What are the signs of Koi Scale Disease (Dropsy)?

Koi Scale disease better known as dropsy is an internal bacterial infection that is notoriously difficult to remedy. Early signs you will notice are the scales of the koi protruding to a pine cone effect and the fish's eyes will take on a bulging appearance. infectious fluid within the fish’s body starts to cause bloating and usually indicates organ failure. The koi will often change in behaviour and isolate itself, appearing uninterested in food.

 Recognising the Trouble: Key Symptoms

1. Unusual Scale Appearance:

The first and most obvious sign of dropsy in koi is a change in the appearance of their scales. Healthy koi scales should be smooth and lie flat against their body. If you notice scales protruding or taking on a ‘pine cone’ appearance, it's time to intervene immediately.

2. Discoloration:

A healthy koi will display clean and clear colour, but an unhealthy fish may take on a cloudy appearance, losing the overall lustre of the fish. You may also notice a demise in the fish’s body shape. 

3. Lethargy:

Koi are generally lively, active and will integrate together. If your fish seems less energetic than usual, maybe isolating themselves or showing signs of jumping or irritation further health checks should be undertaken immediately.

4. Loss of Appetite:

A happy healthy koi will always have a good appetite and will always be on the lookout for food. If you experience your koi shying away from food, this is usually a sign of declining health.

5. Rubbing Against Surfaces:

Flicking of flashing is a sign of skin irritation, usually caused by poor water quality or parasite infestations. This irritation if left untreated can also cause secondary bacterial problems such as ulceration. If you notice this becoming a regular behaviour, you need to test your water quality immediately and carry out mucus skin scrape under a microscope.

 The Underlying Causes

Koi scale disease can stem from various factors. Poor water quality, overcrowding, and stress are common culprits. It's also possible for koi to catch infections from other fish or parasites in the water.

 Tackling the Problem: What Can You Do?

1. Test the Water:

With any change of behaviour or suspected health issues, testing your water for Ammonia, nitrite and pH should always be your first port of call. It is good practice to regularly test your water chemistry, as fish are a product of their environment so it is usually water quality imperfections that provoke other health issues such as parasites and bacterial problems.

Poor and / or fluctuating water conditions are detrimental to your koi's health and stable parameters should be maintained at all times.

2. Maintain a Clean Pond:

Regular maintenance of the pond is crucial. This includes purging drain lines, flushing and cleaning filters, removing debris, and changing a portion of the water regularly. 

A proactive maintenance regime can prove fruitful and little and is often better than a large reactive maintenance response when your collection starts to show signs of poor health. 

3. Quarantine New Fish:

Purchase koi from reputable dealers who have a strict quarantine procedure in place. Don't be afraid to ask them about their protocols as resting the fish for a period of time is very different to heat ramping etc. At Koi Water Garden, we take pride in having the no.1 rated CEFAS quarantine facility in the UK. We ensure all Koi we import are triple heat cycled and regularly skin scraped to ensure no parasite infestations can cause issues to our prized Japanese koi.

4. Seek Professional Help:

If you suspect any health issues, consult one of our team who will happily talk through the problems that you are experiencing, and can offer the best solutions using our years of knowledge in the Koi health sector.

5. Prevention: Better Safe Than Sorry

The best way to deal with koi disease issues is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Regular pond maintenance, proper feeding, and monitoring your fish for any changes in behaviour or appearance can go a long way in keeping them healthy.