Dropsy in Fish

Dropsy is a condition in fish caused by the buildup of fluid inside the body cavity or tissues. Dropsy is not contagious (spread from one another). Not contagious, similar species in close contact with an infected fish are at a heavy risk of experiencing similar combinations. So, if you find one or more fish in the tank exhibiting signs and symptoms of dropsy, it is ideal to isolate them immediately to keep the remaining fish in the best of their health.


  • Dropsy is a condition that commonly affects goldfish and other freshwater aquarium fish.
  • They involve the swelling of the belly or in some cases the whole body of fish.
  • Fish that have dropsy are also likely to experience behavioral changes, becoming lethargic, and hovering near the top or bottom of the aquarium rather than swimming around. Affected fish may also lose their appetite.
  • Some fish may even have sunken eyes or their eyes may begin to swell and bulge.
  • A loss of color in their gills.
  • Clamping of fins.
  • Pale feces.
  • A loss of appetite.
  • Difficulty swimming.
  • Rapid death.


Dropsy may be caused by various reasons, here are some of those causes-

  • Poor water quality
  • Viral infections.
  • Sudden changes in water conditions.
  • Prolonged periods of stress that may compromise the fish's immune system and may all trigger stated symptoms.

How do you treat dropsy fish? 

Dropsy is not easily cured, treatment is geared toward correcting the underlying problem and providing supportive care to the sick fish. If you notice signs of dropsy in one or more fish, call your veterinarian for help. Poor water quality is one of the most common causes of illnesses that involve dropsy.

Here are some points you can follow to treat dropsy in your fish are-

  • Move sick fish to a hospital tank.
  • Feed fresh, high-quality foods.
  • Salt
  • A bit of salt in tank water can aid in the osmotic balance of fish by making the water salinity closer to the fish's blood salinity. That helps the fish and accumulated water. A safe level of salt for most pet fish is 1-2 ppt.
  • Antibiotics
  • Consult your veterinarian about the type and amount of antibiotics to use.
  • Test aquarium water regularly to ensure it is healthy for your fish.
  • Clean the filter regularly.
  • If you notice any signs and illness, check your water chemistry.
  • Avoid overcrowding the tank.

Can a fish survive dropsy?

No, fish cannot survive dropsy because most often a fish with dropsy dies, not immediately, but within several months. Dropsy can not be easily cured, it is corrected by proper treatment.

How does dropsy spread?

There are multiple reasons for dropsy spread. Following are some of the major reasons for Dropsy spread.

  • Poor water quality.
  • Sudden changes in water conditions.
  • Viral infections.
  • Bacterial or parasitic infection.

Can fish dropsy spread to humans?

If a bacterial or parasitic infection causes the condition and the humans are handling the water tank with bare hands. There are chances that the person might contract with infection too, so yes dropsy can be spread to humans also.