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My Sick Gold Barb

Updated on February 10, 2009

One of our gold barbs started developing a lump about a month ago. It slowly got bigger, but the fish acted normal--same activity level, hunger, color.

Recently, in the past 4-5 days, the lump has begun to weigh it down. For the last day, it can barely move--it only "vibrates". It can lumber around on the bottom of the fish tank very clumsily.

Yesterday, a sore opened up on the (now huge) lump and some white stuff (hard, like cartilage) oozed out just a bit.

  1. Do you know what this is?
  2. Does the fish have any hope of recovering?

Thank you for your feedback.

Expert @ answer

Subject tumor on gold barb's head?

Question One of my gold barbs developed a large lump on its head about a month

ago, and it has continued to slowly grow.

Now it can't swim and just struggles on the bottom.

The strange this is that its hunger, color and activity before the

sudden drop to the bottom of the tank were normal. Other fish that had

gotten sick with columnaris acted markedly worse until we gave it


Here are pictures:

Does the fish have any hope?

Thank you for helping me.

Answer Good day, Jason, and thank you for your question.

I am so sorry to hear about your gold barb's lump. I am not an expert on lumps, but I am going to do everything I can to help. I will also give you some contact information if you would like a second opinion.

You have no doubt done some searching online about lumps and tumors before you resorted to asking here. Since you have dealt with Columnaris, a stubborn disease, I know you are persevering and want to effect a resolution besides euthanasia for your fish. I am sifting through Google's search results right now, and I came upon this site:

Which has a chart on diagnosing fish diseases. Reading over this does present some questions for me. Have you felt the tumor? Is it soft and spongy? Or is it hard, like a cyst? A soft and spongy feel would be an indicator of dropsy, since the swelling in dropsy is caused by fluid retention in the abdomen.

The top picture does make the lump appear to be on the head of your fish, but the lower one suggests the abdomen. This website ( has a picture of a lump similar to yours (the second one from the top) and they confirm it is indeed a tumor and not dropsy. So my advice would be to first palpate (examine by touch) the tumor on your fish and tell me what it feels like. Feel free to write back for clarification or a follow-up.

Take a look at this website, and see if you can glean anything from it:

Lots of photos here. You can click on the link to "Large Tumors (of Unknown Cause)" and "Unidentified Lesions, Growths & Cysts" to hone in on the section of the site with pertinent info for you.

It is difficult to distinguish internal tumors from growths caused by bacterial infection, but here is one way to tell. Does your fish have raised scales? Your picture, the second one down, does seem to suggest a "pinecone" appearance, however the pronounced lump seems to indicate something more along the lines of Lymphocystis. The white, fast-growing lump is not a classic pattern of "cauliflower disease", but this could still be a possibility. Nematodes and fish lice are definitely out, though, as you can see by comparing the pictures in Pandora's Aquarium site (the top link).

Let me go at this from another angle. What are your water parameters? Because basically, the only thing you can do short of a "deep skin scrape" for biopsy, followed by manual extraction of the tumor by a willing and able veterinarian, is to keep the water pristine, add a tablespoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons of water, and possibly treat with a very safe medication, such as methylene blue. You can add the salt to your main tank, but you will have to medicate with methylene blue (if you decide to go this route) in a hospital tank, or auxiliary container, since silicone seams will be stained blue and your biological filter will likely be impaired, by adding this medicine directly into your main tank.

Here's a link to an article about methylene blue if you want to know more about it:

Which brings me to my closing statement. The homepage of the link above,, is administered by Bob Fenner and his all-volunteer staff. Before euthanizing your fish, I would e-mail the WWM crew and present them your problem, pictures included. Bob often answers questions himself, especially questions of this nature. He has given me advice and reassurance many times. His website features articles, but moreover the "heart" of his website are the FAQs, questions and answers he and his staff have posted for all the world to see, since WWM has a great deal of international readership! It is for this reason that he has strict standards, or should I say guidelines, for writing in:

1. Proper capitalization, grammar, and punctuation are a must. Your query was well-formed so I do not think this will be any problem for you, but an all lowercase response (or worse, all uppercase) has been shot back on occasion for the questioner to correct before they can answer.

2. Any pictures must be a couple hundred KBs maximum. The size on your website is perfect. The WWM crew posts the answers to all questions daily, so if you send the picture as an attachment, it will likely be posted as well.

That is the link to send a question, the e-mail address directly is

That's it! I am sorry to not be able to give you an absolute answer. I certainly hope that there is hope for your fish. If he is feeding and swimming, I would be hopeful. A fish that wants to eat wants to live, in my book! A suffering fish should be humanely destroyed "when the time comes" and I believe you will instinctually know when that is. The best article I have found on this topic is the one hosted by The link follows:

Good luck, Jason. I am very sorry to hear of your plight, and hope that I have helped you to find help, if nothing more.

Best wishes,



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    • profile image

      6 years ago

      It looks like a cyst or tumor

    • profile image

      sandiedwards13 7 years ago

      I had a fish do that a few years ago and someone told me it was a disease common in all tank fish called 'the ick'. Most pet stores sell medicine for this. You might also try a 'stress coat' with it too. Unfortunately, my fish didn't make it that time. I later bought another fish and the same thing happened but this time I was prepared and my fish lived. Hope this helps.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 11 years ago from San Francisco

      (s)he's in the same condition. I doubt she'll make a recovery, but we can't euthanize her while she still seems to want to move and eat.

      Thank you for asking, Jimmy.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 11 years ago from Scotland

      any news livelonger???...jimmy

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 11 years ago from Scotland

      i hope you find a cure...jimmy

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 11 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, Jimmy. It's still the same today, although the sore on its side is larger. It still gets animated when I approach its bowl, like it usually does when it thinks it will get fed.

      I also got a great reply from that experts link above. I'll post it in a text capsule below because it has useful information.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 11 years ago from Scotland

      please let us know how your fish is livelonger keep us updated....jimmy

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 11 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, Jimmy! Very useful link. I had posted something on Usenet, but this is also another great source for advice. I just posted the question there, too, with a link to my hub for the pictures

    • vic profile image

      vic 11 years ago

      Perhaps a vet could look at it.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 11 years ago from Scotland

      wish i could help but sorry livelonger i haven't a clue

      but you could try this site for help