Dropsy is a condition that can show in even in the healthiest of fish with perfect water parameters, and it can be the end life of a fish that is near the average lifespan. It is known to be abdominal swelling that can cause the effect area's scales to stand on their ends, which will give the fish a pine-cone like an appearance when viewing at various angles. Sadly, the only known aspect found to cause this swelling is due to the kidneys of liver of the fish giving out and therefore creating a blockage of fluid that would not normally exist otherwise.


First symptoms of this condition will be the fish being bloated, many confuse the bloat for having been feed too much, being constipated (and trying to use a method that will make the fish release their waste), and other times it may appear as if the fish is full of eggs or pregnant carrying fry. As this leads to its only known true symptom of the pine-cone scales, one can fully conclude that the fish is infected with dropsy. However in most cases, before the scales start to pine-cone or even before the fish starts to get bloated, other symptoms do appear that will be traits of other diseases or infections, and if they are not cured will lead to the onset of dropsy. If no other symptoms are shown, then the conclusion is that the fish has reached its end of life naturally due to an organ failure.

Dropsy is normally the result of other infections on the fish, unless there is no other infections, can be due to a blockage of fluid within the fish's organs. With this being more of an organ issue, it is very rare for the effected fish to pass this off to another fish - although it can cause for secondary infections for other fish when the dropsy fish dies to the spike in ammonia.


Dropsy is not specifically an infection or disease, but rather the trait of an organ failure. Without it being an infection in itself, there isn't much known about the pathology of what specifically creates them from having organ failure. The first stage is where the fish will start to look bloated, more and more as the days go by without really eating any food that is placed within the water. The final stage is when the fish's abdominal swelling will either get extremely large, or the swelling will go away and the fish will appear to have a bent spine or deformed body where both leads to the fish having a pine-cone look appearance. If the fish is not euthanized once the pine-cone appearance starts to form, the fish will start to lose scales, fins will start to fall off, the fish will spend most of its time at the bottom laying on the substrate before it is either attacked or becomes too weak to live.

Treatment and Medication

Unfortunately, there is no known cure to this although many have stated that using a bacterial and fungus medication does slow down if given at the very early stages. There is no known documented proof such medicines do truly work once the first signs of organ failure begin to show themselves, and if the fish is nearing the end of life, using any type(s) of medicine would not prolong their lifespan at all (and may shorten it due to them being unable to process things normally).


Once a fish has dropsy, it can not be prevented in any manner that is similar to other diseases or infections (as this is more of a condition than anything else). Prevention can include general care items, providing all of the correct diet, conditions, parameters, and having the correct tank-mates within your aquarium. As always, make sure that you quarantine anything that you place inside of your water (this includes any plants, inhabitants, decorations, and more) to make sure that if a fish does show these symptoms it can be isolated as soon as possible.