Ornamental Fish gasping: Why Is Your Ornamental Fish Gasping For Air?

 Ornamental fish gasping for air on the surface of their aquarium or pond are a serious problem for all pet fish owners. This is a sign that your fish cannot breathe properly and is looking for the most oxygen-rich water, which is surface water. You may see fish congregating around the filter outlet or near the waterfall, other high oxygen areas. There are many potential causes behind your gasping fish and the sooner you understand the cause, the faster your fish will recover and be less likely to die.

Ornamental Fish gasping: Why Is Your Ornamental Fish Gasping For Air?
Ornamental Fish gasping: Why Is Your Ornamental Fish Gasping For Air?

 If your ornamental fish is gasping for air at the top of the tank, the very obvious reason for this is that the water does not contain enough oxygen and The fish is attempting to get it from the tank's upper water levels. where the exchange of air between the ornamental fish water and the surrounding atmosphere occurs best.

 If you see a single breathless ornamental fish at the top near the surface, it may be sick with parasites and need treatment, but if you see multiple fish hanging near the top surface, out of breath, something has to be done about it.

This is an informative article. Nodisk One is not permitted to make a diagnosis or recommend any form of veterinary care. If your pet is in pain or ill, we recommend that you take him to the vet.

How Do Ornamental Fish Breathe?

 When you have a bubbler in the ornamental aquarium, it projects outside oxygen through an air stone into the water that rises above the water surface of the aquarium. ornament. Because of this, the surface is disturbed and the surrounding air mixes with the water in ornamental aquariums. The role of this bubbler is to disturb the surface of the water surface so that enough oxygen is exchanged in the water of the ornamental fish. Fish survive thanks to this mixed air exchange between water and surrounding air.

 In an effort to breathe more easily, a fish may stay close to the surface. Remember that ornamental fish breathe dissolved oxygen, not oxygen already combined in the H2O molecule. These dissolved oxygen concentrations naturally tend to be higher close to the surface where the mixing of air and water takes place. If a fish isn't getting enough oxygen, it will try to make up for it by gravitating toward this region. Similarly, you might see your fish hanging out close to the bubbles created by your air stones or other bubble-generating decorations.

How Do I Know That The Water In My Ornamental Fish Tank Contains Less Oxygen?

 Unfortunately there is no equipment or measurement that shows if the mixed oxygen levels are down or at a perfect level, so the only sign to know something has gone wrong is to look at the fish. breathless on the upper surface of ornamental fish. Tank. However, there are many symptoms that the fish themselves exhibit when oxygen levels drop.

  • The movement of ornamental fish decreases and they become slightly sluggish.
  • They try to move their gills more often and faster as they try to collect more oxygen from the surrounding water.
  • If left unchecked and oxygen levels do not improve, they will move to the top of the ornamental aquarium, as this is where more and more oxygen exchange occurs. oxygen.

 If your ornamental fish aquarium is well maintained with a good frequency of cleaning and checking whether all equipment is working properly or not, you will rarely encounter this problem of low oxygen levels.

Why Do Fish Gasp For Air?

 "Gasping" or "piping" is the term used when your fish breathes rapidly at the surface of the water, often with part of its mouth above the surface. This is most often a sign that your fish is not getting enough oxygen. There are many reasons why your fish may not be getting enough oxygen, both from the external environment and from the fish's body. The main causes of this behavior are listed below:

Inadequate Filtration

 All fish, including bettas, should be kept in an aquarium that is the proper size and has a working filter. If you see fish panting on the surface of the water, first check your filtration system to make sure it is working properly and is the right size for your fish. Depending on the shape and size of your aquarium or pond, relying solely on air diffusion across the water surface is not sufficient for most species of pet fish. Water movement in the aquarium or pond is necessary to ensure good aeration. Filtration can not only supply oxygen to the water, but also promote the nitrogen cycle, breaking down toxic ammonia into safer compounds.


 Fish kept in crowded conditions can use up dissolved oxygen in the water faster than it can be replaced. This is of particular concern in outdoor ponds in the summer, as the warmer water contains less dissolved oxygen. At night, plants in the water, including algae, also use up oxygen, which lowers dissolved oxygen levels in the morning before sunrise. A pond's oxygen levels can be kept higher by reducing the number of fish and eliminating algae.

New Tank Syndrome

 When all new aquariums are started, the filtration goes through a nitrogen cycling process called "New Tank Syndrome". This is the process by which beneficial bacteria colonize your filter and convert ammonia into safer products. During this process, the water will go through peak levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. These spikes can seriously harm and even kill your fish if they are placed high enough. Be sure to add fish gradually over a period of several weeks to a new aquarium so that the beneficial bacteria in the biofilter have time to grow and follow the fish waste produced. Adding too many fish too soon will usually lead to new tank syndrome and the high ammonia levels will damage the gills of the fish and can kill them.

Brown Blood Disease/Methemoglobinemia

 The intermediate step in the nitrogen cycle is the conversion of ammonia to nitrite. If a high level of nitrite persists, it can cause brown blood disease or methemoglobinemia. In this disease process, nitrite binds to hemoglobin in the blood, releasing oxygen. No matter how much oxygen you add to the water, it will not enter your fish's body tissues, causing death by asphyxiation. It is very easy to test for this disease by measuring the level of nitrite using a standard test kit.

Gill Damage

 Many disease processes have the potential to harm the gills of your fish. Since they are exposed to water, they can also become contaminated with debris and other toxins found in the water, such as heavy metals, ammonia and chlorine. No matter how much oxygen there is in the water, the damaged gills will not be able to function properly and your fish will be seen gasping at the surface.

 Gill damage can also occur with a viral disease, such as herpes koi virus and carp edema virus. These viruses specifically target the gills and can make your fish lethargic or die suddenly in addition to gasping at the surface. There is no treatment for viral fish diseases other than supportive care. Depending on the virus in your pond, your veterinarian may need to contact state authorities to report certain diseases.

 Parasites that breed in the gills, such as White Spot or Dactylogyrus spp., can also cause gasping due to damage to the gills. You may see other signs of irritation, such as blinking, decreased appetite, and lethargy. There's no one cure for all parasites, so resist dumping in a bunch of drugs. Aquatic parasites often penetrate into a clean system via a new infested fish. In order to prevent the spread of parasites, proper quarantine protocols should be established for any new additions, whether fish, plants or invertebrates.

Diagnostic Processes

 In order to determine the root cause of your ornamental fish panting, you should check your water chemistry as soon as possible with a liquid-based test kit that has been opened within the last year. If the water test results are all within the normal range, you will need to schedule an appointment with your aquatic veterinarian. They will safely perform a physical exam to assess the condition of your fish's gills and check for any underlying disease. Often a gill biopsy sample will be taken in order to examine it under a microscope. Sometimes additional samples may need to be sent to a lab for further testing, for example for virus testing.


 Once you have tested your water chemistry, you should take immediate action to correct any abnormalities. Problems with your nitrogen cycle, high ammonia, nitrite or nitrate, can be corrected quickly with a 50% water change. If there is chlorine or ammonia (chloramine) in your tap water, test it first and treat it with water conditioners before adding it to your aquarium or pond. Improper temperature or pH should be corrected slowly to prevent ornamental fish from dying from shock. Retest water daily and continue corrective actions until all test results are normal.

 Depending on the ongoing disease process, your veterinarian may prescribe additional antibiotics or antiparasitic treatments for your fish. There is no "one size fits all" cure for gill damage and the subsequent gasping, as there are numerous contributing factors. The appropriate medication should be used, depending on the type of parasite diagnosed. Resist the addition of over-the-counter medications that can weaken your ornamental fish and worsen health problems.

How To Keep Ornamental Fish From Starving

 The best way to keep an ornamental fish from starving is with proper filter maintenance, regular water testing, and strict quarantine protocols for new fish and other additions. Avoid overcrowding the fish and feed them an appropriate amount of a quality diet.

Proper Maintenance

 Depending on the configuration of your aquarium or pond, the number of fish, the different species kept, the amount of food served and the frequency with which you feed, you may need to clean the filtration system quite a bit. frequently or not very often. Fish are not "no maintenance" pets and will need routine upkeep to maintain a healthy environment. Much like the air we breathe, the quality of the water a fish swims in is critical to its overall health.

Regular Water Analysis

 How do you know if your maintenance schedule is adequate? Test your water chemistry. Use a liquid-based test kit, not test strips, to measure ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, kH (alkalinity), and temperature at least once a month for an established system . If you add filtration components or more fish, or change their diet, check daily first, then weekly until levels are stable. If you are unsure of what your parameters should be, ask your aquatic veterinarian for the requirements of your species of fish. To ensure accurate results, replace your test kit once a year.

Quarantine Protocols

 Nobody wants to wait to stock their aquarium or pond with new fish or plants. However, those first few weeks after returning home from the pet store is when a new fish is weakest and carries whatever was swimming around the communal pet store or wholesalers' aquarium systems. Since fish move very quickly in pet stores, they may not show any signs of illness until you bring them home.

 Once you dump them into your healthy system, there's no turning back. Quarantine involves the complete isolation of an individual, which includes a separate tank, pond, or tub with separate filtration. In order to protect your ornamental fish, a quarantine period of 4 to 6 weeks is recommended. We devised this schedule, but how did we do it? Well, if you catch any species of fish, there is a certain list of bacteria, parasites, and viruses that could potentially cause problems.

 There is an incubation time, where the pathogen resides in the fish, but shows no clinical signs, followed by a clinical presentation, where the ornamental fish actually acts or appears sick. However, not all fish act the same and some owners don't spot the signs right away. The temperature of your tanks will critically affect how quickly all of these disease processes occur, and this may not be consistent, especially in outdoor ponds.

 Hotter water will shorten the processes, but that doesn't mean you can heat your quarantine tank to speed things up. Improper temperatures can seriously affect your ornamental fish's immune system and they can "clear" quarantine without issue and still be sick. Overall, quarantine is extra work, but it could save the lives of all your fish.

In Conclusion

 Ornamental fish panting at the surface can have many causes. Some are easily fixed, such as poor water quality, but others will require veterinary care to properly diagnose and treat. To protect your fish, stick to your regular maintenance regimen, check your water quality regularly, and be prepared to quarantine any new additions for a month or up to six weeks in a separate system.

Only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, are used by Nodisk One to substantiate the information in our articles.