Are my fish happy? That's a question many fish caretakers find themselves asking. You only want the best for your peaceful aquatic pets, so how do you know if you're doing right by them? The good news is that healthy fish are happy fish. And it's actually pretty easy to tell if your fish are in good spirits.
Look for these five signs:
1. Your Fish Are Active and Like to Explore
One sign your fish are happy and healthy is if they are active in your tank, swimming around and exploring the habitat. Check if your fish look energetic and confident. Lazy and lethargic fish might be sick.
Of course, you also want to keep in mind what's considered normal behavior for each particular species in your tank. And this might require a little research on your part. Kuhli loach, for example, love to burrow, are more active at night, and are naturally shy. So just because you don't see them doesn't mean they're unhappy. They're also happier in small schools rather than being alone, so you want to make sure you have several.
2. Your Fish Get Along
Fish that fight with each other aren't happy. Sometimes this can happen because your tank isn't big enough. Crowded fish lash out. You might also need more plants and decorations so your fish have spaces they can call their own.
The species of your fish can play a role in how well they get along with others. Betta males, for example, are very territorial. You should never have two betta males in the same tank. They also don't get along well with certain other territorial species, like male gouramis.
3. Your Fish Have Enough Room to Move Freely
Overcrowded fish are stressed, not happy. When there's not enough space to swim freely, fish can get irritated and stressed because they don't have enough resources. Aim for one inch of adult fish per net gallon of aquarium capacity, but try to give territorial fish more space than that.
4. Your Fish Act Interested When You Feed Them
When your fish aren't interested in their mealtimes, it can be a sign you're not feeding your fish the right kind of food. If you have carnivores (meat-eaters) and herbivores (plant-eaters) in the same tank, alternate between feeding plant-based and meat-based foods. You also need to make sure the food isn't too big for your fish. For example, neon tetras might have trouble with large pellets too big for their little mouths. On top of that, bottom feeders need sinking food, while surface feeders need food that floats. Our guide on feeding your fish the right food can help.
Fish excited about food are happy, healthy fish. If your fish are lethargic and lose interest in food, it can be a sign they're sick, and you need to talk to your veterinarian.
5. They Don't Have Signs of Illness
Happy fish are healthy fish, so you want to monitor your pets for signs of illness. Watch for things like blemishes on their body, white spots, torn fins, or difficulty breathing. Bumping or rubbing against tank decor can also be a sign of illness.
Another sign of illness is swimming in the wrong part of the aquarium. Surface feeders that start spending more time at the bottom of the tank may be in trouble.
Healthy fish also tend to have a more vibrant color. Fish can turn pale if they're sick, but their color will return once you get them on a good treatment regimen from your veterinarian. Of course, just how noticeable this color loss is will depend on the species. Some cory catfish, for example, are naturally pale. But even these fish can turn paler if they're sick.
Happy Fish Are Healthy Fish
How your fish act can clue you into whether things are running smoothly behind-the-scenes. Happy fish are healthy fish that actively explore their surroundings, enjoy mealtime, have plenty of space for swimming, don't have any obvious signs of illness, and get along with their tank buddies.
To help keep your fish happy and healthy, make sure your water, filters, temperature, and lighting are set up correctly. When the tank environment isn't right, oxygen levels can decline, or harmful byproducts like ammonia might rise. This can lead to sick fish.
If you're new to owning fish, our guide to setting up a new aquarium can help.