By Jim E. Quarles

Popeye also known as exophthalmial. This condition is caused by a wide range of factors including, bacterial infections, parasite infestations, poor water quality, and internal metabolic system disorders.


One or both eyes protrude form the head in an unusual shape. I refer to fish other than gold fish some of which have been bred for this appearance. The eye lens can be cloudy white looking as well. In some cases the eye will look normal it just protrudes too much, also a white ring is sometimes noticed that circles the eye where it meets the head but the eye other wise looks ok.


The disease usually only affects one or two fish in an aquarium, and is rarely markedly infectious however, that being said, prevention is the best part of treatment. I would move any affected fish to its own treatment tank. ( why take chances ).

Sometimes the condition will persist for a short time and then may disappear without treatment other than good clean water. It is very rare that a fish will die as a direct result of this disease. If uniform numbers of fish in a tank become infected then you can suspect water quality has been poor and or an infectious agent is present. Below is an Oscar with popeye showing the white ring around the eye juncture with the head. Also you will note the eye is clear other than the pin point of light in the center, which is just a reflection of the flash taking the photo.

Popeye can be caused by a Build up of fluid in or behind the eyes or by the presence of bacteria and parasitic eye flukes. The Oscar has a T.B. infection behind its eye caused by eating gold fish infected with it. popeye3.jpg (1840 bytes)

Photographs by Tetra Publications. To which I extend my thanks.


Treatment with a broad spectrum antibiotic injection is the preferred method, if the problem is of a bacterial nature. There is not much other than this treatment that offers much hope for improvement. I suggest the fish be isolated and given extra clean water and a varied diet. Should the fish show no improvement and the fish shows any sign of distress, destroy them painlessly and consider it a kindness.

Medicated food could be tried, but no studies have been done to show the effectiveness of any of the methods listed. My personal feeling is that due to the possible spread to other fish I destroy the fish as soon as the condition is noted.

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