Skip to Content

What Causes Dropsy in Angelfish? (Plus Treatment Tips)

What Causes Dropsy in Angelfish? (Plus Treatment Tips)

This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addtion, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Most people would say that angelfish are among the prettiest aquarium fish that beginners can buy. You’ll likely gravitate toward these fish when starting out because they’re not that hard to care for.

They’re truly stunning fish, and they’re fairly hardy despite the fact that they look as if they’d be delicate. Angelfish are good for those who are learning how to care for fish, but you do need to treat them right so that they can thrive.

If you’ve been doing your best, then things will likely go quite well. Issues can pop up, though, and you might have noticed that the angelfish has a bulging stomach.

This seems like a worrying issue, and it very well could be. Angelfish dropsy is a health issue that you’ll want to be aware of when taking care of any aquarium fish.

Continue reading to learn more about dropsy and how it can impact your angelfish. This should help you to figure out what you need to do.

What Is Dropsy?

Dropsy is actually considered to be an old medical term. Today, more people would refer to dropsy as edema.

Essentially, this term means that there is swelling somewhere in the soft tissues of the body. Most often, this refers to swelling of the abdomen.

This can occur due to an accumulation of fluids in the body. Despite the fact that the term edema is what is used in human medicine now, the term dropsy is still used for aquarium fish.

When referring to aquarium fish such as angelfish, dropsy is a medical condition where the fish have swollen bellies. There are those who refer to this condition as bloat, but which term you use doesn’t matter that much.

Just know that when a fish is experiencing dropsy, it’s possible that its belly is going to become very swollen. You understand the basics of what dropsy is now, but you need to learn more to truly understand what is going on.

Why Do Angelfish Get Dropsy?

Angelfish can get dropsy for a few different reasons, but it generally occurs when a fish has a compromised immune system. Sometimes an entire tank of fish can experience dropsy due to stress.

It isn’t the stress that directly causes dropsy, though. This happens due to the fish being infected by bacteria. When a fish is exposed to bacteria in the tank, there is a chance that it can develop dropsy.

Fish that are under stress will have compromised immune systems, and this will make them more susceptible to dropsy. A healthy fish that isn’t under any stress will be very unlikely to get dropsy.

There are many things that can cause fish to experience stress. Transferring fish to a new tank could be a source of stress, and so can large fluctuations in water temperature.

Even something such as aggressive tankmates could cause fish to be stressed. Nutrition issues and problems with water quality could all factor in.

If your fish is experiencing bloat, then it’s likely that it was dealing with stress factors of some kind. In the future, you’ll want to do your best to keep the fish in the tank from being stressed as much as possible.

Generally, a little bit of stress isn’t going to be enough to compromise a fish’s immune system. Prolonged periods of stress are necessary to put a fish in such a weakened state.

New fish owners could be unaware that they’re doing certain things wrong, though. Try to determine if the fish are stressed so that you can correct those issues if necessary.

Can Dropsy Be Treated?

Yes, it is possible to treat dropsy, and you’re going to want to isolate any fish that have been impacted. Prepare a separate tank for the sick fish so that you can begin treatment.

You want to separate the fish to treat it, but it’s also to keep the infection from spreading to the other fish. It’s imperative to act fast because this situation could get out of control if you wait too long.

Usually, it’s recommended to add one teaspoon of salt for each gallon of water in your special treatment tank. If you’d like to seek guidance, then you can contact an exotic veterinarian for assistance and specific instructions about what you should be doing.

During the treatment process, you’re going to want to give the fish the best foods that you can. Giving the fish healthy food while treating it with antibiotics will be imperative.

The antibiotics might be given to the fish in the food, but you can also just place the antibiotics in the water. There are different approaches to giving fish antibiotic treatments.

It’s also going to be necessary to keep testing the water in the tank to keep it safe for the sick fish. So long as you’re remaining vigilant, it should be possible to try to save the sick fish and get it healthy once again.

What to Do with the Main Tank

While you’re treating the sick fish in the treatment tank, it’s going to be wise to perform a water change on the main tank. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the fish to see if any others show signs of dropsy.

If you’re lucky, you will have caught things early enough to avoid issues with the other fish. If any symptoms do show up, then you’ll need to quarantine the other sick fish as soon as you can.

Otherwise, just continue to look after the fish in the main tank as you normally would. Hopefully, all will go well, and the isolated fish will be able to rejoin the main tank one day.

Not Everyone Bothers to Treat Sick Fish

It should be noted that not everyone bothers to treat sick fish. Some think that it isn’t worth the effort, but it’s up to you to decide what to do.

You could choose to euthanize fish that are infected for the sake of preventing the infection from spreading. If you don’t wish to go to the effort to try to save the fish, then this might be a good choice.

It’s true that fish that have been infected for quite some time are unlikely to survive anyway. If you catch the disease early enough, then you can save the fish.

What will be the best choice will come down to how fast you caught the issue and whether you have the time and resources to treat the fish. Proceed accordingly once you’ve thought about the situation.

Dropsy Prevention

Dropsy isn’t something that you have to deal with. This can be prevented by performing regular maintenance on your fish tank.

There are many actions that you can take that will severely lessen the likelihood that any of your fish will get dropsy. Firstly, you should check the aquarium water regularly to ensure that the pH balance stays in the right range.

You’re also going to need to perform semi-regular water changes. Some people change 10% of the water each week, but you could change more of the water on a bi-weekly basis and do just fine.

Keeping the tank clean is going to be wise as well. Putting aquatic plants in the fish tank can actually help to keep it clean.

Buy a good water filter that is going to protect your fish. You’ll want to clean the filter out regularly to prevent gunk from building up and making things dirty.

Go out and purchase a gravel vacuum so that you can remove waste that is on the bottom of the fish tank. Many new fish owners forget to do this, and it winds up causing bacteria problems.

You’ll want to avoid feeding your fish more than you should, too. Don’t feed your angelfish more than they will be able to eat in two or three minutes.

If you ever accidentally feed the fish too much, it’s going to be better to remove excess food using a net or a siphon. This prevents the tank from getting dirty.

Varying your fish’s diet is helpful as well. Sometimes mixing up the type of food that you’re giving the angelfish will be a good idea.

If you do all of these things, then your fish probably won’t get dropsy. Just keep this in mind for the future so that you can avoid further problems.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what dropsy is, and you understand that it can be a serious problem. It’s possible that dropsy could infect your whole tank, and all of your fish could end up dead.

Catching problems such as this early will be an important factor. You might be able to save the infected fish if you take action swiftly.

Quarantine the infected fish and try to nurse them back to health. You can give the fish antibiotic treatments while keeping them in separate tanks that have had salt added to the water.

Hopefully, the fish will get better, but they likely won’t if you catch the issue too late. Keep your tank clean and don’t neglect regular tank maintenance if you want to avoid dropsy issues moving forward.