Callisto came to live with me on November 10th, 2011. From day one, she has always been a major surface-gulper. At first this didn’t appear have any impact on her swim bladder function, but over time it led her health on a downward spiral. A few months after getting her, I started to notice that every so often, she would just hang upside-down in the middle of the water column. At that point she didn’t actually have any floaty problems; it was only flip-over problems. Whenever she stopped swimming, she would flip over and remain upside-down until she started swimming again. Several months later though, it became obvious that she was having major floaty problems too. I tried many things to stop the surface gulping and floating, but nothing helped. I tried some medications and many diet changes, but nothing had any effect whatsoever. For a time, I seriously considered attempting the quartz implant surgery to correct her flip-over problems; even going so far as to buy all the supplies I would need. But I decided given the fact that she is 6 and 1/2 years old now, it’s not really worth putting her through the stress of that procedure.
Especially since I don’t know whether it would even be successful or just cause her more pain and suffering. Something that puzzles me is the question of which came first… the flip-over and floatiness problems, or the surface-gulping? I think it could be either. Goldfish regulate their swim bladders by gulping air at the surface and passing it through the pneumatic duct into their swim bladder. So I think she could have known something was wrong with her swim bladder function before I even noticed a problem, and thus she was gulping air constantly to try to regulate things and fix the problem. But as time went on, the air gulping didn’t help, and I began to see symptoms of the swim bladder problem (flip-over and floatiness). OR perhaps the flip-over and floatiness was caused directly by the air gulping messing with the swim bladder function. In that case, I just don’t quite know why she would have started the air gulping in the first place. It didn’t seem like just a habit to pass the time, it was something she did constantly and with purpose. I know it wasn’t water quality related. Perhaps she sustained some damage in shipping that set all of this in motion. I’ll probably never know.
Anyway now her issues have progressed to the point where I am really beginning to think I’ll have to euthanize her soon. I knew I would have to at some point, given her decline over the years; I just didn’t know when that would be. But lately I’ve had to keep her floating in a colander in the tank most of the time to help her stay upright and avoid hanging upside-down at the surface with her belly out of the water. When she does that she gets big white patches and sores on the areas exposed to air, so we definitely want to avoid that! For a long time she’s had a very soft and slightly flat belly, but lately it has gotten much more flat. Once the belly goes flat like that there’s really no recovering, unfortunately. Her scales are not raised as in dropsy, but the edges of the scales around her belly area seem curled outward at the edges and all of her scales lack the brilliant shine and color of a perfectly healthy goldfish. Her eyes have gradually become covered in a white film, and now her fins are beginning to look split and tattered as well. She has always been an enthusiastic eater, and she’s still eating pretty well, but I just think that her quality of life has become too diminished at this point to let her keep living like this. I also worry about my other three goldfish in the tank with her. If, in her compromised state, she becomes infected by some opportunistic parasite or bacteria, it would be fairly easy for one of my other fish to get sick from her too, and I don’t want to risk that for too much longer. I could move her to a quarantine tub to live on her own, but that would just be prolonging the inevitable and her suffering.
I’ve had to euthanize a few fish in the past too, and it is one of the worst things about this hobby. There are so many doubts and what-ifs that go through your mind. “What if I could fix her if I tried harder?”, “What if she’s not in as much pain as I think she is?”, etc. It’s a tough choice to have to make. But she is 6 and 1/2 years old (which is considered fairly old for a fancy goldfish), she has lived a good life, and I really do think that at this point she is suffering and there’s no hope for recovery. So, as difficult as it will be, I think I’ve made up my mind that it’s time to let her go peacefully.
Here are some photos of her taken a month ago… even comparing these with how she looks now, I can see she has declined a great deal in a very short time. It’s hard to get good photos of her because she’s usually upside-down, but she was actually cooperating for this photo shoot. ♡
For those who might need or want this information, I’ll write up a blog post soon about how to humanely euthanize your goldfish so they can die in the most peaceful and pain-free way possible. The only method I recommend is anesthetic overdose, and I use clove oil, but I’ll explain in-depth later.