Dropsy is a condition characterized by a swollen abdomen/stomach and protruding scales on the fish, giving him/her the appearance of a "pinecone". Like POPEYE, dropsy is a symptom, rather than an illness itself. It indicates an accumulation of fluids inside the body of the fish, and possibly organ failure, specifically the kidneys.


  • "Pineconed" scales - scales standing out from the body
  • Swollen/bloated stomach
  • Likely extreme signs of illness, such refusal to eat, faded color, extreme lethargy, leaning/listing to one side on the bottom of the tank



Because of the grave condition a fish with dropsy is in, many of the treatment steps are as much palliative as they are remedial.

  • If BACTERIAL INFECTION is identified/strongly suspected, aggressive antibiotic treatment can be attempted. 
    • A fish experiencing dropsy is in an advanced stage of illness, and appropriately strong medications would be necessary
    • As mentioned above, dropsy often indicates kidney failure. As medications administered will be processed by the fish's kidneys, the stress of medication may be one that a fish with dropsy can not endure.
  • Epsom salt can be administered to reduce swelling/encourage the release of built up fluids
  • Purchase a breeding trap and capture the fish in it, then float it in the tank
    • A fish in this grave condition may have difficulty reaching the surface for air. Boosting them up in a breeding cup makes this easier so that they do not drown before they have a chance to recover
    • A fish in a breeding cup is also easier to offer food to, as it can be placed directly by them, cleaned up easily, and will not drift away from the fish into the filter.
    • DIY: if you are unable to find or purchase a breeding trap, a small tupperware container or plastic cup with holes punched into it can be used
      • It is important that holes are punched into the cup so that water from the tank can continue to flow in and out of it. Otherwise, ammonia/waste levels will quickly rise in the cup and pose a new problem for the fish.