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Ranchu- just a weird breed or sick?


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Hi all, I'm having more challenges with my ranchu goldfish, Tater.

*Background: Tater is actually the second ranchu I brought home. The first one seemed to be sick because it was floating weird (it was actually just being a ranchu and floating vertically) so I began treatment with a little bit of salt and erythromycin, not even a full dose. The poor thing died overnight, less than 12hrs home from the store. All the store fish were fine, so I suspect it was my treatment that stressed the fish to death.

So with that experience, I am very hesitant to treat with salt or meds until I know that it will help. Ranchus are new to me and boy, does the goldfish world have us regular aquarists fooled! These are by no means easy fish! I am still getting used to this fish's normal behavior- it is so different from an average fish.

*Current issue: I left on vacation for about 5 days, using an autofeeder to feed Saki Hikari fancy goldfish sinking pellets 3x daily, small amounts each time. (I have been struggling with finding consistent feeding info online as far as quantity and frequency.) Since I got home, Tater just seems kind of "blah." Less active but I wouldn't necessarily describe her as lethargic. Just lacking her usual perkiness. She'll stay floating vertically, head down, quite a bit. This is normal for her to some extent but not for this amount of time.

More concerning is that she does not seem to be eating. She had some really weird looking poo yesterday, almost as if her body was still trying to produce poo but kind of ran out of stuff. I suppose you could describe it as stringy, which I know is a red flag for parasites, but all other poo has been standard. There's just much less of it.

*Parameters: 73*F, TDS 553 ppm, pH 8.0, 0ppm nitrite, 0ppm ammonia, 300+ hardness, All of this is normal for my water. However, nitrates were at 40-50ppm. I checked nitrates with 3 different tests to confirm this (Co-op strips, Tetra strips, Master test kit,) and all of them were in agreement. I did a water change about 4 hours ago and dosed Prime, so I am not sure if this is a falsely high reading.

*Tank details: Have had the fish for a little over one month. 20gal long, Aquaclear 70 HOB filter, airstone, rock decor and plants (hornwort, duckweed, java fern, anubias, crinum calimastratum.) She used to gobble up the duckweed (it made me laugh because her poo would then be basically just duckweed. Haha.) But now she isn't touching it. I do not fertilize this tank. There is a bold, rugged little platy that has been surviving in there too, along with a couple of rogue cherry shrimp (Mad respect for them; they must be hiding in the rocks to escape the goldie.) Weekly 50%-ish water changes. (No ammonia or nitrite so I would guess the cycle is not being hurt.) Feeding Saki Hikari fancy goldfish sinking pellets, duckweed, and Repashy Gold. Bare bottom tank, no new additions (neither fish nor plants.)

My suspicion: I have two theories, and would love to hear from someone with ranchu experience because these little buggers make me confused. Are you sick, or just a weird fish?

I suspect 1) Constipation and/or 2) temp too high while I was away. Maybe I was feeding too much with the autofeeder and she's constipated. I have been trying to fix this by feeding only Repashy (seems to have a high plant content) and I have blanched spinach in there for her as well, taking care to rotate it out before it starts to decay. I don't think she realizes it's food yet. And there's always duckweed. She nibbled on the Repashy a tiny bit but not like she usually does. As for temp, its ok now, but I realized the thermostat was on Eco Mode. I just checked those settings and I was letting my apartment get up to 82*F!!! 🔥😵🔥 I hadn't realized that the Nest thermostat would automatically detect when you are gone and switch to Eco. (Usually my husband is also home so it never turns on Eco mode, but he was also out of town with me.) It's hot here in Northern California and I suspect it did indeed get that hot in the apartment, but I don't know what the water temperature got up to. 

So... not sure if anyone thinks something else might be going on. And before anyone says "feed them peas" I'd like to know if anyone has actually done that and seen results. 🤔 It seems like one of those things we all tell each other but no one has necessarily tried. But anyway, I suspect spinach would be just as good. Hoping that a little time will help, although I know that can be risky.20210710_140223.jpg.8990cbda7ada980f0511bcd5d36ad2c4.jpg

Standard floating position. Kind of worrying. Has no balance problem and can easily swim down. Not tilting left or right, therefore I do not suspect a swim bladder issue, but not 100% ruled out.


Bare bottom tank setup. Airstone is hiding behind the rocks.

Video shows her just looking kind of slow, sad, and "blah." I'd love to pretend that she just missed me but I know that's not it.

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she could be swiming head down because there's tomuch flow from your filter and she swiming against it  the high temperature could be the reason.she off her food it could.also be swim bladder or constipation  epsom is good for constipation as it acts as a muscle relaxants 

Edited by Colu
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Just wanted to update on this thread in case anyone one looks for advice in the future. I spoke to a fancy goldfish breeder in my area (local aquarium club for the win!) and he advised a high concentration of salt (600g per 20gal, which is over a pound,) as well as furan. I had a lot of trouble finding furan, but I did have salt at my disposal, so I increased the concentration from the level one treatment advised on the Co-op page of 1Tbs per 3 gal to the concentration the goldfish breeder suggested. It seems to have worked! Things were very shaky for the first two nights- I really thought I was going to lose her- but on the third day she looked much better and is eating again! I would never have known to use such a high concentration of salt. We are on day 5 of the high salt concentration today and I plan to do a 30-50% water change tomorrow, consistent with the instructions on the Co-op page. All symptoms seem to have subsided- no more weird poo (in fact, there is very, uh, ROBUST poo,) no floaters near the face, she just has one tiny little blemish on her cheek that is not getting worse, and it might just be wen coloration. I will of course keep a sharp eye on it, and if things start to go poorly for some reason, I'll come back and update this thread.
Whew! I REALLY thought I was going to lose her. A big win for aquarium salt! The employees at my local pet store were super supportive too (they were concerned when I bought 6 lbs of aquarium salt!) I'll have to go back and update them.
Hopefully we can get some more people with goldfish experience on here. This fish has been a big challenge (in a good way) and I would love to see more people keeping them. Wait a sec... have I become... a GOLDFISH person?! 😂 I'll take it.

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Hey Kat, 

Welcome to the goldfish family! don't be ashamed they are the best! 😄 

I am sorry I didn't see this post sooner but it sounds like you got great advice. 

One thing of note, pellets can sometimes cause constipation which can cause symptoms similar to what you described, If you notice something like this happening again, I would certainly do the same salt treatment as you did but also mix in some flake feedings. Flakes do lose nutrition quickly in the water however are extremely easy on the digestive tract of goldfish. 

Also, if you notice white along taters head again that looks like a pimple, or white head, or a few of them, it is likely wen growth, The food you have been feeding is a special formula to promote wen growth (Saki Hikari purple bag I assume your using) which is also higher in protein and can contribute to potential constipation. 

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@GardenStateGoldfish Thank you for the advice! Tater is much better now, and I have been feeding Repashy more so than the pellets for the very reasons you mention.

I did have an unexpected side effect from the salt though.

I was checking on Tater today and saw that she had some unusual black coloration on certain areas (see pics.) Along the edge of her upper caudal fin, on her back right at the spine, and on her side. Of course I was concerned, even though she is now acting normally, so I checked water parameters. Lo and behold, I think the very high salt concentration killed off my intriguing bacteria! Nitrite levels were alarming at 5ppm and nitrate- which I've been battling since before this whole issue- was even higher than usual at least 50ppm, maybe higher (its tough to discern the colors at that point.) I suspect she is now getting stressed- but not completely sick- from these poor water parameters. I did a 50% water change and added enough salt to bring it back to 300g per 20gal. (600g originally -> 50% regular water change yesterday means it was at 300g -> another 50% water change today due to the water quality would put it at 150g. I added 150g so that I am not decreasing the salt concentration too quickly.) I also put in a cycled sponge filter from another tank. The salt concentration might still be too high and kill off the bacteria, but I have many other backup filters I can use and my hope is that they will help at least a little before dying off. By no means a scientifically based assumption, but my best guess. All the pet stores are closed today, but I will also add a lot of the quick start bacteria once I get my hands on a bottle... or two.

I have to say that I have really been enjoying this challenge. I mean, I definitely wish my fish hadn't suffered, but solving these continuing puzzles is very satisfying. (And my sister is tired of hearing all my fish talk, so I must run to the NERMS, who might actually find it interesting.)

*Please forgive the quality of the images. I had just finished the water change and transferring the sponge filter in there, AND I was dissolving the salt, so everything looks a mess. Not to mention that Tater didn't feel like cooperating. 🙄 (But OMG I love this fish so much. 😍) I read online that the black could be areas where she is healing. I think that's a possibility.






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  • 11 months later...

Hi Kat

I really enjoyed this thread,. I also have a sick/weird blac,k ranchu, which I have never had before.He, or she, is having  the same symptons, so I have him in a hopital tank, and on leval 3 salt treatment. Its day 5 so will do a water change. But he is floating at the top, and barley beathing. Did you add salt back, after water change? I also have not been feeding him, cuz I read to fast the fish if you suspect swim bladder. So, how is yours doing now? I really like your detailed posts...can you update? thanks

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@Dmmurray I'm glad this post was able to help you! It's been a while so I may forget some of the details. As I recall, the heavy salt treatment worked and Tater got better. I didn't treat with any other meds. Unfortunately it crashed the cycle and she got ammonia burn- that was the black parts I was seeing on her body. I let my regular water changes slowly bring the salt level back to normal, and I added API bacteria starter as well as API stress coat daily. 

The most important update on this though is that I actually had a fish vet come out and look at her. It was expensive, but worth it to get the answers I needed. The answer to "just a weird breed or sick?" was actually BOTH! The temperature increase while I was on vacation caused the first issue, but after she recovered I still saw her floating oddly, so I called in a vet. The vet took one look at her and immediately identified her as being severely inbred. She pointed out the bent spine- ranchus should have a nice semi-circle back. She also said all fish, even ranchus, should be able to to float normally (not with their head or tail sticking up.) Tater couldn't do this probably because of her poor genetics.

Now here's what really gets me. The vet took her out to take some x-rays.(Yes, x-rays!) And said she usually sedates the fish so they don't get stressed out. Tater was unusually calm and did not need to be sedated. She didn't even stress when on the x-ray table. The vet said that Tater was, er, mentally impaired. Like, her genes were so bad that she was born with mental retardation (I don't use the word retardation lightly- I mean it in the medical sense.)

So, considering all the problems Tater was having, it's likely the first fish I brought home likely died from poor genes too, and couldn't handle the stress of the move. The vet recommended sinking foods only, especially Repashy, and a slightly higher temp (like 75*F) to help digestion. She was showing air in her intestines but likely had a deformed swim bladder which would never allow her to swim properly.

We kept Tater fat and happy as long as possible, but eventually she was unable to stay right-side up and got a sore on her belly. Rather than let her suffer, I decided to put her to sleep. (This was about March 2022.) She was such a joy and I certainly see another ranchu in my future, but next time I'll buy from a well known breeder and look for good genetics.

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Oh wow...thats awesome to get a vets diagnoisis. I don't know of goldfish breaders near me, in Washinton. The ranchu I have(Mordie) has been fine for at least a year now, but has always been kinda weird. When I fed the other goldfish, he would swim the other way, looking for food to come to him. I figured he was just a dork. I am still going to try the merycin. Thanks so much for the update.!

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