How Can I Tell if my Fish are Stressed? And what is likely to Cause Fish Stress?

There are a few different signs that your fish could be stressed, catching stress signs early can help prevent illness and even death in some cases. This is why we need to make sure we are providing the best environment possible for our fishy friends and addressing any problems that may arise.

Here we have a list of things that can cause stress:

  • Improper salinity
  • Lack of hiding spaces
  • Tank size is too small
  • Incorrect diet
  • Overstocking
  • Harassment from other fish
  • Keeping non-compatible species together
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Bad water chemistry
  • Not enough fish to create proper schooling

There are a few signs to look out for that are good indicators that your fish are stressed:

  • Gasping at the Surface: This is a sign of stress usually due to poor water conditions and not enough surface movement, so the tank is not receiving enough oxygenated water.
  • Loss of Appetite: A stressed or sick fish will have a reduced appetite.
  • Sickness or Disease: Signs of disease can include: bulging eyes, rotting fins, bloated stomach, white spots, sores and abbesses. 
  • Changes in behaviour: This can include abnormal swimming patterns, hiding away or sitting out exposed, becoming more or less aggressive, sitting at the bottom of the tank or floating at the top.
  • Loss of colour: This type of stress is usually due to a change in the environment including variations in water temperature, adding new stock, and a change in water pH or water quality.

Ways you can prevent stress:

  •  Consistency: keeping water levels, temperatures and chemistry consistent with the help of Test Kits and PH monitors.
  •  Compatibility: ensuring that the fish you keep are compatible with each other and will not pick on other species in the tank.
  •  Correct set-up: Having the correct set-up for the species you wish to keep - research is key.
  •  Not overstocking: some species will become stressed if the tank is over-stocked however, some cichlids prefer a slightly overstocked tank

When you have that perfect balance and all the fish in the tank are happy and healthy there is little you will need to do in regards to health, but finding that balance can at times be tricky! If you do have any further husbandry questions, check out some of our other help articles or ask the team.