Every so often, you may be watching your goldfish and observe one of them begin to open its mouth incredibly wide, splay its fins in all directions as if stretching, then return back to how it was.  Is this a goldfish “yawn?”

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Do Goldfish Yawn?

Goldfish don’t actually yawn.  At least, not in the same way that people do.  When people yawn, they take in a larger amount of air than usual in order to stretch their eardrums, then let out a deep exhale of breath.  With goldfish, it is different.

Goldfish breathe when they take in water in one direction.  It passes over their gill rakes and allows them to absorb oxygen.  Occasionally, they decide it’s time to reverse the process in order to clean themselves.  They then take in water from the opposite direction and force it through their gills to keep them from clogging up at all.  They do not do this to stretch their gills or their bodies at all, but to stay in tip-top shape.

Does a Yawning Goldfish Mean Something is Wrong?

Not unless there is a problem in the goldfish’s environment.  Goldfish may yawn repeatedly when they are suffering from poor water quality and are trying to regulate their oxygen level.  If this is accompanied by gasping at the surface of the water, you are probably encountering a problem in the tank such as oxygen deficiency or an ammonia surge.  A fluke infestation which damages the gills of the goldfish may cause the goldfish to do this behavior repeatedly.  But when nothing is wrong with the goldfish, it will only yawn once in a while and you have nothing to worry about.

You may also notice that your goldfish’s eyes seem to “blink” when this happens.  Goldfish don’t have eyelids, so they are actually not blinking as we know it during this time, but are sort of rolling their eyes in a way that mimics a human squeezing their eyelids shut.