Stress is something you’re used to in your day-to-day life, and you may have even come to expect it. For many people, stress is a constant due to responsibilities at work, chores at home, and everything in between. While you may be used to working under extreme stress, your fish are not. Fish in aquariums can be stressed by a variety of factors, including poor water quality, sickness, and changes in tank parameters. Mild stress is something that your aquarium fish will recover from in some cases, but in many cases, it is an early sign of something that could turn into a major issue. You should take steps to determine the source of stress in your fish and then settle it before it becomes a big problem if you notice signs of stress in your fish. Continue reading to find out what causes stress in aquarium fish, how to recognize the signs of stress, and how to deal with it properly.

What is Fish Stress, Anyway?

You must learn to recognize the signs of distress in your aquarium fish in order to keep them healthy. You should take steps to determine the source of stress in your fish and then settle it before it becomes a big problem if you notice signs of stress in your fish.

You may be familiar with stress as your body’s “fight or flight” reaction in your own life. Your body’s survival mechanisms kick into high gear when you’re confronted with a stressful or dangerous situation. Certain hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, begin to be produced by your body, which boost essential functions (such as heart rate and respiration) while pushing non-essential functions to the background. Your body is primed to either fight back against the threat or flee it as your heart beats faster and your breathing rate rises.

Aquarium fish experience stress in a slightly different way, though it is still a physiological response. At its most basic level, stress is defined as any situation that causes mental or physical distress and elicits a physiological response. Short-term effects of stress on your fish include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. Aquarium fish, unfortunately, can only maintain this heightened state for so long before it drains them. Chronic stress can affect the fish’s growth, digestion, and reproduction, as well as its immune response and ability to fight infection.

Yes, Your Fish Experience Stress Too

Fish, like humans, must deal with stress and its consequences on a regular basis. You would look into your aquarium and imagine what a peaceful existence it must be. Fish, after all, get to swim around in a lovely tank all day while being fed and cared for by their owner. Though it may seem strange, fish can become stressed in the same way that humans do. You can sympathize with a stressed out fish when it comes to a dirty home, strained relationships with friends and family, or just general business. Stress in fish, like in humans, can cause serious health problems, so it’s crucial to know how to identify when your fish is stressed and what you can do to help.

Symptoms of Stress

There are several symptoms you should often look out for in your fish. Any of the following symptoms could be signs of stress:

  • Gasping at the Surface

When a fish gasps at the surface, it is a sign of stress caused by bad water conditions, most commonly a lack of oxygen.

  • Appetite

Usually when a fish is stressed, they will lose their appetite and not eat.

  • Disease

As a result of your stress, you may develop ich, which is characterized by white spots on the body of a fish, as well as other illnesses. If you notice this or any other apparent ailments or sores on your fish, consult a veterinarian for treatment options.

  • Strange Swimming

When fish are stressed, their swimming patterns often become strange. Your fish may be stressed if it is swimming frantically without going anywhere, crashing at the bottom of the tank, rubbing itself on gravel or rocks, or locking their fins at their side. Consult your veterinarian about treatment options, as well as determining what is causing the stress and how to alleviate it.

Causes of Stress In Aquarium Fish

Many different factors can cause stress in fish. Stress can be caused by almost any situation that involves a change in habitat or a disruption in routine and behavior. Some examples are as follows:

Improper water conditions

If your fish’s water isn’t kept in good condition, it can cause a lot of stress. If you notice your fish gasping at the surface, you can perform a water test right away to see if something is wrong. Stress may be caused by high ammonia or nitrate levels, low oxygen levels, incorrect temperature, or a high or low pH. Incorrect salt levels in a saltwater aquarium can have a similar effect.

Troubles with other fish

Not all fish get along, just like humans, and they can get crowded if they live with too many other fish or the wrong fish. Make sure you don’t overstock your aquarium with fish, as this can lead to issues with fish combativeness and water quality. Fish also need a variety of hiding places in order to avoid predators. Additionally, when feeding your fish, try to distribute the food evenly so that the fish do not have to compete for food.

Other factors

There are several other factors that contribute to stress in addition to those already mentioned. The presence of any added chemicals or drugs in the fish’s tank is one of them. When treating a sick fish, make sure it has been properly quarantined first. In addition, a poor diet can lead to stress. Make sure you understand your fish’s optimal diet and try to stick to it. Finally, environmental disturbances such as banging or noisy noises may cause stress in fish. If you have children, teach them to respect the fish’s habitat.

What To Do Next

If you suspect your fish is stressed, you should seek treatment as soon as possible. Stress can lead to severe and potentially fatal diseases like Dropsy and Fin Rot if left untreated. To begin, you should try to figure out what is stressing your fish and remove that source of stress. You can do this by checking the water and observing the behavior of your fish. If this does not improve your fish’s health, speak with your veterinarian about other options.