases then a fast-food restaurant has calories! There were virtually hundreds of symptoms and potential diseases that goldfish can have. I decided to run through the list and rule out some of the more obvious ailments that left me scratching my head:

•    Goldfish is unconscious
•    Goldfish is motionless and floating at the top of the tank
•    Goldfish is flashing or rubbing
•    Goldfish prefers isolation
•    Goldfish is swimming somersaults or upside-down

…with this one being a particular favorite:

•    Goldfish has hole in head

Now I’m not a veterinarian, and my fish knowledge is limited, however I am fairly sure that if my goldfish has a hole in his head, I will not be looking for solutions but rather the nearest toilet.  As for how people can tell that their goldfish is unconscious or that he would prefer isolation is beyond me. Also, if your goldfish is motionless and floating at the top of the tank well then you’ve probably waited a bit too long to seek medical assistance.

Additional advice included doing a physical exam on your fish. Again, not being a veterinarian, I did not feel qualified in examining my fish and then “treating” anything!

I did however, follow the advice of freshening the water and raising the water temperature slightly. I also learned that many amateur fish owners (like myself) make the mistake of adding medication to their fish’s tank, which actually kills the helpful bacteria in the tank and may actually make the fish worse. Most fish respond well to water changes and medication is not needed.

Goldfish Emergency was a good site that illustrates a variety of common fish problems, and how to solve them. For more valuable fish or for the avid fish collector, it is possible to find a veterinarian that specializes in aquatic animals such as fish however the cost may be prohibitive for the average goldfish owner.

I was relieved to see that Fish-With-No-Name is doing much better, and now I feel better prepared to handle any fish illnesses that may come our way.

(And as a final note, there IS a disease actually called “Hole in the head” disease!)