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Why Are My Cichlids Swimming Up and Down? (Glass Surfing Causes)

Why Are My Cichlids Swimming Up and Down? (Glass Surfing Causes)

This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addtion, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

You want to ensure that your cichlids are happy in the fish tank. They’re such pretty fish and you enjoy taking care of them.

When you notice that they’re swimming up and down the glass of the aquarium, it’s going to cause concern. You likely have an inkling that this isn’t normal behavior.

What does it mean when cichlids swim up and down in the tank? Is this a sign that the cichlids are unhappy?

Below, you’ll learn about the common reasons why cichlids will act this way. You’ll be able to make changes and try to turn things around.

Glass Surfing

What your cichlid is doing is referred to as glass surfing. This is something that fish only do when they’re unhappy with the conditions in the tank.

Typically, fish will only start glass surfing when conditions in the tank are really bad. It’s likely that there’s something truly wrong that is making it hard for the fish to live comfortably.

Most often, this occurs due to poor water quality. It could be that the conditions in the tank are very dirty.

There are other things that can cause fish to start glass surfing as well. However, the issue with water quality is the most common.

Clean the Fish Tank and Focus on Water Quality

Cleaning a Fish Tank

Have you been taking the time to clean the fish tank regularly? If you haven’t, you might have let things get so dirty that the cichlids have become stressed.

Test the pH balance of the water to see how the parameters look. There’s a good chance that the water parameters are off if the cichlids are glass surfing.

When the pH balance is in the wrong range, it makes it so the cichlids feel uncomfortable. It’ll start to negatively impact the health of the fish.

You can alter the pH balance using chemicals to get it back in the right range. Keeping the tank clean can help you to avoid throwing the balance off.

Take the time to regularly clean the fish tank. You should be doing this often to avoid letting the water get too dirty.

Water changes are another crucial thing to focus on. Change 15% of the water weekly to help keep the water clean.

Do your best not to miss water changes if you can help it. Putting in more effort to maintain the tank will make the cichlids a lot happier.

Why the pH Balance Matters So Much

If you’re wondering why cichlids would want to escape the tank, you should learn a bit about the pH balance. When the pH balance is thrown way off, it’s going to make the water toxic.

Dirty water will elevate the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels in the water. Fish can wind up suffocating if these levels get too high in the tank.

If the fish are having trouble breathing, they’ll be able to sense that something is off. The glass surfing is likely an effort to get to better waters where they can breathe normally.

Fish that are experiencing ammonia poisoning or nitrite poisoning will show certain symptoms. For ammonia poisoning, you might notice the cichlids producing more mucus than usual.

It’s also common to see fish become much darker than normal and they’ll start to feel lethargic. You’ll notice clamped fins and potentially even bleeding near the gills.

Commonly, fish that are suffering from ammonia poisoning will gasp for air at the surface of the water. Needless to say, this isn’t something you want to put your fish through.

Nitrite poisoning can be just as bad in many ways. You’ll see fish panting when they’re dealing with this issue.

Rapid gill movement is common; the gills might wind up turning brown. Fish will lose their appetite due to nitrite poisoning and they’ll also seem rather listless.

Avoid huge problems like this by monitoring the water conditions. Test the water regularly so you can make changes before things get too bad.

Is the Tank Too Small?

Multiple African Cichlids

Occasionally, cichlids might start glass surfing when they’re kept in tanks that are too small. Cichlids can be territorial fish, and they don’t like living in cramped environments.

Overcrowding a fish tank is a bad idea when you’re caring for cichlids. It’ll cause the fish stress and it’ll make them far less healthy.

If the fish are glass surfing, it might be related to the tank being smaller than it should be. Take the time to see if the current tank that you’re using is technically large enough for the cichlids.

You might need to get a larger fish tank to make the fish comfortable. It could be that you simply need to keep fewer fish in one tank as well.

Either way, you can make necessary adjustments to try to fix things. You shouldn’t ignore glass surfing since it’s a sign of dissatisfaction.

General Stress

General stress might cause fish to start glass surfing. Cichlids can become stressed for various reasons.

You could put them in a tank with fish that they don’t get along with. Bully fish might make the cichlids want to escape.

Of course, it’s more common for cichlids to hide from bully fish. Other things could be responsible for stress, though.

Cichlids get stressed when kept in very noisy rooms. They could also become dissatisfied if you’re not feeding them properly.

Examine how you’ve been caring for the cichlids and see if there are things you should change. You might be able to make the cichlids more comfortable by eliminating sources of stress.

New Tank

When fish are put in a new tank, it’s going to cause them stress. It’s normal for fish to hide or act strange for a little while when they enter a new tank.

In some cases, it’ll just take several days or a week for the fish to adjust. You might need to give the cichlids time to get used to everything.

Continue to monitor the fish to see if they start doing better. Things could improve if you simply continue to care for the fish properly.

Feed the fish well and ensure that the water quality is good. If you’re doing this, it’s likely that the cichlids will be fine.