Goldfish Behavior Before Death

Goldfish Behavior Before Death7 mins read

Fact checked by
Sydney Perry
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Goldfish are some of the most common fish found in household aquariums, but sudden goldfish death can be a shock for fishkeepers of all levels. Goldfish are known for their low maintenance and hardy characteristics, so Goldfish Behavior Before Death can get confusing. But like with any pet, certain unfortunate factors are causes of goldfish death.

Taking care of these beautiful creatures should be a top priority because they can live much longer if they are kept healthy. As a pet owner, become familiar with how your fish acts when sick. They aren’t too difficult to identify, and the knowledge could save your pet’s life.

10 Common Signs And Symptoms Of Goldfish Behavior Before Death

Signs and symptoms of goldfish behavior before death
Knowing the common signs and symptoms of goldfish behavior before death will help you to keep them healthy.

1. Lethargy

Lethargic in goldfish
Sudden lethargy and weakness are common signs that your goldfish is sick it might be due to ammonia poisoning.

Lethargy is a typical symptom for goldfish who are ill. They are generally very active fish, so if you see signs of lethargy, this could be cause for concern. On the other hand, if your goldfish, which is usually active in the tank, suddenly becomes lethargic, it is most likely a sign that the fish is struggling with an infection.

Often it can be things such as ammonia poisoning that can cause lethargic behavior in goldfish. Ammonia poisoning is one of the common causes of goldfish death. Parasitic infections and poor nutrition are also possible causes of lethargy.

As your goldfish ages, you will notice that they tend to get slower. Lethargy is a normal senior goldfish behavior before death.

2. Loss Of Appetite

Loss of appetite in goldfish
Loss of appetite is an indicator that your goldfish is sick. A filthy tank or stress might be the reason.

This is one of the most obvious indications that your goldfish is not doing too well. Goldfish are naturally opportunistic eaters who will eat almost anything if given a chance. They are enthusiastic during feeding time and usually swim quickly to the food. Therefore, your goldfish not eating is definitely a sign to pay attention to.

Loss of appetite is a standard indicator of sick goldfish, poor water quality, or your pet is experiencing stress. Goldfish cannot go without food for that long. If left unattended, this will cause further harm to your aquatic friend’s health and could result in death. Take time to observe your goldfish and get to the bottom of the issue.

3. Erratic Swimming

Erratic swimming in goldfish
Swimming erratically is a concerning goldfish behavior. Check the water parameters immediately.

There are many reasons your beloved goldfish is swimming erratically, and you should be concerned. However, the leading reasons for goldfish swimming quickly could be swim bladder, improper feeding, or stress. These factors affect the aquatic creatures’ buoyancy, causing them trouble swimming.

Check the water parameters regularly because your fish will likely pick up infections if the water quality is poor. Poor water parameters can also lead to stress in your fish, an expected goldfish behavior before death. Avoid overfeeding goldfish. They do not need more than the specified amount. If you are unsure whether you’re feeding it correctly, speak to your vet.

4. Sticking To The Bottom Of The Tank

Goldfish sticking to the bottom of the tank
Senior fish tend to spend more time at the bottom of the tank while the younger goldfish are usually more active. However, if you notice that your goldfish spend quite a while at the bottom you should determine what might be causing it.

Your goldfish not moving around and staying at the bottom of the tank is another goldfish behavior before death. Goldfish tend to rest at the bottom, but if you notice that your aquatic pet is at the bottom for a more extended period, you should determine what could be affecting it.

Older fish will spend more time at the bottom as they get closer to the end. Younger goldfish are usually more active and react excitedly to their environment. If your younger fish is struggling, check the oxygen levels in the tank and ensure the bowl or tank is big enough for the fish.

Your fish also needs proper nutrition to keep its energy levels healthy. Invest in good quality fish food, as some cheaper brands do not have all the required nutrients.

5. Loss Of Color

Loss of color in goldfish
Water temperature, pH levels, stress from new goldfish, or infections are some reasons why your goldfish color is fading.

Goldfish are generally hardy fish but tend to have difficulties with certain environmental changes. These changes can affect the color of these beautiful aquatic creatures causing them to turn white.

The water’s temperature, pH levels, and introduction of new fish can stress goldfish, leading to their color fading. Certain infections in goldfish can also lead to color fading. If your fish is unwell, other symptoms, such as loss of appetite and erratic swimming, will also be present in your fish.

Other factors, like oxygen levels, could also contribute to your pet’s color fading. Check the oxygen levels if you notice the color fading accompanied by lethargy and the fish struggling to breathe. Lack of oxygen is one of the most common causes of goldfish death.

6. Rapid Breathing

Rapid breathing in goldfish
Not enough oxygen in the water or a certain infection that causes blockage in their respiratory system is the reason why your goldfish is experiencing rapid breathing.

Gulping for air at the water’s surface is a common sign of distress in goldfish. There are many reasons your fish could have rapid breathing. One reason could be that aquatic friends’ gills are not functioning correctly due to an infection. There can also be a blockage in their respiratory system, making it hard for them to breathe.

Your fish could also be gulping oxygen at the surface as there is not enough oxygen in the water. Water quality can rob goldfish of oxygen. To correct this, start with a water change and monitor your goldfish recovery from here. Further lack of oxygen will lead to lethargy, a typical goldfish behavior before death, so it is best to improve conditions immediately.

7. Isolating

Goldfish hiding away
Infection or illness, poor water quality, or stress are the common reasons why your goldfish is hiding away. Observing them for quite some time will help you determine the leading cause.

Goldfish are very active tank mates. They generally swim around excitedly. These friendly creatures respond to stimuli inside their tanks and outside. You will only find them still or hiding when they are asleep, which is usually a few hours a day.

You should investigate if you find your goldfish spending more time hiding than usual and not being its usual bubbly self. Conditions such as stress from being bullied by other tank mates, illness, or poor water quality can lead to your goldfish hiding away. Observe your pet’s behavior over the next few days to determine the cause.

8. Stress

Stress in goldfish
Stress will weaken the immune system of your goldfish. It’s best to determine the leading cause of their stress.

Just like humans, fish experience stress from events occurring in their environment. Unfortunately, stress can have a negative effect on your pet’s health because it suppresses its immune system. A weakened immune system makes them more susceptible to disease and sometimes even death.

It is not always possible to avoid stress. There are many possibilities as to why your pet is stressed. Some possible reasons include change of environment, a lack of hiding places, varying water parameters or illness. Even bullying from tank mates can be a factor if you didn’t choose good goldfish tankmates. For example, when goldfish are stressed, you see rapid movement of their gills, and they will also isolate themselves from other fish.

9. Bulging Eyes

Bulging eyes in goldfish
Bulging eyes are caused by bacterial infection. Common symptoms are elevated mucous buildup around and on the eye and a cloudy film covering the eye. Immediate treatment is advisable.

When sick, your goldfish may have protruding, bulging eyes. This symptom is usually very noticeable but can also be subtle at times. Look for elevated mucous buildup around and on the eye and a cloudy film covering the eye. If your fish displays these signs, it could have a bacterial infection or popeye.

Don’t leave these conditions untreated for too long. If left for too long, your fish can lose an eye or its eyesight. Fish who struggle with sight tend to be more stressed than others and may not live as long. In addition, overcrowding accompanied by concerning water parameters can contribute to eye infections.

10. Hunched Back

Fish tuberculosis
Fish tuberculosis is a harmful disease and highly contagious to other fish. If left untreated this might cause death to your fish.

If you gradually start to see your goldfish spine curve, immediately quarantine the fish. A hunchback in goldfish is usually an indicator of fish tuberculosis. This harmful disease is highly contagious to other fish in the tank, so it is best to keep them apart. It is recommended that you treat the tank as well, just in case any of the other fish might already have it.

Untreated fish TB can be deadly to all the fish in your tank. If not taken seriously, you could lose your whole aquarium. Goldfish infected with TB develop a hunchback because their spines get infected when they contract this disease.

How Do Goldfish Look When They Die?

goldfish death
There are several reasons for goldfish death. Looking closely at these signs indicates that your fish is dead. Image from Flickr

Having your goldfish die is not an experience pet owners get used to. For new fish owners, it might be harder to tell if your fish is no more. These are a few indications to look out for if you are not sure about your goldfish:

  • Your fish is no longer breathing. There is no gill movement.
  • Their eyes will be sunken in and grey.
  • The fish has turned white.
  • The fish might have sunken to the bottom of the tank or floating lifelessly
  • There is no mouth movement.

What Are Treatable Goldfish Conditions?

Treatable goldfish conditions
Goldfish tend to get sick quite often but the good news is that several conditions are treatable if handled immediately.

Goldfish don’t tend to get sick often, but most conditions they contract are treatable if they do. Here are some treatable goldfish conditions:

1. Tail Rot

Tail Rot in goldfish
Tail rot infections are due to poor living conditions of your goldfish but can be easily treated at home.

Unfortunately, tail rot infections are common in fish, including goldfish. Fortunately, this condition is easily treatable. Poor living conditions that stress the fish’s immune system commonly cause this type of infection.

This bacterial infection usually presents itself as discolored fin edges, and the fin starts to fray as it progresses. Tail rot is a goldfish infection that can be easily treated at home. However, untreated tail rot will lead to further rot of your pet’s body and could ultimately be one of the causes of your goldfish’s death.

2. Parasites

Parasites in goldfish
Anchor worms, ich, and lice are common goldfish parasites and some parasites can be removed using tweezers.

Parasites are another common health issue in goldfish. If your goldfish has parasites, they will be easily visible and can be removed at home. In addition, your fish will most likely begin to scratch against objects or have clamped fins when infected by parasites. Anchor worms, ich, and lice are the most commonly found goldfish parasites.

Some parasites, such as anchor worms, can be removed using tweezers. For others, you can raise the tank’s temperature to 85 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 10 days. After that, a tablespoon of aquarium salt can be added to the tank for every five gallons of water. It may take a few weeks to clear, so don’t give up.

3. Swim Bladder Disease

Swim Bladder Disease in goldfish
Goldfish food that is low in protein but high in fiber should be an ideal meal if your fish is suffering from swim bladder disease.

Goldfish with swim bladder issues experience problems with buoyancy which causes your pet to have swimming difficulty. This disease is not contagious to other tank mates and is usually a symptom of overeating, stress, or poor water quality.

The ideal diet for overcoming swim bladder disease should be low in protein and high in fiber. Peas are a good source of fiber and can be fed to goldfish to help them recover faster.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we have learned the common reasons for goldfish illness and sickness. There are several conditions that are treatable at home. Keeping your goldfish in good living conditions will help them to be healthy and to live longer.

Goldfish are resilient aquatic pets that generally live a healthy life. However, if you notice a change in the behavior of your goldfish, do not ignore it. The longer your goldfish goes untreated, the worse it will become and could affect other fish in the tank.

One thing to note about goldfish is that they don’t easily get sick. But if they are unwell and their condition does not improve after taking the necessary measures, consult a vet. Familiarize yourself with your fish’s normal behavior to easily pick up any changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do goldfish float when they die?
Goldfish sink immediately upon death because they are slightly denser than water. However, they become more buoyant with time due to bacterial decomposition that produces gases inside the body. This gas accumulates in the body cavity to cause the dead fish to float like an inflated balloon.
Why did my goldfish die suddenly?
These aquatic friends are generally quite tough fish and can survive some pretty harsh conditions. If goldfish die suddenly, it could be due to water parameters such as water temperature, chloride levels, and pH levels.
Do goldfish lose their color when they die?
Yes, they do. Goldfish tend to go white when they die. However, you will notice the color starts to fade long before they actually die. Goldfish coloring is influenced by sunlight, oxygen, and food. When a fish dies, sunlight, air,  and nutrients stop flowing through the body, causing it to lose color and go white.
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Tal Halperin

Tal is an avid fish keeper and has been raising ornamental fish for decades. As a little boy, he drove his father crazy to buy him an aquarium with all the necessary equipment. Now, after a career in the field, he has set up Your Aquarium Place to offer the most comprehensive guide to ornamental fish keeping available and share his passion for the different species he has looked after.