Do Goldfish Go Blind? 5 Common Reasons & Prevention

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If you’re planning to get a goldfish, you should research the species thoroughly before committing.

That’s because this fish species is rather pretentious when it comes to its environmental conditions, diet, and habitat setup. For example, the habitat’s size will influence the fish’s maximum growth.

Goldfish typically grow up to 1-2 inches in small tanks and up to 6 inches in larger ones. They may even grow as big as 14 inches when housed in larger outdoor ponds, showing the fish’s amazing adaptability to its environment.

The problem is that the goldfish is prone to some disorders that may affect its sight. To answer the question in the title, yes, goldfish can go blind, but that’s not necessarily the problem.

The problem is finding out why, because some conditions are more severe than others.

Reasons Goldfish Go Blind

There are many reasons why your goldfish may go blind, and we will discuss the most relevant ones:

Dead-Eye syndrome

This isn’t a disease in and of itself but rather a symptom. This problem becomes visible when the fish no longer displays Vestibulo-Ocural Reflex (VOR).

This is the natural reflex of fixating the eyes on a given object and maintaining them in that position even if the head turns in another direction.

VOR is typical to all creatures, humans included. The Dead-Eye syndrome occurs when VOR is no longer present, and the fish’s pupils are immobile and non-reactive to a stimulus like light or movement.

Dead-Eye is usually related to dead fish, but it can also occur in living ones, and it doesn’t necessarily imply blindness. Your goldfish may also display the symptom due to extreme fatigue, severe stress, temperature shock, and even some medication or ammonia poisoning.

If the problem persists, your goldfish may have become blind, and determining the exact cause may be vital, as it can save your goldfish’s life.

Cataract

A cataract is actually a common condition among fish, goldfish included. It is often the result of poor nutrition, inadequate tank conditions, genetic predisposition, and even parasitic infections.

Sometimes the condition may occur without any obvious cause.

Unfortunately, fish cataract has no treatment. You can only prevent it by providing your goldfish with proper nutrition and impeccable water conditions.

The latter is that much more necessary, seeing how goldfish can live up to 15 years or more if given adequate care.

Fish Tuberculosis

This is another condition that may result in partial or full blindness in goldfish. Fish tuberculosis is the official name we use for a bacterial infection.

The culprit is Mycobacterium spp., which is known to infect various animals, not just fish.

Not all victims will develop the same symptoms. Some will only experience some localized infections, while others may display full systemic responses, leading to a generalized disease.

One of the common late-stage symptoms includes eye infections and even eyes falling out of their sockets, which is as gruesome as it sounds.

One problem worth mentioning is that this condition will display delayed symptoms. So, you may not always be aware of its existence at first. Another even more pressing issue is that this is a highly contagious disease.

By the time you’ve detected the disorder in one fish, all fish will have contracted it.

There is no reliable treatment to recommend other than palliative care. Fortunately, some fish can live years before the disease displays its first symptoms.

Cloudy Eyes

This is a symptom for a variety of fish health problems, including Saprolegnia fungus, flukes, bacterial infections, or protozoan infections. Diagnosing the condition fast is key to ensuring the treatment’s success.

The positive aspect, if we can talk about positives in situations like these, is that the symptoms will vary depending on the condition’s specifics.

The cloudy iris is most often the result of bacterial infections, while the Saprolegnia fungus causes a cotton-ball-like growth on the eye.

Flukes and various parasites will cause the entire eye to become cloudy, and the presence of a translucent film indicates a protozoan problem.

The treatment depends on the underlying nature of the condition. I recommend quarantining the goldfish as soon as you notice any changes in its eye coloring or clearness.

The treatment will most likely include using antibiotics or various medications based on a professional’s recommendation. At the same time, the fish will require pristine water conditions and nutritious dieting to promote recovery.

Injuries and Accidents

These can happen, often no matter how careful you may be. Placing goldfish in community tanks with unfit tank partners will make them prone to fighting and injuries.

Their eyes are particularly vulnerable due to their size, which is especially true for telescopic fish.

Accidents are another potential cause. Your goldfish may rub against hard, rugged, or sharp materials in the tank, risking blinding injuries in the process.

There’s nothing you can do about such situations once they’ve happened, which is where prevention comes to save the day. Avoid placing sharp and unsafe items in the tank to keep your goldfish safe and healthy in the long run.

If accidents do occur, treat the fish according to its wounds. This involves moving the injured goldfish into a separate tank and keeping it in optimal living conditions for a while to prevent bacterial infections.

There may be more problems that I may have missed, but these are among the most common. When it comes to blindness-inflicting conditions, prevention remains the best treatment.

When that fails, the next in line is a personalized treatment consisting of quarantine and adequate medication. Ultimately, euthanasia remains the last option if the cause for blindness is a contagious condition that risks infecting other fish.

How to Tell if Your Goldfish is Blind?

The most obvious sign is a change in watercolor or clarity. If your goldfish displays cloudy eyes or eye growths or colors that shouldn’t be there, that’s a sign something’s wrong.

But that’s not the only symptom. You can search for additional signs in the fish’s behavior. Blind goldfish will have difficulties eating, for instance, at least at first.

They will adapt to their lack of sight and rely more on their smell and knowledge of the tank’s layout to move around. But, at first, your goldfish may not react to the food and may no longer come to the water’s surface.

This generally suggests a problem with the eyes, so long as no other symptoms suggest otherwise.

If the goldfish also shows apathy, erratic swimming, or other worrying behavioral signs, you may have a different health issue on your hands.

Can a Blind Goldfish Recover?

If your goldfish is fully blind, I would say it’s impossible for it ever to regain its vision. It may recover from the disorder it has been experiencing, but once the fish has lost its vision, it will remain so.

This may sound worrying, but goldfish can work their way around this issue.

They are adaptable creatures and don’t suffer from depression, like many humans who tend to lose sight.

Can a Blind Goldfish Survive?

Yes, but that usually depends on the nature of the disorder. If they have recovered from their health problem and they’re left blind, survival is not a problem.

The goldfish will rely on its hearing, smell, and sense of touch to navigate its environment and find food.

However, the blind goldfish will require more personalized care than those with their sight intact.

Here are some useful tips for adopting in this sense:

  • Secure their environment – Blind fish won’t be able to navigate their environment as effectively anymore. This can lead them to bump into various objects and hurt themselves in the process. Eliminate all rocks and decorative elements that will no longer serve any meaningful purpose. The same goes for thick and rigid plants that could get into the fish’s way.
  • Avoid any tank mates – The blind goldfish can become stressed in a community tank with other fish poking or bumping into them. I suggest avoiding pairing the blind goldfish with overtly active and flashy fish that are more prone to interact with it.
  • Tweak their feeding – Blind goldfish will have difficulties finding their food. Their feeding behavior will change as a result, leading them to search for food on the substrate. Feeding your goldfish sinking pellets is a great idea because of that. You should also feed them in the same area of the tank since they will quickly learn the tank’s layout and return areas where they’ve found food before.

These measures should keep your blind goldfish happy and healthy in the long run.

Can Goldfish Live Without an Eye?

Yes, goldfish can live with a missing eye. They can even live without any eyes, so long as the condition causing them to lose their eyes isn’t fatal.

If your goldfish has lost its eyes due to a bacterial infection that’s now gone, they will have no problem carrying on with their lives as before.

Provided you help them adapt to their new state, of course.

Conclusion

Goldfish blindness isn’t that common but isn’t too rare either. The important note to take with you is that prevention is possible in most cases.

Provide your goldfish with proper nutrition, regular feeding, and clean and stable waters, and the risk of blindness will be minimal.

You should also be careful about the fish and plants you introduce to the tank. Bacterial and parasitic infections are common problems stemming from infected fish and plants being thrown into the tank with no prior checking.

Other than that, clear the tank of any dangerous objects or ornaments that may hurt the fish and avoid aggressive tank mates.

These measures should ensure your goldfish’s safety and comfort over the years, prolonging its life significantly and minimizing the risks of partial or complete blindness.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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