A fish gasping that constantly gasps for air at the surface is never a good sign. Although fish like the Siamese fighting fish will gulp in the air occasionally as in nature, they use their labyrinth organ to control oxygen intake. Many other species of fish should not be gasping at the surface. A healthy aquarium has enough aeration and the correct water parameters (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) to create a balanced ecosystem within the waters.
Gasping for air is the fish’s way of trying to communicate to you that there is insufficient oxygen. Action should be taken immediately if you notice this pattern often throughout the day or night.
Healthy fish do not gasp at the surface in abnormal ways. If your fish has started this behavior out of the blue, the best option is to find the source of the problem and take immediate action where possible.
This article will help you discover possible reasons with successful solutions while providing you with all the answers as to why your fish may be gasping for air.
Determining If Your Fish Is Gasping for Air
This is seen at the surface of the water where the most oxygen is present. Fish breathe through their gills. This is seen as the side flaps close to your fish’s head spanning in and out. It may be accompanied by their mouth opening and closing.
When a fish is gasping at the surface, it is viewed in a similar manner that replicates how it breathes. The only difference is their mouth is nearly out of the water and gasp motions are present. It can happen every few minutes or span out over a few hours. On rare occasions when the reason is serious, physical symptoms of ill health may be present.
Factors and Solutions for Fish Gasping at The Surface
There are a variety of reasons your fish is gasping at the surface of the water. Some are problematic and require an immediate solution, while other reasons may be due to feeding methods.
1. The aquarium has poor aeration:
A lack of oxygen within the aquarium is a major concern for the inhabitants living in it. Just like humans, it is essential to fish get enough oxygen from the water. A fish that is constantly desperately gasping at the surface is a clear sign of low oxygen levels in the aquarium. This can be due to poor aeration within the aquarium and on the surface. A stagnant water surface does not allow for sufficient oxygen to enter the water. Some lonesome fish like Siamese fighting fish do not require a harsh surface movement, as they are adapted to naturally having slow and delicate surface movements. It is not, however, true for every other species of fish both in salt and freshwater. Poor aeration is one of the top causes when it comes to the surface gasping.
2. Incorrect water parameters and water quality:
If the water in your aquarium begins to foul due to a rotting plant or leftover food amongst the aquarium, your aquarium’s oxygen levels will dangerously diminish. If the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are not kept under control, and ammonia spike will occur.
3. Incorrect water temperature:
The water within the aquarium may be abnormally high, exceeding the recommended temperature for the species of fish inhabiting the aquarium. If the water in your aquarium is too warm, the oxygen level naturally lowers. This is a specific problem amongst cold water fish who do not have the necessary survival mechanisms to breathe normally in warmer water. This can cause the fish to search for oxygen towards the surface.
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4. Overcrowding fish and plants:
We may get carried away by adding as many inhabitants into our aquarium as possible. It is important to remember that the more plants, fish, and invertebrates within your aquarium all compete for oxygen found within the water. Both plants and fish use the oxygen found in the water, if there is a competition for oxygen, both the plants and fish take in large amounts of oxygen. Overstocking an aquarium will result in low oxygen levels.
Fish that have severe diseases like gill flukes will have a hard time breathing. Gill flukes attack the gills. It eventually becomes hard for the fish to breathe properly once the disease worsens. In the late stages, the fish may not even be able to breathe at all. This will result in suffocation and eventually death.
6. The issue with bio-orbs and bowls:
Although many novice aquarium keepers will make the mistake of purchasing a small bowl or bio-orb for their fish. Both aquaria do not contain enough surface area for appropriate oxygenation to take place. The small opening and large rounded sides do not let in enough oxygen as a proportionate tank can.
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7. Floating Food:
Owners who feed their fish floating foods like pellets or flakes will encourage the fish to go to the surface of the water and gulp in air, mimicking how they try to capture the floating foods.
Although gasping at the surface is an unwanted behavior in fish, determining the cause is the most important. From finding the correct diagnosis, you can attempt to address the problem with a suitable solution. Most of the time, fish gasping at the surface is not a good thing. We hope this article has helped you understand why your fish is displaying this behavior.
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