Dropsy disease

Dropsy disease


By Jim E. Quarles

Is the cause of this disease viral infection, or bacterial in nature? Also nutritional and or metabolic function can be involved, but are they? This is one of the most frightening diseases the hobbyist is likely to see. It is unsightly and nasty looking when the fish is in the final stages before death. Actually there remains a good deal that is unknown about this condition. Exactly why and when it occurs opens questions that so far have not been completely answered.

Symptoms Dropsy

Photograph by Tetra Publications

Sometimes this disease comes out of the blue without warning, or any other sign of problems in your fish. Sometimes fish in poor condition develop it, other times fish in a seemingly healthy condition will develop it.

The build up of fluid in the body is noticed, the scales become raised and develop a saw like appearance, the eyes swell and it looks like the onset of popeye or a combination of both dropsy and popeye.( In fact is my personal belief that both diseases are common one to the other, they just appear with different symptom under different conditions and fish).


Since so little is known as to the exact causes of this condition, precise treatment is difficult to prescribe. So I will simply state the way I would handle fish in such conditions. I believe the infection is contagious, I would remove affected individuals to a separate treatment tank. I would make sure they have the best possible water conditions with pure clean frequently changed water. I would start them on a diet of high protein food that has been sublimated with vitamins.

I would wait to see if the condition improves with just those measures. If they do not then the use of a broad-spectrum antibiotic drug might be tried, such as (Gentamycin).

If this does not have the desired effect the fish should be killed. Care must be taken to avoid transfer of this disease to a healthy tank though nets, hoses, or other tools commonly used in the fish room.


Keeping your water and tank conditions super clean and the removal of un-eaten food along with a high protein diet fortified with vitamins, will go a long way towards preventing these kinds of disease factors. A dirty tank is a sick tank. Poorly fed fish are diseased fish waiting to die.

One other note, please do not flush sick fish down the john, it only spreads the disease germs, burning is best, if possible.

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