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Are My Fish Happy?

Discus fish

Fish can be harder to read than a pet like, say, a dog. Dogs run up to you and wag their tails when they’re happy. They respond to people in ways we tend to understand. Fish, however, don’t really smile or wag their fins in happiness.

So how do you know if your fish have a good quality of life in your tropical aquarium? Here are some good signs that your fish are happy…

They swim actively


Fish that are healthy and comfortable in their environment spend less time hiding and more time moving around. It’s okay if you’re fish use plants to hide in occasionally—that’s part of what the plants are there for, after all—but if they’re not moving to other areas in the tank, then something is off.

The fish eat regularly

Fish that are unstressed will react readily to food being placed in the aquarium. As long as you are not overfeeding, happy fish should be quick to seek out food. If they are not doing this, they may have a health problem. The exception is bottom feeders, which will likely not rush to the top of the tank for food.

Several goldfish

Other issues that could prevent feeding may be inappropriate types or sizes of food or aggressive tank mates. Sometimes, slower fish can have trouble eating when put in a tank with faster fish.

Their fins are not torn or ragged

Torn fins are a sign of aggression in your tank. Fish that are in a stressful environment or live with incompatible tank mates are more likely to get into fights or attempt to eat each other.

Fish with flowing fins

To prevent aggression, the first thing to do is place fish with compatible tank mates. Then, make sure your tank is big enough for all the fish living in it, and provide plenty of hiding spots for fish to find privacy. Making sure each fish is getting enough food also helps to prevent aggression.

The aquarium looks clear and clean

Fish need a clean environment. Water quality and temperature are some of the most important factors in their health. That means occasional water changes, vacuuming the tank bottom, and perhaps keeping bottom feeders to help clean up stray food bits. A water filtration system is also beneficial.

Happy fish

Algae scrapers keep the inside walls of the aquarium clean.

Water siphons are typically used for vacuuming the gravel.

When you replace the filter, it’s also a good idea to use a filter brush to clean out the crevices and filter tubing. You can find filtration systems carried by The Tye-Dyed Iguana at this link.

And remember that water changes should always be partial changes. Do not remove and replace one hundred percent of the water at a time.

In general, as long as you’re providing everything your fish needs and they are all getting along with each other, you’ll have happy fish.