Do you feel like your fish has been acting strange in your aquarium lately?
If your fish has been floating around sideways, has not been moving around at all, or is clearly showing signs of a problem with its breathing, you might need to take the symptoms seriously.
As you read on in this article, you’ll learn how to identify the signs of a sick fish and how to try and help it before it’s too late.
What Are the Signs of a Sick Fish?
Depending on the species of fish that you have, the signs that they show when they’re seriously ill can differ.
However, here are some of the most seen symptoms in aquarium fish when they’re suffering from a fatal condition:
- Being confused about where they are. You might notice that your fish is swimming sideways or upside down because it doesn’t remember how to orient itself in the environment.
- Not eating the fish food you throw into the aquarium for it. You might notice that even hours after you put food in the aquarium, it’s still floating around and has not been eaten.
- White marks appearing on the fins or body, as well as discoloration in the gills.
- Having a hard time breathing normally. You’ll notice that your fish keeps swimming to the surface of the water in the tank and struggling to breathe. You’ll also see it gasping for more air.
- Your fish’s eyes might start sticking way too much out of its head. It’ll look like they’re painfully bulging out and this can happen in either or both of the eyes.
- Mucus spreading all over the body.
- If you have multiple fish in your aquarium, your sick fish might start swimming away from the rest of the group. It’ll start staying alone in the corners of the tank.
- Wounds or sores might start appearing on different parts of its body.
- Your fish’s stomach might start expanding, even when you’ve been feeding it the same amount of food as always. It’ll look like its stomach is bloating disproportionally to its body.
How Do You Save a Dying Fish?
Now that you know what a dying fish looks like, the next part of saving your fish’s life is to be very observant about where you’re looking and what you’re looking for.
Looking at its fins, abdomen, tail, body color and eyes is how you figure out whether what your fish has is serious and whether there is anything you can do to save it.
Watching the way your fish swims and the direction it’s swimming in also gives a lot away about what kind of condition it may have. If you notice changes in your fish’s behavior, sometimes the only thing you have to do to fix your fish’s condition is changing the environment of the tank.
Your fish can act out through its behavior just to convey the message that it is stressed or uncomfortable. But, the only way you can figure this out is by careful observation.
The most common reason why fish die is because of stress.
There are many different components of an aquarium that can negatively impact your fish if they’re not adjusted to be the kind of environment that your fish is suited for.
If you’re a first-time fish owner, your fish might die after struggling with stress for days, but you wouldn’t have noticed it.
Here are some factors that you need to be mindful of to ensure that you aren’t stressing your fish out.
Make sure your aquarium environment is right for the fish
A lot of times, people don’t keep in mind what kind of fish they have and keep a standard set up for all their fish.
This is a huge mistake because some fish are not going to be able to survive in the environment that you’re set up for them because of their genetic need for a different environment.
Check your aquarium’s water
If a fish prefers warm water, but you’ve placed it in cold, it will die. If you’re keeping a saltwater fish in a freshwater tank, it will also die.
Similarly, check what kind of water stability your fish prefers as well. A fish like a betta, which prefers still water, might die from the stress of being in a tank with too many filter bubbles.
Fish like the African cichlids like being in alkaline water, so if you place them in gentle, acidic water like what the cardinal tetras prefer, they’ll die.
Check the contents of your aquarium
If you have a pleco, it needs to have a lot of crevices and hiding spots to feel safe inside of the tank. If your tank is empty, it will get stressed out from not having enough places to swim into.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry and do the proper research about the water and tank preferences that your fish has before purchasing it.
Not being able to give your fish the tank conditions that it needs, you’re going to stress it out to the point that it will either suffer from weeks before finally dying, or it will have a shortened lifespan from constantly being uncomfortable.
Set up the aquarium correctly
Getting fish to thrive in your tank is about way more than just filling a tank with water and a de-chlorinator.
There is actually way more to set up the right conditions for your aquarium than that, which includes adding the right chemicals, setting up a filter and making sure that it is the right capacity for the number and kind of fish that you have.
You’ll have to first make sure that your tank has the right kinds of bacteria that a fish needs to remain healthy. If you have placed your fish into a freshly filled tank, chances are that it could be dying because of that.
The only option you have if your fish is dying from the lack of bacteria in its environment is to try and place it in a tank that has already been cycled. When aquariums have been cycled, they’ve already been introduced to the bacteria that your fish needs to remain calm in its environment.
Make sure that your tank is the right size for your fish
Do you have too many fish in one tank? Has your tank become overcrowded with fish, to the point that none of your fish have their own space to be alone or hide?
Sometimes, when a tank has too many fish, it can fill up with more waste than the bacteria present in the tank can break down. With too much waste in a tank of too many fish inhabitants, the waste will poison and kill your fish.
Fish need oxygen to breathe, just like us. The only difference between us is that fish need the oxygen in the water and if there isn’t enough water to provide ample amounts of oxygen to all the fish, they can actually run out of oxygen to breathe and die.
If your tank is too small for your fish to comfortably swim around in, it can feel trapped and die from the stress.
Even if your fish was once small enough to fit inside a smaller aquarium, it doesn’t mean that you can let it remain in that size of an aquarium for the rest of its life.
The more a fish grows, the more you need to take care to give it ample space to swim.
Choose the right tank mates for your fish
The other fish in the aquarium. One mistake that fish owners regularly make is keeping the wrong kinds of fish in one aquarium. There are different kinds of fish personalities, with some being timid and others being social. Some fish are also more aggressive and territorial than others.
If you have the wrong fish forced to live together, you’re creating a very stressful environment that your fish can’t get out of unless they die. If you notice your fish looking ill, check to see if any of the other tank inhabitants haven’t been attacking the fish or making life in the tank difficult for your fish.
It’s also possible that some of the fish end up eating the food for all the fish and your fish essentially starves to death. Keep a careful lookout on who is eating how much and make sure that all your fish are giving each other the chance to eat as much as they need.
Keep a check on how much you feed the fish
It is extremely common for beginner fish owners to feed their fish too much food. Fish don’t actually need as much food as we think and dumping too much fish food into the tank can kill your fish.
Make sure you’re only giving your fish the right proportion of food that it needs to thrive.
The more you feed it, the fatter it will get, because it will continue to eat as much food as you throw in. This affects its ability to swim and breathe, so you need to be very responsible with how much you’re feeding it.
There are a lot of reasons why your fish might be dying. The ones listed above are only a few of the multiple reasons that your fish might be extremely stressed out, to the point that it has affected its ability to survive.
If you feel like you’re doing anything wrong with your tank based on the factors listed above, you should immediately correct your mistakes.
You should also contact a skilled veterinarian because there are times when only they are able to fully determine what is killing your fish.
However, sometimes we have to accept that our fish could be dying from old age. In situations like these, the best thing you can do is provide your fish with a comfortable enough environment for its last few days in your tank.
Other fishkeeping articles you may find useful: