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Here are our considered answers to your problem enquiries.

We hope that you will find them of value but we can't guarantee success - there are just too many variables in fishkeeping (especially if there's a vital fact you omitted to tell us in the first place!)

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I have two Orandas. One is swimming normally, the other hangs in the water, sometimes upside down or on its side. Can you give me some idea what might be wrong with it and can it be cured?


Oranda Goldfish are classified as Twintail Goldfish for obvious reasons and considered as very specialist Goldfish that therefore require specialist attention.

In the diagram one can see that Goldfish type 'C' has a somewhat foreshortened body than 'A' the Common Goldfish.

This means that all the internal organs of twintails, heart, liver, kidneys, swimbladder, gut etc are compressed into a smaller area. Therefore they are subject to many problems that Common or the normal type Goldfish are not.

One of the most common is swimbladder upsets.

This can cause them to hang upside down in the water, not to be able to get off of the bottom of the container or remain at the top of the water level. This is often seen when they stop swimming, when they either rise to the top or sink to the bottom.

The problem is either genetic, i.e. their internal organs are being compressed as they grow (this causing the problem and therefore this cannot be cured) or, alternatively, the problem is being caused by the conditions in which they are being kept.
These conditions can vary from water condition, temperature and incorrect feeding, the most common being temperature and incorrect feeding.

If a fish develops swimbladder problems STOP FEEDING AT ONCE.

If the temperature is below 55oF/14oC, warm it up (see below); if, after 3-4 days, this does not resolve the problem and the fish is not passing motions try feeding some Water Fleas (Daphnia) as a laxative. Two level teaspoons of 'Andrews' for every gallon of water can be tried as a last resort (1 cubic foot of water contains 6.5 gallons).
If after 7-10 days the fish has not righted itself, it will probably never do so and will eventually die.

Temperature: Although Goldfish fish will tolerate temperatures below freezing it is not advisable to let Fancy Varieties do so unless you are an expert in Goldfish management; on the other hand they are not tropical fish.
Once the temperature drops below 55oF/14oC seriously cut down on the feeding even if they seem to be looking for it. The colder it is the more the fishes metabolism slows down and food remains longer in the gut and seems to ferment. This is the most common cause of swimbladder problems; avoid dry food flake or pellet, try small amounts of live food.

As with all problems prevention is better than cure.
Observe your fish. If they start to show distressed swimming, slowly raise the temperature to around 60-65oF over an eight-hour period.

Feeding: Do not apply mammal food requirements to fish, most of our food goes towards maintaining our body temperature. Fish in fact require very little food when compared to mammals. It is said 'Variety is the spice of life' - it is certainly so with feeding fish.

Do not feed flake or pellet food day after day, in fact, 'the greater the variety the food, the healthier the fish' is a great maxim. Feed a live food at least twice a week.
Although known as 'live food' most of them are in fact a frozen food or a sealed blip pack -
a typical example being 'Bloodworm'.





Not so long ago I bought 2 Black Comets to live with my 4 Golden Rudds and 2 Algae-eaters.  Soon after I noticed one of the Comets was starting to look tatty on his fins I assumed this could of been the Algae-eaters attacking him as I has observed this behaviour at the shop when I bought them. 
I removed the Algae-eaters to another tank to see if this helped but he only got worse and also his scales started to be affected; instead of black, his sides were looking almost metallic as if his scales had fallen off then these areas started to look "fluffy" and whitish. 
I ended up taking him out of the tank and treating him for fin-rot and over the last two weeks he has definitely improved with his fins seeming to knit back together, colouring up and also his appetite returned. 

My dilemma now is how do I know when he is ready to be re-introduced back with the other fish?  If it is too soon will his condition return, and is this very contagious?  Throughout all this the other Black Comet has been in perfect health as have the others and wouldn't like them to become affected.


Leaving aside the 'compatibility problem' between Algae-eaters' and other fish, this is really a problem of (sorry to say, Rachel) tank hygiene.

'Fin-rot' is a secondary type of disease which sets in after some area of the fish's skin, scales or fins have become damaged, leaving an open invitation to infection, as it were.
The fact that Rachel moved the patient to another (probably far 'cleaner') tank where recovery occurred seems to bear this out.
Keeping the Black Comet in isolation until a complete recovery occurs seems to be the best idea but, in the meantime, steps should be taken to improve water conditions in the original tank by carrying out a considerable water change, re-furbishing filter materials (not all at once) and keeping to good tank management practice – no overfeeding and regular partial water changes. What to do with the Algae-eaters is another problem which ought to be solved.


My name is Marci and I have quite the dilemma.

I have had my Betta (Sammy because he's red, white and blue) since last May. I cleaned his tank, which is a 3 gallon Eclipse, prior to going away for a week. I hated to, but had to use an automatic feeder that fed twice a day and fed more in one feeding than I did in several.
When I got back, about half of my lovely Sammy's fins were GONE! I searched the internet and found that you shouldn't use distilled water (which I've used since I got him) and that you could use dried banana leaves or Terminalia catappa leaves. I've ordered Terminalia catappa leaves to try to help him but am not sure what to do until they arrive.

Should I wait to change his water until the leaves get here? When they do arrive, should I remove the charcoal filter cartridge? Any words of wisdom? HELP!

Sorry to hear of Sammy's problems.

Whilst the 'symptoms' showed themselves as something nasty happening to the fins, the real villain of the piece is the condition of the tank water. I'm afraid there's no nice way of saying this but it seems the limited volume of water was severely polluted by the excess food decomposing over the week you were away. Generally, it is commonly believed that tropical fish can be left without food in an established aquarium for up to two weeks without coming to any harm.

Unless you live in an area where water from the domestic supply definitely has a quality problem, there should be no need for any further treatment except for a de-chlorinator; using 'pure' distilled water might seem the best of all worlds but, in fact, distilled water is 'lifeless' and not suitable for aquarium use at all apart from where it is used to dilute other water for special circumstances.
Using banana leaves etc to put back some 'life' in the water again runs the risk of polluting the water. The other treatment may also not be necessary although I have heard of using the leaves to soften and acidify water.

But back to the fin problem. Fin rot is not a disease as such but should an open wound or a split fin present itself then, under less than healthy water conditions, infection will set in. Deal with the water quality problem - during partial water changes (a gallon every two weeks) use ordinary tap water and this will eventually acclimatise Sammy back to ordinary tap water. Throw out the carbon cartridge if it is more than 3 months old and replace it with a new one. Incidentally, a carbon cartridge will adsorb any medication and should not be used when treating diseases etc. Given some TLC, Sammy should soon be back to his old red, white and blue days again.



I have an 11 gallon, filtered tank and at present 1 Oranda, which seems to be fine.

Since I got the tank it has what I thought as 'new tank syndrome', but the problem has not cleared, even after a partial water change once a week.
I was advised that it could be overfeeding, and feed them only 1 flake a day, per fish.
Several fish have died (sinking when dead, which has never occurred to me). What could the problem be and how can I clear the tank?

Many thanks, Chris

Reading between the lines, it seems you have been keeping several fish in your aquarium.
For coldwater fishes, such as the Oranda, the tank capacity seems on the small side and attempting to keep more fish than is possible in such a small space is probably why your system has suffered the 'New Tank Syndrome.'
It is likely that the filtration system had become overloaded through the overstocking of fish. If we take an eleven gallon tank to equate roughly to a 60cm long by 30cm wide tank, this would only hold roughly 30cm (12 inches) of fish, say three or four modestly-sized fish at most.

Bear in mind that it is the effective surface area of the aquarium that is important not the overall gallonage or depth of water, and whilst changing a good proportion of the water regularly will keep the water conditions in good shape, it will not solve the problem of keeping too many fish under crowded conditions.
Remember too, that when cleaning out the filter, to rinse the filter medium in some of the aquarium water rather than tapwater which would kill of beneficial bacteria colonising the filter. After cleaning, the filter will take a week or two to regain its efficiency so only build up your fish stocks gradually.

Keep the fish number down to a minimum; if your Oranda remains healthy then maybe you will have to get used to keeping it in splendid isolation for its own sake.


Dear team,

Two weeks ago I thoroughly cleaned out the aquarium where I keep my Bristol Shubunkin, reserving a third of the original water and I replaced the gravel (which I washed with boiling hot water 3 times swirled then rinsed with aquarium water).

I took out the fake plants and put live ones in that were recommended at a fish centre and I replaced the strip lamp with one that was supposed to support the growth of plants.
I added a Roman ruin doorway made out of plaster and since then I have had one plant rot and the other three are getting brown staining along with the plaster ruin which I keep trying to wipe off.

Have I done the right thing by this new set up, and should I introduce a young fish to the tank yet? I would really appreciate any advice as I am finding it hard to obtain a decent book about looking after Goldfish and tank care.
Annabelle, Barnet, Herts

There are a couple of things to discuss here but, first, congratulations on going about things in a methodical (and correct) way.

Keeping aquarium plants alive in a coldwater aquarium seems to be more difficult than in a tropical set up. Maybe it's because the scope of plant species is smaller, for a start.
Make sure you do get coldwater species, as there are several species that have both tropical and coldwater members.

If your aquarium light is specifically said to be for plant growth then make sure you have it on long enough for the plants to benefit – around 10-12 hours each day is normal.
The brown staining on the plants is a primitive algae; this may develop change into a green algae with any increase in tank lighting duration. Introducing more plants to make use of nutrients in the water will also keep algae growth in check.
(Nutrients in the water may be things like nitrate and phosphate already in water from the tap, or from any food left over by an overfeeding fishkeeper!)

One thing that often sets back plant growth is fish activity. Goldfish are notorious foragers, especially in the gravel and they can often uproot plants, or otherwise disturb them. Sometimes, putting a ring of large pebbles around the base of a clump of plants protects them from the actions of the fish.

Introducing ornaments into the aquarium is also another problem area.
You mention that your ornament is made of plaster; this is not really suitable for underwater decoration as the chemicals (lime) in the plaster can dissolve out into the water and alter its quality. All ornaments (roman antiquities or otherwise) should be made from inert substances such as resin, or be completely sealed so that they cannot affect water conditions.
There are several good quality decorations available, including replica tree trunks and logs which may look more natural – but we try not to get into personal tastes arguments here!
Removing the ornament should improve things without a doubt.


Hi, I hope you can help. 

I have several Black Widow Tetra's and recently 2 of them started to get black patches on them.  We have looked everywhere for a treatment, but have not come across anything that relates to this. They have been getting progressively worse, now one of these has died. 

However now my other Black Widow Tetras are starting to have black patches appear, although none of my other fish seems to have any problems it is only affecting the Black Widow Tetras?

I have attached a picture taken a little while ago, and one of the dead one now, in the hope that this will help. Please can you help me find a cure?

The most common complaint about Black Widow Tetras is that they generally lose their black colour as they get older, not the other way round.

In the Characin world, you will no doubt know about 'Neon Tetra Disease' Pleistophora, which seems almost confined to that particular group of fishes; whether or not it may be infectious to other Tetras is uncertain.
From your description it sounds 'cancerous' and, of course, these symptoms often become visible in older fishes (when a remedy is likely to be ineffective because of the lateness of diagnosis). Looking around on the Internet, threw up the following query:

Deformed Black Tetra

I have a Black Tetra who has black growths on it. It is several years old.  Its stripes have faded some, but these growths have shown up around its body, some around one gill and around its mouth. The upper part of its mouth has receded somewhat (looks a little like cancer there.) It is still hanging with the school and does not seemed to have slowed down.
Do you have any idea what this might be?
Thanks for any help.
(Mmm, most likely simply the effects of "old age"... cumulative developmental genetic defects... Perhaps Lymphocystis... Nothing to do. Bob Fenner)

Other than these thoughts, a positive diagnosis is difficult. If you are worried about infection spreading, it might be prudent to isolate all the remaining Black Widows for a time to see what (if anything) develops further.


I have had 5 goldfish for 5 months. I found one dead yesterday, the fish was a silver and orange goldfish, the bottom / stomach area on one side looked brown (discoloured) like it had a problem. Another fish is looking a little bigger that it was (fat) could I be overfeeding?

We have a filter etc and change 1/3 of the water weekly and give them shrimp & brine once a week, the fish is currently eating and acting like normal. Please advise if there is anything special I should do.


Whilst you haven't stated the size of your Goldfish aquarium, it seems as though you are following correct aquarium management with regular partial water changes etc. Goldfish require quite a bit of space - a 30cm long tank should only be stocked with 3 or 4 modestly-sized fish.

With such regular maintenance, please appreciate that, for instance, should you also rinse out your filter medium each time, then the filter will need time to recover its full efficiency again – and always rinse the medium in some aquarium water to avoid destroying any beneficial bacteria present. If your filter cannot cope with the number of fish in the tank, or is being continually 'set back' by the constant cleaning, then nitrates might have built up in the water and affected the fish that died. Try cleaning the filter medium less often and see how things go.

If your feeding regime is strictly once a week (although maybe the shrimp and brine are 'extras' to feeding normal Goldfish flake foods), then your fatter Goldfish won't be due to overfeeding but more likely to be a female that's filling up with eggs. It could also be that the fish that died might have had an internal problem such as egg-binding.

Getting back to your fishes' diet, the shrimp and brine description has us confused:
do you mean brine shrimp? If so, then your fish are fortunate in having this addition to their diet even if it might leave them hungry.
Just to be on the safe side (trying to cover all eventualities here) if you mean adult live brine shrimp, then it might be a good idea to rinse them off with freshwater before feeding them to the fish to avoid salt build up in the aquarium water.

The fact that most of your fish are still surviving points towards the death as being an unfortunate event rather than the onset of an epidemic. These things do occur from time to time and it is not always possible to diagnose the cause when everything else seems OK.

If you're still worried, or need some more advice, please contact us again.



We have a tank which holds 44 Imperial gallons with 2 small Goldfish and 2 larger Bristol Shubunkins. The larger of the 2 has been 'acting' strangely by most of the time 'sitting' at the bottom of the tank in an upright position about 120 degrees. It has been doing this for a while, and now also its scales appear to be slightly raised.

I must admit to having been a bit lazy with water changing and filter cleaning recently, but I did these last night, and changed a big bucket full of water (about 20% I suppose), but this evening the Shubunkin was lying at the bottom of the tank in a twisted position.
I thought at first it was dead, but then it moved slightly so we decided to take it out of the tank (it did not struggle at all) and currently have it isolated in a large bowl of water taken from the tank. Do you have any suggestions of what we can do next?
Thanks, Philip Collins

It seems that Goldfish problems always come around this time of year; the easy answer is that this is the time when they are recovering from winter and their immune systems might not have regained full efficiency. This might be the case for pond fish, but whether or not Goldfish kept in an indoor aquarium subconsciously 'follow the seasons' too is something to think about.

From your description, it sounds as though your Shubunkin may be suffering from the onset of Dropsy - the standing out scales are a general clue to this condition. You did the right thing in isolating the fish from the others. The bad news is that Dropsy is not usually curable although, having said that, it is not unknown for fishes to recover unaided!

Whilst the fish is isolated, try giving it a salt bath: add about an ounce per gallon of salt (sea salt, not table salt) to the water but remove the fish if it becomes distressed or, in your case, replace half of the salted water with fresh. If a cure is achieved acclimatise the fish back to full freshwater (through partial water changes) before returning it to the aquarium.

Alternatively, maybe the fish has a slight swim-bladder problem and cannot adopt a stable position in the water. It could be a digestive disorder in which case a feeding of Daphnia might solve the problem.

Should the fish not recover, it would be advisable to humanely dispose of it rather than let it suffer longer than necessary.


I have a Redcap Oranda and a Ryukin and have had them both for about 18 months. The Oranda is about 5 inch long and the Ryukin is about the same.

I have them in a 24" by 12" tank, lately they have been really lifeless, the Ryukin just stays at the bottom corner of the tank all day and only really moves for food while the Oranda swims around but seems to have difficulty staying low in the tank. His hood has grown quite large and covers his right eye.

I am really worried that they are ill and will die, can you help? Last week he kept turning himself upside down and floated along the surface, as soon as anyone approached the tank he would turn the right way up and swim along happily, is this usual behaviour?

Lastly what is the average life expectancy for these fish? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Kirsten

At 5 inches each, your aquarium is very near to its total fish-stocking capacity and it may be that water conditions are not too good. Another contributing factor to the fishes' behaviour is that they are more 'Fancy' than the Common Goldfish in that their body shape has become more egg-shaped, with the result that internal organs can become cramped or distorted.

Please refer to an earlier answer on this page, where the diagrams make clear what is happening, especially in respect to balance problems, as these fish 'evolve' further away from the design Nature gave them originally.

Goldfish are usually quite long-lived with anything between 10-20+ years being common.
The Fancy Varieties may not live quite as long but with good aquarium conditions even these should have a plenty of years in them.


I have an Oranda which I adopted from my sister so I'm not sure how old she is.
She spends the summer in the main pond and comes indoors over winter, which seems to work very well. However this autumn she developed a growth on her head which I treated (on advice from my local aquatic centre) with protozin, after three applications I sought further advice, to be told maybe it was a cyst.

Since then it has grown really large and, through further advice, I tried myxazin and told the only other alternative was to cut it off! Firstly how do I find a vet who will do this procedure and, if it is a cyst, surely it will have blood vessels so is this certain death ?
I am very fond of her and look forward to your opinion. Russell

One of the discriminating features of the Oranda, along with the Lionhead, is the raspberry-like growth over the head. This is known as the 'hood' or 'wen' and may extend all over the head - even covering the eyes – in mature fishes. Occasionally, tiny lines of white appear between the interstices of the growth but this is normal.
If your fish is relatively young, then the hood may still be developing.

Your 'fish-management' is fine, as the more Fancy strains of Goldfish should be brought in from the pond for over-wintering. It is always best to observe the fish's behaviour when considering a diagnosis of a suspected ailment; if your fish appears to be acting normally, as opposed to rubbing itself as if to rid itself of an irritation, then there may be nothing wrong at all.


Last updated April 4th, 2005