Dropsy Disease

Diseases come in all shapes and sizes.

Some are deadly, some are harmful but not deadly, and there are those diseases that cause your fish body to bloat like a balloon until they look like something out of a horror movie.

One such disease is called Dropsy.

Let’s take a closer look at what this disease is and how it affects your beloved fish.

What Is Dropsy?

Although the word “dropsy” is rarely used in human medical science these days, it is still employed to characterize a fish health issue.

The name “dropsy” comes from the Latin term for “heavy swelling,” which was applied to fish with severely bloated bellies.

Fish dropsy is a collection of symptoms brought on by bacterial infections that are typical in all aquariums.

As a result, any fish may be exposed to the bacterial infection that causes dropsy, but it is extremely rare for healthy fish to succumb.

Fish are only susceptible to it when their immune system is weakened by another stress.

When all of the fish in the tank are under stress, it’s quite likely for the entire tank to get infected; however, it’s also conceivable that only one or two fish become ill, especially if prompt action is taken to stop the bacteria from spreading.

What Are the Symptoms of Dropsy?

Because this illness is long-term and progressive, identifying it is difficult.

However, there are a variety of physical and behavioral symptoms that can be observed in a fish that has dropsy:

a. Physical Signs

  • Grossly swollen belly
  • The body has scales protruding from it, giving it the appearance of a pinecone.
  • Eyes that bulge
  • The gills fade in color, becoming pale or whitish
  • The anus becomes red and swollen
  • Feces are stringy and white
  • Fins clamped together
  • Redness of the skin or fins

b. Behavioral Signs

  • General lethargy
  • Refusal to eat
  • Swimming near the surface

Causes of Dropsy

The Aeromonas bacteria, one of the many gram-negative microorganisms that may be found in most aquariums, are usually responsible for dropsy.

Gram-negative bacteria are those that do not take on any of the stains utilized in the Gram Stain test for determining bacterial species.

This bacteria enters the fish through the gills, skin, or digestive tract and multiplies rapidly, causing tissue damage as it moves through the body.

This might be caused by several factors, including:

  1. Poor water quality
  2. Ammonia or nitrite spikes appear in the water
  3. A substantial drop in water temperature
  4. Stress from transportation
  5. Unbalanced nutrition
  6. Overly aggressive tankmates
  7. Other health issues

Note: a single or brief exposure to stress has little impact on a fish’s ability to fight infection.

In most cases, stress must be present for a length of time, or several stressors must happen simultaneously before the fish’s immune system is affected.

Can You Treat Fish Dropsy?

The most critical concern you should have about dropsy is whether or not it’s reversible. Unfortunately, the answer is two-sided:

Yes, you can cure dropsy. However, you must first identify the condition in its early phases. If you don’t, there’s little hope of treating it successfully

Dropsy, on the other hand, cannot be treated if you only notice it when it’s too late.

How to Treat Your Fish from Dorpsy

Dropsy is a difficult disease to cure.

According to some experts, all affected fish should be killed to prevent the infection from spreading to healthy ones.

However, if the disease is discovered promptly and the fish are quarantined for adequate therapy, many of the afflicted fish may be saved.

Here are the basic steps you’ll need to take:

Place the Sick Fish in a Hospital Tank

It’s critical to move any sick fish out of the tank so that they don’t mix with the remaining healthy ones.

While the sick fish are isolated, perform a water change on the original tank and watch the other fish closely for symptoms.

To the Hospital Tank, Add 1 Teaspoon of Salt per Gallon of Water

Add salt to the hospital tank, in the quantity of

Low levels of salt in the water assist with fish osmoregulation by bringing the salinity of the water closer to that of the fish’s blood.

Excess fluid accumulates in the fish’s body, causing dropsy, and adding salt help it gets rid of it.

However, don’t use too much salt since it is bad for freshwater fish.

We recommend adding 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.

Feed the Fish Nutritious, Living Foods

Since the fish’s immune system is likely weakened, it’s important to only give them nutritious foods.

Live foods are best because they contain more nutrients than processed foods.

There are also some good options including brine shrimp, bloodworms, and tubifex worms.

Treat the Fish with Antibiotics

The easiest and simplest approach to cure dropsy in fish is to use an antibacterial treatment in your aquarium.

We recommend using the API Melafix, it is an all-natural antibacterial remedy made from the extracts of the Australian tea tree.

You can also use other antibiotic treatments as well, such as ampicillin, erythromycin, or tetracycline.

Daily, Check the Water in the Hospital Tank to Ensure It is Suitable for the Fish

While the fish are in the hospital tank, it’s important to monitor the water closely to make sure it stays clean and of good quality.

Perform a partial water change every day, using fresh, dechlorinated water.

Also, be sure to remove any uneaten food from the tank so that it doesn’t contaminate the water.

Types of Fish That Can Be Affected With Dropsy

Dropsy can affect any type of fish, but some are more susceptible than others. 

For example, goldfish are particularly prone to the disease because of their poor immune system.

Other common victims include:

  • Betta
  • Goldfish
  • Danio fish
  • Koi fish
  • Black molly
  • Cichlids (including flowerhorn, discus fish)
  • Angelfish
  • Guppy
  • Arowana
  • Gourami

How to Prevent Dropsy

While you can’t always prevent dropsy in your fish, there are some things you can do to minimize the chances of it happening

  • Check the water in your aquarium regularly to make sure it is suitable for your fish.
  • Regular water changes are a good idea.
  • To avoid algae bloom, keep the tank’s water clean.
  • Clean the filter regularly.
  • Use a gravel vacuum to clean the bottom of the tank.
  • Avoid overcrowding.
  • Do not feed your fish too much.
  • Vary the diet of your fish.


Is Dropsy Painful for Fish?

Dropsy, in most situations, is very uncomfortable for your fish.

Having a curved spine and a large protruding belly might be quite uncomfortable.

The internal organs are shifted away from their natural position, making your fish unhappy during this time.

Is Dropsy Contagious to Other Fish?

You probably know that dropsy is transmissible to other tankmates.

After all, that is the entire idea behind separating sick fish to a quarantine aquarium in the first place.

Since the illness is caused by a microbe, any other fish in the tank can become sick.

Should You Euthanize Fish with Dropsy?

No, you shouldn’t. If you detect the illness in its early stages, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to cure it.

Make every effort to assist your fish recover from their current condition.

However, if your fish has all of the symptoms we described above, there’s little hope for you to cure them effectively.

In this scenario, putting such a fish down is the best option.

Even if they are already sick, it is still possible that they may be in great agony, and euthanizing them might be the greatest option.

However, this is a decision you must make in the end.

Is Fish Dropsy Contagious to Humans?

Dropsy is not contagious to people.

There have been no reports of dropsy transmission or infections in people, as far as we know.

This is since the pathogens involved in this illness are typically found in the tank water context only.

So, there’s no need to worry about getting this illness from your fish.

Last Words

If you follow the guidelines we’ve given in this article, your fish have a good chance of recovering from their illness.

Remember to be vigilant and keep a close eye on them so you can take corrective action if they start to show any new symptoms.

Also, keep in mind that if your fish are suffering and there is no prospect for recovery, it’s critical to euthanize them.

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of dropsy and how you can deal with it if your fish should ever become ill.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below.