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Q&A: Why Is My Goldfish Turning White?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.

If you notice a milky film on your goldfish, you need to start treatment immediately.

If you notice a milky film on your goldfish, you need to start treatment immediately.

Why Do My Goldfish Have a Milky Film on Their Heads?

"Some of my goldfish have this white, milky substance on them. It's mostly on the tops of their heads and a milkiness over the eyes. Others seem to sink to the bottom of the tank near the airstone. When I feed them, they all come to the top and eat except for one that seems to suck in the bubbles at the top of the tank instead of eating the food.

I can't figure out what it is...they seem to get better after a water change, but within a day they are back to the bottom of the tank by the airstone and the milkiness comes back mostly on the eyes." —Christin

White Spot (Ich) on Goldfish

It sounds like it could be ichthyosis or even a parasite like Hexamita or some fungus, but the treatment will be the same.

Copper Sulfate

If you brought home a new fish in the last month, it is probably ich. If it is just ich, you can treat them with a chemical like copper sulfate that you can buy at your pet store, but it must be started immediately.

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Read More From Pethelpful

Salt Treatment

Instead of just changing the water, have you tried a salt treatment? Goldfish will accept a certain amount of salinity in their water—15 or even 20 parts per thousand (1)—so you can buy salt at a pet store that is okay to use in your tank.

Recommendations vary, but you can get by with 1 tablespoon per 2 gallons of water. Try it for 10 days, and if it is not enough, try a higher level. Be sure to read the article linked above first, especially the part about how salt does not evaporate. If you add more without changing the water, the levels can become way too high (although you would need to add about 7 tablespoons to become dangerous for your goldfish).

Talk to Your Local Fish-Store Manager

If you go to a regular pet store that specializes in fish (not a pet superstore that sells dog food) you can usually talk to the owner or manager and see what they sell for your problem.


(1) Semra Küçük, The effects of salinity on growth of goldfish, Carassius auratus and crucian carp, Carassius carassius, African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 12(16), pp. 2082-2087, 17 April, 2013.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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