Disease in a tank with a feeder goldfish, 3 neon tetras, and a (surprisingly nonviolent) pleco

goporcupine

Member
I was looking at my boyfriends' fish and noticed that they looked a little odd. One of the neon tetras looks very bloated but it's hard to tell much because he's so tiny and I'm used to diagnosing big fish. He might have clamped fins, but he also might just have really tiny fins. The goldfish (Cashew) is the one I'm really concerned about though. He is VERY bloated and his scales are sticking out a little (very mild pineconing), which is consistent with dropsy (which granted doesn't clear things up much as that can be caused by so many things), but he also has a big coral red patch that was NOT there before on his underbelly, from the start of his tail to just before his pelvic fins. Even more concerning, he has significant fin rot on one of his side fins and some fuzziness around his face and gills. None of the fish are listing, so I don't believe this is grave yet, but with fish, it doesn't necessarily take long.


I haven't had small fish in a while and they never got diseases, so does anybody know what could be causing this? Based on the symptoms, I'd think multiple things, but I'm not quite sure because I also couldn't get a very good look at the fish (or pictures, for that matter). Do you guys know any common goldfish diseases that show those symptom groups?

My boyfriend can't quarantine the affected fish, but is doing a full cleaning of the tank tomorrow. I am giving him enough Melafix and Pimafix to last a few days, but those are the only treatments I have since my fishes' problems are mainly triggered by stress. I have told him to order a treat-all pill, but if anyone recognizes this symptom pattern, could you recommend a treatment?

Thank you!!!
 

Aquariumlover1357

Member
How big of a tank are they in? Is the tank cycled? Unfortunately, most of the feeder fish from stores are usually not the healthiest... Also neon tetras and plecos are tropical fish... usually kept at 74-78 degrees fahrenheit. Goldfish, on the other hand, are not. They require 68-70 degree water. So with about a 10 degree temp requirement, either one group or the other will definetly get sick. I would suggest separating the goldfish, since it seems to be the one with the most problems, but if what you described, it might be too late, since fin rot leaves no fish be. Fill out the Emergency Template, and I'll get back to you.
 
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goporcupine

Member
Aquariumlover1357 said:
How big of a tank are they in? Is the tank cycled? Unfortunately, most of the feeder fish from stores are usually not the healthiest... Also neon tetras and plecos are tropical fish... usually kept at 74-78 degrees fahrenheit. Goldfish, on the other hand, are not. They require 68-70 degree water. So with about a 10 degree temp requirement, either one group or the other will definetly get sick. I would suggest separating the goldfish, since it seems to be the one with the most problems, but if what you described, it might be too late, since fin rot leaves no fish be. Fill out the Emergency Template, and I'll get back to you.
We think it's a 5 gallon tank, but we're not sure. These fish are SEVERAL years old. Like shocked-they-didn't-die-sooner kind of old (especially since he doesn't pay much attention to them). I should probably let you know, we live in a tropical climate and you can only get water so cold here without straight up putting ice cubes in it, so it's absolutely not ideal for goldfish, but the ones sold here are usually a little bit more tolerant to it.

Thank you and I will fill out the emergency template!

NOT MY FISH, I DO NOT KNOW ALL THE EXACT ANSWERS

What is the water volume of the tank? 5 gal
How long has the tank been running? Several years. At least 8.
Does it have a filter? Yes
Does it have a heater? No
What is the water temperature? No thermometer, but given the ambient temp, 74-76F
What is the entire stocking of this tank? Feeder goldfish, 3 neon tetras, pleco

Maintenance
How often do you change the water? He doesn't, he just adds water when it evaporates. The only reason the water quality doesn't kill the fish is the filter is meant for a 30-40 gallon tank
How much of the water do you change? He doesn't
What do you use to treat your water? He doesn't (again, I'm shocked this is the first time these fish have problems)
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? He doesn't (until now)

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? No clue and he would have been too young to remember

What do you use to test the water? He doesn't, but based on the algae situation, I'd estimate nitrate/nitrite levels about 10ppm. There are never massive blooms, but there's always a bit growing on any surface that isn't usually disturbed. As far as ammonia, I can almost guarantee it's not ideal, but based on the lack of smell, it's not at imminently dangerous levels.

What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Yeah, I don't know, I wish I did
Ammonia:
Nitrite:
Nitrate:
pH:

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish? Around once a day
How much do you feed your fish? 1 or 2 large pinches of fish flakes
What brand of food do you feed your fish? Tetra
Do you feed frozen or freeze-dried foods? No

Illness & Symptoms
How long have you had this fish? They're ancient. He's had these fish since before we met.
How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? 3 hours ago
In a few words, can you explain the symptoms?
Neon tetra: bloated
Feeder fish: bloated, a tiny bit pinecone, fin rot, fluffiness around the face and gills, big red patch on the underbelly from the base of the tail to just before the pelvic fins
Have you started any treatment for the illness? Not yet because with the pandemic, he can't just go to Walmart at 10:00 at night
Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase? No clue, probably not if they survived this long though
How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all? They both look bloated, the goldfish looks a little fuzzy (like decaying skin, not visible fungal growths) and a tiny bit pinecone. There is also that big red patch. The feeder fish is a bit jittery.

Explain your emergency situation in detail. (Please give a clear explanation of what is going on, include details from the beginning of the illness leading up to now)

This tank is not the best kept tank in the world and the light is often left off. I'm shocked this didn't happen sooner. I was looking at his tank and noticed that one of the tetras looked bloated and then that the goldfish looked REALLY bloated. He said he just overfed them last night, but it looked like more than overfeeding. Upon closer inspection (really close, because I straight up cannot see detail on tiny fish), I noticed that the feeder fish was a bit pinecone and had a big red patch on his underbelly, which was NOT there as of a week ago. I should probably mention that my boyfriend often leaves town for a week at a time and while I'm pretty sure his mom feeds the fish, who knows? While trying to convince him that the fish did, in fact, have a big red patch, I also noticed fin rot and the skin decay around the face and gills. The fish is also more jittery than usual.

Thanks Aquariumlover1357 !

He's really trying to be better about the tank health since I've been pestering him, but disease waits for no-one.

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Islandvic

Member
that is pure laziness that he doesn't do water changes.

The fish need water changes daily for the next few weeks until they get better.

The nitrates are probably spiked very high.

Bloated fish and pineconing are never good signs.
 

Dippiedee

Member
Wait, so, he has a goldfish, 3 neons and a pleco in a 5 gallon? That's... insane. Thats not enough tank for any of those fish separately kept.
 
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goporcupine

Member
I’ve been pestering him to give them water changes for months. Maybe this will finally get through to him that his fish WILL get sick. If you’re not going to put the fish in a ridiculously big tank (I had roughly the same demographic in my 55 gallon once), you have to change the water pretty frequently.
If he doesn’t do the water changes until they get better, I’ll break into his house and do it myself :)

I’ve told him to order the API treat all, but it won’t be here for a few days. Are there any other treatments you’d recommend? If it’s no strange disease and just multiple things exacerbated by poor water quality, I think that would be the right route with some Melafix and Pimafix to keep the infection at bay until it gets here? (The oils will also force him to change the water because they make the water cloudy!)

FYI:I immediately gave my fish a water change after seeing the sick fish
 

Dippiedee

Member
He cant keep those fish in a 5 gallon, there is nothing anyone can suggest that can make keeping them in that tank okay. If he isnt willing to properly house the fish, he should rehome them with someone who is. If he hasnt done a water change for months I'm astonished the fish are still alive as they've effectively been living in ammonia soup.
 
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goporcupine

Member
I know, I’m considering giving him my old 3 gallon to split them Up if he promises to take better care of them.
Also it’s been years not months I’m shocked too.

I’d take them but my tank is barely big enough for my oscars (they’re little for oscars and don’t seem to be growing) And they would definitely be like “lunch? For me? “
 

Dippiedee

Member
The minimum tank requirement for goldfish and neon tetras is 20 gallons. Neons are also schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least 6. What type of pleco is it? I hope it isnt a common... then theres the temperature requirements. Goldfish are cold water fish; putting ice packs in the tank to keep the water cooler is perfectly fine. But then the neons are tropical fish. They shouldnt be kept in a tank together. The goldfish and pleco probably both have stunted growth from being kept in a tiny tank.

I dont mean to sound rude but why is he keeping these fish if he doesnt care for or about them? It's not fair on the animals.
 

jkkgron2

Member
Dippiedee said:
The minimum tank requirement for goldfish and neon tetras is 20 gallons. Neons are also schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least 6. What type of pleco is it? I hope it isnt a common... then theres the temperature requirements. Goldfish are cold water fish; putting ice packs in the tank to keep the water cooler is perfectly fine. But then the neons are tropical fish. They shouldnt be kept in a tank together. The goldfish and pleco probably both have stunted growth from being kept in a tiny tank.

I dont mean to sound rude but why is he keeping these fish if he doesnt care for or about them? It's not fair on the animals.
Isn’t a 20 only ok for fancy goldfish? I’ve kept both but always had my commons in 30+ tanks because of some stunting issues I’ve seen in the past.
 

Dippiedee

Member
jkkgron2 said:
Isn’t a 20 only ok for fancy goldfish? I’ve kept both but always had my commons in 30+ tanks because of some stunting issues I’ve seen in the past.
Yes sorry you're right I stand corrected. I've only ever had commons in the pond.
 

jkkgron2

Member
Dippiedee said:
Yes sorry you're right I stand corrected. I've only ever had commons in the pond.
No worries :) I haven’t kept many commons so I was curious if they could be in smaller tanks. Right now I have a fancy and a common in a 55!
 

Aquariumlover1357

Member
Please get them a bigger tank. The thing I would suggest is to move the goldfish to the 3 gallon and keep the water cool using ice (unless the temp in your house is about 68 degrees). The neons might survive in the 5 gallon for now, but I'd really suggest giving the pleco away, as hard as it sounds, because it really won't thrive in the 5 gallon. If your boyfriend doesn't like the idea, you can tell him that you can post an ad somewhere and maybe get some money for the pleco.

I don't know if you have mentioned it already, but I would suggest treating all of the fish with aquarium salt. Use 1 tablespoon/3 gallons. Aquarium salt should not be used regularly, but helps with fin rot/fungal infections/bloating, all of which your goldfish seems to have. please try to convice him, because I think the tank size may solve all your problems.
 

mattgirl

Member
There are so many things wrong here it is difficult to even know where to start but I will say. Don't do a big water change. Since these fish have been kept in such bad conditions a big water change could very well kill them. They have gradually gotten used to these conditions. Drastic changes need to be avoided. I don't know if they can be saved at this point.

If he is willing to try to save them the conditions will have to be changed very gradually over time. Start with a small water change. No more than 5 or 10%. The next day up the amount changed by no more than 5%. Keep doing that daily until you are up to changing half the water. Other than moving them to a much bigger tank or finding new homes for these fish with someone that actually cares about them this is the best I can come up with.
 
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goporcupine

Member
Don’t worry! He underestimated the size, it is a 10 gallon! I am trying to convince him to not put the MASSIVE rock back in and PROPERLY sterilize the tank. He’s adamant about not using the tank I brought over as a quarantine, but I’m going to help him get it as clean as possible

and I agree, he needs to either take care of them or not have them. I’m pestering him about that.
 

mattgirl

Member
goporcupine said:
Don’t worry! He underestimated the size, it is a 10 gallon! I am trying to convince him to not put the MASSIVE rock back in and PROPERLY sterilize the tank. He’s adamant about not using the tank I brought over as a quarantine, but I’m going to help him get it as clean as possible

and I agree, he needs to either take care of them or not have them. I’m pestering him about that.
I have to questions what you mean by sterilize the tank. Clean yes, do regular water changes absolutely but he doesn't want to over clean and remove the bacteria that is helping to protect these fish from the ammonia they are producing.
 
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goporcupine

Member
I mean reestablish the nitrogen cycle. The cycle was not working. So we’re sterilizing it and then putting good bacteria in!

goporcupine said:
I mean reestablish the nitrogen cycle. The cycle was not working. So we’re sterilizing it and then putting good bacteria in!
Basically what happened by evidence of the algal blooms and the pleco’s newfound size is the nitrogen cycle got screwed up and there was a runaway effect. So after the treatment, he’s replacing the filters AND the bio filter. I wish he’d use the quarantine tank and let the redone tank cycle but oh well it’ll work, it’ll just take some extra work
 

mattgirl

Member
goporcupine said:
I mean reestablish the nitrogen cycle. The cycle was not working. So we’re sterilizing it and then putting good bacteria in!
I am curious as to why you think the cycle isn't working. Seeing an algae bloom isn't a sign that the cycle isn't working. I would be very cautious about replacing the filter media. That is where the majority of the bacteria lives. Rinse it off if needed but I wouldn't recommend removing and replacing.

What treatment are you planning? I truly think if he would just gradually increase the water changes until he gets up to changing out 50% of the water each and every week he will see some improvement in these fish. From all I've read here I don't think these fish will survive a fish in cycle and that is what he will be doing if this tank is stripped of all the bacteria already in there. There is no bottled bacteria that will instantly cycle a tank no matter what you read on the bottle. Some of them jump start the cycle but it still takes time and sadly it sounds like these fish won't be able to survive during that time.

What kind of pleco is in there? There are very few if any of them that should be kept in a 10 gallon tank. Hopefully he will consider re-homing the pleco.
 
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goporcupine

Member
I’m really just paranoid because I’ve had the whole system collapse with my oscars, make a whole bunch of dormant parasites and infections come out and play, and almost killed them. (Don’t worry they’re healthy now! And the cycle is back under control!)

it’s more that we don’t know what exactly is causing the illness (Exacerbated by poor water quality) and need to kill the infection. Doing so also is going to mess with the bio filter so it’s easier to just reestablish. If we’re being honest, the original is going to be reintroduced when the fish go back in the tank because they’ve been sitting in water from the old tank. But I’d like to give them a fighting chance of not having the infection come back (as my oscars had).

Thank you for reminding me about the bio filter, by the way. I would have forgotten to tell him!
 

jkkgron2

Member
goporcupine said:
I’m really just paranoid because I’ve had the whole system collapse with my oscars, make a whole bunch of dormant parasites and infections come out and play, and almost killed them. (Don’t worry they’re healthy now! And the cycle is back under control!)

it’s more that we don’t know what exactly is causing the illness (Exacerbated by poor water quality) and need to kill the infection. Doing so also is going to mess with the bio filter so it’s easier to just reestablish. If we’re being honest, the original is going to be reintroduced when the fish go back in the tank because they’ve been sitting in water from the old tank. But I’d like to give them a fighting chance of not having the infection come back (as my oscars had).
The bad water quality is the issue. If he gets a bigger tank and increases water changes to once a week the fish will be a lot healthier. Getting rid of the goldfish may also be a good idea, as they need very large tanks.
 
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goporcupine

Member
Also, that’s why I encouraged him to do the quarantine tank. As far as the pleco goes, he will need a rehome if he gets any bigger. I’m surprised he’s so docile as my dearly departed plecos were all fish killers. Basically, we’re treating the tank as a quarantine tank and doing water changes every day until the infection is cleared and it’s cycled (then regular water changes). It’s not ideal, I’m well aware, but I’m going to do everything I can without straight up taking the fish to minimize their stress.

jkkgron2 said:
The bad water quality is the issue. If he gets a bigger tank and increases water changes to once a week the fish will be a lot healthier. Getting rid of the goldfish may also be a good idea, as they need very large tanks.
I know. He says he’s going to do water changes now.
 

jkkgron2

Member
goporcupine said:
I know. He says he’s going to do water changes now.
Ok then don’t reset the cycle, it’ll just make things worse. He may want to start slow (10% daily for a few days) to avoid shocking the fish.
 

mattgirl

Member
goporcupine said:
Also, that’s why I encouraged him to do the quarantine tank. As far as the pleco goes, he will need a rehome if he gets any bigger. I’m surprised he’s so docile as my dearly departed plecos were all fish killers.
I am surprised to hear that about your pleco's. I have always had at least one ever since I got into this hobby many many years ago and have never had any of them bother any other fish. Right now I have adult pleco;s and pleco fry and again, none of them bother any other fish.

I suppose it is possible if the pleco isn't fed well. I suppose they could get desperate and start attacking other fish for food. If they aren't getting what they need they might start hunting.
Basically, we’re treating the tank as a quarantine tank and doing water changes every day until the infection is cleared and it’s cycled (then regular water changes). It’s not ideal, I’m well aware, but I’m going to do everything I can without straight up taking the fish to minimize their stress.
Are you saying you have already started doing water changes on this tank? How long have you been doing this? How much are you changing each time and how often are you doing it? For us to be able to help we need all the information.

Is there anyway he can test the water? lots of fish stores will test for free but it would be better if either you or he buys his own test kit. I highly recommend the API Master test kit. Without the numbers we are all just shooting in the dark hoping we will hit something.
 
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goporcupine

Member
mattgirl said:
I am surprised to hear that about your pleco's. I have always had at least one ever since I got into this hobby many many years ago and have never had any of them bother any other fish. Right now I have adult pleco;s and pleco fry and again, none of them bother any other fish.

I suppose it is possible if the pleco isn't fed well. I suppose they could get desperate and start attacking other fish for food. If they aren't getting what they need they might start hunting.

Are you saying you have already started doing water changes on this tank? How long have you been doing this? How much are you changing each time and how often are you doing it? For us to be able to help we need all the information.

Is there anyway he can test the water? lots of fish stores will test for free but it would be better if either you or he buys his own test kit. I highly recommend the API Master test kit. Without the numbers we are all just shooting in the dark hoping we will hit something.
This is the first water change in 5 years. After your post, I told him he should pour the water the fish are in right now (from the tank) into the cleaned tank. The water change is in progress. We have to wait for water to boil and cool since he doesn’t have water conditioner.
I’ve been telling him for months that this would happen and I think he finally gets the picture. I’m gonna basically do exactly what I did when my oscars were fragile. I’m going to tell him to buy a test kit too. I’ll be able to tell pretty quick what’s going on with the cycle though. Test kits are essential, but I’ve also figured out some signs (I gotta put my bio classes to good use somehow) and will be able to tell what’s going on with the ecosystem until the test kit arrives.

I think I’ve got this handled now that we know it’s just normal issues that come up with water quality problems. I’ll send pics of the fish when they’re back in the tank (I convinced him to not put the rock back in, so they gain like a gallon and a half of water space in there) and update as they heal! They already look a little better being in slightly cleaner water in the pot they are waiting in.
Thank you ALL so much for your help! We both appreciate it a lot!

(and I’ll be dropping hints that he should get a bigger tank)
And if anyone has any name ideas for two of the tetras and the pleco, let me know! They all need their OWN names (they can’t all be named Sushi)

Oh, mattgirl, about my plecos, I fed them REALLY well and they grew really big (I have my 55 gallon because I got a pleco to make sure my 3 gallon was habitable and it grew so big I eventually needed a 55 gallon just to house that one pleco. All of my plecos after his unfortunate death (that fish had three lives, I swear) were also growers and grew REALLY fast.
They were just voracious (I was going through bags of algae pellets), and territorial and no space was big enough for them to tolerate another fish. I feel so bad because I was naive and thought a 3 inch pleco and like 3 little fish in a 55 gallon would be enough space for all of them. Nope. The pleco wanted it all. And murdered them. RIP little spotted fish. I’m so sorry.
 

mattgirl

Member
It is unfortunate that common pleco's are still sold to folks that have no idea how quickly they will outgrow most home aquariums. Do you know what kind of pleco your friend has? Those such as normal bristlenose pleco's usually stop growing at about 6 inches. I have some super red BN pleco's that are only 3 or so inches when full grown. That handsome fellow over there in my avatar is an albino bristle nose. He is about 5 years old now and is less than 6 inches long.

I have had commons through the years but always re-home them when they get up to 7 inches. Commons are actually my favorite pleco's but I don't have a big enough tank to be able to keep one long term. :(
 
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goporcupine

Member
I’m not sure, but after a little research, I think he’s a sailfin. He has the prettiest golden stripes.

I’ve had several breeds over the years and I think the sailfins were my favorites.
I actually have my big tank purely because nobody told my mom and me that plecos grow and not only is it irresponsible to keep it in a small tank, but it’s also illegal in my area to release them because lots of people released them in the river and now there are a bunch of two foot plecos crowding out a whole bunch of niches they have no business occupying. Turns out they’re a SUPER invasive species. Mine routinely grew to a foot long, with the exception of one tiny one that got murdered by one of the bigger ones (got them from the same tank at petco so I thought they’d be fine, but apparently not).

plecos also live FOREVER. My first one had three lives. When I changed tanks the first time, he wanted to go back to his old tank and jumped (and obviously missed) in the middle of the night, not to be discovered on the carpet covered in cat fur and lint until the next morning. He then survived a nasty ick outbreak. What finally did him in was a water change that was just a little too stressful. That’s why I’ve gotten good at minimizing stress with water changes. I don’t want another fish dying because they got scared.

but it’s dangerous because when I tell people plecos get big, they don’t believe me! And it’s like “Well it’s gonna get big and it’s illegal to dump it, so good luck dude”

Your Bristlenose is adorable, by the way!

I acclimated them in a bag and put them in the tank with a dose of the Pima/mela fix. Cashew looks less pinecone, we’ll see what happens with everyone’s fin rot!

I’ll give them some hiding places and toys when the outbreak is eradicated!
 

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Dippiedee

Member
goporcupine said:
I acclimated them in a bag and put them in the tank with a dose of the Pima/mela fix. Cashew looks less pinecone, we’ll see what happens with everyone’s fin rot!

I’ll give them some hiding places and toys when the outbreak is eradicated!
It's a little far away but from that picture looks like it could be a clown pleco? They only grow to 4" so that's good if it is
 

jkkgron2

Member
goporcupine said:
I acclimated them in a bag and put them in the tank with a dose of the Pima/mela fix. Cashew looks less pinecone, we’ll see what happens with everyone’s fin rot!

I’ll give them some hiding places and toys when the outbreak is eradicated!
Cashew looks like he might be a barb, which is good. The neon tetras are actually danios or a different type of schooling fish. I agree with above about it Being a clown pleco.

Edit: please don’t use any of the fixes. They aren’t very helpful and can stress out fish. I would do a 50% water change to get the fixes out.
 

mattgirl

Member
goporcupine said:
I acclimated them in a bag and put them in the tank with a dose of the Pima/mela fix. Cashew looks less pinecone, we’ll see what happens with everyone’s fin rot!

I’ll give them some hiding places and toys when the outbreak is eradicated!
I would give them some hiding places now. Having none could stress them out even more and cause more illness. I feel stress is the number 2 reason for sick fish. Unhealthy water being number 1.
 
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goporcupine

Member
I told my bf that I would personally give them some nice hiding places as long as he agreed not to put the massive rock back in. I have a nice plastic hutch and some mountain rocks I can boil.

The fish are still alive and are looking better but Cashew doesn’t look STELLAR

I just realized he went out of town yesterday and may be gone the whole week and I just texted him in a panic like WHO THE **** IS WATCHING YOUR FISH.

Supposedly his older brother, but I don’t trust that dude to watch a pet rock much less pet fish, so I may be stopping by.
 
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