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Ryukin - Surface Breathing, Sideways Swimming

Guest ampearlman

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Guest ampearlman

Hi -

I have a Ryukin that has been showing some strange (problematic?) behavior. The fish is about 3 years old, about 4-5 inches, and typically very active and healthy.

Today I noticed that the fish was spending a lot of time at the surface, breathing air (so much so that air bubbles were coming out of its gills). Also, the fish was *sometimes* swimming slightly sideways. Not completely on it's side, but not vertical. I noticed this behavior just after feeding. I will continue to monitor the behavior regularly.

Tank setup: 3 years old, 55 gal, outdoor "pond," 5 fish, good filtration, good aeration, direct sun later in afternoon so some algea growth (I did recently add Tetra Pond algea control to reduce algea sticking to sides of pond, but in general the water is very clear.)

Is this something to be concerned about? What may cause this?

Thanks in advance.

- Adam

Ammonia: 0

Nitrite: 0

Nitrate: 40-80 ppm (could be better)

ph: 7.2

Test kit: Mardel 5 in 1

Tank Size: 55-60 gal

Filter: Fluval 305

Water change: 8-10 gals monthly

Fish: 5, including this one (1 Fantail 4-5 inches, 2 Ryukin 4-5 inches, 2 Oranda 2-3 inches)

Conditioner: API Stress Coat with every water addition/change

Medications: none

New Fish: none

Food: TetraFin Goldfish Flakes (seems like I should vary diet more, include more fiber/veggies)

Unusual Findings: none (other than above)

Unusual Behavior: surface breathing, *slight* sideways swimming

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  • Regular Member

HI! Welcome to koko's!!

A moderator/other member will be able to help you best in this case, but I do think I have a few suggestions right off the bat. : )

First, you have already noted that your nitrates could be lower.. You are absolutely right. Nitrates can cause a fish to behave the way you are describing... Even small amounts of nitrates can cause this in sensitive fish. But if yours are bordering 80, that may be the cause itself.. Most members around here like to keep the nitrates under 20, and if that is not possible, 40 is the MAX!

Second, it seems your water changes are not nearly as much, or as often as they should be (which is probably also what is causing the nitrates to be higher). Water changes should generally be around 50% weekly.. If not larger in some cases...

While you are waiting for a moderator (or member) with a bit more experience in the diagnosis area, I would suggest a large water change. Temp matched, ph matched and dechlorinated.

Again, welcome to the board.. Sorry for such a short response, but I am going to leave this up to someone who has pond exerience, just in case there is something that should be done different. A large water change will certainly not hurt though!! Good luck! : )

**edit** just noticed something.. Mardel 5 in 1.. Those are strips correct??? If so, a drop test kit, such as API Master Test kit, would be a better way to go. Strips are very often inaccurate. If you can, I would invest in one of those. (They aren't that bad price wise, and last a while)

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  • Regular Member

Hello and welcome to Koko's! :) I have to agree with Sue, I'm pretty sure your fish's symptoms are probably related to your high nitrate level. I too would recommend doing a large water change, as well as increasing your regular water changes in frequency.

I once had an Oranda that was my "canary" if you will. The minute the nitrates creeped up past 20, she would flip over instantly... and it would be water change time. Once the nitrates were back down, she would be perfectly fine. Some fish are just more sensitive than others... Does it appear your Ryukin is gasping at the surface? I think this may also be caused by the high nitrates...

I recommend to do a significant (50%+) water change, retest for nitrates, and keep us updated regarding your fish. :)

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  • Regular Member


Sue is absolutely correct in what she has advised. Another thing I would like to know about is the water temperature. Summertime always creates higher temps, even indoors, and being outside is only going to make the temp that much higher usually. Higher temps without a major increase in oxygenation is going to create surface breathing issues. It's also going to have an effect on how the nitrates affect the fish. Btw, algae, especially green algae, is actually good for the water and fish and will actually help the processing of the nitrates, so you may wish to allow it to grow.

Another issue is that, while it's said that each goldfish needs 10 gallons of water and you have 5 gf in a 55-60 gallon tank, three of your fish are larger, which is really going to put you onto the borderline of being overcrowded. I have a 55-60 gallon tank and 4 goldfish are my limit for it because I'm allowing for their growth, but at some point, even that is going to be too small. So, this is going to require additional and/or larger water changes to make up for that issue. It has already been established that your water changes are not enough. 50-70% weekly is what you need to be doing. The quantity of water changed should be based on your water readings. With drop test kits. For instance, if you have readings of 40 ppm and you want readings of 20 ppm, that means you need to take out half of the water. So, if you have readings of 80 ppm and you want readings of 20 ppm, that means you need to do a 75% water change. The lower you keep your nitrates, especially in hotter water, the better off your fish will be.


Edited by Lynda Von G
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Guest ampearlman

Thank you for your suggestions. I did a couple large water changes over the last few days and the nitrates are around 20ppm now. I will continue to do more regular water changes to bring the nitrates down further. The fish is surface breathing very infrequently now, and swimming 100% upright so it seems like the nitrates were probably the issue. :)

I actually just ran out of the 5-in-1 test strips so I'll pick up test drops instead. I think as long as the strips stay sealed and dry they are ok, but obviously that's not a problem for drops. I think they may become less accurate over time as well.

For what it's worth, the "pond" has a relatively large surface area and good filtration so I'm not too concerned with over crowding at this point, but I will absolutely do more water changes to keep the nitrates in check. At some point I'll post some pictures of the fish and tank (it's a fairly interesting setup).

Thanks again.

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