White Spot (Ich): White spots on your goldfish?

White Spot (Ich)Have you noticed white spots on your goldfish? Does it look like grains of salt or sugar have been sprinkled on to your goldfish’s body, fins or gills?

If the answer is yes then your fish may be infected with “white spot disease”, also known as “Ich” or “Ick”. Read on to find out more about what white spot disease is, what causes it and – most importantly – how to treat it…

What is white spot disease?

White spot disease is one of the most common diseases affecting freshwater fish, including goldfish. Unfortunately, it is also fatal unless treated. If you notice white spots on any of your fish then you must act quickly to treat it, otherwise the disease will spread to all of the fish in your tank – eventually killing not only the fish that originally showed symptoms, but all of your other fish too!

Each white spot that you see on your goldfish is a parasite that is in a feeding stage of its life cycle. After the parasite is done feeding, it will fall off and attach to other objects in your aquarium (filters, gravel, plants, etc). It will then divide up to 10 times to produce more parasites, which will go on to infect your fish again, or to infect other fish in the tank.

How long it takes for parasites to multiply will depend on the temperature of your tank water. However, when you think that each parasite can divide up to 10 times to produce more parasites, each of those can then divide up to 10 times to produce even more, and so on, you start to get an idea of how quickly it can spread!

What causes white spot?

White spot disease doesn’t just happen – it has to be introduced to a tank or pond from an outside source. This would usually be a new fish (or piece of equipment or decoration, such as a filter, air pump or plant) that have previously been kept in an infected tank.

The fact that white spot is introduced from other tanks is one reason why it’s so important to buy goldfish from a quality breeder or pet store and quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank.

Suggested article: The Goldfish Tank guide to goldfish care.

How to treat white spot disease

As already mentioned, white spot will kill a fish if left untreated and it is a very infectious disease. This means that it won’t just kill the fish that is showing symptoms (white spots) but will eventually kill all of your fish unless you quickly treat your tank and kill the parasites! Here’s what to do if you see white spots on your goldfish:

  • Before starting treatment, test the water for ammonia and nitrate
  • If either ammonia or nitrate are high then do a 30% water change before starting treatment
  • Raise the temperature of the tank water if possible, this speeds up the life cycle of the parasite and makes the disease easier to treat. For goldfish, aim for between 20°C/68°F and 25°C/77°F
  • Buy a chemical white spot treatment and follow the instructions on the bottle
  • Add salt to your tank. To do this, scoop a jug of water from your tank and dissolve two teaspoons of table salt per FIVE gallons of water in your tank into the jug (for example, 8 teaspoons for a 20 gallon tank). Then gradually pour this salt water into your tank over the course of 30 minutes or so (ie. a bit every five or ten minutes, rather than all at once)
  • Continue the chemical white spot treatment according to the instructions even if you stop seeing white spots on your fish, this is to ensure that all parasites (in gravel, on plants, etc) have been removed

If you treat white spot before you start to see your fish develop lesions, white eyes, rapid breathing and before they start aggressively rubbing up against objects, then you have a good chance of saving your fish. However, white spot can, sadly, be difficult to cure unless you spot the disease quickly and treat it quickly!

If you’re unsuccessful in saving your current fish then be sure to clean out your tank thoroughly – including all equipment (such as your filter), gravel and plants – before getting any new fish. When you do get new fish, be very careful about where you get them from and what fish, water and equipment you add to your tank, in order to avoid picking up a white spot infection again.

This post is part of our series on Goldfish DiseasesRead more…

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  • Jane

    I know for other fish you are suppose to crank the heater up but I wonder if that’s good for goldfish since they don’t really love super hot tropical waters anyhow… I do know that the medicine called “Quick Cure” is a life saver and all fish owners should have this tiny little bottle on hand. Walmart and all pet stores sell it. It does charms on Ich!

    • TheGoldfishTank

      Thanks for the comment Jane!

      Whether you raise the water temperature or not when treating white spot is definitely debatable. As you say, goldfish aren’t well suited to high temperatures – plus, white spot can cause damage to gills, and warmer water holds less oxygen, so raising tank temperature too high can make it even more difficult for fish with damaged gills to breath.

      However – if white spot is noticed early (before any damage to gills is apparent) then we’d suggest that the benefit of raising the water temperature a bit – no higher than 25°C/77°F – is worth the slight risks of higher temperature and lower oxygen.

      Great tip on the Quick Cure by the way!

  • http://blackmoorgoldfish.com/ Chris

    I have never encountered ich on goldfish and hope to never see it. I think it is less rare on goldfish then other fish because usually other fish are in larger community tanks with much more schools of fish and new water being added from fish stores and such. I don’t think a lot of people know how to properly acclimate their new fish to their tanks without getting any of that previous water from the pet store into their aquarium. Good post here.

    • TheGoldfishTank

      Thanks Chris!

      You’re right, it would make sense for white spot to be less common in goldfish (who aren’t constantly having new tank mates introduced), than in larger freshwater community tanks.

      You’re also absolutely right about the importance of adding a new goldfish safely. We’ll have to get a post online about that soon!

  • Maxwell_Edison

    Interesting. Long ago, a very old goldfish my family had started getting white spots, among other things, and ended up dying within a year – though, we assumed it was an old problem, and no other fishes died. Perhaps it was a different problem. Or my parents perhaps treated without me knowing, but I don’t think they went away.

  • Karleen

    I have been having trouble with white spot. I have been treating with lifeguard all in one . It said to treat every 24 hours for 5 days. Tomorrow will be the 5 day. Should I continue. Thought I should take the water down. Treat the fresh water. And keep medicating.
    Don’t want to over do. But I still see some on there tail. Have any ideas. I have them 6 years. They are eating and seem o k .
    Thank you for helping. Also it says to take the carbon out. I have done that.

  • Louise

    Any advice would be great – I have five goldfish in a 60 gallon tank, they have filtration and the water and tank ornaments are maintained once a week with total sterilisation and filter change once a month. I have noticed that my all-black fish now has white stripes appearing on his tail, none of the ich pictures I have seen online look anything like what my little dude has.
    The stripes are quite attractive and very pure in colour, he has also started spending quite a bit of time lurking on the bottom of the tank although his appetite is still good. My other fishes seem unaffected by it. Thanks everyone xx

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