How Do You Know Your Fish is Dying or Dead

By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise

How Do You Know Your Fish is Dying or Dead

After a long day, one sure thing everyone needs is a good relaxing time.

It’s therapeutic to spend some time with your finned buddies as they swim merrily in the tank. And while you watch these beautiful creatures, you may marvel at what a peaceful life they have.

But a question pops!

What do your little finnies have to deal with in that small confined tank?

Well, the sad truth is aquarium fish come under stress when there is even a slight change in the tank environment and may catch diseases or even die.

Some signs you are likely to see when your fishes are stressed or about to die includes loss of appetite, loss of balance, floating upside down, lethargy, and gasping for air.

Essentially, proper care, tank maintenance, and the ability to diagnose symptoms helps keep the fish healthy hence don’t get stressed up or even be ill.

It’s even possible to revive a fish that is about to die and, that’s why it’s important to know how to tell when your fish is dying.

Let’s take a look at the causes of stress, illness, and ultimate death to our beautiful pets in our aquarium, plus how to revive them on time where need be.

How Do You Know Your Fish is Dead

Sometimes it can be easy to tell when a fish in the aquarium is dead but, at other times, it can be tricky

You may even think that your fish are dying for no apparent reason. Even after you ’pristine your tank, the fish die anyway

The truth is, there is always a reason behind the death of our favorite pets. They do not die for no reason at all.

There are a few signs to look for to know for sure if our pet is dead or just pretending or sleeping.

For instance, if the other fish in the tank are picking off pieces of the fish and it’s not responding, it is probably dead.

A dead fish also tends to float or sink in one place with no response to any touch

Betta and other colorful fish, if dead, becomes pale all over, stomach up and, the eyes become clouded and opaque.

Granted, now let us look into a few signs that indicate your finnie’s imminent death.

Gasping For Air On The Water Surface

When water is highly toxic with ammonia and nitrate, it will not hold enough oxygen for our finny pets, thus forcing your fish to breathe on the surface and, they may die.

Even so, please note that some fish types, such as betta, have a labyrinth organ that helps them breathe from the water surface. They will occasionally swim to the top, breath, then swim back into the water.

As such, make sure you don’t confuse normal behavior such as this one with a gasping finny.

Loss Of Appetite

When you feed the wrong kind of food to your fish, they will not eat it and, therefore, they will be stressed up and end up dying.


Common symptoms are white spots on the fish’s body. Showing that the fish is under stress, diseased and, is going to die.

Colour Fading

When a fish is under environmental stress, its body color starts to fade away and, this may lead to its death.

Respiration Rate

When our finny buddies are under stress from diseases and bacteria, they cover their gills with a secreted mucus and, this causes them to breathe more quickly so as the cells can receive enough oxygen.

I would advise an aquarist to dedicate some quality time to taking care of these beautiful finny pets to ensure they survive for a long time in the aquarium

How To Bring a Dying Fish Back to Life

Once you know that your fish is about to die, one sure thing is that you will want to revive him back to life.

But is this really possible?

Yes, it’s possible to revive a dying fish.

Here are a few ways on how to revive our finny pets

They are divided into three parts explained below.

Part One: Cleaning The Fish

In this step, a fish keeper has to follow the steps explained below. Keep reading.

Place Your Fish in Suitable Water

The cool water contains oxygen that will help revive your fish.

Also, if you put the fish back to its tank, the water will fill life back to your dying fish.

Clean Any Dirt or Debris Off The Fish

Hold the fish in your hands inside the fish tank and gently remove any dirt or debris.

This will enable the fish to take in the air since the girls will be free of dirt.

Free The Gills

When a fish is struggling to breathe, you will notice that the gills are stuck together and, there is no gap for air to get in. Here you will require a steady and patient hand to open the gills covering on either side of the fish.

Part Two: Oxygenate The Water

Most aquarists have air stones fitted at the bottom of the tank.

They help to regulate the water temperature and aerate the water.

To revive your fish, hold it in your hand and take it near the air stone or filter outlet where there is a richer supply of oxygen. It will help give your fish more oxygen and hopefully revive it.

However, be careful not to waterboard your fish while at it!😎😉.

Part Three: Help Your Fish Recover

You are happy you have revived your fish, right? I’m sure you want to see them swimming again merrily in the tank. Therefore you have to provide them with the right conditions to help them recover.

Below are some of the ways on how to do it.

Give Your Fish a Salt Bath

A fish keeper can either use Epsom salt or aquarium salt.

Water with Epsom salt helps fish eject excess waste from the body enabling the fish to swim easily and heal wounds fast.

Water with aquarium salt is best for fishes that have fin rot or has other parasitic ailments since they heal quickly.

Garlic Treatment

Garlic is a natural detoxifier meaning it purifies your fish.

It also prevents all kinds of infections in your fish.

Chlorophyll Treatment

Chrolophyll is medicine and helps boost the fish’s immune system. A bottle of pure chlorophyll is sold at a pet store and comes with instructions.

Stress Coat Water Conditioner Treatment

Most stress coat water treatment is made from aloe, which helps to soothe stressed fish and heal damaged tissues.

Is your Fish Sleeping or Dead

From birds, animals to fish, the need for rest is inevitable in all living things to rejuvenate their bodies.

When other animals sleep, they close their eyes, lie down and, do not respond to stimuli. Also, a part of the brain called the neocortex shuts down.

But for the case of our beautiful fish, they neither have eyelids nor neocortex. Therefore, you cannot tell if they are sleeping.

The big question now becomes, Do fish sleep, and can you tell?

Most fish do not sleep but, they go into a restful state where they remain still and experience reduced breathing and metabolic rates.

Some fishes lay on the bottom of the tank while sleeping, others hide under the substrate, while the rest hove along motionlessly near the surface.

A few signs show when a fish is sleeping, include

For a dead fish, there are no signs of life like the movement of the gills, and most will sink and stink because their body quickly rots

How to Tell If A Fish is Dying of Old Age

A fish will not necessarily die of old age, but as they grow older, they become more susceptible to diseases because of a weak immune system

Some signs show if a fish is dying of old age, they include

Weight Loss

Like any other being, fish will start to lose weight as they age and, you will notice a small ident behind their scull.

The spine also losses its natural curvature and learns towards one side. When this happens, they become soo weak and can no longer retain their shape.

The fishes also appear prolonged than usual after losing a lot of weight

Floating On The Side

This is one of the most common ways of telling that your fish is getting old

As the fish grow older, swimming becomes a problem and, it floats instead and stays in the same place for hours.

If you notice that your fish has stopped swimming or has changed in the way it used to swim before, it can either be sick or too old to keep swimming around.

Poor Appetite

When you place food in your aquarium and the fish does not eat them, the beautiful buddy might be suffering from old age.

Loss of appetite is one of the major causes of a fish’s death because when a fish does not eat, it will not have enough nutrients to help fight off diseases.

These signs do not happen overnight. Hence, you will see them as they happen over time.

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Have fun with your lady betta.

Happy Fish🐟🐡🐠 Keeping.

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