Why does my fish have white spots?

Those passionate about marine life will enjoy keeping various types of fish in their aquariums. While such an addition can make any home more beautiful, it can also make a family happy for a long time. Caring for these pets is easy, especially if you know how to provide the perfect conditions for them.

But sometimes, you will notice white spots on your fish. It is a well-known disease; most species will suffer from it for several reasons. When this happens, it is understandable if you have a worrying reaction. Still, it is important to do the necessary research before you look for solutions.

That is why we provide all the information about this subject in this article. If you wonder why your fish have white spots and how to treat them, continue reading because we have covered you with the best guide. 


The most common reason your fish has white spots is because it’s stressed with poor water quality, and its immune system is affected as a consequence. To treat the white spots on your fish, you need to monitor the water conditions carefully.

In this article, we’ll also go over the following:

  • What ich looks like
  • How to monitor water quality

Why does my fish have white spots?

15-gallon aquarium

This disease is often referred to as ich or ick, so that you will find these names often. They represent the disease caused by the Ichyophirius parasite naturally present in aquariums. When these parasites are in low numbers, your fish’s immune system can handle them easily, but problems arise as their number increase.

Some stress factors can also influence the fish and render the immune system ineffective against this parasite. Your priority is to identify and control the stress factors and ensure your fish’s peaceful and easy life. The immune system will care for their health when they are not stressed.

You can avoid this unfortunate scenario by maintaining good water quality and testing it regularly. Complete periodic maintenance of your aquarium to identify and resolve any problems that appear. Once you notice a particular fish has developed white spots, consider quarantining and isolating it in a separate tank. 

How to treat white spots on fish

The best solution to a problem is often its prevention. Once you notice white spots on your goldfish, you should prioritize the treatment and ensure the best conditions for recovery. You might want to contact your veterinarian for professional advice, as they can also inspect and diagnose your fish.

They will also recommend specific treatments and medications, and you will be responsible for applying these treatments. Take note that the medication has to be administered based on the water volume of your aquarium, and you should avoid overdosing at all costs. If you overdose, the fish will be harmed, and you will have even more problems to deal with.

Start monitoring and maintaining an ideal water temperature, as it plays an important role in the elimination process of the parasite. While most people would believe that rising the water temperature will kill the parasites faster, this can also stress the fish and negatively impact the performance of their immune system.

What is the difference between white spot and ich?

There is no difference between white spots and ich because these two different names represent the same disease. This disease is a parasitic one that affects several species of freshwater fish. The “ich” name comes from the full scientifical name of this disease, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It is known to be one of the most common diseases encountered in home aquariums. 

When the first symptoms appear, you will notice small white spots that look like oversized salt grains. They will appear on the body and gills of your fish, which will develop a specific behavior. When affected, they will scrap their bodies against the decorations you have in your aquarium. You will also notice a loss of appetite when you feed them.

In some advanced stages of this disease, the fish can even die from tissue damage caused by this parasite. That is why treatment is necessary; you should create optimal recovery conditions for them. 

What does ich look like

This external parasite will appear on your fish’s body and gills. When that happens, small white capsules will develop, and they are clearly visible on the skin. Once you notice these white spots, you can be sure that your fish has suffered an infection with this parasite.

After the parasite is done feeding off the fish, it will fall off to the ground, where it will replicate itself. This parasite will continue to multiply if the environment allows it to. That is why you need to take care of this problem as soon as it appears and look for solutions immediately. 

The white spots will completely disappear once your fish has fully healed. However, this parasite can continue to live in your aquarium’s water. Once you treat your fish, make sure to:

  • Take care of their environment
  • Clean the aquarium thoroughly
  • Avoid any possible reinfection in the future. 

How do fish get ich?

Because it is a widespread parasite, aquamarine experts believe ich is already present in most aquariums. It is believed that every fish will come in contact with this parasite at least once in its life but most likely will be able to handle it well. Because it is so common, your fish’s immune system evolved and can easily handle this disease.

You should know that stress can heavily influence the health of your fish. When they are stressed, you will notice a significant deterioration in their health and also their immune system. When their immune system is affected, your fish will suffer greatly from the ich.

Stress factors include water temperature and water quality. The environment and tank inhabitants should also be considered, which can significantly stress your fish if they show aggressive behavior. Always ensure the best conditions if you want to avoid stress factors. 

Here are different ways fish get ich:

  • infected equipment
  • media transferred between different objects
  • plants bringing it in

Water quality testers


Hygger is our absolute most recommended product when it comes to water quality testing. Check out the specifications below if you’re noticing your small swimming friends suffering!

Name7 in 1 Aquarium Test Strips
Works inFreshwater and saltwater
Number of tests50-100
Time to results30 seconds


  • Lots of tests
  • Good unit price
  • Trusted brand


  • The tests are not reusable.
  • The ammonia test may not be perfect.
  • Fewer reviews for the product than other products

Check out Hygger

API Store

API Store is another quality product we recommend for the cause.

Name130-Test Aquarium Water Test Kit
Works inFreshwater and saltwater
Number of tests130
Time to results5 minutes


  • Great cost per test
  • Easy to use
  • The test is specifically made for ammonia which Hygger doesn’t do well.


  • We wish the tests were reusable.
  • They take longer to use

Check out API store

How long do the white spots take to clear

6.5 gallon aquarium

Once they appear, white spots can last for several days before the immune system successfully removes them from the body. When you keep a stable water temperature between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, the feeding stage of the parasite will only last a few days.

After several days, you will notice how your fish starts feeling better and white spots are no longer visible. It will be more energetic, and the appetite will return to normal. But be advised that the parasite is still in the water, and other fish might suffer from this disease too.

That is why you should quarantine the sick ones, always clean the aquarium, and replace the water to remove this problem’s cause completely. Prevention is the best solution, but this parasite is too widespread to be prevented. In this case, just make sure to follow the required treatment for your fish.

How to clean ick out of a fish tank

The first thing you should do after you notice white spots on your fish is to quarantine and isolate it in a safe environment. Over the next few days, the immune system will work, and your fish should heal naturally. Additionally, a veterinarian might recommend an advanced treatment with medication.

But when your fish is fully healed, it is not ideal for returning it to the same tank in which it got infected. Before you do this, make sure to clean the aquarium properly by draining it out of the water and disinfecting it. Be careful with your solutions, as some chemicals might be dangerous for your fish.

Refill the aquarium with water and restart the filters. Monitor and adjust the water temperature properly until it reaches the ideal value for their preferences. Once all conditions have been met, place the fish back in their aquarium and allow some time for accommodation. 

Is ich contagious?

This disease is highly contagious and will spread incredibly fast from one fish to another. Quarantine the infected ones as soon as possible to avoid a total infection of your aquarium. The parasite is known to spread rapidly in crowded tanks, so you should always have a tank slightly larger than the required standard.

Another important characteristic of this parasite is that it cannot survive in an empty tank and needs live fish to spread. Once you remove all of your fish from your aquarium, the parasite will slowly die over time. Still, a thorough tank cleaning is also necessary.

Because it can spread fast, an ich outbreak can be deadly if left untreated. Once you notice several fish developing white spots, it is considered an emergency, and treatment should be started immediately. 

Depending on the severity, a veterinarian will be able to diagnose and recommend the necessary treatment. Medications are effective and do a great job of completely removing this parasite from the tank. 

Here’s a quick list of some of the most common fish issues to be on the lookout for:

  • ammonia poisoning
  • Columnaris
  • Fin rot
  • Ich
  • Nitrite poisoning
  • Velvet

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