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How To Treat A Fish Breathing Fast!

With more and more people starting to keep fish as pets, we have seen month on month increase of the number of questions that we see people asking for over a year now.

Although we have already answered a huge number of different questions that we commonly see about offering the best care possible for your pet fish, we have decided to put more time into focusing on fish-related questions due to seeing so many being asked each month.

We have noticed a spike in the number of questions that we have noticed people asking about their pet fish breathing fast so we have decided to make this the main focus for today’s article.

We hope that the information that we share in our article will be able to help our readers better understand the common mistakes that people make time and time again that can cause their fish to breathe faster than usual as well as how to avoid them.

Please note, there are a number of different reasons that your pet fish may be breathing faster than normal so at least skimming the full article can be worth it.

We have seen some people think that they have found the cause of their fish breathing quickly only to find that there were multiple reasons that their the breathing rate of their pet fish was increasing meaning they have to come back for advice to treat all possible causes rather than just getting all of the information at once.

What Causes Fish To Breathe Fast?

Fish can breathe fast for a number of different reasons ranging from the more common causes such as stress due to being in a new tank or having new tank mates to problems with their water quality to less common issues like a number of health problems.

Most of these have their own individual causes and treatments too so it is important to be confident that you have the correct cause of your fish breathing quickly prior to trying to treat it.

Due to modern technology, it is very easy to book a video call with a professional veterinarian if you would like professional assistance and guidance for your specific situation.

These video calls often work out to be much cheaper than a trip to your local veterinarian while also being able to be booked in at a time that is convenient for you helping you to fit it into your schedule with minimal disruption.

That said though, other than your pet fish breathing fast due to health problems, most of the other causes can easily be treated in your own home with relative ease, even if you are new to keeping pet fish and are a total beginner.

This is why at least skimming out article can be well worth it as some of these fixes are very simple and easy.

How Fast Should Fish Be Breathing?

Most fish should be breathing at a rate of 70 to 120 gill beats per minute. Please note that this is intentionally a wide range as it covers the standard breathing rate for the vast majority of the popular fish species that are commonly kept in tanks as pets.

Using the breathing range of 70 to 120 gill bats per minute also helps to account for different ages of fish as well as how active some species are.

It can be common for people to think that their pet fish is breathing quicker than normal when in fact it has just been swimming around its tank at a rapid place and is simply replacing its oxygen levels.

This is why it is usually recommended that you try to gauge your fish breathing pace at a number of intervals throughout the day that are at least an hour apart.

This can help to rule out a number of false positives where you may have initially just seen your pet fish breathing quickly due to darting around its tank rapidly and its faster breathing rate being totally normal.

How To Treat A Fish Breathing Fast!

The most common reason that a fish will breathe fast is due to a recent water change and in time their breathing rate will return to normal.

The two second most common reasons your fish will breathe fast is due to the stress of being in a small tank or having tank mates added to their tank and both of these can be fixed by moving your fish to a larger tank.

Unfortunately, it is very common for people to keep their pet fish in tanks that are far too small for the fish species that they keep.

This can confuse people as their pet fish will breathe at a normal rate until it grows to a certain size or new tank mates are added and its stress levels spike causing it to breath at a much faster pace.

You can usually treat this by switching over to a cheap 40 gallon aquarium tank as these tend to be large enough for most of the common spices of fish that are kept as pets to live comfortably.

That said though, if you do have a large number of fish in your tank then you may need a tank that is larger than 40 gallons to help reduce their stress levels.

Why Is My Fish Breathing Fast After A Water Change?

Water changes can drastically increase the level of stress in your pet fish for a number of reasons resulting in their breathing rate rapidly increasing for a day or two.

If there are problems with your water changing process this can be normal but it is not healthy for your pet fish so you should work on fixing the problem with your water changing process if possible to minimise stress during the process.

One of the most common reasons that your fish will be stressed after a water change and start to breathe quicker is due to using tap water for your water change.

Although tap water is fine to use, you do have to integrate it into your water change in a specific way but our article on using tap water for pet fish should be able to help you with this and reduce the amount of stress in your fish during water changes and the best part is, our methods of using tap water are free unlike some other methods out there.

Depending on the fish species that you keep, they may be pH sensitive and even just a slight change in the pH of the water may be enough to stress them out and increase their breathing pace.

Although this will pass in a day or two, you can sometimes prevent this from happening by using a water conditioning product on the new water that you will be adding to your tank removing the stress from the process and helping to prevent any problems with your pet fish.

Why Is My Fish Breathing Fast After Being Put In A New Tank?

It can be totally normal for fish to breathe faster than normal when put into a new tank as they need to adapt to their new surroundings and a heightened stress level is normal and expected.

Their breathing rate should return to normal in a day or two as the fish start to get used to being safe in their new home.

You can often make the transition from one tank to another much easier on your fish by making sure that they have plenty of places to hide and feel safe often reducing stress levels much quicker.

Thankfully, packs of aquarium plants are usually only $10 to $20 and offer plenty of cover for fish to hide in once added to a new tank until they feel more comfortable.

If you are adding fish to an aquarium that already contains other fish then we would highly recommend that you do add plenty of plants to the aquarium.

The fish that have just been added to the tank will have increased stress levels due to being in a new tank and can have further stress added due to the new fish, especially if they are a larger species.

Why Is My Fish Breathing Fast After Putting New Fish In Its Tank?

Adding new fish to a tank can cause your resident fish to become stressed for a number of reasons. The most common is that they can feel cramped and have less space to themself and this may not pass unless you move to a larger tank size.

On top of that, adding larger fish species to the tank can spike the stress and anxiety in the fish too as they are not sure if they will become prey to the larger fish or not.

We know that 3 gallon fish tanks are popular right now due to them usually being the cheapest option that you can technically keep a betta fish in but even then, a betta fish should really be in a tank larger than 3 gallons.

The popularity of these 3 gallon tanks has resulted in people purchasing them for other fish spices too and this is not acceptable, most other fish spices will need a tank of at least 10 gallons minimum for a single fish.

This is why we recommend that you try to go with a cheap 40 gallon aquarium tank if possible as it offers plenty of space for a number of different fish species.

It helps to keep their stress and anxiety levels as low as possible and ensures that you should easily be able to add new fish to the tank without your existing fish breathing faster, especially if you add plenty of plant cover to the tank too.

I Think My Fish Is Breathing Quickly Due To Health Problems!

Unfortunately, there are a number of health issues that can occur in fish that can cause them to breathe much faster than normal.

Although these health problems tend to be rare in most fish species, they should be factored in if other obvious causes of rapid breathing in fish are not present in the living conditions of your fish.

The best course of action if you do think that your fish is breathing quickly due to a health problem is to book a video call with a professional veterinarian.

These calls are often cheaper than a trip to your local veterinarian’s office with you also being able to book it to fit your schedule too or book a call much sooner than an appointment at your local veterinarians will be available.

Due to there being so many potential health issues that could occur, you really do require professional assistance in this situation as the treatment for the conditions can be very different to each other.

Thankfully though, most of these health issues do tend to be easy to treat, it is just diagnosing them correctly that is the problem unless you have the assistance of a vet or experienced fish keeper.


That brings our article going over why your fish may be breathing fast and how to treat the problem to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you regulate the breathing rate of your pet fish and that it was an easy fix. As we mentioned back at the start of the article, for the most part, it does tend to be very easy to treat a fast breathing rate in most fish species with minimal effort on your part but sometimes you may need the help of a vet.