my fish is gasping for air

charlottesdad(7)June 18, 2011

I have 8 fish in a 350 gallon pond, I have a water fall and plenty of plants. I noticed the other day that one of my fish (shubunkin) was swimming very sluggishly. today he has been constantly "gasping for air". The other fish are fine and I fear that he may be near the end. What can I do to save him?

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Gasping in the heat of the summer usually means a lack of oxygen.

What time of day is the gasping occuring? (late evening and early morning)

How hot is the water? (warm enough to take a bath)

Do a 25% water change and add an airstone for more oxygen.

Mine in 700 gallon stocktanks have been gasping also.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 10:00PM
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The water is still not "hot", tepid at best. If all 8 of my fish were acting this way I would be led to believe that oxygen was the issue. However I have 5 oxygenator plants 5 square feet of water hyacinth and a water lily. I also have a water fall and another circulating pump that creates turbulence at the surface. like I said the other fish are acting normal and energetic. Should I quarantine the fish? I am afraid that if I call the pet shops around here, some high school kid is going to try to sell me some chemical to put into the pond. I prefer not to employ chemicals anywhere if possible.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 7:17AM
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We have about 60 fish in our pond that are from 4 to 10 inches. There are many times when some will come to the surface with their mouths opened (gasping for breath) Watching them we learned they are getting tiny bugs, or other potential food on the surface of the pond. They also do this when it rains when the drops hit the surface of the pond.

If you watch wild fish you will similar behavior.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 8:05AM
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Well, thanks mammasue and knuttle for your help. I have just come inside from sending the fish to the great pond in the sky -he died. Upon closer examination he had red spots just aft of his gills. If I could figure out how to upload a picture I would(help?). now the question is how to protect the other 7 fish.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 1:13PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Was he the biggest fish? They always go first when lack of oxygen is the problem. They may also show signs during broad daylight when the other fish don't.

Go outside at dawn and you might see all of the fish gasping frantically. This is not at all similar to how they look randomly going after bugs but is a frantic desperate gasping.

Small shallow ponds with heavy fish loads can suffer this problem in summer even with waterfalls and plants....especially as the fish grow.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 2:01PM
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I see that you say you have 5 oxygenator plants. This was a huge advertizing ploy by the aquatic plant industry. Yes they do take CO2 out of the water and produce O2 when the sun is shining. But what they don't tell you is that they reverse the process when the sun is not shining. They take O2 out of the water and produce CO2. This is true of all plants that grow in the water or below the surface. I do not know for a fact what I am going to say next but I believe it to be true. They actually lower the oxygen content of the body of water. Let me explain why. Water can only hold so much O2 and then it is released to the air. So most of the O2 that is produced is released and when the process is reversed there isn't that much O2 there for the plants to use and the O2 levels drop very lower. To see if this was true a few years ago I put an O2 meter in a very green pond with the Sun shining. The O2 level was 13 ppm. A cloud went in front of the sun and the O2 level went from 13 to 6 ppm as fast as the meter could register it. When the cloud pasted it went back up to 13 ppm as fast as the meter could react. So in a few seconds the O2 level went from 13 to 6 ppm. This pond was about 2500 gallons with a waterfall that had 3000 gph going over it plus 6 airstones with an air pump that was putting 40 liters of air per minute in the water. Healthy fish are able to handle these changes but get one that is sick and now these conditions will make it worse.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 3:15PM
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Have you tested the ammonia and other levels in the pond, including the pH? Red spots apparently mean that the ammonia levels are getting too high, and you have a lot of fish for that size of pond.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 7:14AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Yes, plants reverse the process at night which is why to see if you have a low oxygen problem you check the fish at dawn to see if they are gasping frantically.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 11:53AM
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I have my morning coffee with my fish everyday that it is not raining. They seem to be fine. In the afternoons I check the nitrite, nitrate, and PH levels. They always seem to be in the good range. I have been using a 6 in 1 test strip, that could be an issue?. The fish in question had been noticeably ill for the previous week. It seemed like he was only swimming with his pectoral fins, and very slowly at that. He also spent his entire days, and presumably nights, opening his mouth/ gasping for air not just at the surface but all over the water column. I will hit the pet shop this afternoon to see if I can get a dissolved oxygen test kit and perhaps a better nitrate/nitrite sample kit.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 12:50PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Test strips are notoriously inaccurate since they may sit on a shelf for who knows how long. A liquid test kit is a much better investment.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 3:43PM
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hardin(7 SE OK)

You have gotten lots of good advice. You also need a test to check the ammonia levels in the pond. Sleepless is right, use the liquid test kits, not the strips.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 11:03PM
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You have gotten a lot of good advise but not for the problem that you have. All the fish are fine except one means that the problem is not with the pond but with that one fish. Since it has hung on this long it can not be too sick. The first thing I would do is catch that fish and that a very good look at him and see if you can see anything. If I did not see anything I would give it a salt dip and see if that helps it.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 8:43AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Mike, it died several posts up. :(

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 11:47AM
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That explains why my giant koi died at night not too long after we had a power outage. I would have thought during the day when it was hot would have been more problematic.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 1:36PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Nope, plants give off oxygen during the day and take it in at night. So night is when the problem is and the biggest fish go first.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:25AM
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I am hoping that you will be posting your findings after taking your fish to the pet store. I am having the same problem, though I haven't been able to get close enough to see if there are any red dots. Just one Shabunkin is having problems, swimming very slow, if at all, gasping, usually at the surface. I know it is not an oxygen problem and all other fish are fine. He's been like this for several days and I would hate to lose him. He is only about two years old.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 10:00PM
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Having found this forum I just wanted to add that I have a goldfish that has acted very strangely for the last few weeks, he appears to be gasping for breath but sometimes he is on the water lilly ledge or at the bottom of the pond, I have done 2 part water changes, had him looked at the pond centre, his gills etc are fine, although when he swims he is a bit unbalanced, he hasn't really eaten now for well over a week and is very lethargic, 3 times now I have thought he has died but then he moves, I have put medifin in the water, the pond centre said he could be constipated so gave him some garlic meal that they said try, all my other fish are fine and there is plenty of oxygen, the pond water has been tested a couple of times and the readings have been ok and I have a waterfall & fountain pump, I am absoultely stumped, it would be really good if we could find out a reason for this happening so that it helps other people in this situation.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 4:45AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I've been reading Water Garden forums for 20+ years. Of the thousands of posts on sick fish I can count on one hand the number of times the cause of sick fish may have been found. These things are way more complex than people seem to think. There are things that are easy to check and should be done just to eliminate things that are easy to fix. There are things that a backyard keeper could do like scrapes and using a microscope but most don't want to. And then there's blood work and xrays done at the vet that no one wants to do.

For the most part I think most fish would be way better off if there owners did nothing because I read about tons of cures being thrown at fish for no reason other than the owner heard about something and became convinced that must be it. Fish under stress can often recover. But adding unneeded medication, salt, poorly executed water changes, handling, etc., can push a stressed fish over the edge.

People become convinced a fish is suffering from X or Y. That's different from knowing.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 11:55PM
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i have a 7000 litre pond with 7 fish, we bought two goldfish from a pet store and two days later one of them died, didnt think much to it but then 3 days later one of the others died, the next day 4 more were floating on the top, we noticed the 3 remaining were gasping for air, i took a water sample to shop to test all was good, i bought a bigger pump too, the weather has started to get warmer but stil cold at night,we put one of the struggling fish in a bucket with the pond water and get agitating it to create bubble, when we got the pump going we out him in, he livened up a bit but kept floating to the top on his side, i kept splashing him to create bubbles and he would make an effort to move, he died overnight, that left us two, we have plants in the water as well, come home tonight and now these two have died so we have none now, if a fish has spread a disease to the others would we need to drain the pond and start again, or has anyone got any suggestions as to what could have happened

    Bookmark   October 17, 2014 at 3:06AM
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