Why Is My Goldfish Gasping For Air? {Top 4 Signs}

If you think that your goldfish might be gasping for air, there are usually signs which can confirm this.

Why is my goldfish gasping for air and what should I do?

We’re going to explain how you can notice this and why it might be happening to your goldfish.

Why is My Goldfish Gasping for Air?

Your goldfish is gasping for air is because of a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. The best way to add oxygen to water is to add an air pump (Available on Amazon) to your tank.

Dissolved oxygen levels are at the highest at the waters surface and this is why they are trying to get oxygen from here because they are not able to in other parts of the tank.

Allow me to explain much more on this below:

goldfish gasping

How Do I Know If My Goldfish Is Gasping For Air?

There are 4 signs to see whether your goldfish might be gasping for air which are:

  1. Staying close to the water’s surface
  2. Gulping air bubbles 
  3. Swim less frequently
  4. Rapid gill movements

1. Staying close to the water’s surface

If your goldfish is staying closer to the surface of the water, this could potentially mean that they are struggling to breathe and could be distressed. This isn’t necessarily the first sign you will spot, so if you notice this, it is best to act fast.

2. Gulping air bubbles

  • Fish tend to gulp air bubbles when they aren’t properly able to breathe; it is an easy cue to spot and can indicate an oxygen problem.

3. Swim less frequently

  •  When fish start to swim less frequently, and mainly stay in one spot, it is a sign that they could be struggling to breathe and are gasping for air.

4. Rapid gill movements

  • Another sign of your goldfish gasping for breath is when their gills are rapidly moving, this is where they are trying to inhale as much oxygen as they possibly can.

goldfish tank overcrowded

Why Is My Goldfish Gulping at Surface?

Often or not, if you notice that your goldfish is struggling to breathe at the surface, it is most frequently caused by poor water conditions or lack of oxygen.

If you do believe that your goldfish is possessing these symptoms, they are going to be unhappy and potentially dying, it is something that you need to act fast on. Oxygenate the tank with an air pump or air stones.

Common Reasons for Goldfish Struggling to Breathe

  1. Overcrowding
  2. High Water Temperature
  3. Water Movement

1. Overcrowding

Overcrowding can sometimes cause issues when it comes to the level of oxygen in your goldfishes tank. More fish means that there is more waste being produced.

This can sometimes block the filter and cause the water movement to be prohibited. Overcrowding can mean that there is less oxygen to share between the goldfish.

It would be better to have less goldfish together in a tank if you are looking to increase the oxygen levels. If you have more goldfish, but they are in a small tank, it would be wise to transfer them to a larger tank with multiple filters.

2. High Water Temperature

Goldfish are cold-water fish, and unlike other types of fish they cannot survive in warm water conditions they need a higher oxygen level which they are only able to get from cold water conditions.

Goldfish need high levels of oxygen for them to survive; therefore, if the temperature is too high, this means it is less oxygenated.

3. Water Movement

When there is no water movement, this means that the oxygen levels will be affected. It is usually caused if there is no filter in the tank to move the water around.

oxygen in goldfish tank

How To Get More Oxygen In Your Goldfish Tank?

Thankfully, it won’t take a rocket scientist to get more oxygen into your goldfishes tank; it is something that you will be able to, fortunately, do yourself.

There are a variety of different solutions to solving the problem.

  1. Change The Tank Water
  2. Water Filter
  3. Larger Aquarium

1. Change The Tank Water

The first course of action that you initially should take is thoroughly cleaning and replacing the water in the aquarium. Replacing the water will help it to be fresh and oxygenated.

2. Water Filter

If you do not already have a water filter, you need to buy one, and it might explain why the water isn’t oxygenated in all points of the tank. A water filter helps there to be water movement in the tank. You need one which moves the water from the bottom of the tank to the top. A filter which does this will help to spread the oxygen throughout the tank.

If you already have a filter, you want to make sure it is regularly replaced, as well as ensuring that it entirely moves the water around the whole tank.

3. Larger Aquarium

Purchasing a larger tank is a wise idea if you have a lot of goldfish, it will help to prevent overcrowding. It might mean that you need multiple filters to ensure water is being moved around the entirety of the aquarium.

YouTube video

Is It Normal For Goldfish To Gulp Air?

It is not a regular habit for goldfish to gulp air. If you spot your goldfish gulping air, it is a sure sign that there is something wrong.

Ingesting air likely means that your goldfish is unable to breathe correctly; they are trying to find oxygen within the water.

Fish Gasping For Air After A Water Change

Suppose your fish are gasping for air after you have changed the water. It could be due to the chemicals that you have put into the water.

  • Tap water is usually infected with a small amount of chlorine which can be enough to kill a goldfish
  • To prevent this a dechlorination chemical should be used when doing a water change. 
  • You want to ensure that you are using the correct amount as printed on the packaging.

If you use too much or too little chemicals, this could potentially be the reason as to why your goldfish is gasping for air after a water change.

How To Spot The Signs

Unfortunately, it is common not to notice when your animals are in pain or distressed because they are unable to tell us what is wrong physically.

It is essential to know what can potentially occur to your fish and how you can act upon spotting the signs. We have told you the main reasons goldfish face difficulty with breathing and how you can notice it.

Make sure that you avoid having:

  • bad water conditions
  • overcrowding
  • overheating

This will ensure that your goldfish lives a happy and healthy life.

Final Thought

It’s always a worry when you notice that there might be something wrong with your pet goldfish; they aren’t like us, humans.

They can’t explain the situation that they’re experiencing, but sometimes there can be clear signs which are easy enough to spot.


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Hello, I'm Jason. I'm the guy behind HelpUsFish.com. I volunteer at my local fish shop and I created this site to offer tips and advice on the fish I care for.