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How To Treat A Clownfish Breathing Fast!

With the clownfish being one of if not the most popular marine fish kept by saltwater tank keepers all over the world, it is easy to see why we see so many different questions about taking care of clownfish.

Although clownfish are relatively easy to care for with them being considered a very beginner-friendly fish, we do see a number of commonly made mistakes made time and time again that are easy to avoid.

Many of these mistakes that even experienced fish keepers make can cause your clownfish to breathe fast.

Although we already have an article going over how to treat fish breathing fast, it is more of a generic article and misses out some common causes of clownfish breathing fast.

That is why we decided to publish this dedicated article that is specific to clownfish and how you are able to quickly and easily normalize their breathing.

Our hope is that we will be able to help as many of our readers as possible who have pet clownfish who are breathing fast regulate their breathing.

Not only does this help the general living conditions of your clownfish but can also reduce stress and anxiety levels in your clownfish that can lead to more serious problems.

How Fast Should A Clownfish Be Breathing?

A clownfish should be breathing at a rate of between 70 and 120 gill beats per minute. We know that this is a wide range of gill beats but there are a number of totally normal factors that can cause your clownfish to breathe at different paces without there actually being anything wrong.

Although rare, we have seen some people who do own clownfish think that their clownfish is breathing quickly when its breathing pace is simply faster than normal but still within its normal range.

This usually means that there is nothing to worry about with your clownfish but if the breathing rate does not decrease in a day or two, see if any of our points below apply to your clownfish or book a short video call with a vet to have them check your clownfish over.

You will often find that your clownfish’s rapid breathing rate will normalize within a couple of hours. If this does happen for your clownfish, be sure to keep a close eye on it for a week or so to see if its breathing rate increases temporarily on a frequent basis as this can be an indication that something is wrong in the tank.

How To Treat A Clownfish Breathing Fast!

Most of the common problems that will cause your clownfish to breathe fast are easy to treat. The main problem is identifying the actual cause of the rapid breathing in your clownfish so you are able to apply the correct fix to the correct cause.

We will not be taking a short look at a number of very common causes of rapid breathing in clownfish. We will be going over how to identify them as well as how you are able to remedy the problem as quickly as possible too.

The majority of the time, the breathing rate of your pet clownfish will return to normal within a day of correcting the problem that was causing it to breathe rapidly. If its breathing does not normalise then there may be multiple problems at play in its tank.

Clownfish Breathing Heavy At Bottom Of Tank

If your clownfish is laying at the bottom of its tank and breathing heavily then it can be an indication of swim bladder disease, white spot disease, and injuries from fishing with other fish in your tank.

All three of these conditions have their own specific treatment but they are generally easy to fix but our article on why your fish is laying on the bottom of its tank goes into much more detail on how to fix these problems in your clownfish.

Clownfish Ammonia Poisoning

Ammonia poisoning can be a common cause of rapid breathing in clownfish and the gills of the clownfish will usually turn purple, red or start bleeding in addition to the rapid breathing.

You can usually confirm the levels of ammonia in the aquarium with a cheap ammonia test kit. If you catch ammonia poisoning in your clownfish early enough then it can be easy to treat with something like ammo lock but more serious cases will require specialist treatments from a vet.

Using An Unsuitable Anemone

Although clownfish do not need an anemone, many people do try to add one to their tank but it can be common to accidentally add a snakelock anemone (anemonia viridis) rather than a purple bubble tip anemone (entacmaea quadricolor) that the clownfish will actually use.

The snakelock anemone (anemonia viridis) is from the Atlantic Ocean meaning your clownfish has no immunity to it and will be stung by the anemone and this can cause rapid breathing.

This is a very common mistake with beginner clownfish keepers that is partly due to the two anemone looking very similar and partly due to people selling the anemone not labelling them correctly.

We go into this in more detail on how to care for a purple tipped anemone but if you do have a snakelock anemone (anemonia viridis) in your tank then it could be stinging your clownfish and causing it to breathe rapidly.

The easiest way to test if this is the problem is to remove the anemone from the tank to see if the breathing rate of your clownfish returns to normal or not.

If it does, then you probably have a snakelock anemone (anemonia viridis) rather than a purple bubble tip anemone (entacmaea quadricolor) that your clownfish is immune to.

Water Change

Depending on how much water you change in your clownfishes tank as well as how you change it, various types of shock can set in and cause your clownfish to breathe at a rapid pace.

Temperature shock and toxic shock are both common due to the rapid change in water parameters so changing smaller amounts of the tank water more frequently to maintain the tank can be worth trying to see if it still causes your clownfish to breathe rapidly.

Your Clownfish Is Being Bullied

Due to Finding Nemo, most people fail to realise just how aggressive clownfish actually are.

If you have multiple clownfish in the same tank then it is highly likely that they will be fighting for dominance of the tank and the clownfish that loses these fights may breathe rapidly afterwards.

If you do have multiple clownfish in your tank then our article going over how to stop two clownfish fighting may be worth reading.

Health Issues

Unfortunately, there are a number of health issues that may cause your clownfish to breathe rapidly and although they are rare and range in how severe they can be to your clownfish, they can be a pain to diagnose yourself.

If you do suspect that your clownfish may have health issues then seeking assistance from a vet or a more experienced clownfish keeper is the best route to take.


That brings our article going over why your clownfish is breathing fast and how to treat it to an end. We hope that you have been able to better understand how you should be trying to treat your clownfish as well as the more common causes of rapid breathing in clownfish too. For the most part, the condition is easy to fix in your fish and it will usually make a full recovery without having any long term problems.