Goldfish lethargic but not sick?

watergirl1996

Hi folks…

I’m in a bit of a bind here. I have three fancy goldfish, they’re all butterfly telescopes. I’ve had them for a bit over a month, maybe two, now, and everything was fine up until about a week or two ago.

two of the fish are fine, but the third one, a girl, suddenly stopped swimming around so much. She becomes completely still and sometimes wedges herself in between a decoration and the glass of the tank, or becomes oriented in a way that she’s facing down with her butt in the air. Sometimes it looks like she’s straight up dead. But if you knock on the tank, she gets right back up and starts swimming completely normally. Dump food in the tank, she goes crazy and eats it.

she’s not clamping her fins- they’re still completely up at attention. There doesn’t appear to be any bloating and her fins look great- no signs of septicemia, fin rot, anything like that. No dropsy. She literally shows zero signs of being sick. I was thinking it can’t be swim bladder issues, because when she actually swims, she’s fine. But she takes a lot of breaks and just lets herself go face down and/or wedged somewhere.

Before anyone asks: it’s a 46 gallon tank, water parameters are perfect as I keep on top of maintenance (temperature usually stays between 68-70 degrees naturally, pH at 7.2, ammonia at 0, nitrites 0, nitrates undetectable). Tank has been cycled and steady for years (about 8).

I noticed that the other two fish in the tank (two males) would display some very obvious mating behavior (chasing her, bumping her belly to try and get her to release eggs) so I was thinking maybe she had eggs. But it’s been a while and she hasn’t released anything, and I’m getting very worried. I wasn’t sure if maybe she’s egg bound, and that’s causing her to be sluggish… don’t know if being egg bound causes a fish to turn sideways like that though.

I also don’t think she’s constipated because I’ve fed gel food, I’ve fed peas, I’ve fasted her… but nothing is working. Although, it is worth mentioning that she seems to not be pooping anything out… if I do see something coming out of her, it’s very tiny and stringy, not like the usual thick goldfish poop we’re all used to.

So yeah, TL;DR: fish not visibly sick or clamping fins but something is definitely wrong.

please help. :(
 

mattgirl

I am sorry no one has gotten back to you before now. I've never had goldfish so don't know all there is to know about them but I have to wonder if the little female could just be exhausted. being the only female in a tank with two males. I can see that happening if they are constantly bumping her.

I wish our goldy expert was still active on the forum. I did learn a bit from her. One of the things she recommended often was adding salt to a goldfish tank. If you've not done so already that would be the first thing I would try to see if it will help her. If she hasn't been internally damaged from all the attention from the boys it may open her up and get her pooping normally.
 
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jpm995

No expert on goldfish but the stringy poop would worry me. Possibly an internal parasite? Goldfish are so hardy they can tolerate stuff that kills tropicals. What i don't get is how this could have happened in an established tank with original fish and good clean water.
 
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NevermindIgnoreMe

Hi folks…

I’m in a bit of a bind here. I have three fancy goldfish, they’re all butterfly telescopes. I’ve had them for a bit over a month, maybe two, now, and everything was fine up until about a week or two ago.

two of the fish are fine, but the third one, a girl, suddenly stopped swimming around so much. She becomes completely still and sometimes wedges herself in between a decoration and the glass of the tank, or becomes oriented in a way that she’s facing down with her butt in the air. Sometimes it looks like she’s straight up dead. But if you knock on the tank, she gets right back up and starts swimming completely normally. Dump food in the tank, she goes crazy and eats it.

she’s not clamping her fins- they’re still completely up at attention. There doesn’t appear to be any bloating and her fins look great- no signs of septicemia, fin rot, anything like that. No dropsy. She literally shows zero signs of being sick. I was thinking it can’t be swim bladder issues, because when she actually swims, she’s fine. But she takes a lot of breaks and just lets herself go face down and/or wedged somewhere.

Before anyone asks: it’s a 46 gallon tank, water parameters are perfect as I keep on top of maintenance (temperature usually stays between 68-70 degrees naturally, pH at 7.2, ammonia at 0, nitrites 0, nitrates undetectable). Tank has been cycled and steady for years (about 8).

I noticed that the other two fish in the tank (two males) would display some very obvious mating behavior (chasing her, bumping her belly to try and get her to release eggs) so I was thinking maybe she had eggs. But it’s been a while and she hasn’t released anything, and I’m getting very worried. I wasn’t sure if maybe she’s egg bound, and that’s causing her to be sluggish… don’t know if being egg bound causes a fish to turn sideways like that though.

I also don’t think she’s constipated because I’ve fed gel food, I’ve fed peas, I’ve fasted her… but nothing is working. Although, it is worth mentioning that she seems to not be pooping anything out… if I do see something coming out of her, it’s very tiny and stringy, not like the usual thick goldfish poop we’re all used to.

So yeah, TL;DR: fish not visibly sick or clamping fins but something is definitely wrong.

please help. :(
What's your substrate, and what color is the poo? A pic could help too.
Did you do any quarantine on them, also where are they from?
 
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jtjgg

since fancy goldfish have a deformed body shape, being egg bound could cause sideways floatiness.

if she's not pooping much, it could be a blockage. besides fasting and feeding peas, you should try epsom salt baths.
 
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watergirl1996

I am sorry no one has gotten back to you before now. I've never had goldfish so don't know all there is to know about them but I have to wonder if the little female could just be exhausted. being the only female in a tank with two males. I can see that happening if they are constantly bumping her.

I wish our goldy expert was still active on the forum. I did learn a bit from her. One of the things she recommended often was adding salt to a goldfish tank. If you've not done so already that would be the first thing I would try to see if it will help her. If she hasn't been internally damaged from all the attention from the boys it may open her up and get her pooping normally.
I’ve thought about that, but sometimes the boys stop chasing her for a couple days, and she doesn’t get better :(
I have aquarium salt and added some a few water changes ago when she accidentally tore her fin, so I’ll go ahead and add a little more after today’s water change. Unfortunately I don’t know if it’ll help :(
No expert on goldfish but the stringy poop would worry me. Possibly an internal parasite? Goldfish are so hardy they can tolerate stuff that kills tropicals. What i don't get is how this could have happened in an established tank with original fish and good clean water.
For a split second I thought that too, so I bought some Paraguay’s just to be safe and treated the entire tank for 2 weeks. Nothing’s changed. And yeah, I mean, I’m an experienced goldfish keeper (been doing this for ten years) and I went over EVERYTHING in my head, there’s nothing new in the tank that could have brought in parasites.
since fancy goldfish have a deformed body shape, being egg bound could cause sideways floatiness.

if she's not pooping much, it could be a blockage. besides fasting and feeding peas, you should try epsom salt baths.

didn’t know you could put a fish in Epsom salts. The same kind that humans use? (Unscented of course?)
What's your substrate, and what color is the poo? A pic could help too.
Did you do any quarantine on them, also where are they from?
Substrate is medium sized pebbles, round and big enough that she can’t accidentally choke on one (been there done that with another fish, ).

like I said earlier, the poo, when she does actually go, is very thin and either brownish grey (the color of their food) or it’s white. That’s usually indicative of a parasite, but it’s an established tank and they were treated preventatively for parasites when I first got them, so there’s nothing that could have brought parasites into the tank. Can’t get a picture of her poo, it’s very rare that I actually see her doing it.

When I first got these fish, it was after my last couple died, and I didn’t want the tank to go out of cycle, so I went to an aquarium store in CT to get them (no petsmart or petco here, I’ve learned my lesson about them years ago ). Since all three were new at the time, and I always medicate fish for the first two weeks after getting them, I didn’t bother to quarantine and instead just put them all into the tank and medicated them together. They’ve all been good for a couple of months now, so this is quite baffling to me.
So, I’ve been doing research- it almost seems like she might have an ovarian tumor, unfortunately :( apparently they are common for both koi and deformed fish like moors and telescope eyes to get, and they mimic the symptoms of being egg bound- even down to the boys chasing her to release eggs. Ovarian tumors can put out hormones similar to the reproductive hormones that female fish release into water during the spawn- hence why the boys were chasing her, but she was releasing no eggs.

Please let me know if anyone else has any ideas- unfortunately if it is a tumor, all I can do is keep her comfortable until it’s time for her to go. She’s only a 3-4in fish and it’s not worth paying a vet to operate :(
 
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jpm995

Really sounds like you diagnosed your problem correctly given the available facts. Agree a vet is not a practical solution, how many have even operated on a fish before? As much a i like the looks of some fancy goldfish i stay away from any fish that has been bred for a look that compromises their ability to swim or function. Betta has been my only exception. Hopefully she can live with her issue she sounds like a fighter.
 
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mattgirl

It sounds like you have covered all bases in diagnosing what's going on with this little girl. It also sounds like you know as much about goldfish as anyone else here. If it is constipation the epsom salts baths might help but other than that it seems you have done everything you can up to this point to help her.
 
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watergirl1996

It sounds like you have covered all bases in diagnosing what's going on with this little girl. It also sounds like you know as much about goldfish as anyone else here. If it is constipation the epsom salts baths might help but other than that it seems you have done everything you can up to this point to help her.
Thanks for the help. I have been trying so hard and honestly, this has been going on for two weeks now. If she was going to poop she would have pooped by now, I feel like. :(
Really sounds like you diagnosed your problem correctly given the available facts. Agree a vet is not a practical solution, how many have even operated on a fish before? As much a i like the looks of some fancy goldfish i stay away from any fish that has been bred for a look that compromises their ability to swim or function. Betta has been my only exception. Hopefully she can live with her issue she sounds like a fighter.
Funny enough, my dog’s vet is also an exotics vet who does surgery on fish. But come on, she’s tiny, there’s no way I’m gonna spend $2000 to save her, that’s just crazy. And I totally agree with you on buying genetically non-stunted fish, it’s just unfortunate that fancy goldfish are pretty much all I know. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. I was just hoping there was an easy solution that I wasn’t thinking of, so I could save her. Unfortunately though, she’s just not really swimming around or holding herself upright unless I dump food into the tank, and that’s just no way to live. If she was still holding herself upright when she rested, I’d leave her be, but I’ve made the very hard decision to put her down tonight and end her suffering. It’s also stressing the other two out to see her like this, and I don’t need them to stress so much that they become sick.
Thank you both so much for the help.
 
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mattgirl

Although it sounds like you have made to decision to put her down you may want to give her one more chance with the Epsom salts baths. If it is in fact a tumor it isn't going to help but if it is somehow constipation it may help her. I am not exactly sure how they are done but I am sure a quick search here on the forum would help you out.
 
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jpm995

Thanks for the help. I have been trying so hard and honestly, this has been going on for two weeks now. If she was going to poop she would have pooped by now, I feel like. :(

Funny enough, my dog’s vet is also an exotics vet who does surgery on fish. But come on, she’s tiny, there’s no way I’m gonna spend $2000 to save her, that’s just crazy. And I totally agree with you on buying genetically non-stunted fish, it’s just unfortunate that fancy goldfish are pretty much all I know. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. I was just hoping there was an easy solution that I wasn’t thinking of, so I could save her. Unfortunately though, she’s just not really swimming around or holding herself upright unless I dump food into the tank, and that’s just no way to live. If she was still holding herself upright when she rested, I’d leave her be, but I’ve made the very hard decision to put her down tonight and end her suffering. It’s also stressing the other two out to see her like this, and I don’t need them to stress so much that they become sick.
Thank you both so much for the help.
Your strong effort and great success at keeping less than perfect generic modified fish is to be admired. Your obvious concern and skill in handling a difficult situation makes me think there's room in our hobby for unconventional thinking. Good luck with whatever path you take with your goldfish.
 
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