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How To Save A Dying Fish In Aquarium

We all want our fish to live long and healthy lives, but unfortunately, over their lives they can be afflicted with any number of illnesses, parasites or infections.

Most of these usually have giveaway signs, but it might be difficult for a non-exert to identify them.

However, if you feel your fish is in real danger of dying, and want to know how to save a dying fish, then there are a number of immediate actions you should take, which will be outlined in this article.

In general however, prevention is better than cure, and this is certainly true with aquatic pets.

The best way of keeping your fish safe and strong is to make sure their tank is regularly cleaned and properly filtered, their diet is balanced and nutritious, and they are sufficiently stimulated and have enough space to roam.

If you tend to all these needs, then there is no reason why your fish should not live for years.

What are the danger signs?

You should be keeping a close eye on your fish anyways, e.g. when you feed them daily or clean out their tanks, and this will give you the best chance of spotting any warning signs that indicate illness or injury in your fish.

Unfortunately, there are a myriad of different signs to watch out for, but if you get to know your fish’s usual behavior, then you will be well positioned to spot anything out of the ordinary.

Fish can die from anything from depression to rare diseases, but the signs of distress are pretty common.

For example, you may notice your fish losing their appetite or behaving with a lack of their usual vigor or energy.

What’s more, you may notice signs of stress in your fish, such as a loss of vivid coloring.

Other symptoms may be specific to certain diseases, for example if they look to be struggling to breath or gasping for air, this may indicate a breathing disorder.

On the other hand, folded or torn fins may indicate a fungal disease.

If you notice anything unusual you should research that specific symptom and seek expert advice. Vigilance is key.

Immediate Action

For the practicality of how to save a dying fish, there are some very important actions you should take immediately.

Firstly, you should separate the fish in distress. This means placing him in his own tank or makeshift container.

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Make sure that the water in this secondary container is also treated, filtered and at the correct temperature, otherwise you could make matters worse.

This step is crucial, because whatever is afflicting one fish may be contagious and may spread to other fish in the tank if you’re not careful.

Next you should exercise extra vigilance to see what is wrong with the fish. Note down all the symptoms and make a log of his behaviors. This could help you to arrive at a cause, by a process of elimination.

If you’re still not sure, proceed to the generic steps below, or consult a vet or another animal expert.

Do some checks

Some of the most common causes of illness and deaths in fish are readily diagnosed even by amateur fish keepers.

Generally, there is some environmental factor causing an issue with your fish. This is especially true if you noticed a sudden onset of illness or change in behavior.

Usually these can be traced back to changes in the tank conditions somehow.

The first thing you should check is the water quality.

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For example, if your filtration system has suddenly stopped working and there has been a spike in the ammonia or nitrite levels, this could be the cause of distress in your fish.

Many types of attractive aquarium fish are quite delicate and react strongly to changes in water quality. You should ensure that the pH of the water is correct, as well as the general hardness and the salinity.

Also, make sure that the bacterial colonies doing the important job of breaking down fish waste are still present. If you notice any of these values are out of spec, then you should rectify this immediately.

The next thing you can do is remove the filter and treat the water. This can help to chemically purify the water, and get rid of any lingering parasites or harmful bacteria. There are many types of water treatment solutions commercially available.

After this, replace the filter stages and monitor for any changes.

The next action you could take would be to feed your fish some generic fish medication.

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These medications are widely available, in many different forms, and promise to help tackle everything from parasitic infections to day to day illness.

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Want to know more about aquarium salt for freshwater fish? Check out this article: How to Use Aquarium Salt for Fish

The efficiency of these medications varies from species to species and from illness to illness, but there is little harm in trying them.

Parasites may be visible on the skin of your fish. If they are you should try using a tweezers to pluck them out.

Be careful not to overly manhandle the fish, as you could cause it greater distress and remove some of the protective oils and coatings on the body of the fish.

Also, many fish suffer from swim bladder disease, which can be caused by overeating. If you notice your fish are swimming weirdly or with difficulty, then try to switch their diet to lower protein food such as veggies. This may help remedy the damage.


Nobody likes to see their beloved pet in distress, so the topic of how to save a dying fish is a very important one.

In fact, it is every fish owner’s worst nightmare to find their fish floating upside down in the tank.

To avoid this, you should keep a watchful eye on their general health and well-being, and make sure their tank is kept clean and clear.

Simple actions like regular cleaning, changing tank water and switching filtration media can have a huge impact on the longevity of your fish, and stop them from dying prematurely.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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