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The Goldfish Sanctuary

My Goldfish dwells at the surface all the time, flaps his gill-covers too rapidly, and/or appears to be gasping for air!

Goldfish tend to open and close their mouths while eating as the food softens, but if your goldfish exhibits this behavior constantly, your fish may not be getting enough air! Other symptoms include: dwelling at the surface of the water (the fish is desperately trying to take oxygen from the air) or rapidly flapping gill-covers (your fish is trying to get more water through in order to get more oxygen).

If your fish exhibits additional symptoms, or if your fish is living in a very spacious container, it is possible that your fish has contracted a disease.

However, the main cause of this condition is housing your fish in a container which is too small.

A fishbowl is almost always too small for any number of goldfish. A bowl creates a situation where fish are competing for oxygen. All types of goldfish need LOTS of oxygen, and LOTS of space.

If your fish display these symptoms, you should remedy this situation immediately.

Oxygen deprivation may cause brain damage or (likely) death.

remedy 1:
The best remedy is to buy a fish tank of suitable size. By giving your fish more space, oxygen levels immediately rise. Be sure you are buying a fish tank. Tanks for lizards or reptiles may not be strong enough to hold the weight of the water inside it.

remedy 2:
Another possibility is to place your fish into some other container which has a larger surface area than the present home. The bigger the container, the better, and this is a good choice if you can't afford a tank (although tanks are not expensive). There are several things to remember if you choose to do this. First, the container should be clean. Second, it should be absolutely free of soap (don't use soap of any kind to wash it, and rinse it obsessively if it does have any soap residue on it). Next, the container should be made of glass or plastic. Third, the container should be strong... strong enough to withstand the amount of water you are going to put in it. A container need not be tall, but it must have a large surface area. Rubbermaid makes some very suitable containers which are also very large. A (very) clean bucket might make a good home if it is big enough. Make sure the container you choose is watertight. Finally, put some kind of cover over it to prevent your fish from jumping out. Even a strong piece of cardboard will do temporarilly as long as there is no chance of it falling into the tank. Also make sure that the top you choose lets air in.

remedy 3:
If you can find no other container, and if you MUST keep your fish in a bowl, lower the water level in the bowl so that it only comes up to the widest part of the bowl. This raises the surface area, but it is only a temporary fix. Your fish will grow, and a bowl is unhealthy for other reasons. Look for a bigger container.

remedy 4:
If worst comes to worst and you can't find any way to give your fish more space, ask your local Goldfish Sanctuary (or petstore, or friend) if they will take your fish and give it a good home. Just remember - petstores may decide to sell your fish as a feeder fish (to be fed to other larger fish) so do everything you can to find the safest alternative.