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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11512
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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My little comet goldfish cannot shut her mouth. She is in

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My little comet goldfish cannot shut her mouth. She is in a 50 gallon pond with good water quality and one other goldfish, who is healthy. She is eating and swimming, but her mouth has been open in a figure 8 type form constantly since yesterday. I checked to see if there was anything lodged there but could not find anything. What could this be and what can I do to help her?

I apologize that no one has responded to your question sooner. Different experts come online at various times. I just came online and saw your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in fish, and many years experience fish keeping. I'm sorry to hear of this incident. If you still need help, some additional information will be useful.

Have you noticed her swimming with her head downward?

Has she tried to shake her head?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for replying Anna. She is swimming straight and does not seem to be shaking her head. The only thing that is different is that her mouth does not close, just constantly gapes open. I did notice when I just went out to check that my larger orange comet now has two large white spots between his eye and his gills on both sides. I did not notice this before on him. Could this be related?

Thank you for getting back to me. I suspect you are seeing two different problems. We'll have to do a little detective work.

When you tested the water, what numbers did you get, in parts per million (ppm) for ammonia and nitrites?

Do the white spots resemble those on either of the fish in these photos?


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I used a Jungle Quick Dip test strip yesterday and got a reading of about 6.8. The large spots resemble the the spot on the back of the bottom fishes head more closely than the picture above.


Thank you. The reading you got was for pH, and that is ok, and though a bit low shouldn't cause problems. What we really need are readings for ammonia and nitrites. Both of those chemicals need to be at zero. It's best to use a test kit that has test tubes and chemicals you add to water samples. Testing for ammonia and nitrites with strips is unreliable. Water quality can affect many different health conditions.

The white spots are most likely carp pox. Carp pox is caused by a virus in the herpesvirus family. It causes white or pink waxy bumps in various sizes. Some will disappear. New ones may show up. There is no cure for it, but the affected fish seem to live healthy normal lives with it. It is believed that most goldfish have been exposed to it, but have built up a resistance to it so they don't become infected. If they are stressed, an outbreak can occur. You can read more about it here:

As you suspect, the most common cause of a fish being unable to close its mouth is something caught in the mouth or throat. It could be a rock, a piece of stick that has fallen into the pond, or any of a number of foreign objects. Often, a fish will finally manage to get the object out, and many pond keepers do nothing. If you want to try to help, you'd need to catch the fish. Wrap it in a wet cloth, and hold it head down. Rub the throat in one direction - toward the mouth- to see if that will dislodge the object. If that doesn't work, you can open the fish's mouth, and using round-ended tweezers very gently take hold of the object and dislodge it. You do need to be very gentle throughout this process. Sometimes the cause isn't an object, but rather a sore or tumor in the mouth or throat. In that case, the only solution si to have an aquatic vet treat the fish.

If you have more questions, let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope your fish will be fine.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you again Anna for replying. As the afternoon progressed today she seemed to become lethargic and settled down to the very bottom of the pond not moving. I took your advice and gently took her out wrapped in a wet cloth and checked her mouth again. I could not find any sign of a foreign object, but what I do see is a deep red spot on the inside of her "cheek", could this be the cause?

Unfortunately I do not have access in my area to an aquatic vet, so I am hoping the issue will resolve itself, as it pains me to see any of my pets suffer.


Thank you also for the good information on Carp Pox, it was an illness I have not come across before. I also will be taking your advice to pick up a more thorough test kit to get better readings on my water quality.


At this point I am just wondering what you think her chances of recovering are and if not, how long she can continue survive with her mouth in this position?


Thank you for all the good information and compassion.



You're welcome, Cathie. Yes, that sore is very likely the cause of the problem.If she were mine, I would try to treat her with a medicated food now that we know what is wrong. Such sores are often caused by bacteria, and food gets the antibiotics inside the fish where they can do the most good. Here is a reputable source of one with four antibiotics in it:

You can also add some pond/aquarium salt to the pond. You can buy that in any pet store. Add one teaspoon per gallon of water.

If you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask. I wish you success in treating the sore.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you Anna, I did add 4 Tablespoons of aquarium salt yesterday when I first noticed her problem. How much additional salt should I add to that? It is a 50 gallon pond? Also, would Melafix treatments be of any help in addition to the salt?

You're welcome. 4 tablespoons is 12 teaspoons. You would need 16 more tablespoons to have the 50 teaspoons you need. Melafix won't hurt anything, and it's safe to mix with the salt, but it is a very mild medication, and I would be surprised if it would help with a sore in the mouth. It's fine to try it if you want to.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Anna, just a little update. My little comet goldfish is doing pretty well so far, her mouth is still constantly open, as it was before, but she is eating well and active. I added all the aquarium salt as you advised and ordered the medicated pellets from Drs. F & S and they are on their way. If it's ok, I would like to leave conversation open for a few days in case I have another concern pertaining to her care. Thank you again Anna.

That's fine with me. I hope you'll get some results.Thank you for the update.

Anna and 3 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Anna,

The medicated pellets I ordered will finally be arriving later today. My little comet is doing great and her mouth has almost closed on it's own. I was wondering If I will still need to give her the medicated pellets or shall I just let her progress on her own? Also If you do advice me to feed them to her ~ will they be safe for my other comet to eat (as I have no other tank for him), how long shall I feed them the pellets, will it harm the beneficial pond bacteria and will I have to do a water change (if so, how much) at the end of treatment? Thank you again for all your help.

Hi Cathie,

Becaaue you saw a sore in the mouth, I would go ahead with the medicated pellets. When antibiotics are given orally, rather than placed directly in the water, they don't have much effect on the beneficial bacteria. As for how long, every brand is a bit different. There will be instructions on the container. The instructions will also tell you if a water change is needed.

It would be better if only the fish with the sore eats the medicated food. You can try hand feeding them by giving the medicated pellet one at a time to the fish with the sore, and feeding the other with nonmedicated food at the same time, also one piece at a time. However, that can be time consuming and difficult. The medicated food will not harm the other fish, but it's always better not to give medication that isn't needed. If there's no reasonable option, go ahead and feed both fish the medicated food.

I hope the sore will quickly clear up. Let me know how it goes.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Anna! My little comet Ariel seems to have recovered and her mouth is looking normal again. Thank you for your expertise and all your patience!

You're welcome. I'm so glad to get good news.