How To Treat Popeye Disease in Goldfish + Prevention

Popeye (Also known as exophthalmia)  is a disease that goldfish can get get where their eye is swollen and protrudes abnormally.  This disease can be quite serious for your goldfish so you will need to treat the fish as soon as you can.

The most common signs your goldfish has popeye disease is that their eye is swollen or cloudy in colour.

The most common reasons your goldfish developes this disease is due to an injury or infection.  If it is caused by an infection you can treat the water with Melafix (Available on Amazon) or add aquarium salt to the water.

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What is Popeye Disease in Goldfish?

Popeye disease is a condition whereby the eyes swell and bulge out of their socket due to various underlying infections. This abnormal swelling is medically known as exophthalmos and can affect either one or both eyes.

This condition requires immediate attention as a prolonged situation can cause eye problems or blindness.

Like other freshwater fish, goldfish also encounter some health complications that disrupt their routine activities. One of these health complications is popeye disease. The popeye disease is a common disease that affects freshwater fishes causing a physical distortion of their eyes.

In goldfish, the popeye disease occurs when there is a fluid build-up behind the eyes, causing them to swell, and bulge. The eyes become large and try to pop out of their socket. It might affect one or both eyes, and you have to treat it to avoid further complications like eye problems or blindness.

goldfish with popeye

What Causes Popeye Disease in Goldfish?

There are several causes of the Popeye disease in goldfish. You have to know what caused an infection before you can figure out a way to treat it. Therefore, it is essential to understand the causes of the disease. Here are some causes:


It is one of the causes of popeye disease. Goldfish can develop popeye when they get an injury due to a fight with other fishes, common to male goldfish. They can also get the infection when they scrape their body parts or slam themselves against the tank’s structures or walls.

Water Chemistry

The water quality present in the tank can cause your fish to have popeye. In poor water conditions, sensitive fish get affected first before other fish start showing the disease’s symptoms. The supersaturation of gas in water can also cause the goldfish to have gas trapped behind its eyelid causing it to swell.

This type of popeye affects only one of the eyes and is usually particular to the injured fish. In most cases, only the wounded fish becomes affected by this disease.

Dirty water can also cause your goldfish to have popeye disease. You have to make sure you keep the tank environment clean and maintain clean water. Bacteria and parasites thrive and breed in dirty water, thereby weakening their immunity.

The infection often develops due to long-term exposure to low water quality and not quick and drastic changes. It is essential to keep the water quality appropriate to ensure the good health of your fish.

Internal Infection

Underlying infections can be another possible cause of the popeye. Goldfish suffering from dropsy, kidney failure, and other metabolic problems can also develop this problem. The popeye can be an external manifestation of those underlying infections.

It can be difficult to diagnose your popeye of any underlying disease, especially if it is an internal one. If the popeye results from an underlying illness, then your goldfish might have been suffering from the condition for a long while.

Bacterial and Parasitic Infections

Another major cause of the popeye disease is parasitic and bacterial infections. Bacteria and parasites eat into your fish, causing it to develop several conditions like popeye, kidney infections, dropsy, etc. You might overlook the popeye if parasites are the cause, but you can be sure it will worsen if you do not take care of it.

Excess Feeding

Overfeeding your goldfish can also cause it to develop popeye. Overfeeding can cause infections like dropsy, which can lead to popeye. Putting too many food particles in the tank can also cause the tank to become dirty and breed harmful bacteria and parasites.

Symptoms of Popeye Disease in Goldfish

Since the Popeye affects the fish’s eye, the disease’s symptoms are quite obvious and are difficult to mistake. Every effect of the popeye tells on the eyes, and areas close to it. Here are some symptoms of the infection;

Protruded Eyes

This symptom can give you the right answer to your question. It is the most common and obvious symptom of popeye. When a fish gets infected with popeye, you will start noticing the change in the eyes’ size.

The eyes start to bulge and appear protruded in a way that seems it wants to pop out of their socket. It might be difficult to tell the bulge at the early stage of the disease, but it becomes more evident as the condition worsens. You might also be able to see the fluid buildup behind the eyes.

The infection can affect one of the eyes or both, depending on the severity. The condition might not affect the fish’s vision, but it can result in blindness if left untreated.

Discolored or Cloudy Eye

When your goldfish has a popeye, you will notice it has dull, faded eyes instead of bright ones. Discoloration of the eyes can be a symptom of other diseases and illnesses. Therefore, you have to check other symptoms that accompany it.

If the goldfish exhibits discolored and swollen eyes, then it is certain it has popeye.more

You will also notice bloodstains in the fish’s eye in severe conditions of popeye. It occurs when the eyes get swollen and start rupturing blood capillaries. The rupturing of these capillaries causes blood to seep into the cornea in the fish.

Ruptured Eyes

This symptom is usually for the final stage of the infection. If you do not attend to the disease, you will notice the eyes rupturing and popping out of the socket. You might help the fish heal at this stage, but you cannot save it from getting blind.

Sometimes, the fluid behind the eyes becomes so big that it pushes the eye out of the socket, causing the fish to lose completely. The fish becomes completely blind and has a low chance of surviving this ordeal.

How to Treat Popeye Disease in Goldfish

The treatment for the popeye depends on its cause. You have to know what caused the infection before you can tell how to treat it. There are several treatment measures that you can carry out in treating your fish.

If the popeye results from injury, you can use aquarium salt (Available to buy on amazon) to treat it while the wound heals.

Add a spoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons of water you add to the tank and put your goldfish in it. Ensure you do not change the water in the tank entirely during this treatment.

If dirty water or water with low quality is the cause of the popeye in your goldfish, you have to work on water chemistry. Frequent and regular change of the water will ensure the water is always clean. It will also hinder the chance of bacteria and parasites in the water.

You can also feed the fish with broad-spectrum antibiotic food to treat it. If the popeye is \as a result of bacteria and parasites, you might have to quarantine the fish to prevent it from infecting other fish.

You can also treat the whole tank with antibiotics if more than one goldfish shows symptoms of the disease.

Feeding the fish with high-quality food is also necessary when treating the fish. You can also reduce the amount of food you put in the tank to reduce the rate at which the water becomes dirty.

In the case of internal injuries, you might have to treat the problem first before attending to the popeye.

Most times, the popeye symptoms disappear after the goldfish becomes healed of the internal disease. If you tried every treatment and the symptoms persist, you might need to visit a vet for advanced treatment. You should also know that the condition can worsen if you do not treat the popeye in time.

Will Melafix Cure Popeye in Goldfish?

Melafix (Available on Amazon) is a fish remedy that heals bacterial infections and illness. It will cure popeye and several other bacterial infections like eye cloud, mouth fungus, fin and tail rot, and body slime.

Is Popeye Painful for Goldfish?

The bulging of the eyes inflicts pain on the goldfish making popeye a painful disease. Besides inflicting pain, popeye also creates a lot of hassle in the tank and might cause blindness if you do not treat it early.

The popeye disease is one of the infections you should avoid for your goldfish.

Can a Goldfish Die from Popeye?

Popeye disease can be deadly if you do not attend to it adequately. It can result in eye rupturing or blindness. It can eventually result in the death of the fish if you leave the infection untreated.

Why is My Goldfish Eyes Cloudy

Cloudy eyes in goldfish can be an indication of a health problem. The problem can range from severe to minor health complications. You have to know what it means when your goldfish has cloudy eyes, and what to do when you notice it.

Here are some reasons goldfish have cloudy eyes;

  • Internal Parasites : Internal parasites like flukes and protozoa are among the causes of cloudy eyes in goldfish. You have to get rid of these organisms as they will keep feasting on your fish, causing cloudy eyes.
  • Low water Quality : Poor water quality also contributes to the cloudiness of the eyes. Extremely low aquarium pH can also result in the cloudiness of the eye. You have to run several tests, and provide high-quality water for your goldfish.
  • Dietary Deficiency : If you do not feed your fish with adequate nutritional values, it can develop a cloudy eye. Deficiency in vitamin A can also cause cloudy eyes and poor fish eye health. You have to feed your fish with high-quality food to save its eyesight.

Why is My Goldfish Eyes Bulging?

When you notice your fish eyes bulging, there is only one explanation for that; popeye. It occurs when fluid gets trapped behind the eyes or areas around the eyes of the fish. It also occurs when the fish gets injured and scrapes parts of the body like eyelids.

In the popeye, you will also notice bloodstains in the eyes, resulting from ruptured capillaries. You will even notice cloudy and discolored eyes accompanying the swelling of the eyes. When you see all these symptoms, you can be sure your goldfish eyes are bulging because it has popeye.


The popeye disease can be deadly if you do not treat it as soon as you can. It can lead to eye defects and even blindness if you do not attend to it. It can also eventually lead to the death of your goldfish. Therefore, you have to make sure your fish is free from this infection.