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dropsy fish disease picture

Dropsy referred to in professional texts as ascites which is the accumulation of fluids in the visceral cavity of a fish. Dropsy is a term used to describe the swelling of a fishes body, causing the scales to stand away from the body, and conveying the appearance of a pine cone. Dropsy can also be known as bloater or pinecone disease. It is normally confined to one Koi at a time and it is usually caused by an internal bacterial problem, e.x., organ failure caused by bacterial infection. Dropsy can, however, be induced by a viral infection, although this is seldom seen by the hobbyist, but when this does happen a number of Koi will start to show the symptoms of dropsy at the same time. Dropsy can also be caused by a parasite which attacks the kidneys; this result in them enlarging and losing their ability to function, eventually kidney failure will result.

In some cases dropsy can simply be due to fluid retention, and if this is the case the use of salt can normally cause the buildup of fluid to be released, and the Koi saved. The diagnosis of fluid buildup must be made early and the necessary treatment applied before any bacterial infections occur.

It can occur in any species of fish, but is perhaps most common in ornamental carps of the Goldfish and Koi classes.

Aeromonas enter the body through the intestines in the winter and spring times, and also through ulcers, or the bite wounds of parasites like Gyrodactyliid flukes. Once inside the fish, the bacteria are swept through the kidney and the liver, and the failure of either of these organs can cause the Dropsy symptom.

The problem is that upon the appearance of Dropsy, especially from liver or kidney damage, the damage to these organs must be so severe to finally cause Dropsy, that the condition is as irreversible as the primary organ failure itself.

Resources: Koi Health & Disease by Dr. Erik Johnson


dropsy fish disease picture

Early signs of dropsy include swelling of the body and protrusio of the eyes. Following these early symptoms the body continues to swell, and this results in the scales on the infected Koi lifting causing the fish to take on a Pine-Cone appearance.

In these advanced stages the Koi may lose its ability to maintain correct balance in the water because its swimbladder is under abnormal pressure caused by the accumulation of fluids within its body cavity.

If the fish is generally swollen and 100% of its scales are standing up all over the body the prognosis is most likely dropsy.

If the fish has a sore, and the scales around the sore, or even on the whole side of the fish stand up, it is not necessarily Dropsy. This fish may respond well to treatment.

Symptoms of Dropsy:

  • Swelling of the body
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Protrusion of the eyes
  • Lifted scales, (pine cone appearance)
  • Lose ability to maintain its balance
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Gasping at the surface of water or remaining at the water surface
  • Staying near areas of high oxygen


You can have a well maintained pond but still get dropsy; it is hard to prevent this disease. The best way to prevent dropsy is to feed your Koi a well-balanced and healthy diet all times, keep your water levels at optimal levels, the water is heated, and all basic husbandry procedures are maintained to the highest level.

Use Microbe-Lift Sabbactisun Concentrate for a Preventative Treatment.


When the symptoms of dropsy are spotted, you should isolate the effected fish then treat. After isolating the Koi perfom a Salt treatment then begin feeding with triple antibiotic food. Melafix can be used for dropsy.

One of the most distressing things about dropsy is that although it can sometimes be cured, in most cases it proves fatal. This is generally because by the time external symptoms are spotted, irreparable internal damage and/or infections have occurred, mainly to the kidneys, and they are beyond treatment.

dropsy fish diseases picture

Melafix 16 oz. Size Treats 4800 gal

~Price $19.00

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