Brown Spots & Scale Loss on Goldfish


New Member
Oct 6, 2019
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The fish in the pictures below was completely white last night when I went to bed.
This is what it looks like this morning:

The nitrate level is high (over 100ppm), as is the GH (19dH) - presumably because I have been sick for three weeks and I have been unable to do water changes.
All other parameters are normal (0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite).
Temp. 76'F (ambient temperature - no heater)
pH 7.6
Fish: 2" goldfish (shown), 3.5" comet goldfish, 4" pleco

There is some sort of black scum on some of the décor, but I could not get a clear picture of it.


Fish Guru
Jan 26, 2008
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Perth, WA
It looks like the fish was attacked or more likely, got stuck under or behind something and has damaged itself.

The brown in the face looks like blood in the mouth and gills and probably occurred when it got stuck.

Do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate every day until the nitrates are back down to 0ppm. Then do a 75% water change and gravel clean every week, or any time the nitrates are over 20ppm.

Add some salt (see directions below).

You can add rock salt (often sold as aquarium salt), sea salt or swimming pool salt to the aquarium at the dose rate of 1 heaped tablespoon per 20 litres of water. If there is no improvement after 48 hours you can double that dose rate so there is 2 heaped tablespoons of salt per 20 litres.

If you only have livebearers (guppies, platies, swordtails, mollies), goldfish or rainbowfish in the tank you can double that dose rate, so you would add 2 heaped tablespoons per 20 litres and if there is no improvement after 48 hours, then increase it so there is a total of 4 heaped tablespoons of salt per 20 litres.

Keep the salt level like this for at least 2 weeks but no longer than 4 weeks otherwise kidney damage can occur. Kidney damage is more likely to occur in fish from soft water (tetras, Corydoras, angelfish, gouramis, loaches) that are exposed to high levels of salt for an extended period of time, and is not an issue with livebearers, rainbowfish or other salt tolerant species.

The salt will not affect the beneficial filter bacteria but the higher dose rate (4 heaped tablespoons per 20 litres) will affect some plants and some snails. The lower dose rate will not affect plants, shrimp or snails.

After you use salt and the fish have recovered, you do a 10% water change each day for a week using only fresh water that has been dechlorinated. Then do a 20% water change each day for a week. Then you can do bigger water changes after that. This dilutes the salt out of the tank slowly so it doesn't harm the fish.

If you do water changes while using salt, you need to treat the new water with salt before adding it to the tank. This will keep the salt level stable in the tank and minimise stress on the fish.