by Dr David Huchzermeyer
|Something fishy going on?
If you thought you’re the only one sitting in front of your TV that can get depressed, think again —-your pet fish can feel in the dumps too!! To avoid this happening, read on! Fish don’t talk. They can’t tell us about their feelings and emotions. From their behaviour, however, we can learn a great deal about their well-being and requirements.
Get Into the Swim of Things
We need to understand what normal fish behaviour constitutes, in order for us to be able to know when something just isn’t right.
Happy fish are easily conditioned to respond to food at feeding time. A diminished feeding response is often the first behavioural sign that something is worrying the fish. It is recommended that you spend time observing your fish during feeding time. Always feed fish at the same time. During reproduction fish may stop eating.
Swimming with Gusto
Healthy fish normally glide through the water with minimal effort actively investigating their environment and searching for foods. Aimless, unpropelled drifting along, ignoring food, is a severe sign and may indicate that the fish is about to die.
Stressed fish may appear darker than normal. During mating time colours may be brighter, however. Blind fish turn abnormally dark.
Structure reduces stress
Normal healthy behaviour keeps fish in hat part of the fish tank where they naturally feel most comfortable and least treatened (bottom, top or sides). Sedentary fish like the catfish stay at the bottom. So do sleeping fish. Air – breathing or labyrinth fish will gulp air from the water surface. Siamese fighting fish builds nests out of air bubbles at the surface, between plant material. Pet’s health pointer: Did you know that keeping fish in a plain glass tank with out any structure will induce such high levels of stress in your fish that the fish could die from this alone? Fish need structure (rocks, plants, driftwood etc) to hide behind or to shelter against. There may be no predator nearby but the fish in captivity doesn’t know this!
Fish Body Language Guide
Dorsal fin erection is due to aggression or courtship behaviour. Fish in hiding may be a sign of shyness by newly introduced fish, protection of young or simply shyness by sedentary fish. Seclusion, on the other hand, is noted when fish are stressed, either due to harassment or disease. Frantic swimming or jumping may indicate that the fish wants to escape an adverse environment as is the case in warmer-than-normal water (thermostat problem) or insufficient oxygen levels. Gasping at the surface is indicative of low dissolved oxygen levels in the water. This can be as a result of increased bacterial activity in the water. An “off” smell or abnormally milky water are the telltale signs of increased bacterial activity. Erratic and frenzied swimmingmay be noted with gas bubble disease, where dissolved gas pressures in the water are too high. This often occurs when municipal tap water or borehole water are used. Rubbing against objects is a sign of itching, and may be caused by skin parasites. Frantic swimming in a semi-circular motion may indicate a terminal case of infection with the parasite that causes white spot disease. A sleepy-looking fish with decreased activity levels and reduced interest in food may indicate high nitrite levels in the water. This can occur when biological filters are not functioning optimally.
Pets health tip:
Allow top- up water for aquaria to stand n a bucket overnight before pouring it into the aquarium. Take care to keep the bucket out of reach of small children. Buckets with water pose a threat of drowning toddlers . In the case of fish ponds allow water to run into the pond through a garden sprinkler. NEVER fill a pond with a hose that opens under the water surface.
Are Your Fish Being Bullied?
Territorial behaviour occurs when certain fish species cannot cohabit in peace with other fish species. Nipped fins are a sign of a fish under territorial dominance. New introductions may suffer from dominance aggression from fish that have been in the tank for a long time. Creating places to hide allows peaceful fish to escape dominance aggression. Shells and rocks with a lot of plant material are suitable for this purpose.
The Most Common Cause of Abnormal Fish Behaviour
Amazingly enough, poor water quality, is the most common cause of stress- and disease-induced abnormal fish behaviour. See to it that the following factors are correct, and your fish is on the road to happiness! (If only it were this easy for us humans, hey?!)