White spots on my goldfish

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Hi,

I've had goldfish for about four years, only one of which survived all those years (Sprinkles). I'm sure we lost many of the early fish to plain ignorance, but now have a very healthy pond. Right now we have only four goldfish, three of which we bought this summer. Sprinkles had a rough time last winter as we had a strangely dry and warm winter (which required leaving the pond filter running off and on based on the temperature). It was the first winter that required us to keep an eye on the pond very regularly (prior to this we just turned the pump off during the winter and monitored whether to put a pond warmer in or not), which we only learned after not checking on it for a week and having most of our fish die in that period of time. Sprinkle ended up with dropsy, which we just monitored carefully since there isn't much to be done outside of improving water quality. She did get better, but I know that dropsy can leave lasting damage. There was only one other fish that also survived the dropsy epidemic (Lace), but she died this summer very suddenly.

After Lace died we got a pond test kit and our levels of ammonia, nitrites, and phosphates are all around 0%. Ph fluctuates between 8.0 - 9.5. We are on well water and our water tends to be hard. We invested in some rain barrels that should hopefully give us some more neutral water to add to the pond, but so far it's still summer and not raining a whole lot. I added some vinegar to help neutralize but it really seemed to make very little difference. I'm holding out for the rain.

Sprinkles developed some white spots on her scales last year and they are slowly multiplying. She has also been flashing to the point of swimming head on into walls or rocks. I've noticed her rubbing her sides on plants, and the scales on her face look almost as if they are peeling a little around the edges. I have no idea what is wrong with her. I don't think it's ich and I'm not familiar with bacterial or fungal diseases. Also at least one of our newer goldfish has developed these same white patches (Randy), which he did not have before being placed in our pond. He does not exhibit any real signs of being sick, but Sprinkles didn't act sick last year either. The other two fish look fine, but they are shubunkin and their spotted backs might be hiding the patches. (Randy is the orange comet, Sprinkles is the white comet in the pictures. Also I had to tempt them with food to pose for the camera, so the floating spots are incentive, not just debris). The spots seem to cover a single scale, especially along the outside ridge. While they are little granular-looking, they aren't raised. Anyone have any ideas? I would like to help them if possible. Losing fish is heartbreaking for me.

Should probably also mention that the pond is 180 gal and sits above ground. It has a bio filter and some lilies and cattails.
 

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Mmathis

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Hi, Kira, and welcome. I'm sorry that your first visit with us is under such stressful circumstances. I personally, am not well-versed with goldfish diseases, but I'm learning, so hopefully some other members will pick up and offer help.

From the pictures, I can't really tell anything, as it looks like there are also floaties in the water making it hard to see what you're describing. It DOES sound like there is some parasite or irritation present. Can you get some more close-up shots of what you're talking about?

And please answer these questions for us -- the information will be helpful.
  • Your pond is 180 gallons -- you've already state.
  • How many fish are there now, and about what size are they?
  • Can you give us the results of ALL of your water parameter tests......we need the numbers and how recently you did them.
  • With your water testing, do you also test for KH, or carbonate hardness?
  • Do you test your water temperature and is the pond in full sun or shade.....?
  • Do you do water changes?
  • When you get new fish, do you quarantine them before they go in the pond? And by that, I mean do you quarantine them for several weeks?
 

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I did find some great stuff that worked on sick fish from peoples pond as is natural product but hard to find .I can only get it at petsmart they have herbal relief and ick meds and it really worked great .I can see the discoloration but it could be he is changing color also .Petsmart does not sell it on line ,only in the stores .It is made by national geographic
 

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There are 4 fish, 3.5 - 5.5" long.

I just tested the pond today. Ph - 7.5, ammonia - less than .25 (I removed some leaves and debris from the water earlier today), nitrite - 0 ppm, phosphates 0 ppm.

I don't have a Kh or Gh tester.

The pond is shaded in the morning and in sun in the afternoon. We did have a thermometer in there and it has somehow disappeared. I keep meaning to buy a new one. I've never seen the pond get hotter than 80*F. Lately the weather has been in the 50*-80* range, so I'm assuming the pond is doing right around in that range as well.

I don't really do water changes. Usually new water comes in the form of rain or completely de-chlorinated water that we add in as water evaporates or is used by the plants.

I don't quarantine new fish. I know it's important, but we don't have a good place to put them right now. The only option is to put them in a 5 gal bucket and do daily water changes. So far that has been so stressful for the fish that I decided to buy expensive goldfish from an actual pond store, hoping that in general they would just be healthier than the feeder fish I used to buy. The newest of the fish has been in the pond for a month or two now. Everyone seems to be doing well except Sprinkles.

I've seen fish go through color changes and I know what that looks like. These spots are different. Color changes usually happen from the bottom of the fish and move up to the back and head. These spots are random and on the sides without affecting the bottom coloration at all.

Thanks for the input.
 
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Mmathis

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@kira Looking again at the pics..... Are those spots raised at all? If that's what I'm looking at, are they slightly smaller than a pencil erasure? OK, I just read where you said they weren't raised. Do they get better or worse with temperature fluctuations? IOW, worse when water is cool, and better when water is warmer....

Thank you for the water info. You really should get a KH test kit, though, and add that to your testing routine.

Some on here don't advocate water changes, but I'm not one of them. My thinking is that as water evaporates, there are toxins, chemicals, and parasites that build up and become concentrated in the water -- these can only be removed by taking out some of the old water when you replace that with new water. You might want to do a water change to give the fish some clean, fresh water in case there is a waste build-up causing poor water conditions.

You mentioned that at some point in the past you were turning the pump off and on depending on the weather. That might not be a good idea as you are leaving the good bacteria periods without oxygen, so each time you turn it back on, the pond is having to deal with ammonia and other wastes (cycling) each time. This can stress the fish which makes them more susceptible to parasites.

Also, watch your fish load. You may not want to add any more than what you have.

Do you have a microscope or have access to one? It would be interesting to see what a scrape of one of those spots shows under the scope. Do the areas look like they could be scraped off, or like they are part of the scale?
 
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Kira are you talking about the big white spots that you see as I can see no white spot from the photo's you posted apart from the big white ones on the goldfishes flanks .
Could you describe them to me in detail please ?
Are they of a waxy looking substance , if so then this is fish pox and fish pox is temperature related herpes virus and does not harm the fish in any way shape or form
If however I'm missing something then we need close ups of your photo's ?
You really must do water changes from time to time , I do 40% of my 1,000 gallon imperial koi pond on a regular basis , the bottom should be cleared of dead leaves and detritus twice yearly as well as your filter on a more regular basis .
How often do you read your water peramters please?

Dave
 
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@kira This may have absolutely nothing to do with your problem, but it caught my eye when you said "leaving the pond filter running off and on based on the temperature". If I understand correctly, you were turning your filter on and off during the course of the winter. Unless you were cleaning the filter each time before you restarted it, that was probably a bad idea. The bacteria in your filter will quickly go from good to bad (aerobic to anaerobic) when you turn the water flow off. When you turn it back on, you are introducing all that bad bacteria into your pond, which can be difficult for your fish to deal with especially if they are already stressed by winter conditions or other pre-existing conditions.

Again - maybe completely unrelated, but I just wanted to throw that out there. Good luck with your fish! I hope you can find some answers.
 
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So I got a few better pictures. Unfortunately the only microscope I own cost a whopping $8.99, so I'm sure it won't be too much help unless she has a rather large parasite, which was not visible to my naked eyes. I did notice she was missing a couple of scales as well as having the super white ones. The spots aren't waxy or raised. They look like just super white scales, maybe a little translucent on some, more bright white on others. And each spot is one entire scale.

I'll try the water change. I need time to de-chlorinate that much water, but definitely on my to do list.

As to the filter, the only time we don't run it is when it's below 39* so the water stays warm enough for the fish. Is that a wrong way to do things? The winters here are generally pretty mild in comparison to many parts of the country. Usually just snows a couple of inches and may dip into the teens or twenties a couple times throughout the season. Should I be running it all the time? My understanding was that if the water is frozen over on top you don't want to circulate the colder water throughout the pond or it will be too cold for the fish. I'm definitely open to ideas though.

I check the water parameters once every two or three weeks. I'm still pretty new to it, but I'm getting faster at it. I'll look into a water hardness test kit too.
 

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peter hillman

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Looks like some dying scales? Maybe from all the rock bashing? But why I don't know.
 

Mmathis

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Welcome Kira! Is it possible your fish lost a few scales and they grew in a different color? That happened to one of my fish this summer.
That was my first thought, but I believe she said this fish was flashing and running [swimming fastly?] into things. Plus, the spots are multiplying.....

@kira Hey, even a cheapie microscope might show you something you can't see with the naked eye! If you have some slides and cover slips, see if you can scrape some mucus from a fish where the "spots" are -- a credit card is good to use for scraping. Put that mucus on a slide with a drop of pond water, then put on the cover slip. Look at it under your scope and just see what you can see. If you see anything moving around, try to either get a picture of it [I know.....] or make a drawing, then get back with us. Just out of curiosity, could those "spots" be a parasite, like a fish louse? I think they are usually dark colored, but that's what popped into my head. Oh, and get the slide to the scope as quickly as possible -- parasites won't live long on the slide.
 

Mmathis

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@kira Looking at the pics, I see small white dots on the dorsal fin. Have those been there all along?

As to your filter question, it's better to either run it all the time or stop it and completely take it down when not in use (cleaning the media, etc.). It doesn't sound like your winter temps are that cold, so I would say let it run year-round. Whenever you interrupt the bacterial action of the filter, by turning it off, you are
1) killing the "good bacteria" that your pond needs to process the ammonia and nitrites, and 2) you are leaving that filter media open for harmful bacteria and/or parasites to grow. I'm sorry, I'm not good at explaining things, but basically, by turning the filter off & on, you are setting the pond up for poor water conditions, and most of the time it's a water quality issue that contributes to fish ailments.

And it's not something you've done intentionally. Your reasoning is sound, but unproven (an issue that comes up every year as it gets closer to winter time and colder temps) as to the effects of pumps and air stones on water temps. IMHO, I've come to the decision that water temp changes are really only a problem for really big, deep ponds, not our average backyard garden pond. I keep my pumps & filters going all the time, as I do with my airstones.

Keeping fish is an ongoing learning process, which is why you came to us for help! I'm in my 4th pond-year, and I don't think I could have gotten this far without all the help & support I get from my GPF buddies! If they can't help me, they at least spark enough in me to hit the internet and search, read, and learn! And just when I think I understand something, well, darn, if something else doesn't pop up to complicate matters -- but it's fun [as long as I'm not losing my pets......:(].
 
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I know what fish lice look like. I accidently purchased a fish that had one and didn't realize it until it was in the bag. We removed it before putting it in our pond. Definitely not lice. Could just be random scale color difference...? Perhaps I just have more work to do on water quality.

The nodules on the dorsal fin I think they come and go. That's a pretty close up picture, but just looking at the fish they really aren't noticeable which is why I don't think it's ich. I'm assuming that's just minor spots of damage that are repairing themselves. I've looked at many pictures of fish with ich to familiarize myself with it and they just don't look like that.

If I can catch one of them again and feel brave I might do some scraping to see what I can see. I think they might be on to me now though. I know a fish's memory is only supposed to be three weeks, but somehow they always seem to remember that the net means trouble.
 
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Mmathis

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I know what fish lice look like. I accidently purchased a fish that had one and didn't realize it until it was in the bag. We removed it before putting it in our pond. Definitely not lice. Could just be random scale color difference...? Perhaps I just have more work to do on water quality.

The nodules on the dorsal fin I think they come and go. That's a pretty close up picture, but just looking at the fish they really aren't noticeable which is why I don't think it's ich. I'm assuming that's just minor spots of damage that are repairing themselves. I've looked at many pictures of fish with ich to familiarize myself with it and they just don't look like that.

If I can catch one of them again and feel brave I might do some scraping to see what I can see. I think they might be on to me now though. I know a fish's memory is only supposed to be three weeks, but somehow they always seem to remember that the net means trouble.
Three months, or so they say.....
 
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I think your fish has either been through the wars somewhat Kira there are scales that have been damaged that now appear to be regenerating and as such they are nothing much to worry about the white spots on the dorsal could well be what we call dings where the fins of the fish hit something you get white spots that seem like white pimples they normally disapear as the fins repair themselves with .
May I ask if your fish have been netted at all in the last month or two as bad netting techniques can cause damage like you are seeing scale wise .
I can asure you what we an see isnt that much to worry about however it does show you care .
May I suggest a few good books to you available on Amazon US :-

The Manual of Fish Health ISBN 0861013869. Dr Chris Andrews Adrian Exell, Dr Neville Carrington.

It should give you a good grounding on fish health issues and was the veryu first book in our now extensive fish health library:-

Hand Book of Fish Diseases (All Fish) ISBN 0866227032. Dieter Untergasser.

These should help you with fish health issues

Next issue dechloinating large amounts of water , rather tan use dechloination liquid why not get one of these :-

http://www.vyair.com/scripts/prodView.asp?idproduct=67

They do 100,000's of gallons before you need change the filters , it means you can slowly trickle water into the pond via your hosepipe without having to stop to add more dechlorinator each time

Dave
 
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The only netting I've done in the past year was getting Sprinkles for pictures. We pretty much never net our fish. The other three were only netted when being bought a few months ago. I've seen netting go wrong before when buying fish, but I was pretty careful with Sprinkles and had no problems. I'm considering removing some rocks we have sitting at the base of our cattails. Could be the fish are getting into those shallower areas and scraping themselves up.

Thanks for all the input everyone.
 
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