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Is it Normal for Fish to Lay on the Bottom

Aquarists are observant! They soon notice if fish sit motionless and start gasping low down near the gravel instead of swimming around the aquarium.

Seeing fish sitting at the bottom all sluggish and listless is an alarming sight. But, this help guide lists several easy ways to troubleshoot the problem.

What Does it Mean When Fish Stop Moving?

To a large extent, gasping for air at the bottom of an aquarium or pond is a sign of distress or discomfort in fish.

Even though most fish are easy to take care of, they can't speak to the owner [you] if there's a serious problem in the tank.

In other words:

You might consider this as unusual behaviour and a red flag that needs addressing without delay.

It may be an indication that your aquatic pets are struggling to survive.

The underlying issue could be one of several common factors. It could be health-related or an environmental issue, such as high aquarium nitrate levels.

Still, the legal duty of care for fish keepers emphasises the need to identify abnormal behaviour in fish species and then try to solve it as humanely as possible.

Check the Water Quality

So, one or more fish is sitting on the bottom but still alive, right? A common reason for this scenario is poor water quality. The quality of water in an aquarium is the lifeline for all the creatures and plants inside it.

It's quite common for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels to rise to harmful levels. Some of the typical reasons for high accumulations include:

Even though these threats are not always obvious, and difficult to see, they can cause your fish to seek refuge at the bottom. In essence, they will be gasping for any bit of clean water they can find.

Pro Tip: Learn how to bring down nitrate levels in fish tank to reduce stress, illness, and even death for your fish, especially the less hardy species.

3 Ways to Improve Water Quality

Avoid Low Oxygen Levels

Fish need a sufficient amount of dissolved oxygen in the water to breathe. If the oxygen levels drop, your fish may gasp at the surface or lay down at the bottom of the tank. Put another way, they will be trying to find oxygenated areas in the aquarium.

3 Ways to Increase Oxygen Concentration

Beware of Parasites and Disease

So, the water quality is good and the oxygen levels are fine. But, the fish are still laying on the bottom of the tank and still gasping?

If so, you need to check for symptoms of illness or parasitic infection. Typical signs of disease in fish include things like erratic swimming, swollen body parts (bloating), and changes in appearance (discoloration).

Tips for Dealing with Diseased Fish

Pro Tip: Another section explains the difference between healthy fish and poorly fish, including how to dispose of dead fish - according to the law.

Fish Get Stressed Too!

Environmental stressors such as abrupt changes in water temperature, pH levels, or aggressive tank mates, often leads to stress-induced behaviours, including laying at the bottom and gasping.

3 Ways to Avoid Improper Tank Setup.

In Summary

Observing your fish laying on the bottom of the tank and gasping or gulping is a clear sign that immediate action is needed.

After identifying and addressing the underlying cause of the problem, you'll restore a much healthier environment for your aquatic friends to live in.

Here's the thing:

Regular monitoring, maintenance, and care are key to preventing such distressing scenarios and ensuring the well-being of your fish.

If you're not sure, or the situation doesn't improve, seeking advice from an aquatic veterinarian or an experienced aquarist is always a wise decision.

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