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Dr. Taus
Dr. Taus, Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
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Experience:  Veterinarian with experience in equine and small animal medicine.
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My goldfish, Sandy, has been overfed by my own fault. She is

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My goldfish, Sandy, has been overfed by my own fault. She is my first fish but I am beside myself that I caused her harm. I am trying to remedy it. It has been 12 days of feeding her only one baby pea in the morning and one in the afternoon. A few times I also put an Epsom salt crystal in the pea. (All advice from the vets on this website). Before the peas, she was pooping very thick, or white stringy, or not at all. Now I don't see a lot of poop, but it is still white stringy or white stringy mixed with green. A few times it came out solid the color of the pea and I thought she was doing better, but now the white stringy is happening again. Her bloating went down, and is only slightly there. She seems otherwise healthy, but seems desperate for food now too. I was told that 2 weeks on just peas was ok. But I thought after 12 days her poop would look normal. Could there be something else going on? Or is there irreversible damage at this point? I am so upset over this and want to get her back to normal. (Other info: I do daily water changes and periodic water checks; she is the only fish in the tank. She likes to take in air from the top and gets “floaty” from air in her swim bladder. This is something she has always done, and her water is fine, but could this cause the stringy poop?) Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Hi there,

I'm sorry to hear that Sandy is still having some problems. So far, it sounds like you are doing a great job treating her and you are making progress. Please do bear in mind that when constipation and swim bladder problems develop, they can take weeks to get totally back to normal. Stay the course and hang in there! You are still going in the right direction.

In addition to the peas, you can begin feeding small amounts of live or frozen daphnia, bits of cucumber, or bits of nori that has been pre-soaked to give her some variety while still keeping the amount of fiber in her diet high. Goldfish are perpetually hungry, so only feed her what she can eat in 2 minutes or less, once or twice a day, to avoid overfeeding (although it's harder to do with plant-based foods than it is with fish flakes). As she continues to improve, you might also consider adding some live plants to the aquarium-- Elodia species are nice, as the goldfish can graze on them. Between the live plants and some daphnia, you may be able to avoid feeding fish flakes, which are low in fiber and can make constipation problems worse. And you should, of course, continue to be diligent in your water changes and monitoring water quality.

I think that it is more likely that stringy poop/mild constipation would make her bloaty and hanging out at the top of the tank than that the air gulping would cause the stringy poop. Usually, it's constipation that blocks up the duct into the swim bladder and causes bloating rather than vice versa.

I hope this is helpful. If so, please rate me positively, and don't hesitate to let me know how I can help further.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for the reassurance that she will be ok. How long before I should be concerned if her poop isn't back to normal? Should the foods you listed be her diet from now on if they're good for her and fish flakes are not? Would that be a well-rounded diet or would she be missing nutrients? Is there any fish food that is good for her or is "real food" the better diet, and what other foods would be healthy? Again, thank you for your help.

As long as she is producing poop and not bloated, managing her diet is the best thing for her. If you see her starting to bloat more, (especially if you aren't seeing poop), that's the time to go back to the peas and epsom salts. If she's not bloated and you're not seeing poop, it's probably falling to the bottom before you see it.

While goldfish will eat almost anything, their natural diet is mostly vegetarian, with some small freshwater species like daphnia/shrimp-- very high in fiber or "roughage." Fish flakes are mostly protein, and as such, don't really represent a balanced goldfish diet anyway (although they are apparently delicious, and your fish may be more enthusiastic about eating them). In short, providing a varied diet with the foods we've talked about, as well as possibly some spirulina flakes or brine shrimp when she's back to normal, is really healthier for her. Being able to graze on live plants also helps keep small amounts of food moving through the GI tract all the time, rather than a big bunch of food at once, which may promote constipation. If you do use fish food, choose pelleted products rather than flakes, as these tend to be higher in fiber than flakes.

I would also like to note briefly that there are conditions like tumors that (while rare and unpleasant to think about) can cause constipation. They are unusual, much less common than issues with feeding, water quality, and the swim bladder, but if this becomes a recurrent problem once everything is sorted out, you might consider having a vet with fish experience take an x-ray.

Dr. Taus and 4 other Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Hi Susan,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Sandy. How is everything going?

Dr. Taus
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Dr. Taus,

Sandy has been pooping more, some still stringy but less's more short, a little on the thick side, and green like the color of peas and cucumber she's been eating. The bloating...although not severe, still hasn't gone down completely. I bought plants you recommended for her in the tank to nibble on - I've given them a salt bath and waiting a few days to make sure there are no snails. All in all, I still don't think she's completely un-constipated, and hoping that changes soon. Any other thoughts would be appreciated...and thank you for your help and concern.

It sounds as if you are still moving in a positive direction, and you are doing all you can and being very diligent to take care of her needs. I'm glad she's still going. With her eating well and passing feces, I don't think I would put too much weight on her body contour at this point as long as it's not getting more bloated.

The only other thing I can recommend at this point is a visit to a vet that sees fish for x-rays if you still believe something is wrong. As we discussed, there are a few unusual conditions that can cause fish to continue to appear bloated or have problems, but these aren't generally related to feeding and usually don't fall into the category of things that can be fixed with home care.

I think you are a very conscientious fish owner, and it's easy to feel as if you should be doing something more, but I do think you are still moving in the right direction.