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FAQs on Freshwater Popeye, aka Exophthalmia, Other Eye Issues: Due to Infectious Disease

Related Articles: Environmental Disease, FW Disease Troubleshooting, Freshwater Diseases, Choose Your Weapon: Freshwater Fish Disease Treatment Options by Neale Monks,

FAQs on Eye Troubles: Causes/Etiologies: Trauma/Mechanical Injuries, Parasitic Involvements Suspected & Real, & Treatments/Cures, Case Histories, Related FAQs: Environmental Disease 1, Environmental Disease 2, Popeye/Exophthalmia, Nutritional Disease, Aquarium Maintenance, Establishing Nutrient Cycling, African Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease,

Bubble, white/fungussy (infectious) trouble

cloudy eye on angelfish 7/16/11
Hi Crew,
I have searched the site and found some information, but need more advice for this fish. This angel fish was given to me because it was being picked on in my friend's tank so it came to me with this cloudy eye. I think it got startled and scratched it's eye. The eye is not swollen but I am worried it will turn into pop-eye. I am not sure it I should isolate this fish to treat it.
<I would neither isolate, nor "treat">
All of my levels are with normal limits and all fo the other angels in the tank are fine and growing normally. Should I isolate this fish for the salt treatments?
<... no>
Will the salt mess up my water conditions?
Nitrites, nitrates, and ammonia are all at 0. My tap water is a little hard, but the fish are doing fine in it. I do 10% water changes 3 weeks out of the month and gravel vac once a month. I feed a mix of flake, crisps, blood worms and frozen brine shrimp. The tank is 75 gallon and there are 12 other angel fish in the tank. There are no sharp objects for the fish to hurt themselves on. There are plenty of fake tall plants for the fish to hide in. I see no aggression as of yet, but have a 29 gallon tank that I can set up if I have to separate any of the fish.
<All sounds good here>
Thanks for your help
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>
cloudy eye on angelfish 7/16/11
Sorry I forgot to attach the picture
<As you speculate, likely resultant from a mechanical injury. Will heal on its own, though this may take months. BobF>

Re: cloudy eye on angelfish 7/19/11
<2.1 meg pic...>
Mr. Bob,
We have a new development with the angelfish's eye. It is coming to a point and I am not sure why or what to do about it. I will send a picture with this email so you can see what I am talking about. Please advise.
Thanks for your help
<Same response. B>

Oscar with HUGE eye -- 7/7/10
Oscar With Popeye

Hello, Can you tell me what is wrong with my Oscar? It has a huge eye and swelling underneath the eye as well. Went to the LFS. One said search the web and the other has me currently treating the tank with Maracyn. Today is the 3rd day of treatment and it's looking bigger. All the water chemistry is fine. I don't know what else to do. Charlie
<There is an internal infection behind the eye ball. As the parasites multiply they displace the eye out of its socket. Place in a hospital tank with clean water and treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. The eye may be damaged beyond repair.-Chuck>

Cichlid help please
Cichlid With Eye Trouble 12/3/09

Hi, Today when I got home I noticed that one of my cichlids had a bubble in his eye (under the lens). It is perfectly clear and the eye itself is not bulging. Do you have any idea what is causing this or, more importantly, how to fix it? Thank you so much for your time.
Sabrina L.
<Almost every circumstance that involves a gas bubble usually is a symptom of some bacterial activity. The bacteria's metabolism can be treated with antibiotics, even under the lens. I would recommend using a Nitrofurazone type antibiotic in a hospital tank. Once the bacteria have been treated the gas bubble may be reabsorbed by the fish's system.-Chuck

Oscar With Eye Problems 7/3/09
I am writing in desperation for my 2 year old Oscar "Diesel". I awoke last Wednesday to find both his eyes covered in what appears to be fungus. I tested the water and the nitrate levels were 200ppm, all others normal, I did a 25% water change. Thursday, it spread to his fins, tail, and face. I did another water change, took out activated charcoal, added ammonia remover insert to filter, and treated with Pimafix, nitrate levels still 200ppm. By Sunday, fungus was no longer on his body but still on his eyes, nitrate levels still 200ppm. I did a water change, switched medication to API fungus cure and by Monday the majority of the fungus came off his eyes but now appears like his eyes are rotting. Wednesday did a water change and added activated charcoal, and still no improvement with eyes. Today, water is still green from medication, no improvement with eyes, the nitrate levels are still 200ppm. He hasn't eaten anything since last Wednesday, even if I try to hand feed him and his eyes look like their rotting. He doesn't appear blind and has been more active the last few days but I don't want to lose him. Please help!
**the first two pictures are from today and the second two are from last Thursday.
< The bacterial infections have taken their toll on your poor Oscar. It is difficult to cure infections with nitrate levels this high. I would recommend a 50% water change vacuum the gravel and clean the filters. The bacterial infections may have penetrated the lenses of the eyes and lifted them off. Treat with Nitrofuranace or Erythromycin as per the directions on the packages.-Chuck>

Oscar With Eye Problems II - 7/6/09
I really appreciate your help. I did as you said although it was difficult to get the medication, but I have noticed he now has a brown discolouration all on his underside, should I be treating for parasites as well?
< For now just go with the antibiotics. If you actually see parasites then they can be treated later with Fluke-Tabs.-Chuck>

Cichlid, pop-eye please assist 8/1/08 Hello, I have read through many of your postings but really feel I need guidance concerning my yellow cichlid. <Fire away!> I set up a freshwater 55gallon tank on July 4, 2008. I am new to cichlids, but I have been spending hours researching online about them. (And finding that I have done SO many things wrong, but 5 out of 6 cichlids are now currently very happy.) I have Mbuna cichlids. I realize I have done so much to my cichlids, but please help guide me to what I should do for my little yellow one. <Ah, the cichlids we call Mbuna run the range from relatively easy to keep, tolerant fish (such as Yellow Labs, Labidochromis caeruleus) through to extremely aggressive, potentially tankmate-killing monsters like Blue Zebras (Pseudotropheus zebra/Maylandia zebra). Contrary to what you might imagine because of their similar water chemistry requirements, you can't throw them all into the one tank and hope they'll get along. They won't. The aggressive, potentially hyperdominant (read: nasty) fish will systematically bully and potentially kill anything it doesn't like.> At first, I bought four 1" to 1 1/2" cichlids, but one wasn't eating or swimming and died within 72 hours. I took that cichlid back to the store, replaced it, and bought 4 more (for a total of 8.) I noticed my tank was starting to smell, so I did a 10 gallon water change which sadly killed 4. I bought 3 more and an algae eater (for a total of 7--I should have just left my tank alone and let it cycle.) <The algae-eating fish is redundant in the Mbuna tank. Mbuna eat algae, and without it won't do all that well. Mbuna are also super-sensitive to poor water quality. While not *quite* as sensitive as, say, marine fish, they aren't far off. You need nitrate levels 20 mg/l or less, and zero ammonia and nitrite. All this recommends against keeping anything as messy (and big) as Plec.> All of the fish were happy for a good week and a half. Then I noticed my little blue one had a white patch on his side, was not eating, and was isolating himself. I thought maybe his fin was torn off, but the next day I noticed it had gotten worse. I did not have a spare tank at that time and was worried that my other fish might have the same infection, so... <The white patch was very likely Finrot or Fungus, and this would be caused by either poor water quality and/or physical damage. Let's recap: clean water has no smell, or if it does, the water should smell sweet thanks to all the plant life. If the tank smells offensive in any way, that's a very bad thing. It usually means there's decay in the tank, e.g., from uneaten food. Mbuna absolutely must not be overfed, and their diet should be biased towards green foods rather than anything high protein. Feed sparingly, from a mixed menu, and not just pellets/flakes. I'd recommend greens (tinned peas, cooked spinach, Sushi Nori) along with whole (i.e., low protein, high fibre) invertebrates like bloodworms and brine shrimp. Now, you also have to have lots of filtration and generous water changes or the water conditions will be poor. I'd recommend a filter offering not less than 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So if you have a 55 gallon system (the minimum for Mbuna in all honesty) you'd get a filter with something over 330 gallons per hour turnover. External canister filters work great for this, but you can also use a undergravel with powerheads at each end of the tank. Read any book on Rift Valley cichlids for more on this topic. Water changes should be 25-50% per week. The more the better. Obviously the fish need hard, alkaline water, so understand water chemistry and manage this aspect accordingly. Again, a book on Malawi cichlids will help.> I treated the whole tank. With Melafix (which seemed to do no good, as I have seen you do not recommend it either) and Pimafix. <Both products may have value as preventatives, but aren't reliable as cures once the infection has set in.> I also treated the whole tank with Jungle Parasite Buddies because I saw the blue one had long stringy thin feces. Now my tank is a wreck. The other 6 were fine, but just stayed on one side of the tank. The blue cichlid got worse by the day and after 3-4 days(?)the fungus/bacteria (that I thought Pimafix would help) had eaten him. <At the moment you're wasting your money. In fish healthcare, just as with humans, you must identify the disease first, and then buy the treatment. You're randomly adding stuff here, hoping something will work. Slow down. It's better to work logically, step by step. So far all these symptoms are fairly generic, and tend to imply a reaction to poor water quality. Stringy faeces can be a symptom of poor diet, Hexamita, and many other things. So let's slow down and try and get to the bottom of things!> That same day my little yellow one started isolating itself on the other side of the tank where the blue one had been and would not eat. <He's being bullied. He has no place in this system.> Its mouth seemed to have white cottony fungus/bacteria on it. <Quite possibly Finrot, Mouth Fungus (actually a bacteria), or plain vanilla Fungus. All three follow on from physical damage. Think of them as the "gangrene" of the fish world. Easy enough to treat using products like Maracyn (in the US) or eSHa 2000 (in Europe). But treating them won't stop them coming back, so if this fish is bullied -- as it is -- and getting damaged, you'll cure one round of infection only to have to deal with again a few days or weeks later.> I quickly bought a 2 gallon tank with a filter, put the yellow cichlid into it, and treated the hospital tank with Jungle Buddy Fungus Clear and aquarium salt, and kept the temperature stable at 80. The next day, I noticed she was getting white cottony growth on her cheeks. <Needs treatment as stated above. Also note that "aquarium salt" is harmful to Mbuna, and known to cause something called Malawi Bloat. Again, any book on Mbuna will explain this.> By the 3rd day, the cottony growth on her cheeks was gone and her mouth looked very good. She was still not eating, and on the 4th day (yesterday) I noticed one of her eyes is bulging a bit (pop-eye, I assume.) I read that it could be from unclean water, trauma, bacteria, etc. <Pop-eye tends to work two ways. If only one eye is bulging, then physical trauma is the likely cause, with bacteria having set in secondarily. If both eyes are bulging, the infection is more likely to be systemic and caused by serious problems with water quality. Either way, treatment with an antibiotic (such as Maracyn) can help, but recovery is often very slow and depends on the fish otherwise being maintained in ideal conditions.> While all of this was going on with my yellow cichlid in her own tank, I have done plenty of water changes to the main tank, and they are SO happy. Nitrites and Nitrates are 0, ammonia is minimal, temperature stays at a constant 80F, ph is staying constant at 7.5 and very slowly raising to the appropriate ph level for cichlids thanks to Cichlid Salt and crushed coral in my 2 filters, and my very soft tap water is now hard and in cichlid range. <Understand this, there is no "minimal ammonia". All ammonia, any ammonia, is bad. Saying "minimal ammonia" is as meaningless as saying someone is "almost pregnant". So, here's at least one fundamental problem -- the ammonia. Mbuna have ZERO tolerance of ammonia, and long term it WILL cause harm. If you have ammonia in the aquarium, then one (or two, or three) of the following is true: [a] the tank is overstocked; [b] the tank is under-filtered; and [c] the tank is overfed. Pick and choose as seems appropriate, and act accordingly.> The Jungle Buddies Fungus/Bacteria medicine said to not retreat until after 4 days. Since it had been the 4th day, and I noticed the pop-eye and all cottony growth gone, I did a very slow and gradual water change in her tank (after checking the ph on both and they were almost identical) using the main tank's water to fill her tank. She seemed fine with the change and maybe a little happier too (aside from not eating and the pop-eye and being weak) so I put her into a small breeder tank inside the main tank while I rinsed her small tank with hot water, then cool water, and used the main tank water to refill it. <Cleaning the hospital tank is pointless if you're killing the filter bacteria as well. Be sure you understand what's going on here: hot water will kill filter bacteria, and the resulting ammonia crisis will stress/sicken any fish put in here.> I put the Jungle Buddies Fungus/Bacteria medicine back into the small tank and put her back in it last night (it says it treats pop-eye as well as fungus and bacteria.) <Oh good.> Her eye is still bulging. I do not see any cottony growth or abnormalities on her anywhere aside from the eye, no appetite, and weakness. (I can't tell if both eyes are bulging, but one is definitely larger than the other and I can see the skin(?) covering over it.) <This does happen with cichlids, and is usually a very good sign that not all is well in their tank.> I'm going to leave my main tank alone for good, but keep checking ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, ph. My question (after my long novel) is what should I do about my yellow cichlid? Should I leave her in the hospital tank with the Fungus Clear (that says it treats pop-eye) for the full 4 days? <Isolate from other fish, yes. Not sure 2 gallons of water is safe, but if that's all you have at the moment then so be it. Long term this fish needs to be re-homed.> Should I leave her in her own tank with just water from the main tank? Should I add some Epsom salt to her tank to help the swelling? <If you want.> I think my main concern is that she has not been eating for at least 5 days and is weak. <I'd be getting worried too. She won't eat if water quality is bad though, so check you have zero ammonia/nitrite first before you even think about offering food.> I am glad that all of the cottony white is gone and her mouth and cheeks look clear. <Good.> Thank you so much. <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Fire eel with pop eye and cloudy eye -- 10/30/2007 Hello All- <Emily.> I am so glad I have found WWM! I happened to stumble upon your page while doing research for my sick Eel. I'll try and keep this short. For the last 3 weeks my fire eel has had cloudy bulgy eyes. (almost looks like he's wearing goggles) Is this pop eye? <Yes sounds like a bacterial infection of the eye.> His appetite is a little decreased but he is still nibbling at his blood worms each day (not as much so in the last 2 days). He has also gone pale in color over the last week. I really don't want to loose him, I'm a novice fish owner! He's in a 75 gallon tank and I've had him for about 6 months. He has lots of hiding places and none of the other fish bother him. Last week I started treating him with Ampicillin <...is for gram negative bacteria.> every other day for 5 days since Erythromycin <...is for gram positive bacteria.> and tetracycline <...treats gram negative as well negative bacteria of some types.> has not helped. I have also done two 50% water changes within the last week. His color has improved a little but his eyes are still very cloudy. He just lays on his side hiding in his cave all day. He has always been a pretty mellow eel. I had my water tested at a local fish store and everything seemed fine. <Numbers would help, especially hardness and nitrates.> What should I be doing for my eel? <Although fire eels most commonly occur in soft water habitats like some streams, swamps and even flooded rice fields and only rarely are found near estuaries, they may do much better in hard to slightly brackish water in captivity. The exact reasons therefore are unknown and may be related to some interaction of ions (hardness, salinity, carbonate hardness) and the accumulation of possibly toxic compounds in the tank water (e.g. nitrates), that, due to dilution, does not occur in nature to such extent. Although adding salt to the standard fish tank can well be considered an antique technique from times when the need for partial water changes was unknown, I'd suggest to increase the salinity of the water to reach a specific gravity of 1.002 (roughly 3-4 grams marine salt from the pet store per litre). That should improve the constitution of the fish and won't kill your filter bacteria. In addition I'd try to improve the diet by offering a variety of foods, because if he only ate bloodworms, he may also suffer from a lack of vitamins. Try earth worms, little shrimps and also soak the blood worms in vitamins from time to time prior to feeding. You have already used a lot of antibiotics, so I'd get a test kit and check if nitrites are 0 all the time. Nitrates should be below 20 ppm for good healing conditions. If another antibiotic has to be used (I hope not), try Maracyn.> Thank you and warm regards! -- Emily <Also have a look at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/matacembelids.htm and the linked files above. Hope that helps and your eel gets well again. Marco.>

Popeye 12/12/06 Hello Crew, <<Hello, Geezer. Tom here.>> I just noticed my female swordtail's left eye is almost "popping" out of her head. What could cause this? <<Bacterial infection, typically, but there are a number of others'¦>> There are no noticeable sharp edges on any of the rocks that are in the aquarium... could her male partner have hurt her? They chase each other quite a bit. <<A possibility but the 'bulging' is more likely the result of infection than due to the possible trauma (injury). Though they 'chase' one another, it's not likely, as it would be in other cases of more aggressive fish, that the eye was an actual target of attack. Does happen unfortunately, though.>> What could I do to cure her problem? Her right eye is fine. <<Isolate her, if possible, and treat with Furanace or Kanamycin. Please understand that this 'assumes' a bacterial infection. 'Popeye' falls into one of those very 'gray' areas that's very difficult to pinpoint in terms of the root problem. In human terms, it's the equivalent of trying to treat someone because he/she sneezed. We start with a 'premise' and go from there.>> Thanks! <<You're welcome and, I hope this helps. Tom>>

Community Tank With Bloat/Pop-Eye Issues 5/27/06 Hi there, You guys have been an awesome resource! And, it's time for another question from me. I have a 35g that's been set up since February with a Penguin 300 bio filter. I have 1 White Tetra, 2 Pristella Tetras, 10 Harlequin Rasboras, 10 Neon Tetras, 3 Black Mollies (1M,2F), 3 Platies (1M,2F), 1 Pleco and 1 Gold Snail. I do water changes every 2nd week of about 25-30%, but my last couple changes have been closer to 50% to try and combat my problem. Ammonia is 0, Nitrites are 0. I don't know the pH or Nitrates (no test kits yet...just ordered them). 1 female platy seems to have dropsy or some type of bacterial infection. Her scales are sticking out a bit on one side, she doesn't seem to "poop" often, and I can see a white spot at her vent (constipated?). 1 female molly appears to have the same condition, but has a much larger belly. 1 Rasbora has a little (white?) bump on his bottom lip and has been this way since Feb. 1 Rasbora has a slightly bulging right eye. With these different conditions, I don't know how I should treat the tank. Any ideas/suggestions are welcome! Please help a novice trying to get this right. Thanks. Donna < Sounds like bloat on the livebearers and pop-eye on the Rasboras. The white lower lip thing is probably a benign growth. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. As few ways to go here. The bloat/pop-eye may be caused by the same organism. If it is bacterial then it may respond to a double dose of Nitrofuranace. This will affect the biological filtration and you may need to get it restarted. If it is a protozoan infection then either Clout or Metronidazole may work. The trouble with small fish like this is you probably only get one guess. If you guess wrong the fish is rarely around long enough for a second try. If it was me I would place the infected fish in a hospital tank and treat them with he double dose of Nitrofurazone and with the Metronidazole. Add a teaspoon of salt per 5 gallons to help get the medication into the fish.-Chuck>

Popeye--differentiating injury from bacteria Hi Bob, <Hello Angela> You've given people lots of great advice and I think it's fantastic stuff. I've read through your FAQ's but am having a problem identifying the cause of my fish's pop-eye. <Ahh!> I have two fish (unidentified... my dad bought it) in a new 29 gallon tank. It has only been cycling for 8 days now. Ammonia is at 0, Nitrite at 0.25 ppm, and Nitrate at 5 ppm. pH is at 7.8 - 8.0 and temperature at 79 Fahrenheit. <Okay... would have been better to not have the fish in a cycling system...> One of the fish developed pop-eye slowly. The pop-eye is only on one eye, not both. I read in the FAQs that it's most likely injury related then. <Yes> However, the fish is not eating. Furthermore, it's developed cottonmouth. My sister says a black spot developed in her abdomen. I am worrying it is bacteria related, although it is only one eye that developed pop-eye. Furthermore, her buddy is doing well. He eats all the time and loves to swim around...so I am hoping it's an isolated injury. <Me too> I am not medicating right now, but have added some bio-support to boost the filter's bacteria to improve water quality. I also added some Aquarium Pharmaceutical's Melafix to the tank as well. The next day, she was doing much better. But by nightfall, she resorted to hiding behind a rock again. <I would discontinue, not use the "Fix"... it may forestall or eliminate your nitrifying bacteria... perhaps the root cause, but definitely a contributing factor here (the lack of biological filtration)... and perhaps add a bit of salt...> Can you please help me identify if the pop-eye is injury or bacteria related? And what steps should I take to curing it? <Can't tell the cause here... very likely environmental primarily, bacterial perhaps secondarily... to cure? A bit of Epsom is all I would try> I've read that pop-eye is not contagious, <Depending on its cause/s> but if it is caused by bacteria infection, then what can I do to improve the water quality to prevent other fish from becoming sick? Please help as she hasn't eaten for days! Thanks so much, Angela <You can do what you can to "speed up" the establishment of nitrification. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and NOT do things that will cause more trouble... like adding "medicines", "herbal remedies"... DO feed sparingly, and NOT add more livestock... Do please learn what types of fish/es you have... as they have different needs, tolerances... Bob Fenner>

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