Moved my goldfish to a new fish tank and the next day it's eyes become cloudy. A layer was formed over on both eyes. Not

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Customer: Moved my goldfish to a new fish tank and the next day it's eyes become cloudy. A white layer was formed over on both eyes.
JA: I'll do all I can to help. Does the goldfish have any allergies?
Customer: Not sure..I just got him 2 weeks ago..
JA: And what's the goldfish's name and age?
Customer: Ellie. Not sure of age.
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: How much would the service cost?
Answered by Dr. Caryn – Vet in 16 hours 6 months ago
Dr. Caryn – Vet
Pet Specialist

2,242 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Dog Veterinary, Cat Veterinary, Bird Veterinary, Reptile Veterinary, Exotic Animal Veterinary

I am sincerely ***** ***** there was a delay in someone responding to your question. (Experts are independent contractors and as such are online based on their own schedules.) However, I am available and can assist you if you still need veterinary advice.

Hello and thanks for posting your question on My name is***** and I have been a licensed and accredited veterinarian in the US for over 22 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. JustAnswer is a question-and-answer service, not a veterinary telemedicine or emergency service. On this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice based on the information you provide, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship and we cannot examine your pet, we are unable to provide definitive diagnoses, prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For any of those you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. If your pet has a serious illness or life-threatening emergency, I strongly recommend you obtain hands-on veterinary care with a local veterinarian or veterinary emergency service as soon as possible. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text. For US based clients, if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.

Thanks again for posting your question, I'm sorry that your goldfish Ellie is under the weather and has developed cloudy eyes after moving into a new fish tank. I have some questions that will help me get a better idea of the fish’ environment and what may be going on with your fish:

-What are the current tank water quality values (specifically ammonia and nitrite, though pH and nitrate are helpful as well)? If you haven’t already tested, please test at least ammonia and nitrite and share those results with me, thanks.

-What is the tank volume, temperature and what type of filtration do you have on your tank?

-Are there any treatments or medications in the water or have any been recently used?

Thanks very much for providing additional information, it is very helpful for me to try and figure out what is going on with your fish and the history information will help me to do that.

If you are able to upload a photo or video that might be helpful for me to see what you are seeing in terms of his cloudy eyes. If you can try to share an in focus, close up photo that is most helpful though I do appreciate the challenges of fish photography. Use the paperclip icon below to attach a photo or video. Note that uploads need to be less than 5 Mb in size to upload properly.

So I would be concerned that cloudy eyes are a result of irritation from poor water quality. If this is a new tank, they need several weeks to build up sufficient levels of good bacteria before they can adequately break down waste in the water. During that time (called "cycling") you will need to do more frequent partial water changes (25-30%) to decrease levels of tank waste.

For any sick fish, I recommend ruling out environmental problems first as a cause of the signs you are seeing. Built up levels of ammonia and nitrite, in particular, can poison your fish and make them sick. You may see signs such as loss of appetite, lying on side or on the bottom, floating, skin ulceration, discoloration of skin or fins (white patches, reddening of fins or fin bases), eye problems (swelling, cloudiness), tail fraying, lethargy, piping at surface, etc. It is vital to do water testing to know if the water quality is good or if it needs to be addressed.

I would start right away by testing the water for ammonia and nitrite using an aquarium test kit. If you have the ability to also test for pH, nitrate, KH and GH that would also be recommended. If the values are out of range, e.g. ammonia or nitrite are above 0 ppm or nitrate is above 20 ppm, then perform a 30% water change with water that has been treated with a water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines and detoxifies ammonia. Also important to check that the water temperature and check that the filter is working properly and exchanging and aerating the water properly.

Pet stores will do free water testing but that isn't convenient especially if you need to do repeated testing. Home options for water quality testing are to buy a package of Tetra EasyStrips (complete test strip kit), which includes 7 tests on each strip (chlorine, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, alkalinity (KH), hardness (GH) and pH) for around $7-20 (depending upon how many strips you buy per package). Please note that most other multi-test strips sold at petstores or online in the US do not include ammonia, so you do want to make sure you have a test for ammonia, as this is the first waste product to rise when a tank is having water quality problems. If you buy a test strip that does not have ammonia testing, you will also need to buy a package of ammonia test strips. 

If ammonia, nitrite or nitrate values are elevated, then I would recommend a regimen of water quality testing and, if needed, water changes using water that has been treated with a water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramines.

These will help keep the toxin levels down while the biofilms continue to catch up in the new tank:

-If ammonia or nitrites are not zero but in the 0-0.25ppm, then perform a 25-30% water change. Recheck values daily (in the AM) and water change if values are still 0.25ppm.

-If ammonia or nitrites are 0.50ppm or higher, then perform a 25-30% water change in the AM and another water change in the PM. Recheck values daily (in the AM) and water change if values are still 0.50ppm, continue with twice daily water changes. If the values have dropped to 0.25ppm, once daily water change is ok.

-Once AM readings are 0 ppm for both ammonia and nitrite, you can back off the frequency of water quality testing and water changes to every 3 days.

-Once AM readings remain 0 ppm for two consecutive tests (6 days), then you can back off water changes to weekly and testing to twice monthly.

To help boost the development of your biological filtration, you can purchase and use a commercial source of beneficial bacteria. You add it initially based on the volume of the tank and then with each subsequent water change (based on the volume of the water change). With any of these products, make sure they are well within date, that they are stored in a dark and cool location and that you shake the bottle well before dispensing.

Commercial sources of beneficial bacteria

Dr. Tim’s Aquatics ONE and ONLY Live Nitrifying Bacteria

Fluval Cycle Biological Enhancer

Seachem Stability

Microbe-Life Aqua Balance

MarineLand Bio-Spira Freshwater Bacteria (FW Only)

API Quick Start or Stress Zyme

Tetra SafeStart Plus (FW Only) or FilterActive

Depending upon your tank size, once you get water quality back under control, you should institute a regular schedule of water changes and tank maintenance. If the tank is less than 20 gallons (75 litres), then weekly 25% water changes are recommended. If your tank is larger and the ammonia and nitrite tests remain 0 ppm after 2 weeks, you could do water changes every 2 weeks.

If using a sponge filter, it should be rinsed out weekly, if using a power filter then media should be cleaned every 2-4 weeks depending upon the size and the amount of fish in the tank. And gravel should be siphoned once monthly to remove accumulated debris. This can be done with a manual aquarium Gravel Vacuum in concert with regular water changes since it removes water in addition to waste from the gravel. I don't recommend doing all the tank maintenance at the same time, to avoid disrupting the biological filtration (good bacterial biofilms) too much. Siphon 1/2 the gravel one week and the other half in a week or two.

There are many reasons why one or both eyes of a fish may become cloudy. The clear outer layer of the eye, called the cornea, has to be tough and transparent to both protect the eye and to provide optical clarity to allow images to be seen. The cornea can become cloudy when the tissue is damaged from injury (such as an abrasion or scratch), infection (bacteria or parasite), irritation from water quality problem or toxin or an internal swelling of the eye (tumor, bleeding, gas bubble disease, infection, etc.)

Depending upon the cause, the cloudiness might be temporary or permanent (scarring). Damage to the cornea can be treated with topical tank and/or topical eye medications or a veterinarian can apply a protective layer to the cornea to help prevent rupture. Treating the underlying cause of the cloudiness is important to allow for proper healing and prevent secondary problems including potential loss of vision or loss of the eye itself. Problems in the tank environment, such as too much nitrogen containing waste are a common cause of cloudy eyes. Performing water quality testing with an aquarium testing kit, including ammonia and nitrite as a minimum, but also pH and nitrates if possible, would be a good place to start to make sure the tank conditions are proper for your fish. Ammonia and nitrites should be 0 ppm and nitrates should be less than 20 ppm. If these are elevated, then performing a 30% water change with water treated with a conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine is warranted.

If water quality is good, then looking for signs of injury to the eye or white spots that might indicate parasite infection, can help point towards what treatments would be warranted.

And regardless of water quality, treating in tank with salt therapy will help treat some types of infections and to help the damaged eye tissue to heal.

Salt therapy (using sea salt or aquarium salt, sometimes called tonic salt, but NOT iodized table salt or Epsom salts) can help support your fish to heal and fight infection and can help them with osmoregulation (movement of fluid across body membranes). It also helps prevent some secondary medical problems that can develop from elevated nitrites and nitrates in the tank water.

Recommended amount of salt is:

-Aquaria: 1 level Tablespoon of aquarium or sea salt for every 5 gallons (19 litres) of water. Salt is added one time only. But once the initial dose is added, additional salt should be added when you do water changes to replace what was removed.

-Ponds without plants 2.5 cups (1.25 lbs or 570 grams) for every 100 gallons (378 litres) of pond water

-Ponds with plants, 1 cup (10 oz or 280 grams) salt for every 100 gallons (378 litres) of pond water, though some plants may tolerate up to 1.5 cups (1 pound or 450 grams) of salt for every 100 gallons (378 litres) of pond water

Mix salt in some tank water outside of the tank (e.g. in a cup or bucket) and, after it is fully dissolved, add the salt water mix back into the tank. If you have a sump or external filter these are nice places to add the salt as it will help distribute the salt evenly in the tank. If not, you can sprinkle the saltwater over the top of the tank and then gently mix with a net at the surface. No need to vigorously mix as this may disturb your fish. Salt therapy is typically left in for at least 10-14 days but can be extended indefinitely if needed (for example with skin wounds, use until they are completely healed). I like to use it until any wounds are completely healed.

Perform regular water changes as needed. When you do a water change during salt therapy, please remember to add salt back in with the added water as you have taken some salt out with the discarded water. You should add 1/2 teaspoon of salt per gallon (1/8 teaspoon of salt per liter) of replacement water.

Once you are done with therapy, perform a 25% water change. After that, routine weekly water changes will continue to decrease the amount of salt in the tank over time.

Salt therapy can be used at the same time as other therapies, such as antibiotics or homeopathic remedies (like API Melafix). Carbon/activated charcoal does not need to be removed during salt therapy but should be removed during any other in-tank therapy.

Again, water quality is so very important in keeping a fish healthy. Making sure you have adequate water volume, filtration, temperature and perform routine maintenance on the tank and water will help keep your fish healthy. Here are some guidelines for goldfish water quality and care:

Goldfish – husbandry reference

Temperature: 68-74F, 20-23.5C (room temperature)

Ammonia and nitrite: 0 ppm

Nitrate: <20-40 ppm

Water pH: 6.8-8.4 with ideal being 7.2-7.6

GH: 150-400 ppm (DH)

KH: Above 100 ppm (DH)

Tank volume: 20 gallons (75 litres) or more recommended per fish, 40 gallons (150 litres) for two to three small goldfish, 60 gallons (227 litres) for 2 medium or 4 small goldfish.

Tank monitoring: water thermometer (mounted inside tank). In a tank with active filtration, water quality testing weekly until values are stable, then monthly (prior to routine water change) to make sure values are still stable. Test the water anytime there is a death or signs of illness in the tank.

Frequency and amount of water changes for a stable, cycled tank: 25% weekly or, if water quality parameters are stable, every other week. Treat water with water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramines.

I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information or photos but, in the meantime, I hope this information is helpful and I look forward to further connecting with you about your goldfish Ellie. I sincerely ***** ***** both the best. Thanks again for posting your question to

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Dr. Caryn – Vet
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Dr. Caryn – Vet
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