Do Goldfish Lose Their Eyes? 4 Reasons


There are species of Goldfish that naturally have their eyes popping out, like Black Moors and Bubble Eyes. But if this is not the type of Goldfish you have yet its eyes are protruding, beware as there’s something wrong with your pet.

Do Goldfish Lose Their Eyes?

Yes, a Goldfish can lose the globe of its eye (or both of them) from too much pressure pushing it out. This condition is called popeye disease.

Along with a protruding eye, popeye disease symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, hiding, and dropsy (swelling of the body).

Why Has My Goldfish Lost An Eye?

Popeye disease can be so severe that your Goldfish’s eye is pushed off completely.

Popeye disease (exophthalmia) in Goldfish is when their eyes bulge out from its socket due to an infection. It can appear whitish, bloody, or cloudy. The discoloration of the globe of the fish’s eye is caused by the cornea rupturing, allowing blood or fluid to enter the eye. It is also possible for the whole eye to completely erupt, losing its ability to see.

Popeye disease may not be too obvious at first, especially with the species of Fancy Goldfish we mentioned that have naturally bulging eyes. As it progresses, you may notice that one eye is bigger than the other (unilateral).

If both eyes are affected, soon enough, the Goldfish may look like it has a dumbbell or wheels for eyes with its globes sticking out. If left untreated, the fish may eventually lose one or both of its eyes.

Do Goldfish Lose Their Eyes?
Do Goldfish Lose Their Eyes?

Please note that popeye disease is a manifestation of underlying problems. Although sometimes hard even for a vet, finding the cause will help you find the right treatment for your Goldfish.

Here are some probable causes for popeye disease in Goldfish.

Reason #1: Trauma

Popeye disease is commonly caused by some form of trauma. Goldfish are naturally skittish and may bump objects in the aquarium in they haste to scurry away.

When it comes to trauma, usually only one eye gets inflamed.

Reason #2: Tankmate accident or attack

Goldfish are competitive when it comes to food, so a tankmate may have accidentally pecked it out in its attempt to get food.

Bullying is also a possibility if another fish attacked the victim deliberately. In most bullying situations, only one eye is hurt or lost.

The problem with a single inflamed eye is that the Goldfish’s ability to swim will be affected. It will be harder for it to find its food or rest until the swelling goes away.

Reason #3: Bad water

Popeye disease can be caused by bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection due to dirty tank water.

We want to remind all pet owners that an aquarium is a closed system. Without water changes and regular cleaning, the water will breed toxic substances like ammonia (from fish waste and rotting food), algae, and mulm. This is the perfect breeding ground for various kinds of bacteria, fungi, or parasites.

It’s even compounded by the fact that Goldfish create a lot of waste compared to other aquarium fish their size. So tank maintenance is a must.

Reason #4: A tumor or kidney problem

Infections caused by dirty water might lead to organ problems, but they may also be caused by illnesses the Goldfish picked up from where they came from.

For fish, it’s the job of the kidneys to remove excess fluid from the body through its pee and its gills. But a kidney failure would cause fluid retention when internal swelling of the organs pushes the eye out due to pressure. This condition may cause dropsy which leads to popeye disease.

What Do You Treat Popeye With?

Treatments of popeye disease depend on its cause and severity.

What do you treat Popeye with?
What do you treat Popeye with?

A Goldfish with a mild to moderate traumatic eye injury should be able to heal itself provided it’s fed properly and has a clean environment. You can also treat swelling with Epsom salt or Aquarium salt baths. Antibiotics such as API Melafix or metronidazole will be needed for bacterial or fungal infections, but tumors and kidney disease should be consulted with a veterinarian.

Popeye disease must be corrected right away before it progresses to loss of eyesight or loss of the eye. Dropsy with popeye is severe and the chances of recovery are low.

Can Goldfish Survive Without Eyes?

A Goldfish can survive even without its eyes.

Fish have other senses they can rely on even if they lose their eyesight. They can use their sense of smell, hearing, and movement detection (or lateral line organ) to detect food and swim around the aquarium without any problems.

If it only lost one eye, it may take some time to get used to seeing with just one. Your Goldfish might swim in circles, but will gradually adapt in a day or two.

As a pet owner, you should make the tank safe and conducive to a blind (or partially blind) Goldfish. That means no sharp objects, no tankmate bullies, and the occasional use of sinking pellets in case the fish has a hard time finding its food.

But please, don’t wait until it gets this bad.

Can Goldfish Regrow Their Eyes?

A Goldfish that has lost its eye will never grow it back. But a partially ruptured or mildly injured eye can be restored.

Fish can fregrow damaged optical nerves. As long as there are no more infections (swelling, dropsy, bacteria), the eye can go back to being what it was before the trauma happened.

Since you’re now aware of this problem, we suggest you take steps to prevent trauma or popeye disease from happening to your Goldfish.

Prevention tip #1: Keep your water clean

Water chemistry is a big factor in keeping your fish healthy.

If one of your Goldfish manifests popeye disease, observe your other fish and live creatures. One indication that bad water is the cause is when other fish are starting to get sick as well.

Is your water fully cycled? Is your filter working correctly? Are you doing partial water changes periodically and cleaning the tank? Ask these questions and fix issues right away.

Test your water at least weekly to check on levels using a reliable test kit.

Prevention tip #2: Keep stress levels low

Clean water with balanced chemistry also keeps fish stress levels down. Stress is a problem because it lowers a fish’s immune system. This is when opportunistic bacteria can infect the eye wound and make it worse (sepsis).

If your Goldfish lives in a community tank, a hospital tank may be the right choice to let it heal in peace.

Prevention tip #3: Keep your tank safe

We mentioned a couple of species. Yes, Black Moors, Bubble Eyes, and even Celestial Goldfish have bulging eyes since they were fry, but they are also more prone to trauma and, therefore, popeye disease.

Hence, avoid placing sharp or pointed ornaments that may injure them.

Also, keep an eye out for bullies. If it happens again (especially to another fish), remove the perpetrator.

Prevention tip #4: Keep your fish healthy

Aside from fish flakes and pellets, an omnivorous diet of vegetables (especially greens) and some fruit plus freeze-dried food or larvae as an occasional treat will help. You can add algae, brine shrimp, or frozen bloodworms from time to time. You can soak the pellets in garlic juice or a vitamin/mineral supplement for added health.

As we always say, variety is key to a healthy fish diet.

In Hindsight

Goldfish eye diseases may range from mild to severe, but they can be prevented with the right care and tank maintenance.

If the Goldfish has already lost its eye, don’t give up. We do not wish for your pet to get hurt, but it can grow a full life even without eyesight.

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