Did you know that fish possess body language? If you familiarize yourself with the good body language in fish, you’ll be able to also recognize bad fish body language. Then you’ll be able to diagnose and treat your fish before any illness or situation becomes too severe.
Let’s first take a look at good body language in your pond fish:
Some examples of bad fish body language include:
Loss of appetite
When fish lose their appetite, numerous possibilities loom but without any additional symptoms, you could suspect some deterioration in water quality. In particular, warm water with low oxygen adversely affects fish appetites, which you’ll typically see during the hottest summer months. In ponds that are more than four feet deep and without water movement in the deeper areas, the oxygen levels sag, which can result in suffering fish. In either situation, adding an aerator to boost oxygen levels in the pond could be a simple fix.
Fish may also lose their appetite if nitrogen is imbalanced. When the nitrate levels climb in established ponds, fish will lose their appetite. A quick water test will let you know if nitrate is to blame. If nitrate is ruled out, then it could be a parasite problem. You’ll also notice a loss in appetite when the pond water temperature falls below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is normal.
When fish hold their fins close to their body, it’s a symptom of illness. Poor water quality and parasites are the likely culprits. Fish with clamped fins look like a fish with only a tail because all the other fins are pulled in close to the body. The fish may just rest on the bottom of the pond with its fins clamped. An assessment of water quality is the place to start. If nothing is found, the fish likely has a parasite that needs to be addressed (see how to identify and treat fish parasites).
Resting on the bottom
A common sign of illness is when the fish rests on the bottom of the pond. The most common cause of this bad fish body language is high water temperatures, high nitrates, and low oxygen levels. Parasites could also be the cause. Test the water, and if nothing is found, you’ve probably got a parasite issue.
Laying on the bottom
This behavior is slightly different because the fish will lay on the bottom of the pond on its side. This is a sign of severe, life-threatening stress. Usually, very cold water is the cause of this bad body language. Water quality and overwhelming parasitism can also cause this.
Stiff swimming with clamped fins
Stiff swimming is a serious sign in fish and almost always points to poor water quality, but the most common cause is parasitism, which is then swinging into a full-blown bacterial infection. Start by testing the water, and if nothing is found, a biopsy can be conducted to confirm the presence of parasites. You can also closely check the gills of your fish for signs of bacterial infection.
Piping at the pond surface
When fish are gasping at the surface of the pond, it’s highly illustrative of two things. Either the pond water doesn’t have enough oxygen in it, or the fish can’t get that oxygen because its gills are being wrecked by something. Adding an aerator typically alleviates this problem but if it doesn’t, you likely have a parasite problem.
Less active or floating in water
Less activity isn’t necessarily a sign of illness, but you’ll want to keep some things in mind. Low oxygen levels can cause the fish to resist higher activity and foraging behaviors. This would be especially true if the listless less active fish are the larger ones whose oxygen demand is higher. Warm water carries less oxygen and if the pond is warm and there’s minimal water turnover from a waterfall or aerator, this could be a contributor. Adding a pond aerator will remedy this problem within four to six hours. If the fish becomes actively engaged again, you’ve solved the problem. If not, suspect the presence of a parasite.
Flashing, or scratching, is bad body language when it’s common among your fish. It’s not uncommon to see a fish flash or scratch on the pond bottom of other submerged ornamentation. This isn’t considered a problem. However, if you see many fish scratching or flashing every hour, that would be bad body language and considered a problem. Flashing can be caused by several things, but your main suspects are the pH level of the pond or a parasite.
Once you become familiar with good and bad body language in your pond fish, you’ll be better equipped to remedy any negative situation and provide them with a healthy, happy home.
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