Goldfish losing scales reasonsMost pet parents lose their nerve when they witness their goldfish losing scales. You see, aquatic animal lovers fawn over their pets and fret over their pet’s well-being as much as the next pet owner, be it a canine owner or a feline pet guardian.

But, the one significant aspect that makes the endless worrying of goldfish owners somewhat justified is that they are caring for very tiny creatures with delicate constitutions living underwater, no less.

Goldfishes are one of the most popular domestic aquatic pets to be found worldwide. And, these brightly-colored creatures flourish in captivity as well as they do in the wild. Yet, there are times when you will find that your beloved pet has lost its scales.

It is common knowledge that goldfish don’t molt or undergo a skin shedding process. So, when pet parents find their goldfish missing scales, they become frantic to discover the cause of their pet’s loss of scales.

Why Is My Goldfish Losing Scales?

As mentioned earlier, it is very probable that if you have a large aquarium and keep a large number of goldfish or keep introducing new fish into the tank, a few of your goldfish may end up losing some scales as a result. It isn’t normal for goldfish to lose scales without a cause.

Goldfish need their scales to live a healthy and long life. And, in most normal circumstances, your goldfish is not going to lose any of its scales. But, there are times when goldfish do lose their scales. Yes, there are several reasons for your goldfish scales coming off.

But most of these reasons are entirely easy to rectify, and you will have the good fortune to find your goldfish growing its scales back. So, let’s take an in-depth look at some of the circumstances under which goldfish start to lose their scales.

Physical Wound

It is pretty easy for fish to gain an external wound, and if your goldfish has somehow managed to sustain an injury, the scales around the wound may likely come off. Fish can injure themselves in a variety of ways. You see, goldfish can lose scales when they slam against the sides of the fish tank.

Or, they may lose scales when they rub against a hard surface inside the fish tank like rocks, seashells, or a piece of driftwood. Also, you must realize that fish don’t generally lose their scales, but they have very soft membranes, so even a little bit of damage can cause a bigger injury.

Harsh Handling

You will not see your goldfish skin peeling when you try to clean up your fish’s tank in ordinary settings. However, when first-time parents use a net to evacuate fish from their tanks for clean-up, they may wind up using extra force. Mishandling is often the cause of the loss of scales in goldfish.

Moreover, many fish keepers use their hands to vacate the tank for clean-up in the absence of equipment. And, in such an event, your fish will probably get injured.

Membrane Infection

There are many infections that your goldfish can contract for multiple reasons. And, infections can make your goldfish lose its scales. Here are some of the illnesses that can damage your goldfish’s delicate membrane.

Worms: If you introduce a contaminated fish into your fish aquarium that carries the so-called anchor worms, then it is likely that most or all of the fish will lose some of its scales.

The worms lay their eggs inside the membrane of the scales outer layer, and it is easy to see the worms that are fastened to the membrane of the goldfish. It is often noticed that goldfish rub themselves against rough surfaces or slam against the hardened glass to eliminate the worms agitating them.

Flukes: Some parasites can live inside a fish tank and not infect the fish when the water conditions are safe and hygienic. But the moment the conditions inside the fish tank turn bad, unclean water, unstable temperatures, small-sized tanks for too many fishes, and the formation of algae can all cause fish scales to fall off.

Fungus: Goldfish suffer the worst kind of infections when they have a fungal infection. When goldfish get infected with fungus, they often experience discoloration in their scales. If the scales of your goldfish become white or gray, then it is probable that your pet is suffering from a fungal infection.

Carp Louse: This is a parasite that is very similar to lice. These parasites stick to the fish membrane via its suction cup, piercing the skin with its sharp stylet and sucking on blood. Carp louse is a significant threat to fish health as it can result in considerable morbidity and mortality.

Bacteria: Also referred to as the Fin and Tail Rot, bacterial infections are the second-most common disease that fish can contract. Fish losing scales becomes even more evident with poor water quality and diet.

Tank Mates

Introducing another species in an aquarium, you need to make sure that you put tank mates compatible with your goldfish. You see, some species of fish don’t do well with other fish species. Cichlids, consisting of more than 1300 species, are primarily spiny-finned freshwater fish.

Now, most cichlids tend to have villainous tendencies. You see, these fish, such as angelfish, mouthbrooders, and tilapias, don’t attack other fish in most cases, but they do like to bully other fish species. And, goldfish are gentle-natured fish that don’t handle stress too well. So, if you have a couple of bullies in the fish tank, then your pet will likely lose its scales.

Here is a list of compatible fish species that do well in a tank full of goldfish:

  • Ricefish
  • Bristlenose pleco
  • Rubber nose pleco
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows
  • Hillstream Loach

Treatment To Help Your Goldfish

Why is goldfish losing scalesThe first thing to do when you notice one or even two fish in the tank that are losing their scales, you need to remove these fish from the tank and place them into another tank. It is the surest way to keep the other fish from getting sick and stop other fish scales from falling off. Basically, you quarantine the sick fish so that the other fish in the tank can stay healthy.

Next, you need to head straight to the vet. You see, there are several medications and antibiotics that the vet will prescribe for your goldfish after it has diagnosed the disease.

And, adding salt into your fish tanks, both where the fish are healthy and where the fish are sick, will help your fish heal faster. You see, salt helps in forming slime coating, which protects fish from infections and disease. Salt also assists in improving gill function, reduces the uptake of nitrite, decreases osmotic stress, and is even helpful against fighting off external parasites.

Furthermore, it would be best if you took particular care about the fish species that you introduce into the fish tank. If you introduce fish species that are compatible with your goldfish, then your poor babies are going to have a bad time with it.

Can Fish Scales Grow Back?

Yes. Fortunately, fish scales can grow back. Even if you have a fish scales falling off problem, there is still a possibility that your goldfish will regrow all of its scales. But, how fast your fish recovers depends on the severity of the infection and the fish species.

In most cases, it doesn’t take too long for some fish to grow their scales back — it only takes a matter of three to four weeks. But, sometimes, some fish species require more time to heal. And the process can take a few months or more.

Nonetheless, there are circumstances when some fish species haven’t been able to grow all of the scales that they have shed. Goldfish scales falling off due to stress and other minor issues don’t take much time to reappear. But, with severe fungal or bacterial infections, your goldfish will take much longer to heal partially or entirely.

Do Goldfish Really Lose Their Scales?

Yes, it is very much possible for goldfish to lose their scales. And, it isn’t a very rare incident for goldfish to lose scales either. If you ever run into a goldfish breeder, you will discover that the more goldfish you have in an aquarium, the more likely it is to find at least one or two goldfish that are losing their scales.

And, for those pet parents that become hysterical at the sight of the lost scales of their scaly babies, you should know that these scales can grow back. And that the loss of scales isn’t an indication of a terminal disease.


We hope you will now understand that fish losing scales is not a normal situation. And that if your goldfish is losing its scales, then something is very wrong. And, it’s most likely that the next time this happens, you will be able to handle the situation with forbearance and more advanced skill to better care for your pet so long as you remember the following:

  • Goldfish losing scales treatmentGoldfish don’t go through the molting or skin shedding process.
  • If your goldfish loses its scales, it may suffer from a severe infection or intense stress.
  • Goldfish can get both bacterial as well as fungal infections.
  • If you introduce a new fish into the tank infected with parasites, you will infect the rest of your fish.
  • If a goldfish in your tank is losing its scales, then you need to quarantine it.
  • Goldfish are mild-tempered fish that don’t lose sales due to mating.
  • Putting salt into your fish aquarium does help your fish heal faster.
  • You should head straight to the vet if you see that more than one or two fish have lost their scales.
  • Goldfish grow their scales back if they haven’t been severely affected by parasites or infection.

If your goldfish loses too many of its scales, there is a chance that it will not grow back all of its scales but only a part of it.

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