Goldfish Stringy White Poop – Causes & Treatments
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If you know anything about goldfish, you know that they are rather hardy fish, capable of withstanding a variety of environmental conditions.
Some species of goldfish can even adapt to freezing temperatures, allowing them to overwinter by lowering their metabolism to a hibernation state.
That being said, they are also prone to various fish-related conditions, just as any other tank fish. Providing them with fast and adequate treatment is essential for a speedy recovery.
Goldfish are highly resilient and will rebound, provided you identify the condition in its early phases before it inflicts its more severe damages.
This brings us to today’s topic – early disease prevention.
Goldfish will display a lot of symptoms, depending on the condition they’re facing. Some of these symptoms are behavioral, others physical, and others can be observed in the poop.
Today’s article will discuss the latter, looking into one of the goldfish’s most widespread problems, the stringy white poop?
What causes it, and is it a reason for serious concern? Let’s have a look!
Causes of Stringy White Poop in Goldfish
First, let’s settle what white poop is. We’re talking about long and stringy feces, often still hanging onto your fish’s anus, floating in the water.
They are sometimes solid, other times more fluid, hinting at different causes, which we will explain in this section.
The most common causes for stringy white poop in goldfish include:
Goldfish Has Not Eaten
This is a peculiar one since most novice aquarists expect the fish to only poop food residues. But goldfish, and fish in general, also produce poop even if they haven’t eaten anything and the explanation for that is quite simple.
All creatures, fish included, have a protective coating on the stomach and intestines in the form of mucus.
This secretion lubricates the interior of the intestines, allowing the poop to slide easier towards the exit. Without that, the fish wouldn’t be able to eliminate the feces and will constipate, experience impaction, and die.
The only problem is that this mucus builds up naturally, even without any food involved in the process.
The fish will eliminate the excess via the same method that all feces get expelled. You should easily tell whether the fish’s excrements contain any food or not since the mucus alone is fluid with no solid matter in it.
This is a sign that your fish hasn’t eaten in a while and requires nutrients.
In some cases, your goldfish may experience intestinal bacterial infections resulting in white and stringy poop, alongside a variety of other symptoms. In most cases, the bacterial organisms responsible for the infection aren’t the real cause of the problem.
The underlying issue is more often another digestive condition allowing the microorganism to infiltrate and cause an infection with more severe results.
Some of these triggering factors include:
- Swim bladder disease – This condition has multiple causes, including overfeeding, impaction, fat accumulation on the fish’s internal organs, organ inflammation due to parasites, etc. This condition will cause the fish’s organs, stomach, or intestines to swell and press against the swim bladder. The fish will find it more difficult to inflate its swim bladder and display buoyancy issues as a result. Severe swim bladder disease associated with bacterial and parasitic infections will also cause white and stringy poop in some cases.
- Intestinal or rectal infections – These are also probable causes for stringy and white poop, usually hinting at more severe underlying issues. Most fish with rectal infections will also display a swollen and red anus, alongside visible behavioral changes. Your fish may refuse food, become lethargic, hide around the substrate, and even become aggressive towards other tank inhabitants. At this point, fast and comprehensive treatment is necessary to prevent the condition from advancing any further.
- Dropsy – Dropsy is a common fish condition that’s also notoriously difficult to diagnose. It’s not a distinct condition in and of itself, but more like a symptom of other conditions and infections. Dropsy simply refers to bloating of the abdomen, but other symptoms may be present as well, depending on the underlying cause. Your goldfish may display swollen and protruding eyes, loss of color, loss of appetite, white and stringy feces, lethargy, etc. The treatment also varies depending on the condition’s triggers. I recommend quarantining the sick fish immediately upon noticing any signs of dropsy. Depending on the cause, the disorder may or may not be contagious. So playing it safe is always the smarter choice.
If your goldfish shows any symptoms of bacterial infections, including white and stringy poop, you may need to use antibiotics to treat them.
In this case, you should either relocate the fish into a treatment tank or use an antibiotic that won’t affect the tank’s natural biofilm.
Goldfish are prone to contract a variety of parasites responsible for a variety of health issues. The interesting aspect to note here is that many of these protozoans are present even in healthy fish. Despite the host showing no signs of sickness.
That’s because the fish’s immune system prevents the pathogen from reproducing and taking over the fish’s organs and system.
This means that it takes specific conditions to trigger the parasites by lowering the fish’s immune system.
Dirty waters, environmental bacteria, secondary infections, genetic faults, improper diets, stress, all can contribute to lowering the fish’s immune system enough to allow the parasite to take over.
There are several pathogens to consider in relation to white and stringy poop in goldfish.
- Hexamita – This parasite is responsible for causing Hexamitiasis or more commonly known as Hole in the Head syndrome. The parasite lives in the fish’s intestinal area, typically in a more latent state, until it decides to go nuts and spread throughout the fish’s body. The parasite may kill the fish upon infecting its organs and causing massive tissue damage, especially around the head and face. Hence, the name. The white and stringy feces are the result of the fish’s body producing an excess of intestinal mucus in an attempt to flush the parasite.
- Tapeworms – These organisms can also infect humans, as they transmit via infected fish meat containing tapeworm cysts. These worms will grow inside the fish’s digestive tract, consuming its food and causing the fish to miss vital nutrients along the way. The fish may appear bloated at first due to the excess of tapeworms growing in its belly. In reality, the fish is starving and will soon begin to display signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Tapeworms are contagious and will spread to other goldfish fast, as the infected host will eliminate them in the tank water.
- Roundworms – These are also common fish parasites living in the digestive tract and functioning similarly to tapeworms. There are several species of common roundworms seen in aquarium fish, the most widespread ones being the Camallanus, Contracaecum, and Philometra. These parasites will cause a variety of symptoms, including white and stringy feces, depending on the degree of infection. Fortunately, they are rather easy to treat provided adequate knowledge on the matter.
The good news is that parasitic infections that include worms are rather uncommon among tank-raised fish. The only way for them to contract intestinal worms is via infected equipment or infected fish being added to the tank.
This is why I suggest double-checking your fish’s health before buying it and adding it to an already established goldfish community.
A good option is to breed your own tank fish should the circumstances allow it.
Goldfish are omnivorous, so they require a varied diet to remain healthy in the long run. This includes both plant and animal-based nutrients coming from a variety of sources.
The problem is that goldfish are somewhat picky eaters, and they differ in food preferences based on the species and even individuals.
Another problem is that many novice goldfish keepers will only feed their goldfish one or two types of foods out of laziness. It’s certainly easier than planning the goldfish’s meals and calculating its nutrients for an optimal diet.
But it’s also detrimental to the fish. Lacking certain foods and minerals may cause the fish digestive problems, one of them being the production of white and stringy excrements.
I suggest providing your goldfish will all the necessary nutrients to prevent that. You can rely on optimized commercial fish food since certain products are specifically designed for goldfish, but you shouldn’t stick to those exclusively.
Feel free to experiment and provide your goldfish with weekly treats, especially protein-based meals.
Poor Water Parameters
Subpar water conditions may also be responsible for your goldfish displaying stringy or white feces.
As resilient as goldfish are, they don’t do well in dirty waters with fluctuating parameters, and ammonia and nitrites are of particular concern.
Ammonia stress can cause physiological symptoms that could soon aggravate, suggesting ammonia poisoning.
If your goldfish showcases symptoms like white and stringy poop, heavy breathing, lethargy, lack of appetite, or red gills, verify the water parameters. Ammonia levels should remain at 0 as anything above that can kill your fish.
To counter and prevent ammonia buildup:
- Invest in a filter – The filtering system is necessary for a goldfish environment since it cleanses the water, dilutes ammonia, and promotes the tank’s beneficial biofilm, preserving the environment’s stability. Make sure the filter ensures biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration for a well-rounded filtration experience.
- Perform regular water changes – Your goldfish will benefit tremendously from weekly water changes of up to 10-15%, depending on the situation. The more fish you have, the more frequent the water changes, especially considering that goldfish are notorious poop machines.
- Clean the tank – This means removing excess algae, eliminating food leftovers and fish waste accumulating on the substrate, and vacuuming the substrate to remove infiltrated dirt and dead organic matter. This routine should occur every 3-6 weeks, depending on how dirty the tank gets and how fast.
Pro tip: do not overfeed your goldfish. This is a great way of preventing most of the problems associated with dirty tanks and accelerated ammonia buildup.
Treating Stringy White Poop Disease
Addressing your goldfish’s stringy feces issue comes down to identifying the cause first. The treatment depends on the disorder’s triggering factors.
In this sense, I recommend 3 primary approaches:
- Adjust the fish’s diet – Reassess not only what your goldfish eats but how, when, and how much it eats. As general feeding rules, always remember to feed your fish 2-3 times per day in small, easy-to-consume portions that the goldfish can finish in 3 minutes or less. This is enough to prevent overfeeding and all the problems associated with it. Also, make sure your goldfish has a varied diet, containing all the nutrients it needs for a healthy and stable life over the years.
- Adopt a strict tank cleaning routine – Your goldfish should live in a stable and healthy environment, as radical parameter fluctuations can disturb their physiological functioning. Ammonia is especially of concern here since it acts as a poison for goldfish. In this sense, you should clean the tank and substrate regularly, at least once every 4-6 weeks, perform weekly water changes of 10-15%, and monitor water parameters several times per week. Any changes in ammonia and nitrites should be dealt with immediately to prevent more severe problems down the line.
- Consider an anti-parasitic product – You need a parasite control product to deal with any potential pathogens infecting your fish. Seachem ParaGuard is great in this sense since it counters most parasites, bacteria, and fungal microorganisms responsible for generalized infections and white poop. This product addresses both internal and external parasites, making it ideal for treating Ich, fin rot, dropsy, intestinal worms, and other disorders. You may need to quarantine the fish for at least 2 weeks during the treatment to ensure the best results.
These measures should be enough to treat your goldfish fast and counter most issues known to cause white and stringy feces.
Avoid Stringy White Poop in Goldfish
Needless to say, you should prefer prevention over treatment for obvious reasons.
When it comes to preventing your goldfish from experiencing white and stringy poop, I would recommend 3 primary measures:
- Keep the fish’s environment clean and stable – I’ve already mentioned this point before. Keep your goldfish tank in optimal conditions. And you will avoid most of the problems associated with ammonia buildup, algae overgrowth, and bacterial and parasitic infections. Weekly water changes are vital, and so is vacuuming the substrate and removing excess food residues and fish waste regularly. Remember, goldfish are notoriously dirty fish, capable of pooping a lot. The more of them in the same environment, the higher the need for regular cleaning and maintenance.
- Verify any new addition to the tank – Most intestinal parasites end up in the tank via infected fish. Buying your fish from various fish stores comes with a certain degree of risk. Your job should be to make sure the newcomers aren’t already infected with various worms or parasites that could pass on to the rest of the tank inhabitants. I agree, it’s not always an easy thing to do. Which is why I don’t recommend getting your goldfish from regular fish shops. You should either purchase them from verified and professional fish breeders or breed your goldfish yourself.
- Always monitor your fish – This may seem like a tautology since having a tank already guarantees permanent monitoring, right? After all, we’re always checking our fish when we’re in the room; this is the purpose of having a tank, after all. Well, there’s a difference between admiring your fish and actively checking them for health issues and parasites. The latter is a vital prevention mechanism, allowing you to detect any health issue in time, making the treatment easier, and increasing your fish’s recovery rates.
Is White Stringy Poop Disease Contagious?
It depends on the cause. Parasitic and bacterial-related stringy poop disorders are contagious, so these rank as the most dangerous conditions.
Fortunately, these health problems are easily manageable, so long as you detect them in time.
When you do, the treatment should necessarily include the following steps:
- Quarantine – Never skip this phase even if you don’t think it’s necessary. Quarantining your fish will achieve 2 things. Firstly, it will allow you more control over the treatment process as you will place the sick fish in a stable and more manageable environment; no tank mates, no decorations, less interference. Secondly, it will protect the rest of the goldfish population in case the pathogens haven’t spread to other fish yet. As I said, you can’t skip this phase.
- Use antibiotics – I’ve recommended Seachem ParaGuard earlier, and I stand by it. It’s a good product for addressing a wide range of parasites, bacteria, and other dangerous internal and external pathogens. The duration of the antibiotic treatment will vary depending on the nature of the disorder and how advanced it is. You should also provide your goldfish with impeccable water conditions, stable parameters, and an optimized diet throughout the treatment.
- Assess the fish’s condition – Expect the treatment to last around 2-3 weeks. If your fish is younger and stronger, it may recover faster. The issue is that you need to monitor the fish and assess its recovery rate. Make sure the parasites are gone and that the fish is ready for relocation otherwise, you may infect the healthy goldfish population.
Other causes of white and stringy poop relate more to environmental conditions and improper diets or feeding patterns.
So, I wouldn’t call those contagious.
Seeing your goldfish producing white and stringy poop may seem alarming at first, especially if you’ve never encountered the problem.
The solution is always to keep a cool head and assess the situation in front of you. Look for other symptoms that may hint at the nature of the problem and address the issue correctly.
Goldfish are incredibly resilient fish, and they will recover, given adequate treatment and care. And, as always, remember that prevention should always prevail.