Skip to Content

Why Is My Clownfish Breathing Fast? (3 Common Causes)

Why Is My Clownfish Breathing Fast? (3 Common 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.

Having clownfish in your home aquarium will be something that makes you happy. These fun fish are a perfect addition to most saltwater tanks, and they can be fun to care for by themselves too.

You likely heard that clownfish were quite hardy, and this made you decide to purchase them. Even beginners are supposed to be able to have a simple time caring for these fish.

This is why it’ll be flabbergasting to see that your clownfish is experiencing some type of problem one day. If you notice that your clownfish is breathing fast, then you’re probably very concerned that something is wrong with it.

Did you make a mistake somewhere down the line? Is the clownfish sick?

Read on to learn about some of the reasons why a clownfish might start breathing fast. This should help you to figure out the best way to proceed for the sake of the fish.

1 – It’s Most Likely an Ammonia Issue

The most likely scenario is that you have too much ammonia in your tank. When fish start breathing fast, it’s a sign that something is wrong with the water.

When too much ammonia is present in the tank, it can make it a lot harder for the fish to breathe. In some cases, the ammonia levels can be so high that the fish won’t be able to breathe at all.

Before doing anything else, it’ll be wise to test your ammonia levels to see how things are looking. You’ll also get information about nitrates and nitrites.

If things are higher than normal, then you have a problem on your hands that you need to fix. So how does ammonia form in the tank?

It forms when organic matter in the tank breaks down. You might not have done a good job of removing excess food or there could be issues with rotting plants in the tank.

Either way, you need to lower the ammonia levels. The fastest way to do so is to change the water.

You should be changing 15% of the water each week to keep things clean and safe. If you missed a few weeks, then that could be the reason why you’re now experiencing ammonia issues.

It’s also possible to add substances to the water that are meant to neutralize the ammonia. This should be able to help you get the tank back to normal quickly.

Remember that you need to solve the issue of why the tank had such high ammonia levels in the first place. You might be feeding your fish too much, which causes too much fish poop to be in the tank.

Try to adjust what you’re doing and see if it makes a difference. Hopefully, this will be enough to solve your problem so that the clownfish can breathe easily once more.

2 – Ick/Ich

Ick (also referred to as ich) is another condition that has been known to cause clownfish to have breathing issues. Sometimes it isn’t as apparent that a fish has ick as you might think, either.

You might know that ick is considered to be the “white spot disease” that many fish have trouble with. A fish can still have ick even if you don’t notice the white spots.

Some clownfish are very tolerant of ich and they won’t have a breakout. They’ll still experience issues due to having the condition even if they don’t have white spots.

Try to observe the fish a bit and take note of how their poop looks. Are the clownfish producing long, white, stringy stools?

If that is the case, then that’s a sign that they likely have ick. You can treat ick so that the fish will feel better.

Move the clownfish to a hospital tank if they’re in a community tank. If you just have two clownfish in a small tank, then you can treat them in the main tank since the water is already infected.

Treating the fish with copper in a hospital tank is the common way to go about doing things. You might want to leave the main tank empty for eight weeks to try to get rid of the infected water.

3 – Gill Flukes

Gill flukes have also been known to cause clownfish to breathe rapidly. This is a problem that you won’t want to ignore.

You might notice that your clownfish has more mucus on its body than usual. It could also have clamped fins.

Some might choose to enlist the help of an exotic veterinarian during this time. A vet will be able to diagnose the fish properly, and they might choose to take a sample from the fish to try to confirm what is happening.

Generally, treating gill flukes involves using various chemicals to try to manage fluke infestations. You can get recommendations from the exotic vet about what specifically you need to put in the tank.

Solving this problem as soon as you can will make it more likely that the fish will be okay. Gill flukes and skin flukes can easily cause a lot of damage to your fish.

Be a Proactive Fish Owner

Remember that being a proactive fish owner is going to be for the best. You want to try to ensure that you’re taking care of the clownfish to the best of your ability.

Paying attention to the fish and recognizing when something isn’t normal will be a great start. Simply noticing that the clownfish are breathing rapidly will allow you to take action.

You can work to try to determine what is wrong so that you can help the fish get better. If you didn’t pay attention, then things might have continued to get worse for days.

Fixing this issue might be as simple as fixing water quality problems that have popped up. You might also need to treat the fish if they have problematic conditions such as ick or gill flukes.

If you do your best to take care of the fish and treat them as recommended by an exotic veterinarian, then all should be okay. Just keep in mind that these conditions can kill the fish if you wait too long to act.