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Category: Pet
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My goldfish seems to be losing scales. I have 2 goldfish but

Customer Question

My goldfish seems to be losing scales. I have 2 goldfish but only one is losing the scales. I thought he (the affected fish) had ick so I treated the tank for a week with medicine the local pet shop gave me for treating ick. It has been 3 weeks and it has not improved. In fact he looks like he is losing more scales. I have taken photos and can attach them to an email so a vet can access the situation. He is mostly white with a few small orange patches in color. However, it appears he is losing the scales in the white regions, revealing kind of a pinkish skin tone under the scales. Is this normal? What do I do? Will these scales grow back. Side note- a long time ago I used to seem his chase or be chased by the other fish but they have not done that in over a year and kind of pal around all of the time. I never see him rub up against anything. There are 2 fish in a 25 gallon tank (he is one of the 2). Any tips of what I should do?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

Your goldfish is suffering from a severe bacterial infection which is the reason that the Ick medicine did not effect a cure as the medicine used is designed to treat parasites and not bacterial issues.


What I recommend be done is:


1) Verify that the water temperature is in the proper range for goldfish which is 62f-72f degrees. If not then slowly adjust it.


2) Change 25% (6.25 gallons) of the water. This should be done once a week, instead of every 30 days, as a matter of regular tank maintainance. When the water change is done do not add any more salt as the salt is liable to irrititate the area exposed by the missing scales.


3) Begin to treat with a medicine called Maracyn Plus which is easily found at most major pet stores. Follow the directions on the product label for usage/dosage instructions.


4) As a precaution before starting treatment have the water tested for levels of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Ideal results should be ammonia=-0-, nitrites=-0- and nitrates=20ppm or lower. Differing results would indicate a water quality problem which would need to be fixed before treatment.


Good luck!



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Would you like to see pictures of my fish to verify? Also, will the scales grow back? Will Petco have the Maracyn Plus?
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

If you'd like to send the pics over then click the "tree" button on the toolbar and submit according to the directions given.

Depending on how far advanced the problem is the scales might or might not regenerate but they most probably will if the fish recovers from the problem.

I don't know if Petco carries Maracyn Plus but if they don't you can ask them to order it.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Hang on, I need to resize the photos. Then I will post them. He's lost a lot of scales. I am so worried.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

The guy at the pet store told me it was ick from what I described and treated this weeks ago. But as you can see, it did not work.
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

Ick manifests itself as little white spots all over the fish giving the fish the appearance of being sprinkled by salt. Obviously this is not the case here.


Also if this were another external parasite problem the Ick medicine would have most probably been effective against it.


I would still recommend the Maracyn Plus but do make sure the water quality is in order or no medicine will be of use.



TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO and 2 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
You've got it. After the photos you saw, do you think there is a chance this lil guys scales will grow back?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
You've got it. After the photos you saw, do you think there is a chance this lil guys scales will grow back?

Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

If the fish is able to recover and much of this depends on how far advanced the disease has become the the scales should regenerate. If the fish is not able to bounce back then not only will the scales not grow back but the fish will die.

Remember good water quality plays an important role in the recovery process.


Thank you for your accept.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
How soon would I expect to see the scales growing back?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
How soon would I expect to see the scales growing back?
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

If the problem is not too far advanced and the fish reacts favorably to the treatment then the scales should start to regenerate within 10-14 days.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I hope I did not treat this too late as I love this little fish. I am so mad at the guy who clearly had me spend a couple of weeks treating the wrong thing.

I have called around to find Marcyn plus. Many shops have Marcyn and Marcyn2. Will that suffice or is the Marcyn plus the perfect solution? I will keep looking for this.

Last question, I tested all of the water levels before work this morning. All of the readings were good except, nitrate (no2 was at the 5.0). The no3 was in the acceptable range.
I just did a 25% water change this morning and put the dechlorinator in. It said I could use up to 5x the dosage in emergency nitrate situations (which I did). Is it okay for me to put the marcyn plus in now (if I can find it)? Also, how often should I be changing the water if the nitrates (no2) readings are high? What can I put in the water to treat the no2? Can I use marcyn plus at the same time.
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.
I'm confused about the test result---you stated--"All of the readings were good except, nitrate (no2 was at the 5.0)." Nitrates=no3, nitrites=no2. Which is it?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
no3 was below 40 ppm, (my chart said it was okay) the no2 readings was 5.0 and my chart says that is too high. I thought it was confusing too.
By the way, thank you so much for all of your help. I love this little fish and hate to think he is suffering.

Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

The results are not confusing at all as they clearly state--nitrites (no2)=5.0 and

nitrates (no3)=below 40ppm.


This is what's causing the problem--the presence of harmful nitrites in the water. Both ammonia and nitrites should never be present in an establshed aquarium as they will harm and eventually kill a fish.


Before beginning treatment nitrites must be completely eliminated or no medicine will have a positive effect. Repeat--nitrites must be eliminated in order to treat effectively.


What needs to be done to eliminate nitrites is a series of daily 15% partial water changes in conjunction with a drastic reduction on the amount and frequency of food being fed. For now feed the fish only a small pinch of food once every other day. This will not starve or harm the fish as they are genetically hard-wired to go days without food. Overfeeding causes excess fish waste and decaying matter all which contribute to ammonia/nitrite formation. Continue this regimen until both ammonia and nitrites are both at -0-.


If your using carbon/charcoal in your filter it would be beneficial to change it for new fresh carbon as this will help the water quality.


Once the water quality is in order you can begin to treat the fish. You can substitute Maracyn 2 for Maracyn Plus.


Remember that prolonged exposure to nitrites and/or ammonia will kill the fish!


I'll be signing off shortly so if you have additional questions I'll address them later in the day.


Warm regards.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thanks so much. I will take your advice and keep you posted.
You have been so helpful. Thanks you so much.
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.
You're very welcome. Good luck!
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Here's an update.
The nitrates are within the "normal range" on the illustrated scale. I am still aiming to lower them. I am using the maracyn 2 each night after a 15-25% nightly water change. I found the maracyn plus online and ordered a supply with rush shipment. It arrived today. Should I finish out the maracyn2 5 day treatment in progress (this will be day 3) or should I just abandon and start using the Maracyn plus?
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

You wrote-"The nitrates are within the "normal range" on the illustrated scale" but as I recall nitrites (no2) were the problem so I'd advise checking/testing them as soon as possible.


If the fish is making progress with the Maracyn 2 then continue to finish out the treatment if not then switch over to Maracyn Plus but make sure both ammonia and nitrites=-0- before continuing.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Nitrates or nitrates? Nitrites and Ammonia are zero now. Nitrates are around 40 ppm.
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

I was speaking of nitrites (no2) as they are far more dangerous than nitrates but as you've mentioned they're at -0- and ammonia too then all is almost well with the water as the nitrates need to come down to at least 20ppm. To acheive this cut down on the feedings and make sure the filter is on par. 15%-20% partial water changes help too.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
That sounds like a plan. The lady at the pet store had me cut the new filter and remove the carbon stones out while I am applying medicine. The fish seem normal (with the exception of the lost scales). With that, I'll stick with Marcyn 2 with the daily water changes, then I will start the Marcyn plus treatment following that (on Sunday).
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.
The thing to remember is that some medicines require that the carbon in the filter be removed during treatment so check the product label for this before administering a medicine.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Just wanted to follow up. I did a full course treatment (with the carbon removed from the filter) of a 5 day course of Marcyn2. Because I was able to find the Marcyn plus online, I ordered it and immediately following the Marcyn2 course I did a course of Maracyn plus. During that time, I did the daily water changes. I have now placed live aquarium plants in there. I stopped the daily water changes (it's been about a week and a half). I checked the levels a bit over a week ago and the tank was in good shape. However, I am not seeing the scales grow back. If anything, the lil guy looks like he's lost more scales revealing pink-like skin. I have not used the aquarium salt in any of these water changes. Should I do another course of marcyn plus or do you have another suggestion? What is the cause for the missing scales which have not seem to improve at all?
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

Hello again.


Try adding a product to the water called Stress Coat. It contains the natural healing ingredient aloe vera and helps with the fish's natural slime coat. If no improvement is seen within 72 hours re-treat with Maracyn-Two.


You wrote--" I checked the levels a bit over a week ago and the tank was in good shape." I assume that to mean ammonia=-0-, nitrites=-0- and nitrates=20ppm or lower

, if not then there's a water quality problem.


Also please remember what I had cautioned about on 06/01 and that is "depending on how far advanced the problem is the scales might or might not regenerate" but the good sign here is that you have not mentioned the fish not showing any other negative symptoms.




Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Just checked the levels
ammonia = 0
nitrates = 35 (they snuck up to this over the past week and half). Could the live plants I added to the tank cause this?

I have just done a water change and added stress coat. Should I continue doing daily water changes with stress coat for the next 2 days, then start marcyn2 with daily water changes?

Lastly, I know to remove the carbon from the filter when I am using marcyn2. How about when I am just using the stress coat? Should I leave the carbon in the filter in over the next 2 days?
Thanks so much for your help. I just want to help this lil guy.
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

Ammonia is fine, nitrates as you're aware are too high and will cause problems at this level. It would be advisable to check for nitrites too. Live plants would not have a negative effect on the nitrate level.


Yes continue to do daily 15% partial water changes for the next two days whilst adding the corresponding amount of Stress Coat.


No need to remove the carbon when using Stress Coat. It would be beneficial to the water to leave the carbon in the filter for the next two days.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Okay so I did a 25% water change late last night.
Twelve hours later here is where we stand

nitrites- 0 ppm
nitrates- 10 ppm (I can't believe how much this came down. I vacuumed the bottom of the tank during the water change so hopefully that helped).
Do you recommend having live plants in the tank?
I'll do a water change a bit later today and add the stress coat. Tomorrow I will also to a water change, add the stress coat, and start a 5 day course of Marcyn2 (carbon removed from filter).
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

Assuming ammonia=-0- the test results are fine. I don't know if we covered this but as a precaution test the ph too. If it's too low or high it could have a negative effect on the fish.


Live plants are beneficial in an aquarium but they do require work such as cleaning up dead leaves from the tank and filter intake.


Sounds like a green light to go ahead and treat again tommorrow.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Okay, here's the update.
I have been doing the 20-25% daily water change (using stress coat daily) and treating marcyn2 for 5 days (second course of treatment). The water levels are testing good. Ammonia = 0, nitrites= 0, nitrates= 5 ppm. The fish seems to be acting totally normal but the scales haven't changed much. One thing that is very strange is the water all of a sudden started turning a bit green (started 2 days ago- even with the daily water changes). The aquarium is in a very dark room so I don't think it is a light issue. Are the live plants I put in the tank causing this? Any other ideas as to what is causing or should I treat the green water issue? Also, what should I do with the scales treatment? Should I just sit and wait for a couple of weeks? Should I continue with daily water changes?
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I still want to get your opinion with my last post above but wanted to add a couple of other things. The fish seems to have lost a few more scales (I'm guessing maybe it's the same). He's pretty subdued, seems a little more shy than usual and hangs out at the bottom of the tank more (as the toy aquarium treasure chest has been removed so he may feel a little more vulnerable in open water). Anyway, I am noticing his skin (where the scales is missing is quite pinkish red. I did some research and found the following post. Do you think my fish has this and I should treat it with the same way (I've finished the second dose of marcyn2 now). Should I get the medicine below? I just want to desperately save this lil guy.

The post I found:

I think your fishes are suffering from bacterial infection called Hemorrhagic the disease will progress your fishes will start having redness on their body and at base of the fins but disease can be easily cured by feeding Oxytetracycline Hydrochloride Powder mixed diet for at least ten days or adding a capsule of Amoxicillin-250 in your tank and then do partial water change at regular basis after three days until you whole old water is cycled.
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

Green water is a sign of algae although not harmful but unsightly. Plants do not cause algae growth but excess nutrients do, i.e. food, waste products. A high level of phosphates in the water will also stimulate algae growth.


As for the scales not growing back, apparently the problem was too far advanced thus the scales did not regenerate.


Septicemia is basically internal bleeding and it's primary symptom is red streaks on the fish. You can try using the medicine listed in the post you read as it will not do any harm.

I'm not sure it will fix the problem.

Customer: replied 7 years ago.
You are so awesome for answering my questions and helping me. I really really appreciate it. I am doing everythingI can to save this little guy because he used to be in a pond outside and is the lone survivor from 2 terrible raccoon attacks. I have always taken good care of this aquarium but I think a monthly water change was pushing it a little too far (that was my lack of knowledge). Should I do a 25% water change now once a week or every 2 weeks?

In terms of the possibility of Septicemia, I don't see red streaks but more of regions of raw pink skin patches (where there are no scales). I'll order the medicine and give it a try.

In terms of the slightly green water, it did not look as bad this morning as I started using a new filter as I had removed the carbons from the one used during the last marcyn2 treatment. It is still slightly green. Should also purchase an algae treatment for the tank? Is there one you suggest?

I just want to help this guy. He's been through a lot. It is so weird, he was missing just a couple of scales for a long while and then poof, it seems like overnight he lost all of the rest. I am sitting across from hom now. He's swimming around looking for food. By the way, I am feeding a little less (2 tiny pinches) a day. I feed pellets one day, and flakes the next day. I forgot to tell you that.

Happy 4th of July,

Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

I'm glad to be of assistance and admire your efforts to save the fish.


25% water changes once a week are ideal.


I wouldn't recommend using an algae treatment, only as a last resort. They can sometimes cause problems as a fish will have a negative reaction to them and with your fish's scale problem I wouldn't want to risk that.


Take care Jennifer and have a safe holiday.


Customer: replied 7 years ago.
I just got off the phone with a local tropical fish store as I was looking for live aquarium plants. I told them the scenario that I am dealing with. The lady there told me that when she has had to treat her goldfish with medicine, she said they went downhill.She said that goldfish don't respond to medicine well, particularly if they start to become overmedicated.So, I'll hold off on that other medicine for now. She also mentioned that I should be adding aquarium salt. She said the salt gives the goldfish a slime-like protective coat,

I have been holding off the aquarium salt as you mentioned that it could irritate his scaleless areas. Should I add salt now (even though he has not generated new scales yet)? or should I hold off adding the aquarium salt?

Also, should I be doing water changes/tank cleaning every 2 weeks from here on out?
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.

I disagree with the advice that treating goldfish is not recommended as if a goldfish becomes ill what is a fishkeeper to do?, let the disease progress. If so then the fish will surely go downhill. At least treating with medicine gives the fish a chance. Yes it's true--over-medicating will not help a sick fish but that's why it's important to follow the directions on a medicine's product label as stated and to not treat with too many medicines nor too often.


As for adding aquarium salt- what I think would be the best course of action is to add a small dose of salt to see how the fish reacts. Instead of the usual recommended dosage of 1 teaspoon per every 5 gallons/20 litres of water try 1 teaspoon per every 7.5 gallons/ 30 litres of water. If the fish doesn't have a negative reaction after 5 days then

add the corresponding amount so that the normal recommended dose is reached.


25% water changes once a week are ideal.



Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Perfect. I'll follow your suggestion. I thought that medication opinion from the local fish store sounded a little off. Thanks for the advice.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Oh one more thing- she said the aquarium salt would kill the live plants. Is that true?
It's recommended 1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons. I just added 3 rounded tablespoons for my 25 gallon tank.
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 7 years ago.
Yes it's true that salt has the capability of killing plants but much has to do with the type of plant and the amount of salt added. The light dosage I recommend should not harm the plants. I don't even think the normal recommended dose would be harmful. It's when one starts really adding salt that it has a harmful effect.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Ric. Long time, no talk. I still need your advice with this little goldfish (the other is fine). The update- he lost all of his scales pretty soon after we last wrote and has not ever grown them back. I have done weekly 25% water changes and have had plants. He has been acting normal. Last week, I added a bunch of new plants. Well, yesterday I noticed the white (mostly) goldfish with no scales started darting around the tank. I checked my water levels, here is where they are at.

Ammonia= 0
Nitrate= 15
nitrite =0
ph = 7.6
freshwater ph = 8

Even though it had not been a week, I decided a 25% water change (temp matching existing tank water). After I finished, he kept darting. I read online it may be ammonia burns (which the level was at 0). I read I should I add salt. I woke up this morning and he looks in poorer shape. His white regions are now very very pink. At the edges, he has tiny brown spots (like singed). So I am going to immediately, do a water change (add NO salt) and am going to take a bunch of the plants out (that is the only thing which has changed). Do you have any other suggestions? I want to help this little guy? What else can I do? Should I add marcyn2 or marycyn plus?
Expert:  TROPICAL FISH AFICIONADO replied 6 years ago.

Hi again and I'm glad to hear your goldfish has been doing well all along.


Ok for starters the water test results are good although the darting and brown spots would be an indication of ammonia burn so the first thing I'd recommend is having the water re-tested for ammonia by an outside source such as your local pet shop. If their results coinicide with your test results than I think it would be safe to say ammonia is confirmed at -0- if not then there might indeed be an ammonia issue.


I would avoid adding any kind of salt at this point. Do an immediate partial water change as you have planned=25% and add a product to the water called Stress Coat right after the water change. If after 24 hours the fish has not improved then begin to treat with a medicine called Melafix.


The fish's symptoms are indicative of a reation to something in the water more so than a bacteria hence my not recommending any of the Maracyns.