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FAQs on Freshwater Popeye, aka Exophthalmia, Other Eye Issues: Treatments, Cures 

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

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

Depends on cause of course, but often "good conditions" and nutrition effect a cure. Other times, antibiotics, even anti protozoals and anthelminthics (if these organisms are involved) are efficacious


Question re meds, plants, and cardinal tetras     11/12/12
Hi all.  In further researching PopEye on your website, I see that typically when it's unilateral it's caused by mechanical injury.
<Yes, typically, but by no means always.>
I did check my water parameters and to my surprise they were good!  0 nitrites, nitrates were around 15, no ammonia.  I did do a 50% water change and added 1tsp per 5 gal of Epsom salt into my 20 gallon tank and I'll hope for the best.
<I'd also add some sort of antibacterial. Here in England, eSHa 2000 seems to work well. Elsewhere, you might find a medication your retailer recommends for these sorts of injuries.>
How long before I see an improvement or consider starting antibiotic treatment?
<I'd start with antibiotics from the beginning. As for time, there's no knowing. Things can begin to improve noticeably in as little as a week.>
I'm wondering what if any effect the salt will have on my plants and Cardinal Tetras?
<Epsom salt shouldn't harm either if used as directed, but ideally treat, medicate injured fish in a hospital tank. This isn't always an option with schooling fish though. In any case, if the fish show signs of distress, do a water change, replacing 25% of the water in the aquarium and see if that helps.>
How can I introduce plants with confidence and not introduce a pathogen into my tank?
<You can't. In theory, any damp object can carry parasites and pathogens.
In practise, diseases normally get into aquaria two ways: most commonly via newly bought fish, and less often through live food (brine shrimps and daphnia are safe, but some, particularly Tubifex worms and feeder fish) carry significant risk.>
Is running them under tap or some kind of dip recommended?
<Not really.>
<Cheers, Neale.> 

Help with Popeye in freshwater angelfish - 5/9/2012
WWM: Andrew
In December I had two angelfish with PopEye symptoms (in both eyes), brought on by water quality issues which occurred while I was out of town. After a few days both fish quit eating, and I moved them into a quarantine tank and gave them an antibacterial treatment, which seemed to work since a few days later their energy levels and appetites improved significantly. After a couple of weeks their eyes were still enlarged but I assumed this was permanent damage and the infection had gone away since the fish were now behaving normally, so I released them back into the main tank. Unfortunately, their condition rapidly deteriorated and they both died within days. A few weeks later, I lost another angelfish who had not exhibited any symptoms whatsoever. Then, a few weeks later, another angelfish died in similarly mysterious fashion. Then, one of my clown loaches got PopEye (in both eyes). I decided not to quarantine him out of a worry that he would get more stressed by being isolated from the other loaches and was still behaving normally, eating well, etc. A week later his energy level dropped precipitously and I also lost him.
WWM: Mmm, a good accounting of observations
Then, three weeks ago another angelfish started displaying mild PopEye symptoms, and I immediately quarantined him and started treating him with the same antibacterial medication as the first two fishes. He's in stable condition but isn't showing any signs that his condition is getting any better or worse. He's eating well and not showing any signs of stress. The remaining fish in my main tank also seem to all be doing fine. Not sure what to do at this point. I read in your FAQ that Epsom salt could help, but given that this really seems to be caused by an infection
WWM: Agreed; and difficult to treat in most cases... as you state, typically these exophthalmias are long term, perhaps permanent
and not by trauma I'm wondering if there are some other measures I should take. Also, how would I know when it is safe to move the quarantined fish back to the main tank? I don't want to risk spreading whatever is causing this to more fish in the main tank.
WWM: There are other antibiotics, antimicrobials that folks (anecdotally) report as efficacious... Chloramphenicol is a fave if you can acquire it... added to foods...
One complicating factor is that I live in China, and fish medicine isn't very advanced beyond offering various "cure-all" potions that I'd never risk giving to my fish. I've found a way to buy tetracycline and erythromycin locally but I don't know how to properly dose this for fish to consume.
WWM: TC HCl is relatively safe... best to mix dried foods (pellets, flakes...) in with any given measure (a 250 mg. capsule contents); shake in a bag, serve, store in a fridge twixt uses. Bob Fenner

Problems with Goldfish (RMF, does Pop-eye ever get better?)   3/11/10<<Oh yes, there are many cases of complete remission. Just try Epsom Salt and better water quality here>>
HI I have been chatting with you off and on about a goldfish I have with Popeye, it seems to be getting bigger, he still eats good etc. Will it burst?
<Yes, and then fall off, leaving a hole in the side of the head. More often than not, the fish survives (which tells you something about how tough fish are) but there's the potential for secondary infections, septicaemia, etc.>
Is there a medicated food I could give him to cure this or any suggestions on how to help it to improve, He has had it now for about 2 months?
<Pop-eye is exceedingly difficult to cure once established. I have never seen any fish recover from it without first losing that eye. I'm asking Bob here if he's seen fish recover; he may well have done. One difference I should mention is that here in the UK antibiotics are prescription-only medications, so unless you go to a vet, you won't be able to (legally) use them in your fish tank. Trips to the vet are time consuming and expensive, and so when people here in the UK have fish with Pop-eye, they usually don't use antibiotics, and the eye has little chance of recovery. If your fish hasn't shown any signs of recovery even after 2 months of antibiotic treatment, and with optimised water quality and a good diet, I'd have to say a trip to the vet is really the only logical way forward if you want the eye to recover. Antibiotics sold in pet stores in the US are a bit hit-and-miss, and vets I've spoken with consider them largely useless because so much depends on the body mass of the fish when it comes to dosing antibiotics, something aquarists rarely think about. So aquarists typically provide too little of the antibiotic for medium to large fish, and unless you add enough antibiotic, it'll never effect a cure. A vet will be able to weight the fish (or at least hazard a reasonably guess) and from there draw up a sensible prescription. You may well carry on using the store-bought Erythromycin or whatever, but at least you'll be adding just the right amount to the water. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Problems with Goldfish (RMF, advice on finding fish vets in the US)   3/11/10
<<Ask the local veterinarians re... and if there's a regional/County Veterinary Association or such... Also inquire at colleges w/ life science departments, fish and game State civil servants>>
I have never heard of a fish vet around here?
<It's just a regular vet. Here in England at least, many will have at least one surgeon on the staff who handles goldfish and Koi carp. Again, I have to ask Bob here what the best listing site or trade body is in the US for finding a "fish vet" near you. They are certainly out there; local or national Koi clubs would be one place to start, since Koi keepers are the prime market for fish vets.>
If there is one it is probably 8 or better hours from me!! Do they usually die once they get Popeye?
<No, not in my experience. Usually just the eye falls out. I have one female Ameca splendens with a missing eye following Pop-eye about six months ago, as well as a Ctenolucius that lost one eye seemingly from a fight with another of its own kind while bagged and being carried home from the pet store. In either case, no long term health problems at all.>
I have tried some Maracyn 2 but certainly not enough I know as I really didn't want to use it so I just pour a few drops of powder in for a few days, I have something called triple sulfa and wondered what you might think of that, I did see online that medicated marigold fish food containing Kanacyn can be purchased, or another from jungle labs, it says it is broad spectrum food?
<The broad spectrum stuff is what I'd probably avoid. If this was me, and I had access to a range of antibiotics, I'd be working my way down the list of likelihoods, in each case choosing an effective, if narrow spectrum, antibiotic. The thing with broad spectrum medications is they tend to be "jack of all trades, master of none" products that sound good but often turn out to be unreliable. Instead, try a gram-positive antibiotic first.
If that doesn't work, a gram-negative. Use antibiotic foods if you can, as these deliver much better dosages than anything added to the water. Cheers, Neale.> 

Re: Problems with Goldfish (RMF, advice on finding fish vets in the US)   3/11/10
Okay, Then Do I just keep water clean and wait till eye falls out> It sounds more as if your saying not to try to medicate as this is not fixable until eye falls out? Is this what I do then , just wait? I got a bit confused as you said one of yours had this problem and it is okay, what did you do?
<... Please read here re the use of Epsom:
and the linked Related FAQs file above, and here:
re eye complaints of FW fishes. Bob Fenner>
Re: Problems with Goldfish (RMF, advice on finding fish vets in the US)
Okay, Then Do I just keep water clean and wait till eye falls out> It sounds more as if your saying not to try to medicate as this is not fixable until eye falls out? Is this what I do then , just wait? I got a bit confused as you said one of yours had this problem and it is okay, what did you do?
<Keep reading. BobF>
Re: Problems with Goldfish
I am sorry I am confused, if this cannot be fixed should I try antibiotic food or just wait till eye falls out?
<Bob seems to think that optimising water quality (which may including providing a bigger tank or better filter) and keeping up with the addition of Epsom salt in the water (at a dose of up to 3 teaspoons per 5 gallons) should help. I would further recommend an antibiotic formulated for use against internal and systemic infections (as opposed to one for external infections like Finrot). Nitrofurazone and Tetracycline appear to be the antibiotics usually recommended. Provide the antibiotic via food if at all possible, at the dose suggested on the packaging or by your vet.>
It just sounds like in most of the replies that in most cases the Popeye is not fixable once they get it?
<That has certainly been my experience, but thankfully I've only had two fish in 25 years that have had Pop-eye as a syndrome all by itself (as opposed to damage to the eyes via fighting, poor handling, etc). It isn't a common disease when fish are kept properly, which is why we keep stressing the need for clean water, adequate space, proper filtration, balanced diet, and so on. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Problems with Goldfish
Would this help along with some Epsom salt, I cant find any Nitrofuranizole??
<Try online; mail-order.>
Medi-Gold Ormetoprim, sulfadimethoxine, Kanamycin and oxolinic Acid AquaMeds USA medicated food
<Haven't come across these as recommendations, so they probably won't help.
Not all antibiotics are the same, whether you're treating fish or people.
In situations like this one, it's best to stick with what's known to work rather than trying to be imaginative! I'm not a vet, so I can't give you anything more than what I've learned from others or read in fish health books. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Problems with Goldfish
I am sorry to keep bothering you, However I only see that they have Maracyn 2 and Binox at my pet store with the two problems I will tell you will either of these work ,
<Not read/heard anything to suggest these will help against Pop-eye.>
I will keep trying to find Nitrofuranizole but wondered about these, I do have some triple sulfa here at home but haven't used any yet, need more advice before I start anything.
<As I said a day or two ago, there are two antibiotics that seem to work against Pop-eye, Nitrofurazone and tetracycline.>
I talked about the one fish I have in a tank with 3 others with the bulging eye, and in another tank I have one larger one with cloudy eye and now has 2 tiny red slightly raised red sots on the top of body near fin at top, I did bump him with a net a few days ago, don't know if that would have done it.
<Sounds like you have multiple fish exhibiting signs of opportunistic bacterial infection, i.e., Finrot or similar. Treat accordingly, but also find out why they're sick. Almost always, it's either poor water quality, the wrong water chemistry, or physical damage from careless handling.>
I changed water and added stress coat plus,
<Pretty useless stuff, really.>
(have never used the plus before,) could that have caused his red bump?
Thanks again for the help
<Cheers, Neale.>

Miracle Cure or Snake Oil? Mira/Mela-fix...   Eye maladies f' as well, FW   8/13/2009
Good day, I am a 2 month fish owner and I have a specific problem but also a more general question.
<Fire away.>
I have a 2 inch black moor and 2 inch fantail in a 20 gallon tank, and the black moor has pop-eye I can't seem to get rid of (good nitrate, nitrite, ammonia levels, Ph 7.5, 65 degree tank), and a day after adding a golden apple snail one of its popped eyes got cloudy (not sure if related to snail intro).
<Unlikely to be related to the snail. Pop-eye is typically associated with either water quality issues or physical damage, e.g., careless handling of the fish, or the use of coarse rather than soft netting. Do see here:
In terms of water quality, if you don't have 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite, then that's likely the problem right there. Your tank should be big enough for juvenile Goldfish, but I will make the observation that adult Goldfish need 30 gallons upwards.>
Being relatively new to this, I consulted several pet stores and online forums and some recommended salt, and some Mirafix.
<Do you mean Melafix?>
I have tried both, and this has not seemed to do much other than upset the snail who is now doing poorly, but has not helped the eye on the moor. I am wondering if the snail is more of an added stress on the tank than the helper I was led to believe he would be in cleaning the tank.
<Melafix shouldn't harm invertebrates, but then, there's little testing either way. Apple snails do poorly with Goldfish for a variety of reasons, and the most common is that the Goldfish peck at them, thinking their
tentacles are edible. Eventually, the Apple snail is so stressed and unable to feed normally it dies.>
I am concerned I am not doing the right treatment however, because it seems that for so many problems the answer I get is to do a salt bath and or use Mirafix, no matter what the problem is. It is like if I went to my doctor and he gave me the same pill to treat the 10 different things I had wrong with me. Are these really good products (especially for fresh water goldfish), or are these the equivalent of the pet store placebo that earns them a little money but does no harm (or help).
<We get a lot of messages from people who have used Melafix, but without any improvements. It is, at best, a mild antiseptic that may well help prevent secondary infections. But as a cure for established disease, it's so unreliable as to be worthless compared to the other products on the market.>
I am also confused, because some prefer sea salt and some prefer Epsom salt, but can not tell me why or what the difference is, and in any case it seems like a LOT of salt by dosage for a fresh water fish.
<Now, salt (sodium chloride) and Epsom salt (Magnesium sulphate) are different things and used for different diseases. Salt is used to combat certain external parasites, particularly whitespot; at the low doses
recommended for treatment, it is sufficient saline in the aquarium that the free-living stages of the parasite cannot survive. Salt can also be used to treat velvet, flukes and lice. Epsom salt is used sometimes as a laxative, a muscle relaxant, and to reduce swelling. It's usually used when fish are bloated or have pop-eye. So, you pick one or the other depending on the situation.>
Also, I see that the Mirafix is listed by the State of CA as a carcinogen.
Is this just the case if ingested, or if it comes in contact with skin? I am always bare handing it when it comes to the tank after washing my hands first, and my young daughter helps, so I don't want to take chances.
<Do you drive? You're more likely to die in a motor accident than to get cancer from a bottle of Melafix. It's tea-tree oil, and on the scale of things, pretty harmless. I mention the driving thing because humans are
just hopeless at measuring risk. People worry about trivial risks while happily eating meat rather than vegetables, skipping exercise, smoking, drinking liquor, and any number of things that clearly and obviously reduce health. We're a funny species.>
In short, are salt and/or Mirafix helpful for cloudy eye,
<Likely not.>
and in general how do you think they are most beneficial (as opposed to the pet stores who claim the salt will cure my baldness and the Mirafix will help my liver).
<As ever, for medical advice, consult your doctor. The best I can offer here is advice about your fish.>
Thank you, Tessy
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Miracle Cure or Snake Oil?  8/13/2009
Thank-you, this is helpful. A couple follow-ups if I may, because I feel like I am trapped in several catch-22s.
If the Popeye is caused by the water quality or stress, I seemed a little darned if do and darned if I don't in several cases. For example, you suggest Epsom salt (not the aquarium salt my pet guy recommended!) could help with pop eye, but the guy also said that the salt in general, and the Melafix could also kill the good bacteria in my filter (which will result in poor water).
<The pet shop guy is clearly ignorant. For a start, bacteria are obviously fine in marine tanks, so salt in itself clearly doesn't kill them. Yes, it's true you shouldn't make dramatic changes, but adding a small amount won't harm the bacteria at all. There's no such thing as "salt in general".
Potassium cyanide is a salt, but clearly deadly poisonous. Sodium chloride is another salt, but one we can safely eat each day. A salt is merely a kind of chemical; what matters is which salt, and how much. Sodium chloride in small amounts is a useful nutrient and enhances the taste of food; sodium chloride in massive amounts will kill you very quickly. Again, as I said, you use different chemicals depending on the situation. There's no reason at all you should be using sodium chloride. But magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt), at a dose of around 1 teaspoon per 5 to 10 gallons, will relieve swelling and bloating, and this may help, in conjunction with antibiotics, the Pop-eye you're dealing with.>
How do I use these products without having to recycle the tank?
<See above.>
How much will they increase my nitrates, or do I just do a lot of water changes at the same time, knowing I am getting rid of product I just paid to put into the tank?
<Why would magnesium sulphate increase nitrate? There's no nitrate in the chemical. Just do your usual water changes, adding the right amount of magnesium sulphate per bucket of water to replace what you've taken out. If you remove a 3 gallon bucket of old water from the aquarium, then make sure each 3 gallon bucket of new water you draw from the tap has about half a teaspoon of Epsom salt in it.>
Another one, the same guy who sold me the big filter said the stress of the Popeye may be caused by the current in the tank being too rapid for these little guys (2 inchers at most including tail, 20 gallon tank, mechanical filter is a Stage 3 size Fluval). Even when I have it on the lowest flow setting, and try to dig out a hollow in the gravel to settle in, they seem to find a hard time finding a spot to truly rest.
<Use a spray bar to spread out the water current. If necessary, angle the spray bar at the glass, so water pressure is diffused against the glass.>
My solution was to turn the filter off at night, to give them a true rest, but I was told this will kill all the good bacteria in the filter and send the nitrates through the roof.
<Turning the filter off at night is crazy. Yes, the bacteria will die.
Nitrate would be the least of your problems! Ammonia and nitrite will rapidly rise because the filter bacteria aren't getting a constant flow of water to clean.>
Is this true? I think the constant swimming is probably the most likely cause of stress for the pop eye.
Will putting the filter on the ground and shoot it straight up, as opposed to on the side and across the tank, be helpful?
<Can help, but a spray bar is better.>
Or can I just turn it off at night like I have been?
Based on what you wrote, I think maybe my netting caused one of his pop eyes to 'pop' or get abraded, making it cloudy (for three weeks now). I thought I had bough the best net they had at the store, but I could see how pop eyes are fragile things. Is there a specific super safe most gentle net you can recommend?
<The safest is a plastic carton, like an old ice cream carton. Use the net or your hands to drive the fish into the carton, and lift out. Otherwise, if you want a net, look for the finest ones you can buy, typically white nylon, rather than the coarser ones, often green nylon.>
One last newbie question, I do seem to have a testing quirk no one can answer. I sometimes have a situation with 0 ammonia, some nitrites (very low), but 0 nitrate (I laugh at this, because the strips have color ranges from say 0 to .125 to .25 to .50, etc., and most readings are never at exactly the exact color as pictured), but you have mentioned that ANY nitrite level is bad.
<Correct. My guess would be that the filter "dies back" at night, so you detect high levels of ammonia and nitrite, and then "recovers" somewhat during the day, and you detect lower levels of ammonia and nitrite.>
Well, I have never been able to get to total zero nitrite, it is always above a little light blue, but never gets truly purplish in any way, but my nitrates do appear to be true zero.
<Test kits can be faulty, and to be honest, I wouldn't worry about nitrate anyway. Nitrate is more of an issue with marines and certain freshwater fish like cichlids. Goldfish are largely indifferent to it. But ammonia and nitrite are issues.>
Some have said what I am saying is impossible, as you get nitrates from converting all the nitrites, and that they only convert back to nitrites when the nitrate level gets super high. Even my worst nitrate reading is still mostly yellow. So long story short, how can you still have any nitrite in your tank (long term) when you have no nitrates (long term).
<Nitrate can be consumed by things like plants, and anaerobic bacteria in a deep bed of gravel will also use some of it up. But as I say, I wouldn't worry too much.>
And if that is possible, but any level of nitrite is bad, how do I get rid of that nitrite if the normal cycling process does not seem to want to convert that list little bit?
<If you constantly detect trace levels of nitrite, it either means your filter is overwhelmed by the amount of fish being kept, or the fish are being overfed, or the filter hasn't cycled completely. All three could be issues in your case, so be open-minded. Review filter maintenance. In short, you don't need carbon in your type of tank, but you do need biological filtration. Make sure your filter contains lots of biological media (typically sponges and/or ceramic noodles). Wash the media once every 4-6 weeks in buckets of aquarium water, never under a hot tap. Never switch the filter off. Don't replace more than 50% of the biological media at any one time.>
Oh, and if the cloudy eye can not be helped by salt or Mirafix, what is the next attempt? Patience?
<No, use something like (in the US) Maracyn or (in the UK) eSHa 2000. Some medication designed for Finrot and bacterial infections. Don't expect a rapid recovery.>
Is cloudy eye painful, or does it really blind them?
<Painful? Difficult to say. Does it blind them? Yes, eventually. But the problem is that Pop-eye isn't a disease of the eye, but a sign fluid has built up behind the eyeball. This means there's a systemic bacterial infection. It's a step away from septicaemia, and yes, that kills pretty quickly.>
Or is it more a cosmetic thing that bothers us?
Thanks again
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Miracle Cure or Snake Oil?-- 08/14/09
Wow, amazingly helpful. The only comment for what it is worth is that the pet store guy said the salt would kill the fresh water "good" bacteria, and replace them with salt water "good" bacteria,
<This in only true if you raise the salinity above a certain point.
Freshwater contains 0 grammes/litre marine salt mix, whereas seawater contains 35 g/l marine salt mix. Freshwater bacteria are fine up to about 9 g/l. Since I'm suggesting you add much lower doses than that when treating whitespot (typically less than 3 g/l) and for Dropsy/Pop-eye you aren't using marine salt mix but Epsom salt, none of this matters.>
which helped tropical fish but not fresh water fish as much, particularly when Melafix is getting used at the same time as the salt.
<Melafix may work, but it just isn't reliable. If you have some, and the disease isn't life-threatening, then feel free to use it. But if you're shopping for a medication now, or your fish is clearly in distress (as is the case with Pop-eye) then you want to be using something much more reliable.>
At this point however I am more likely to trust your judgment on all this, this seems to be very good advice from your site overall, very helpful.
Not having to be anal about monitoring nitrate with goldfish saves me a lot of money alone!
Changing only one of the sponges in the filter at one time is also brilliant.
<Likely mentioned this in the instruction booklet that came with the filter, so can't really claim brilliance on this ones!>
Thanks again.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Rainbow shark with Popeye 7/25/09
Hi Crew,
8 days ago I noticed my rainbow shark swimming abnormally - hanging in one place rather than moving about the tank. On closer inspection I noticed that his left eye was popping, and that he had a small gash about 1cm behind the eye. I immediately removed him to a hospital tank in case the injury was caused by another fish, though I don't think anything in there would be likely to cause the damage.
<Just a physical trauma highly likely... Minnow sharks are very susceptible to jumping, damaging themselves. That the exophthalmia is unilateral/one-sided is strong evidence that the cause here is not biological>
I dosed the tank with Wunder Tonic
<... I would not do this... Not likely to help, and too likely to hurt... cause a check/loss of nitrification>
to prevent any fungal infection until I could get to the LFS the following day and get some furan 2, then removed the carbon, raised the temp in the tank, added an airstone, did a partial water change and dosed the furan 2 and aquarium salt.
<Nor this...>
Next thing I knew, poor Feargal Sharkey was swimming on his side at the top of the tank. He stayed there for a full day then when I awoke the next morning he was looking greatly improved. He was swimming normally, albeit at the bottom of the tank and acting far better, though the eye is another story.
The eye is obviously dead, and seems to be slowly working its way out of his body. It seems to be healing up behind itself and I was hoping it would work its way out and kind of fall off. The wound looks a little bigger and started to show a little red rather than being the white patch on his skin it was before.
I finished dosing him a full course of Furan 2 a couple of days ago, and when I got home tonight I checked him to find he looked different again.
The eye looks fungused and he seems to have developed a case of ich.
Having cleared the Furan 2 out of the tank already (via water changes and carbon), I decided to dose him with Wunder Tonic for the ich/fungus. An hour after I put the treatment in the tank, he was back to swimming on one side at the top of the tank!
I have no idea what to do now.
<I do... stop "treating" the system... and leave the temp. at what it usually is>
I did another partial water change have replaced the carbon in the filter to remove the Wunder tonic as fast as possible, but he's not looking good.
I am at a loss and would love any suggestions you have.
Thanks, Jenna
<... Where to direct you... Here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

sick Texas cichlid
Old Texas Cichlid With Eye Problems  7/22/09

Hi I'm from Australia an I have a very large 35cm Texas cichlid who has an eye disease. I have been treating with Flagyl a very strong human antibiotic [penicillin] for the past 5 days.
< This is actually treats Protozoans and not bacteria.> <<Mmmm; no... RMF>>
The eye is healing but there is a lot of fungus forming around the eye. Its a very thick fury fungus. He is still very active an swimming around but not eating. He is over 10 years old he is healing except for this thick
white fungus. His other eye is fine. I have sent some pics. Can you suggest anything that I could do as I don't want to put him to sleep... Thanks
regards Jess
<I think that your old Texas cichlid may be in trouble. The lack of appetite makes me think that he may have an internal infection as well. The Metronidazole will help. I would recommend a treatment of a combination of Metronidazole (Flagyl) and Nitrofuranace in a hospital tank. Do a 50% water change, clean the filters and vacuum the gravel. Use both medications on days 1,3 and 5. Do a 50% water change on days 2 ,4 and 6. Offer food on the 6th day and see if he will eat. The Nitro is an antibiotic that works well against fungus too.-Chuck>

Cloudy Eye ... Or?   5/1/09
Hi WWM team,
I have a question for you - I have 'inherited' a 250litre tank which houses African Cichlids, already in love with their antics, however straight after I got the tank (tank, filter, gravel etc had been running at my brother in laws place for a few months before I brought it off him) one of my Cichlids seemed to have developed
What I can guess at being cloudy eye.
Basically one eye appeared 'flat' and had a solid white 'pucker' mark over his eye, the other eye appeared to be the normal concave appearance (when viewed from the Front) but just clouded over - as a result I have been treating the tank with Melafix (which I have been told is a great idea anyway for when your essentially setting the tank Up for the first time)
The eye that had the normal appearance cleared up and he is now roaming the tank mostly happier (still doesn't come up to the top of the tank to feed though - but will eat if I get Food down to him), however after almost 2 weeks the 'flat' almost punctured looking eye is still clouded over (and well still flat).
Then this morning I woke up to find one of my other fish (different subspecies of Malawi Cichlids) to have the same appearance. Have I identified it being the wrong issue, is it something else?
I have been trying to take a photo - but both those fish appear shy.
Additionally in terms of aggression the first fish was never involved in any of the territory grabbing / random chasing that's going on in the tank.
I hope that its something that can be fixed and both can return to full vision.
<Hello Michael. When fish get Pop-eye on just one side, it's usually trauma, either fighting, or else damage caused by scratchy ornaments, careless netting, etc. In the case of Mbuna, fighting is a probable cause.
Now, I'm not a big fan of Melafix, largely because it doesn't work as advertised. It's more an antiseptic than a genuinely useful antibiotic. In any case, I'd be using 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt per US gallon (3.75 l) to
reduce the swelling, and after a couple of weeks, I'd add Maracyn as a more relevant antibiotic if things showed no signs of recovery. The bigger picture though is that 250 l (66 US gal.) is really not a lot of space for Mbuna, and some of the more aggressive species, such as Pseudotropheus zebra and Melanochromis auratus will simply own that tank, should they decide to. Cheers, Neale.>

Questions re cichlid pop eye and tank KH level Red Empress With Pop Eye 2/11/09 Dear Bob, < You have Chuck here this time.> I have read your cichlid disease FAQs through Google search and found they are very informative. But I could not find the answer for mine so I am thinking giving it a try by emailing you. Thank you very much in advance. I am a new cichlid lover. I have a red empress (female, 5'') whose right eye appears cloudy and protruding gradually for about one week now, and a red patch on the lower gill (same side). I checked on the internet and saw pop eyes' picture, looked very alike. Now I have put the fish in a 5 gal hospital tank. My questions are: 1) is the tank too small for her? < I usually recommend at least a 10 gallon hospital tank. Most medications have dosages in 10 gallon increments.> 2) I have bought antibacterial (API Melafix) and I also have amoxicillin (for human) at home. I was wondering which one I should use? I heard antibiotics works better, if so, what dosage should I use? < Melafix can be used as a tonic and has been found to be useful in some infections in wild Anabantoids. I would recommend getting some Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. The Metronidazole is effective against Protozoans while the Nitrofuranace is effective against bacterial infections as well as an antifungal treatment.> I tested my tank water (120gal), CH=180, KH=80, pH=7.0, Nitrite=0.2, nitrate=40, ammonia = 0. (My tap water has similar CH, KH and PH.) I have read from some websites that African cichlid need Alkaline water such as KH over 200, pH over 8.0. I was wondering if it is necessary to increase KH level artificially, if so, what product would your recommend? Can I use baking soda? Thank you very much Jessica < The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. This may be part of the problem. Do a 50% water change and treat as recommended. Your red empress is from Lake Malawi and the pH and hardness requirements are not as demanding as the Lake Tanganyikan cichlids. I would recommend a Lake Malawi buffer to slightly increase the pH and hardness. Make sure that you mix the buffer outside the tank and check it before placing it in the tank. I usually recommend adding the newly buffered water when doing small water changes.-Chuck>

Cloudy eye on fish 9/5/08
I have a large a (7 inches) gray/black catfish type thing and it started out 10 days ago with a cloudy eye. For the last 10 days I have been treating with Pimafix and now both eyes have gone cloudy and maybe a tiny tiny patch on his whisker.
<Pimafix/Melafix don't work reliably. That's why we don't recommend them. So, stop using them, and instead switch to a reliable combination Finrot/Fungus medication. In Europe I'd recommend eSHa 2000; in the US Maracyn is the drug of choice.>
Maybe I'm imagining that one. Anyway, both eyes are cloudy after 10 days on Pimafix so I put a dose of cooper safe in because I can't figure out what it is and nether can anyone else. SSSSSO, the ph is 7.0 and temperatures is around 72-74. What do you think?
<See above.>
<Treat with suitable medication, following instructions carefully, in particular remembering to remove carbon from the filter. Your fish should recover. Do also try and figure out the source of the infection. When both eyes turn cloudy, it's usually a water quality issue, so review ammonia/nitrite levels and act accordingly. Extremes of pH, or sudden changes in water chemistry, can cause problems too. Finrot/Fungus almost never "come out of nowhere". Cheers, Neale.>

Re: cloudy eye on fish  9/15/08
I have already done a round (5 days) of the Maracyn and I'm 3 days into a second round. My fishes eyes are a little better but nowhere near cleared up.
<Rinse and repeat, as they say in the shampoo manufacturing industry. Or put it this way, if things are getting better, albeit slowly, that's the direction you want. Complete a course of medication, do a big (50%) water change, and then repeat. Keep doing this until it's better.>
I was the problem to begin with by not cleaning the tank as frequently as I should.
<Ah, well, now you know.>
Should I try a different medication like tetracycline?
<Can't comment on this; haven't used either antibiotic myself. So would tend to recommend you stick with what's working. Fundamentally, eye infections are reactions against physical damage and/or marginal water quality. As the skin tissues heal, the eye will "get better". The job of the antibiotic is to prevent the infection getting deeper into the eye tissues (which would cause blindness) and to prevent any other infections from becoming established.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: cloudy eye on fish   9/16/08 Thanks, Now I need a valium since I have been a neglectful mother sniff sniff. <Oh?> I will continue to take care of my fish and thank you for all your help. One more thing. Food. I have been feeding lately with frozen cubes of bloodworms, brine shrimp etc.. muti pack. How often do I do this and do you have a better idea. <It's easier to overfeed than under-feed. I figure a single cube will be one meal for tanks in the 20-40 gallon range, and would tend to offer small meals this size maybe two or even three times per day depending on the number of fish and the size of the aquarium. Frozen food contains a lot of water, and is only about 5% protein; compare this with 30% or more protein in flake. Since protein is (ultimately) the stuff that makes ammonia, you're less likely to cause problems with frozen food than with flake food. In any event, the idea is to provide enough food the fish are obviously healthy, i.e., have gently rounded convex bellies. Overfeeding doesn't kill the fish by fattening them up to have coronary heart attacks, but by polluting the water; so provided ammonia and nitrite are zero, you're basically fine. Of course gross overfeeding can push the nitrates upwards, and that's bad for lots of reasons. But otherwise don't worry too much, and go by instinct.> I heard that if I feed with feeder fish, my smaller zebras will go missing and once they get the taste of live food that's all they will want. <Pretty much. You should never use live fish as food for any ornamental fish if at all possible. There are just to many costs/risks involved. Since catfish will eat just about anything, and in the wild even predatory catfish will be consuming stuff from fruit through to baby birds, coming up with a healthy diet for them isn't hard.> Lisa <Good luck, Neale.>

F. Betta with Popeye  11/5/07 Hi Everyone, <Elizabeth> My female Betta has Popeye and it seems as though she is now blind. I have her in quarantine and am treating her with Ampicillin GEL-TEK, following the bottle's instructions. She isn't eating (I think) and is losing her color. I know fish have a really good sense if smell but I put in a pellet and she swims right past it. She lays at the bottom of the tank, then jets up to get some air then settles back down. Three times I have seen her swimming like crazy in a circle (her quarantine bowl is round) then she stops and hangs out at the top. Are her eyes sensitive to light? <Perhaps> How can I treat her if she won't eat the gel? <Need to use something that can be applied to the water> I can't find Ampicillin in capsule form. <Is about... on the Net> And how is she still alive after 7 days of this? Her bowl is one gallon, heated with a heating pad to a perfect 76 degrees. <Is it filtered?> I have to come clean and say that even though her main tank (6 gals) is filtered, water changed and vacuumed, while I was recuperating after an accident, I didn't get to REALLY clean her tank they way I usually would as I had reconstructive shoulder surgery. I feel awful. Very awful thinking that I have caused her sickness. <Is possible> What is your suggestion? <I would return this fish to the six gallon... the better, more stable conditions are much more likely to bring about a cure than those presently. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Elizabeth

Re: F. Betta with Popeye  11/07/07 Hi Bob, <Elizabeth... would call you Liz if I knew you better...> Found capsule Ampicillin online, thank you. She will be returned to her big, heated, filtered tank ASAP. Thank you, Elizabeth <Ahh! Good. Thank you for this news. Bob Fenner>

Re: F. Betta with Popeye  11/13/07 Hello Bob, <Liz...> Returning Nigella to her big tank was an excellent idea. She may be hard of seeing but she seems happier. Fins finning, blowing bubbles and being back in her home has already helped. Her Ampicillin just came and the water has been treated. <Ah, good> It seemed logical to take some tank water in a small clean jar, add the dose of Ampicillin in that water and shake it up then add it back to the tank. In any case, that's what I did. Now we are waiting to see how well she reacts to her real medicine. <Good> I'll keep you posted on her recovery. Cheers, Elizabeth, Liz, Betty, Libby, the list goes on. Feel free to call me Liz:) <Thank you for this update! BobF>

Cory With Popeye  - 03/20/07   Please help me, My favorite fish is my Corydoras catfish. He recently came down with Popeye. I am not sure what type of treatment I can use for him. I've been reading online, but most of the advice is for other fish and not Cory's. I don't know their tolerance to meds. He's 7 years old. I did about a 30% water change last night. He's in a 150 gallon freshwater planted aquarium. The water is in good condition and I am not sure if he poked his eye, or what exactly happened. What would you suggest I do? I need help ASAP. I'm 25 and love fish. I know some people must think I'm nuts, but this little guy is my buddy and he needs to live. Please, can you give me some advice? Thank you. Gina <Place the sick fish in a clean hospital tank and treat with Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace.-Chuck.>

Re: Cory Cat With Popeye II   3/21/07 Okay, Where do I get that? < Local fish store or online.> Is there a certain brand? < Brand type is unimportant.> My QT tank isn't cycled. Should I take water from the main tank and place him in it with that? Please, suggestions. Thank you. < Take 50% of the water from the main tank and don't worry about the hospital tank being cycled.  All you need is a heater and an airstone. Place the fish in the hospital tank with 50% new treated water. Place the fish in the tank with the medication. Do a 50% water change every day and replace with new treated water. The medications would probably kill any biological filtration and that is why an airstone is needed. After three treatments you should start to see some results.-Chuck>

Re: Help help help. Corydoras with Popeye....this fish is 7 years old. Medication Not Recommended   3/22/07 Hi Chuck. This is concerning my Cory catfish. He has Popeye. You recommended this treatment Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. I was not able to find this at my LFS. I asked for a brand name because that is all they carry. I have PetSmart and Petco here. They do not, at least mine, do not carry that. I looked. So, I opted out and bought Maracyn. Do you think that this will help? I hope so. I love my little Cory. Let me know. Thank you. Gina <Your fish has a real problem. The medications I recommend are what work best for me. I don't think the medication you have purchased will be as effective. I believe I said that you may need to look online for these medications. Drsfostersmith.com has both of these in stock and can ship out overnight if needed. Typically these large chain stores don't carry a lot of medications.-Chuck.>

Betta and Popeye...  3/13/07 Hi there, <Hello Megan, Brandon with you tonight.> I've recently setup a 3 gallon eclipse system with a Betta and a couple live plants.   <This is a very small volume, easy for things to get quickly out of hand.  I would opt for a larger system sometime in the near future.> It's been going great for almost 3 weeks now, I've done water changes each week (1 gallon or so), and when I last tested the water (last week), there was virtually no ammonia or nitrites/nitrates.   <Virtually is not quite the same as 0.  A healthy aquarium has NO ammonia or nitrites.> I have a heater and keep the tank around 80 degrees (although the heater I added seems a bit wonky in this little tank, and it can vary from 75-80).   <This is because of the size of the tank.  As I mentioned before, get a bigger tank.> I just went out of town for 4 days, with the Betta being fed by a friend on day 1 and 2, no food on day 3, and I fed him when I got home on day 4.  When I got home, I immediately noticed he has what I'm assuming has to be pop eye (and temp was down to 75).   <Likely related.> It's worse in one eye than the other, but appears to be in both.  The eye is noticeably bulging out, and there are white rings around each eye.  Other than that, he seems fine and is eating.   Researching your site, I see suggestions for Epsom salt, Nitrofurazone, and Metronidazole, and am not sure which to try.  I was going to try the Epsom salts first, since that seems like the least obtrusive and most natural approach (and although I think this is pop eye, I'm certainly no expert and maybe it's just really irritated).  My question is, if you recommend using the Epsom Salt first, how long should I let it try and work before resorting to something else? <The Epsom Salt should work.  I would get the temp back up to, and CONSTANTLY in the mid eighties, and use the Epsom Salt.  A little less than the half teaspoon.   Give it about three weeks.> Also, according to what I read here, it sounds like about a 1/2 tbsp would be the right amount to add for a 3 gallon tank?   <A little less than this amount.> And that won't harm my plants or bio filter, right? <Nope.  Might actually help the plants as they require Manganese.> Then, at what point should I then try one of the other medications?   <You shouldn't need to.  Stable environmental conditions, NO ammonia OR nitrite, and the Epsom Salt.> And which of the two, between Nitrofurazone or Metronidazole?   <Please see above.  These two medications are likely to harm your bio filter.> I also do not have a quarantine tank, and don't want to harm my bio filter or plants.  How long is the usual treatment with those medications?   <There should be a recommendation on the back of the bottle.  At a guess I would say two weeks.> Would it be ok to put him in a bowl or jar for 1 or 2 days with the medication, and then move him back to his regular tank, or would I be better off just adding the medicine to his main tank?   <Honestly, I would wait until the B. splendens was better, and then go to Wal-Mart, buy a 10 gallon tank with a florescent hood, and an appropriate power filter, as well as some water conditioner such as stress coat.  I would also ensure that I had an appropriate heater for this volume.  My next step would be to go home proceed to set up and fill the 10 gallon with conditioned water, and allow it to heat to an appropriate temperature.  The next day, I would cut a section out of the filter in the old tank, and place it in the new filter.  I would then transfer the three gallon's occupants to the 10 gallon.  This is a rather inexpensive way to keep your fish happy and disease free.> Thanks for the help! <You are welcome, and good luck!  Brandon.> Megan

Treating Popeye Without Olive Oil 11/4/05 Hi, I recently purchased these two medications. I have had several fish come down with pop-eye and I was advised from the folks at wetwebmedia.com to use Metronidazole and that I could combine it with Focus to better target the fish. I have a couple of questions that deal with the administration of these medications. 1. The directions on the Metronidazole say that you can add it to the tank water system to medicate the fish. I have an 800 gallon system, so it would take quite a bit to treat the whole system for the time suggested. So if I put the infected fish in a smaller tank, are they just going to get re-infected once they are returned to the big system? < Popeye and bloat are internal bacterial infections caused by stress. It could be dirty water, water temp too high, a vitamin deficiency, etc... You need to find out what the problem is and correct it. Everybody keep their tanks differently so you will have to figure out what the problem is in the big tank and fix it. No matter how much medication you use on your fish, they will continue to become reinfected as long as the problem exists. A separate tank will help cure the fish because it makes it easier to treat them. But unless you have solved the tank problem you are right and they will continue to become infected.> 2. How do I combine the Metronidazole with the Focus and get the fish to eat it? I currently feed the fish thawed blood worms, brine, and Mysis shrimp. Thanks Nick < Metronidazole quickly breaks down in the aquarium. The best way to medicate is to get the medication inside the fish with the food. I would crush the tablets into as powder and mix them with the food and Focus. Then feed it right away.-Chuck> 

Cichlid With Popeye  9/17/05 Hi, guys, I desperately need help with a Popeye.  My sajica has developed a Popeye within 2-3 hours.  I isolated him in the q-tank that had aquarium/Epsom salt 1 tablespoon/5 gal. with a dose of Maracyn plus.  A few days later I don't see any improvements in his condition. (Water is changed daily) Now his eye got cloudy as well.  He doesn't eat anything so medicated foods are out of the question.  I am not sure what else I can do.  Would you have any suggestions Thank you, < Treat with Nitrofurazone and Metronidazole in a hospital tank. Change 30% of the water while vacuuming the gravel in the main tank. Clean the filters too.-Chuck>

Oscars and Exophthalmus - 09/16/2005 Hello, <Hi.> I have a question I hope someone can help me with.   <Okay.> I have a Tiger Oscar about 5-6 inches long, and it's left eye is pretty messed up.  It started last week with a white mass of some sort collecting right behind the left eye and ever since then it has gotten worse.  The white mass got larger and began pushing the left eye out.  Now, there is still a large collection of sort behind the eye and it is also red, like I can see flesh or muscle coming out.   <Exophthalmus....  "pop-eye".  Can find more here:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/popeyefaqs.htm > I have been doing water changes, testing the parameter and treating with Melafix, I thought it may have been Popeye.   <Melafix will not help/affect this ailment.> I used this medicine before when my fish were acting very sickly and breathing very rapidly and it worked and brought it back around.  He is still pretty active although he is swimming a little on it's right side.  Does this sound like Popeye or could something else be wrong?  What else can be done?  Please help me!  I cringe every time I look at him.   <Check your water quality.  Maintain ammonia and nitrite at ZERO, nitrate less than 20ppm, and add Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to the water at a rate of 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons.  This should help with the swelling.  You can re-dose this in a few days after a large water change.> Desperate in Texas <Please do take a look at those FAQs.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Pop Eye on a Silver Dollar 8/3/05 Hi, I am Janet. I have a 55 gal fresh with 10 white clouds, 4 black tetra, 2 spotted Cory cats, 2 dwarf gouramis, 1 blue magic dwarf Gourami (the other died in this heyday I have been having) , one goldfish, one black moor, 2 scissortail Rasbora and 2 six or seven year old Silver Dollars that were given to me by a friend when his wife died. They were her babies. Hi Oh Silver came down with Popeye then a god awful case of dropsy. I put in Melafix for the seven day prescribed and Hi Oh didn't really improve much. I changed out 25% of the tank, put in Stress Coat and Stress Zyme and some Methylene Blue. Hi Oh looked bad yet. I went searching on the internet and found your site with salt treatments for these diseases. I didn't have Aquarium Salts but another site said Kosher Salt would do too. So I mixed up the salt (one gal to 4 teasp Kosher salt) popped Hi in and watched him for distress. After 3 min.s (of the 5, unless distressed) I thought he looked like he wanted out. So I put him in the tank. Next morning HE LOST ALL THE POPEYE AND MOST OF THE SWELLING!! I did a test and found my nitrates were 160 so I did another water change out of nearly 50%. Put in Stress Coat and Stress Zyme and Meth blue. My test today shows PH 6.0, Ammonia 0ppm, Nitrite 0ppm and finally, Nitrate 0ppm. It seems Hi Oh is getting Popeye again and I think his pal, Long John Silver is too. Oh, I put in new carbon filters in case of something in the water affected the old new filters I had in. Hi looks great other then that. A very small swelling on his cap (above his eyes/face), looks somewhat silver in most places, eating, swimming all about and with his buddy. My question is should I start over and put the two in a hospital tank and treat with Melafix again or just do salt dips again? How many times can I salt dip a fish and at what frequency.... daily, every other day, ???? Salt seems to best work to bring down swelling. I have been fighting this for 3 weeks now and Hi is still here. He does sit stationary a bit crooked but he swims great. I think he can see yet out of his eyes. So far Long John is puffy in one eye.   This whole mess started with fish from PetSmart and putting their water in my tank. I didn't know not too since I read to do it in a dumb book, only to find out NEVER put water in another tank. I have NEVER tested water before so that is all new to me too but I desperately want to save the boys. Please help me : ( < The high nitrates are stressing your silver dollars. Keeping them down to under 25 ppm will be very beneficial. I have found that salt dose reduce the swelling and some fish do recover enough to be cured from this internal bacterial infection but just don't seem to be cured. I would recommend Metronidazole to treat the infected fish in a hospital tank so it won't affect the good bacteria needed to break down the fish waste.-Chuck>

Oscar with Popeye I Have an Oscar which appears to have Popeye. By the advice of the first Pet Store I treated the tank with a partial water change, aquarium salt and tetracycline tabs for six days....The fish still had Popeye. So by the advise of a second pet store I again treated the tank with a partial water change 50%, aquarium salt and penicillin every other day for three treatments. Still the fish has Popeye. what else can or should I do. I have had aquariums for 15 years or better and never had a fish with Popeye. I would be appreciative of any advice. You can e-mail me at
<Thank you for writing. Popeye (fancy name exophthalmia) is a hard condition to cure... when "one sided" (unilateral) the cause is typically "mechanical injury" (a bump in the night)... Treatments per se are not necessary... but does take a good long time for the bulging to subside (weeks to months). Keep the system clean, maintenance up and you should see improvement in a few weeks. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/popeyefaqs.htm and possibly the "Neotropical Cichlid FAQs" posted on WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> THANK YOU, K. JACKSON

Re: Oscar with Popeye Since I received your information on the subject of Popeye with my Oscar. I have kept a good watch on the tank and Oscar for any changes. My Oscar originally had her eye popping out and another bump on the upper back of the eye. Since I stopped treating the tank with antibiotics the bump has gone and another one has appeared her eye is still popping out and there is now blood in the eye chamber. What should I do if anything? And If there is no treatment will her eye eventually hemorrhage or will it go down. Any information you have will be helpful. <Do your best to keep the system optimized and stable... and the fish fed with nutritious foods... This and patience is all that is needed, desired. The eye will improve or not otherwise. Bob Fenner> Kelly

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