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 ick is, what causes it and – most importantly – how to treat it…
What is ick?
Ick, or white spot, is one of the most common diseases affecting freshwater fish. 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. If you don’t, the ick will spread to all of the fish in your tank. This will not only kill the fish that originally showed symptoms, but all of your other fish too!
Each white spot that you see on your goldfish is an ick parasite at the 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. These parasites will then infect your fish again, or infect other fish in the tank.
How long it takes ick parasites to multiply depends on the temperature of your tank water. But it’s always a quick process.
Each ick 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… So you can imagine how quickly ick 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.
The source of ick would usually be a new fish, equipment or a decoration from 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. You should also always quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank.
How to treat white spot disease
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 but will eventually kill all of your fish. You must quickly treat your tank and kill the ick parasites at the first sign of symptoms!
What to do if you see white spots on your goldfish:
- Before starting treatment, use a test kit that measures ammonia pH, nitrite and nitrate to check your water parameters.
- 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 ick 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. So a bit every five or ten minutes, not 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
Will ick treatment work?
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 be difficult to cure unless you spot the disease early.
If you’re unsuccessful in saving your current fish then be sure to clean out your tank thoroughly before getting a new fish. This includes all equipment, gravel and plants.
When you do get new fish, be very careful about where you get them from. You should also be careful what fish, water and equipment you add to your tank, to avoid picking up a white spot infection again.