Goldfish Ich Disease (White Spots) Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Have you begun to notice that your goldfish has tiny white spots all over its body? They kind of look like specks of sand, or grains of salt, and they’re covering the scales and fins. What is it? Should you worry?

If your fish fits this description, then it’s likely that you’re dealing with goldfish ich. Ich is a parasitic infection that is treatable but needs to be taken care of as soon as you notice it.

Not sure what to do? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you exactly what to look out for and how to cure ich.

What Is Ich?

Ich is a parasitic infection that is most often caused by a lack of water quality. It gets its name from the parasite that infects the fish, Ichthyophythirius multifilis.

It presents as tiny white spots throughout the scales and fins. Initially, you might not notice ich because there may only be a few spots here and there. Eventually, though, your fish could be completely covered in the parasites.

The parasites attach to the scales of your fish. They feed off your fish, stealing nutrients from their body.

As we mentioned above, ich usually starts with just a few parasites. As these parasites feed, they reproduce rapidly until your fish is completely covered.

Because of the way the spots look, many fish receive the wrong treatment. Fish keepers misdiagnose the spots as a type of fungus. Many go on to treat their fish with an anti-fungal medication. These are ineffective against the parasites.

Ich is an easily treatable problem. But, if your fish goes for too long without the proper treatment, the parasites will kill them. This is why it’s important to properly identify ich for what it is. This way, you can treat your fish with the correct medication.

A big problem with ich is that the parasites reproduce very quickly. The parasites have a short lifespan. So, they reproduce rapidly to replace themselves. Ich may start on one fish, but if left untreated, it can quickly spread to the rest of the tank’s inhabitants.

Ich parasites produce egg packets. Besides reproducing on the fish itself, these egg packets may drop to the bottom of the tank. They will spawn within the substrate and will become free-swimming. This allows them to make their way to the rest of the fish in the tank.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ich?

Ich is a very frustrating condition for your fish because it’s itching and irritating.

A tell-tale sign of a parasite is “flashing”. Flashing refers to a fish darting around the tank quickly. They will often rub their bodies against the side of the tank and the decorations as well. They do this to scratch themselves to try and relieve the itching.

Besides flashing, other symptoms may include:

Is My Goldfish Simply Ready To Breed?

When the conditions are right, goldfish will go into a state in which they’re ready to breed. For males, this includes developing tubercules, or “breeding stars”. These stars appear around their gills and the fronts of their pectoral fins.

The tubercules look very similar to ich, so keep that in mind when diagnosing your fish. If the white spots appear anywhere outside of the front pectoral fins and the gills, then your fish has ich.

What Causes Ich?

Ich is a parasite. There are always parasites located within the water column of your aquarium. When they’re healthy, a fish’s immune system keeps these parasites at bay so that they’re not an issue.

When a fish becomes sick, it leaves them more susceptible to parasitic infections.

A dirty tank and poor water quality is the most common cause of ich in goldfish. Goldfish are “dirty” fish because they’re large and produce a large amount of waste. To combat this, you need to keep up with regular water changes and tank cleanings. Regularly test the water to make sure the parameters are within a safe range.

Ich can also enter a tank when you add new fish or plants. This is why it’s so important to treat your plants before adding them to your aquarium. It’s also why new fish should go into quarantine for a couple of weeks before adding them to the main tank.

How To Treat Ich

The good news is that ich is very treatable, especially when it’s caught early.


To start, always quarantine the infected fish. By isolating the infected fish, you’re likely to prevent the infection from spreading.

Turn Up The Temperature

Also, make sure to crank up the heat! Heat alone won’t kill ich, but it weakens it drastically. For the most effectiveness, you’ll want to get the temperature up to 80°F. Do this gradually, only raising the temperature one to two degrees a day. Doing it any quicker will shock your fish.

Use Aquarium Salt

Then, treat the isolated fish with aquarium salt. Aquarium salt, combined with heat, may be enough to kill the ich without medication. It also helps your fish’s immune system better fight the intruders so that it has a better chance of surviving.

Follow the directions on the aquarium salt packaging to ensure you use the correct dose. Keep in mind that aquarium salt is not safe for invertebrates, scaleless fish, or plants.


Next, you need to treat your fish with a good anti-parasitic. There are plenty of anti-parasitic medications on the market designed to target ich.

Ich-X will treat the entire tank, so it’s good if you have an infection that’s gotten out of control. It is safe for invertebrates, scaleless fishes, and plants.

Gravel Vacuum

While treating your fish, make sure to perform daily water changes and cleaning. This will prevent the spread of ich. Use a gravel vacuum to suck up any new egg packets before they hatch.

How To Prevent Ich

The most common cause of ich is a dirty tank. The best thing you can do for your goldfish is to keep their tank clean. Keep up with regular water changes, use a gravel vacuum, and regularly test the water. If you keep their tank clean, you should be able to keep ich at bay.

You also need to be careful about what you’re introducing to your new tank. Adding sick or infected fish and plants to the tank is a common cause of disease. An already sick fish will quickly wreak havoc on your existing aquarium.

Plants may come riddled with parasites and other hitch hikers which can be a nightmare for your tank. You should always treat your new plants before adding them to your aquarium. Not sure how? Take a look at this helpful article.

Are Goldfish More Prone To Ich?

Besides swim bladder disease, ich is the most common problem seen in goldfish. They are very hardy fish that rarely get sick. Yet, they seem more likely to get ich than other fish.


Ich is an annoying parasitic infection that presents as white spots all over your fish’s body. The good news is that ich is very treatable and preventable.

Do your best to keep your tank clean, and you’ll likely prevent your fish from ever developing ich at all. Ich they do get ich, quickly treat them with some anti-parasitic medication to get them back to normal.

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