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Old 06-05-2020, 09:28 PM   #1
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Gasping Goldfish

Hi there. I have two fancy goldfish (a black moor and a fantail). They coexist in a 37 gallon tank. Other than one mystery snail, they are the only inhabitants.

I started my tank in January brand new. It has an Aqueon filter that is suitable for up to 50 gallons. I do not use a heater because the tank rests comfortably around 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit. I use sand for substrate and have a few large rocks for decor.

I do weekly water changes of about 80-100% at which time I also use a syphon to remove waste from the bottom of the tank. I always use Tetraís water conditioner liberally when performing water changes. I also always add APIís PH Up to bring levels up to about 7.5. I also have to use Ammo Lock because my tap water is always high in ammonia.

That said I do the water changes and add all of these things with no fish in the tank. I let it sit with the filter going for an hour or two before adding the fish back in. Typically I test the water once or twice per week with my API liquid testing kit and get acceptable to nearly-perfect levels of ph, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

For a few MONTHS both fish have been gasping frequently at the surface and/or just hanging around the top of the tank. Sometimes they will bottom sit, and sometimes they bottom sit literally right next to each other. Itís crazy they are either at the top gasping for air or sitting on the bottom. Two different extremes.

Iíll say that the fantail hangs out more at the top and gasps more. It also swims/darts erratically sometimes and yawns often. The black moor does spend more time at the bottom, but does still go to the top to gasp often. The black moor has a much more relaxed disposition.

The filter produces a decent current, so I really donít think this is an oxygen/aeration issue. However, it is a taller tank thank most. The filter hangs off the bank and pours over the top of the tank. I do not have a sandstone.

I went down a path for a few weeks of using MinnFinn to treat potential disease. Directions said disease should clear up within a few treatments. I did treatments for a few weeks, so thereís no way these fish have a disease! There are no physical symptoms of disease or fungus. Both fish look very healthy.

Iím really at a loss as to why they gasp so often and then bottom sit. It seems like they are always stressed. They arenít in a loud room, no kids, no loud animals, nothing.

I know it can be normal for fish to go to the surface periodically, but the frequency of it and the length of time spent gasping does not seem normal.

Help!
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Old 06-06-2020, 07:11 AM   #2
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Maybe try multiple smaller water changes instead of one big one a week. If it's stress I imagine that is the cause. You mentioned you use conditioner "liberally", you could be using too much conditioner which can cause issues.

Or you could always add an airstone and see if it help.
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Old 06-07-2020, 09:07 PM   #3
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Thanks for the advice. What damage can too much water conditioner do?

Since my OP, I haven’t seen anymore bottom sitting. The black moor is still spending a lot of time at the top of the tank, but it is swimming down and actively going all over, which I think is a really good sign.

The fantail is still spending most of its time gasping. It’s mostly white but I did notice on its underside underneath it’s gills that there are yellow lines. Is this perhaps some sort of poisoning burn?

Water paremeters today are perfect. PH is about 7.4, ammonia is zero, nitrates and nitrites are both zero as well.
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Old 06-07-2020, 09:08 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice. What damage can too much water conditioner do?

Since my OP, I havenít seen anymore bottom sitting. The black moor is still spending a lot of time at the top of the tank, but it is swimming down and actively going all over, which I think is a really good sign.

The fantail is still spending most of its time gasping. Itís mostly white but I did notice on its underside underneath itís gills that there are yellow lines. Is this perhaps some sort of poisoning burn?

Water paremeters today are perfect. PH is about 7.4, ammonia is zero, nitrates and nitrites are both zero as well.
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Old 06-08-2020, 06:08 AM   #5
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If you overdose conditioner, it can bind to oxygen and make it hard for fish to breathe.
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Old 06-08-2020, 11:30 AM   #6
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Thanks for the tip! I think this definitely is an oxygen issue and not a water quality issue. I noticed the gasping takes place around the output of the filter pretty consistently. Last night I did an experiment and moved the filter to the other side of the tank. Sure enough, the fish followed the filter.

Based on what you said about the water conditioner, I’m going to do a full water change and only use the prescribed amount of conditioner. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try an air stone.
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:05 PM   #7
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Ok, here’s an update. I added an air stone and changed the water. This time I dosed with the exact amount of conditioner. No change in the behavior of gasping. As a matter of fact the air stone seems to be stressing the fish out even more.

I’m starting to think that these fish are just extremely anxious all the time and the gasping is a nervous behavior. That or the fish just have permanently damaged gills.
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Old 06-16-2020, 05:03 PM   #8
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I thought I’d post an update for those following this thread. I was able to get the air pump speed turned down, so it’s not so powerful and overwhelm to the fish.

With the air stone on one side and the filter on the other side of the tank, I’ve got plenty of water flow/oxygenation going on. The fish still incessantly swim and gasp around the water surface by the filter. They are healthy, water parameters are perfect. They do not gasp around the air stone. They are stuck with gasping around the water surface at the filter and swimming in its current.

If I turn off the filter and and air stone, the gasping stops. The fish are less anxious and swim at all levels of the tank only surfacing every once and awhile for a second or two.

So, I’ve come to two possible conclusions:

1) the fish like swimming through the water current the filter provides and gulping the air around it rather than relying on their gills to do the work

2) what I’m seeing is anxiety caused by the filter’s water flow and/or vibration (it hangs on the back of the tank).

Either way, with no power to the filter the fish are much more calm and relaxed and seem totally normal.

The issue is that with multiple goldfish I can’t sustain a tank with no filter.

Maybe I just need a filter with a variable speed setting turned all the way to low? My current Auqeon filter just has one “full blast” setting.

Thoughts?
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