When you see fish swimming comfortably in the water, you might find it hard to remember that they need to breathe oxygen, just like other living creatures. The only difference is that your fish draw their oxygen from the water around them, instead of from air. Discover how to maintain sufficient oxygen levels in the tank in order to keep your fish healthy.
Signs of Low Oxygen in an Aquarium
Are your fish congregating around the filter returns? Are they eating less and being much more sluggish than usual? Do they look as if they are gasping, fluttering their gills rapidly at every labored breath? As a last resort, your fish might even go up to the service and gulp at the air repeatedly with open mouths. Those are all signs that your aquarium is not properly aerated. In fact, by the time you notice these symptoms, your fish may have already suffered too much stress or serious damage to their internal systems.
Reasons for Low Oxygen in the Tank
Why do aquariums sometimes have less oxygen than the fish need? Check out some of these common reasons for lack of oxygen in your finned friends' home.
Imagine that two people are locked in an airtight room. They would eventually run out of air, but it would take a while. Now picture twelve people standing in the same room. They would use up the supply of oxygen much faster and begin to suffer the ill effects very quickly. If your fish are too crowded within the aquarium, they will use up the oxygen faster than the air pump or filter can work. One way to ensure proper aeration is to keep the population of your tank at a reasonable level.
Stagnant, Warm Water
Another common cause of oxygen deprivation in an aquarium is still, warm water. Your fish need cool water, which holds oxygen better. They also prefer some water movement, which helps to introduce fresh oxygen from the air and allows them to move water through their gills better.
The accumulation of waste and grime clouds the water, interfering with the health and breathing of the fish. Keep your aquarium pristine with regular cleanings.
Algae can quickly take hold in aquariums, especially when the water isn't being changed frequently or the tank hasn't been cleaned in a while. The algae consumes oxygen that the fish need, contributing to the low oxygen issue.
Solutions the Oxygen Depletion Problem
The moment you notice your fish struggling for air, or as soon as your oxygen test proves that there is a problem, you need to introduce new water to the tank. It needs to be the appropriate type of water (salt or fresh), at the right temperature for your fish, or you could shock them and hurt them further. When you introduce more water, the oxygen levels in the tank rise, giving you time to enact a more permanent solution.
Next, you'll need to conduct an intensive cleaning of the tank while your fish rest safely in water nearby. Get rid of any algae and fill the tank with plenty of oxygen-rich, clean water. Commit to keeping your aquarium clean, whether by hand or by the use of a high-tech system.
Install an additional filter or replace the current one with a bigger model to improve air return and water movement. You can even drop in some airstones or add a spray bar or power head at the surface. If you have live plants in the aquarium, make sure that they have plenty of light, since darkness triggers them to use up the oxygen that your fish need. Be sure that you maintain the right balance of water movement; too much water flow can uproot plants and disturb the fish.
An Oxygen Test Kit
You'll also need to invest in an oxygen test kit for your aquarium. Monitor the oxygen levels regularly, keeping in mind that a freshwater aquarium at 77 degrees should test with about 8.3 mg/l (ppm) of oxygen. A saltwater aquarium should be between 7.0 and 6.4 mg/l (ppm).
CustomAquarium.com offers regular maintenance services for your custom-built aquarium. We'll come in and check the filtration systems, the water quality, and the oxygen levels in the tank. We'll also do routine cleanings in addition to the inspections. We take pride in our aquariums, and it's part of our job to ensure that your fish tank continues to function and provide a healthy environment for your fish for years to come. Contact us to set up an inspection for your aquarium.