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The Popeye Fish Disease and How to Treat It

Popeye Fish Disease

The Popeye fish disease is quite painful and a potential danger for your aquarium fish. As an aquarist, it will be quite a struggle for you to deal with it if your beloved fish catch this disease. But to treat the problem correctly, you need to learn all about it first.

Certain fish breeds naturally have large and bulging eyes, such as the Celestial Eyes goldfish or the Black Moor goldfish. You cannot consider their glorious telescopic big eyes as diseased. However, where you notice swollen and cloudy eyes in other breeds, you know Popeye is rampant there. If you allow the Popeye infection to rage out of control, your fish may turn blind and
consequently lose their eyes.

Popeye Disease – What It Is

The medical term for Popeye disease is exophthalmia. The common occurrence in this disease is the protruding and swelling of eyes from the socket. Many underlying causes are often the cause, but it is all very painful for the fish. Often, a fish may lose one or even both eyes due to this infection.

In some popeye cases, you will note a cloudy appearance while sometimes the eye may look clear, despite the disease’s presence. The eye begins to swell when the fluid present behind the eyeball starts leaking. Several things can happen when your fish develop Popeye.

Their cornea can rupture, it can turn bloodstained, and there is also a likelihood of rupture before treatment. If your fish suffers cornea rupture, there are chances that it will go blind for life.


When a fish develops Popeye disease, there could be several agents responsible for it. Sometimes, it may be impossible to determine the true cause well. The infection can occur in both eyes or be unilateral (single affected eye).

This could stem from an injury, and you can rule out the possibility of water chemistry being problematic. It is easier to determine when an injury could be the cause when only one fish suffers this disease while the others in the tank are fine.

Other possible causes could be when one of your fish got into a fight with another or scraped its eye against a sharp object in your tank. It would help if you looked for signs of damage to your eyes, which is the first indication of exophthalmia.

Exophthalmia is mostly a consequence of an injury, and in this case, the protruding eye usually recedes with time. The healing may require some time, but it does happen eventually. You must never stop observing closely because the fish can lose sight if the infection persists.

Internal ailments could also be an underlying cause of Popeye in your fish. For instance, if your fish suffers critical metabolic issues, dropsy, or even kidney failure, chances are high for a fluid build – up. Poor water conditions are among the most common causes of Popeye, especially the bilateral category.

Treatment Options

You may have already gathered that Popeye disease is quite serious, and thus, treatment will not be easy. There could be several bacterial infections responsible, and you have to work to eliminate those along with the underlying cause.

Here are some of the most common and effective treatment options for Popeye fish disease:

1. Salt

Epsom salt is one of the most effective methods of reducing swelling. You can add around one or three teaspoons of the salt to every five gallons of water in the tank. Note that your treatment tank should be separate from the regular one. If you manage to keep a steady water condition, the swelling will heal within a few days, and the corneal damage will cure too. Alongside, try to provide your fish with vitamin-rich and a balanced diet to speed up the healing process.

2. Make Necessary Water Changes

Your first concern must be detecting nitrate and ammonia levels in the water. If you spot a problem, you
must make the necessary water changes immediately. Also ensure the parameters are appropriate for your fish. You can do so by looking at the temperature and the pH levels.

It is imperative to make necessary water changes because you have to treat your affected fish and protect the others. At this point, it would be a great idea to conduct a full clean and dig deep to eliminate waste.

3. Eliminate Bacteria

Bacteria are a serious concern because they can worsen the cornea damage and create infections. You
can effectively eliminate bacteria with the help of antibacterial products and standard antibiotics. You can combat problems like infections and fin rot with these antibacterial products’ help by adding it to the water directly.

If you wish to cure internal infections, opt for broad-spectrum antibiotics. You may have to ask a vet to prescribe these for you and administer them orally to your fish.

Products for your tank

Imagitarium Fresh Water, 2.5 gallon

Imagitarium Fresh Water, 2.5 gallon





Seachem Prime

Seachem Prime








Nature Ocean Nutri-SeaWater Natural Live Ocean Saltwater

Nature Ocean Nutri-SeaWater Natural Live Ocean Saltwater






Instant Ocean Nitrifying Bacteria Bio-Spira

Instant Ocean Nitrifying Bacteria Bio-Spira

Final Thoughts

Popeye disease is more painful than one can imagine and agony for your fish to suffer. You can take effective measures to ensure your fish remains protected against the disease. Ensure routine tank setup, water maintenance, providing a larger tank for your pets, and eliminating waste materials on time.

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