Why Do Goldfish Come To The Top Of The Water? (Is It Normal?)

Image of goldfish at the top of the water

Like bettas and gouramis, some fish spend most of their time at the top of the tank because they are supposed to breathe from the surface. However, goldfish do not belong to this category. If your goldfish constantly comes to the surface, it’s not normal behavior and could be an indication of trouble. So, why do goldfish come to the top of the water?

Goldfish come to the top of the water when they sense the presence of their owners or food. However, if they are constantly at the top of the tank, it indicates a lack of oxygen in the water. Poor water quality, improper temperature, and diseases may also force them to come to the top of the water.

Let’s talk about this in detail now.

Is It Normal For Goldfish To Hang Out At The Top Of The Tank?

Goldfish are curious creatures. They swim all over the tank and explore their surroundings.

They will check out tank decorations, uproot plants, and even dig the substrate.

Goldfish can recognize their owners and rush to the top of the tank when they sense their presence.

However, it is highly abnormal for goldfish to restrict themselves to just the top or bottom of the tank all the time.

If your goldfish spend a lot of time at the top of the water, it could indicate a lack of oxygen. This causes a condition called hypoxia.

Maximum oxygen is present at the surface of the water.

So, when the aquarium water lacks dissolved oxygen, goldfish rush to the top of the tank to gasp for air.

The following conditions usually cause the lack of oxygen in the aquarium water.

1. Poor water quality.

Unhygienic water causes various health issues in goldfish. Goldfish produce a lot of waste.

When the filtration system of your aquarium is inefficient or does not function properly, it can affect the water quality.

The toxins from their waste dissolve in the water and affect their gills.

When the fish find it difficult to breathe, they will come to the water surface. You may see them gasping for air.

To improve the water quality, you should clean the filter, change the filter media if required, and do a quick water change.

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2. Insufficient aeration.

Aerating the water will increase the amount of dissolved oxygen in it.

If your filter does not provide enough aeration, it can affect the health of your fish.

So, it’s a good idea to evaluate the aeration capacity of your filter if the fish frequently come to the surface for air.

A power filter or air stone can increase aeration if your existing arrangement does not provide enough oxygen.

Pumps and water fountains will also increase the availability of oxygen in your tank.

3. High water temperature.

Warm water holds less oxygen. So, a water heater in the fish tank can decrease the availability of oxygen.

However, you can improve oxygen levels in the tank by using live plants and pumps.

Live plants will release oxygen into the water. Pumps will produce air bubbles that carry oxygen to the water.

How Gill Diseases Make Goldfish Come To The Top Of The Water?

If one goldfish lingers at the surface while the rest of your fish seem fine, then this fish might be ill.

Goldfish breathe through their gills. Gills are prone to various parasitic infections and illnesses.

When the gills are affected, the fish struggle to breathe.

So, they may move to the surface of the water where the oxygen content is higher, and they can breathe more comfortably.

If a goldfish has a gill disease, it deserves immediate care.

The condition can quickly escalate and cause permanent damage or even be fatal to the goldfish.

Depending on the severity of the condition, you may have to use medication.

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Why Do Goldfish Blow Bubbles At The Top Of The Water?

Blowing bubbles at the surface is not normal behavior for goldfish.

It’s usually a sign of respiratory distress. The only exception is when the goldfish is eliminating trapped air from its swim bladder.

Let’s look at the likely reasons for goldfish to blow bubbles and how to tackle them properly.

1. Respiratory distress.

Goldfish breathe through gills. The oxygen they consume goes into the bloodstream.

However, this fish will also trap air when it opens and closes its mouth.

When the goldfish opens its mouth to breathe, an air pocket forms. This produces bubbles in the water.

Now, if the goldfish needs more oxygen and breathes rapidly, more bubbles form in quick succession.

It will appear like a stream of bubbles emanating from the mouth of the goldfish.

2. Swim bladder disorder.

The swim bladder is an organ that regulates the movement of the goldfish.

The swim bladder holds air. When it is full, the fish is buoyant and floats in the water.

If the swim bladder has excess air, the goldfish will be unable to swim comfortably.

It will float around in the tank and be unable to control the depth at which it swims.

The goldfish must release the air into the water to regain control over its movement.

When it releases the excess air, it produces bubbles in the water.

You can reduce the occurrence of swim bladder issues by cleaning the water and improving its quality.

However, swim bladder problems due to congenital disabilities, injury, or infection need special attention.

3. High stress.

Bullying by other fish, lack of good food, or overcrowding can cause stress in goldfish.

In such situations, the fish will prefer to conceal itself.

However, to go into the depth of the tank and stay there, the fish must reduce air in its swim bladder.

When the swim bladder is full, it will be very buoyant.

So, the fish will get rid of the excess air, and these appear as air bubbles in the tank.

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4. Air pumps and air stones.

Not only are air stones decorative items for a tank, but they also help with aeration.

Similarly, air pumps also increase the aeration level of water. Aerated water has more oxygen.

Goldfish are attracted to bubbles produced by air stones and air pumps.

While nibbling on these air bubbles, they sometimes end up swallowing them.

These bubbles can compress their swim bladder and cause mobility issues.

Later, the goldfish will release the bubble, and you will see it emanating from the mouth of the fish.

Never ignore it when a goldfish produces bubbles at the top of the water.

With prompt attention, you can fix any potential problems before it gets out of hand.

If your fish seem to be gasping for air or produce air bubbles at the surface of the tank, attempt the following to solve the issue.

  • Monitor the water quality. Check the quality and efficiency of the filter to rule out any potential problems.
  • If your aquarium does not have enough oxygen, you can use an air pump or introduce live plants to improve oxygen levels. Timely water changes will also help.
  • If stress from aggressive tank mates is the cause of this problem, consider separating the fish. The fish will not have to release air bubbles from its swim bladder and sink to the bottom of the tank to escape attackers.


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