Velvet Fish Disease: Causes & Treatments

velvet fish disease

Last updated on July 30th, 2022 at 04:46 am

If you’ve ever had an aquarium, then you’ve probably heard of a common goldfish disease – called velvet fish disease or gold dust disease – and you know that it can be lethal to your fish. Many people have used aquariums to teach their children about taking care of animals, so they are devastated when one of their beloved pets dies from this malady.

However, there are things you can do to avoid getting velvet fish disease and help your fish if it already has it.

There are several diseases that can plague fish and other aquarium inhabitants, and velvet fish disease, also known as gold dust disease, is one of the most common because it thrives in water conditions that are warm and acidic.

Here’s what you need to know about velvet fish disease, with some suggestions on how to treat this condition if your fish become infected.

What is velvet fish disease?

velvet fish disease

Velvet fish disease is a type of bacterial infection caused by Aeromonas hydrophila. In many cases, velvet fish disease progresses from minor to major in less than 24 hours. The bacteria causes red-colored lesions and scales on both freshwater and saltwater fish such as bluegill, bullhead catfish, carp, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, and others. It can also cause gold dust disease symptoms which lead to extreme weight loss and eventual death.

Also known as gold dust disease, velvet fish disease infects marine and freshwater fish. The disease gets its name from a fungal infection that forms a velvet-like covering on infected skin and fins. There are more than 20 species of velvet fish disease that appear in fresh water and saltwater fish, including goldfish, koi, sea basses, eels, salmonids, and catfish.

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The disease was named for its appearance. The lesions it causes are similar to those caused by a fungal infection called gold dust in freshwater fish, and both diseases are caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Gold dust disease is most common in saltwater aquariums with large numbers of juvenile fishes such as damselfish and clownfish.

What causes velvet disease in fish?

The velvet disease in fish is caused by a parasite that afflicts tropical fish. The parasite lives in both freshwater and saltwater, but it will not infect humans or other animals.  In fact, most people won’t even notice their pet has developed gold dust disease because symptoms are often mild to nonexistent. Treatments must be administered daily to prevent complications from developing.

The parasites are spread through water movement in an aquarium or pond (in some cases). You can also acquire them by purchasing infected fish. Gold dust disease cannot be contracted from another tank, though you may wind up with infected fish if a carrier moves from one tank to another.

It’s important to treat your new purchases for gold dust as soon as possible so you do not infect other fish. It’s very contagious and often fatal if left untreated, but it responds well to treatment and can be eliminated entirely with diligence.

Velvet fish disease symptoms

velvet fish disease

It’s not uncommon for aquarium fish to experience certain diseases, but velvet fish disease isn’t like any other ailment out there. In some cases, a fish will have internal lesions that resemble red gills or areas of rotting flesh around its mouth or on its tail.  However, these markings could be due to another cause entirely.

Another symptom that’s common among those who suffer from velvet fish disease is lethargy; many owners report their sick fish appeared lethargic right before they died. But it gets worse: You may notice your healthy-looking pet mysteriously dying as well! This may mean you need to treat your entire tank if one of your pets has been infected with this illness.

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Other Symptoms of gold dust disease may include rapid breathing, swelling of lymph nodes, skin loss, ulcers on fins, tail, and body, red patches on the body and fins. If your fish exhibit any of these symptoms, you should take them to a vet immediately.

If you have velvet fish disease, you might notice your fish will lose color, have a darker body and appear to be shrinking. The fins may also become ragged or seem like they are falling off. The lower area of your fish’s body will appear sunken in. They may also develop sores that can get infected if not treated right away.

A dark brown-to-black discharge can come from their gills. Eventually, your fish will die due to an internal infection brought on by a lack of immune system response caused by low white blood cell levels in your pet’s body.

Velvet fish disease treatment

velvet fish disease

The infection can be treated when caught early. Treatment for velvet fish disease is best conducted in an aquarium where temperature and other environmental conditions can be carefully controlled.

The most commonly prescribed method of treatment involves increasing water temperature to around 86 degrees Fahrenheit and adding salt at a ratio of one tablespoon per five gallons. The water should be very clean during treatment, with a minimal organic material present.

Commercial medications may also be used to treat velvet fish disease; however, these are not considered as effective as heat shock or salt shock treatments. It’s important to monitor your pet’s condition after treatment begins. If you see signs that your fish has started recovering from its velvet condition, you may gradually reduce water temperature and discontinue salt addition before full recovery has occurred.

Once fully recovered from velvet, it’s good practice to bathe your betta in fresh chlorine-free water once a week; any more frequent bathing could cause minor damage to its protective slime coat, which reduces longevity in non-pathogenic cases of velvet.

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Can humans get velvet from fish?

velvet fish disease

No, humans cannot get velvet from fish. While it can be a sign of disease in fish, it does not affect humans. It’s not considered a zoonotic disease, one that transmits between animals and humans. Only certain types of fish are affected by velvet (also known as fluke). There are some exceptions, though; if your pet goldfish or koi start developing lesions and red growths on their bodies you should definitely take them to a vet immediately. This could indicate they have velvet.

Is Velvet disease contagious?

Yes, they are highly contagious and can only be transmitted from infected fish to other susceptible fish in close contact. If you have a single infected fish in a tank, it may spread to other fish and remain in your tank undetected. Symptoms will appear if an infected fish develops secondary infections such as bacterial infections or ich.

In order for velvet disease to infect another fish, live parasites must pass through the mucus membranes of another fish or through damaged tissue. This disease cannot affect humans directly but extreme caution should be taken when handling infested aquariums in order to avoid cross-contamination among tanks and livestock. To prevent spreading velvet disease between tanks always use separate nets, siphons etc… when moving between them.

How long does velvet disease last?

Velvet disease lasts on average for 2 to 4 weeks, however, in some cases, it can last for up to 3 months. While one or two fish may be infected initially, over time, most of your aquarium will have become diseased. Once all of your fish are infected with velvet disease, you can use an antibiotic treatment in a freshwater bath to help treat them.

Velvet fish disease vs ich

velvet fish disease

Velvet fish disease and ich are both common afflictions of aquarium fish. However, velvet fish disease and ich are two different illnesses, with velvet fish disease being caused by a virus and ich being caused by protozoa. This difference in causes makes their treatments significantly different as well.

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Because they’re different diseases, you will also need to quarantine your fish differently if you have one or both of these conditions. Note that many other symptoms, besides just lumps, may indicate that your fish has either velvet or ich. It is important to identify which infection your fish has so you can treat them properly.