When a goldfish is sitting at the bottom of the tank it can be for a variety of reasons. Some reasons include problems with the fish’s health, while others are not related to health at all.
Usually goldfish sit at the bottom of the tank due to not feeling well for some reason.
Improper water conditions, parasites, stress, GI problems, and swim bladder problems can all cause a fish to sit at the bottom of the tank.
Occasionally you may see a fish sitting at the bottom of the tank because they are sleeping but all other potential health problems should be ruled out before assuming that sleeping is why your fish is bottom sitting.
Improper water conditions
High ammonia or nitrites can lead to a goldfish sitting at the bottom of the tank.
And having high ammonia or nitrites in the tank can lead to death in fish.
They will show signs of lethargy, a change in color, and fins that are jagged. It is imperative to check your aquarium water frequently to ensure that these levels do not rise.
You should always test your water conditions
We recommend the API Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit
You should have neither ammonia or nitrites in a properly maintained aquarium.
If you suspect high ammonia or nitrite then you should test the water to verify. If either of these is a cause, then a large water change is necessary.
Frequent and large water changes and testing the water daily to ensure that ammonia or nitrites go away will help the fish feel better and get them back to normal.
Parasites, fungus, or bacteria
Parasites can get into an aquarium due to introducing something new that has parasite eggs on it, such as a new fish that wasn’t quarantined, or a living plant.
Any amount of parasitic load on a fish can cause them to feel unwell and want to bottom sit.
Fish can also be seen scratching on surfaces of the tank because they are trying to itch themselves and if the parasites persist then they will start to bottom sit more often.
Once parasites attack, they will eat the fish’s gills, fins, and body. Once wounds occur then bacteria or fungus can move in and cause an even greater problem.
A fish getting a bacterial or fungal infection secondary to a parasite can happen easily.
Treating parasites can be done with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. There are two different groups of parasites.
Lice and anchor worms are one group and can be treated with parasite guard.
Flukes, worms, and protozoans are the second group and can be treated with a praziquantel based medication.
You should always verify what parasite you are trying to treat for and quarantine the affected fish so other fish in the aquarium don’t get ill from the treatment.
Fish becoming stressed can occur due to improper water conditions, overcrowding, an aggressive fish in the tank, or being transported.
When you transport your fish, either by mail or from a local store, then they can become very stressed and can bottom sit. If you have a new fish and they are acting this way, and you have ruled out health and water conditions, then you can leave the fish alone for a few days in a dim room to allow them time to recover and rest.
If the stress is due to overcrowding, then removing fish or getting a larger tank which will allow more space for the fish to move around is needed.
An overcrowded tank will quickly pollute the tank with waste and create poor water conditions which can lead to further health problems.
If you find out that the problem is an aggressive tank mate, then you need to remove the aggressor. If a new tank is not available to house and keep the aggressor, then it will need to be rehomed.
An aggressive fish can cause injury to tank mates and cause infections to occur that can harm the other fish.
If there are any problems with the GI tract, such as constipation, this can cause the fish to drop to the bottom of the tank or get unbalanced in the water due to offsetting of the swim bladder.
The swim bladder is what allows the fish to move around in the water due to the little sacs that fill with air and allow them to move around the tank efficiently.
When constipation happens then air gets trapped in it and prevents the fish from moving around like they need to. They can get lethargic, not want to eat, and in some extreme cases they may float upside down.
You should stop feeding your goldfish if it is constipated to allow it to try and pass the blockage. You can try and feed peas to help clear out their digestive tract and get it back to normal motility.
Once the constipation is cleared up and the fish is back to acting normal then it is recommended to switch up the diet to a more gut friendly one for the fish and add in some live foods and greens.
It is imperative to catch constipation early to be able to keep the fish moving normally.
If your goldfish is sitting at the bottom of the tank, then there are a few reasons this can be occurring. It can be health related or related to the environment they are living in.
They could also be bottom sitting due to water conditions, parasites or bacteria, stress, or gastrointestinal problems.
If they are bottom sitting due to water conditions, then this needs to be corrected with checking the water daily and doing large water changes until the water is within appropriate parameters.
Parasites can be treated with medication, but it is recommended to verify the parasite, and any accompanying bacteria or fungal growth to ensure that the appropriate treatment is administered.
Stress needs to be corrected with allowing the fish to calm down in a dim room and given a few days to adjust to the new environment.
Gastrointestinal problems need to be treated quickly and appropriately, using peas is helpful to move constipation through. Swim problems can occur due to constipation and other GI issues.
Bottom sitting is a health problem that should be dealt with in a timely manner to ensure the health of the goldfish in the aquarium.
14 thoughts on “Why is my goldfish sitting at the bottom of the tank?”
Very helpful reading! Thanks
Thank you for providing such useful infor.
7 year old white goldfish has Fin Rot is laying on bottom of aquarium for 2 days. Still breathing I think might be slowly passing away. There is only one other fish a Pleco. Not sure if anything can be done at this point.
Did you dose an anti fungal treatment? If so, we recommend increasing the aeration with an air stone too, meds can sometimes reduce the oxygen level of a tank
lying on the bottom and breathing heavily is a symptom of high stress in fish, so we also suggest turning off the lights and leaving the fish alone, if the pleco bothers the goldfish, move the pleco out, aside from this, keep the water clean and make sure the fish is feeding, there isnt much else you can do, without a proper diagnosis, just wait it out.
Hope this helps and best of luck with your fish
My goldfish is 15 years ild a black more she has started sitting at the bottom refusing to eat it could be old age ammonia levels & nitrate are fine and she is not showing any signs or symptoms.
Ive placed her in a quarantine tank for the moment and im treating her for parasites as the only thing i can think of is i put 1 new plant in about a month ago.
Any suggestions welcome.
If you suspect she has internal parasites, then look for other signals, loss in weight, white stringy faeces, irritation and flashing, loss in skin colouration. we have a guide on parasites here that might help you identify:
sleeping on the floor is common in old or stressed goldfish, perhaps there is something underlying, try increasing the oxygen level, this can sometimes improve the appetite.
However, the de worming treatment will now also add to the stress and loss of appetite, as the goldfishes immune system is compromised when anti biotics are added, so it may take an extra couple days to get her eating again.
take things slow, try not to bombard the fish with treatments and remedies, as in a lot of cases, this will just add too much stress and kill the fish quicker.
But we definitely recommend for now, to add an airstone, in another day or two if shes still not eating, try increasing the temperature a tiny bit, maybe about 3 degrees warmer.
if still no, try another food like green beans, just try things gradually and dont add too much change at once.
fish can go a while without eating, and while it may sound silly, the less you do, the more good may come of it. in some cases, doing nothing at all can be the best thing you can do.
You may be right, it may be parasites, and she may get better now she’s been treated.
But for future reference, we only recommend treating an animal, if it absolutely needs it, in this case, the chances of picking up parasites from a plant are extremely slim, and unlikely.
try to Imagine if you took anti biotics every time you felt slightly off, it would be very dangerous to your health.
hope this helps, and best of luck with your black moor 🙂
My goldfish is sitting on the bottom of the tank, he’s not constipated, the parameters are fine and there’s no way he could have parasites with no live food or plants and he’s the only fish. Please help!!!
In reply to Lewis German.
Hi Louise, thanks for your comment,
how long has your fish been doing this for, goldfish will sometimes sit on the bottom of the tank to sleep, it is not an uncommon behaviour, what is concerning is if they do it for very long periods of time.
If the fish is otherwise healthy, and is eating and defecating regularly, for now just look after them as normal, but keep a close eye for any signs of other health problems that may crop up.
feel free to email us some pictures of your fish email@example.com
if you are concerned
I have a goldfish who recently spent 3 months at the bottom of the tank. Absolutely would not swim. I treated her with antibiotics and anti fungals as she was showing signs of an infection. Prior to this I had removed her tankmate as she had become aggressive with her and was tearing up her fins. I kept the tank clean, tested the water, added aquarium salt. I fed her peas and spinach along with her regular food. She ate just fine. She otherwise looked healthy. I tried reintroducing her tankmate. The tankmate was happy and loved on her and stayed by her side at the bottom of the tank for a couple of weeks but I removed her again when I saw tearing on her tail fin. I the added in a couple of of Giant Danios to the tank and I kid you not, the next day when I turned the light on in the tank, she was swimming around like nothing ever happened. She was absolutely fascinated with the new fish and would watch them swimming around. Was she just lonely and depressed and her tankmate wasn’t able to provide what she needed? It almost seems that way. Ever since she’s been just fine and even back with her tankmate and getting along.
Hi Kelly, thanks for your comment,
this is very interesting, it is difficult/near impossible to truly understand what goes through the mind of animals, but, we do know that many fish generally feel more comfortable and more confident when they are surrounded by other fish.
What could have happened, is that the fish was stressed as it was being bullied, and the smaller fish brought it out, it could’ve been something else, or it could’ve been mere coincidence,
A goldfish will generally not get any social benefits from other species of fish, nor will it be able to fully communicate with them.
However, they can make them feel more confident, as in a wild situation, if there are lots of small fish swimming above and not hiding, then the environment must be safe, so it can sometimes bring many fish out of hiding to see other smaller fish swimming around.
Danios in particular are great dither fish, and are used a lot in aquariums to bring confidence out in other fish or to distract them from being aggressive.
I have one goldfish about a year old sitting on the bottom a lot. Will race up for food but after that will go back to the bottom. 4 foot tank. One other goldfish who is totally normal. The sick one got very sick a few months ago and I had to quarantine him for 3 or 4 days. He was all but dead that time. So I figure he’s just got a weak immune system now. That’s why the one fish is fine and the one in question is not well. They were both strafing the gravel about a week ago. So I guessed they had some lice or parasites or fluke worms or something in their gills. They aren’t strafing anymore since I dosed them up with some Paragone or fluke eradication. I change the water, like 40% of the 250 liter volume every Sunday without fail. The only thing I think I am weak on or lazy on is vacuuming the gravel…I do it kind of half heartedly every week. Also I tend to maybe leave the cannister filter go without cleaning or replacing the white wool often enough. I use Seachem Prime on water changes. Anyway, the sick fish got really sick some months ago…that was a long story…I had been doing the “let the tap water sit” for a week technique, on the advise of someone…trying not to use chemicals to treat the water…just letting it leech out the town water chemicals over a week. But this is highly unreliable. That’s when he got really bad. Probably compromised his constitution. So stressful to see him so upset on the bottom just sitting there.
Hi Matt, thanks for your comment,
When we use chemicals to treat disease and parasites, most of the time they contain small amounts of copper, or erythromycin, which are strong antibiotic, however, they will damage the fishes immune system, as not only do they destroy the bad bacteria and pathogens, they also destroy the good bacteria in the fishes gut and slime coat which protect the fish from disease.
So your theory may well be correct, as the fishes immune system is likely damaged from the treatment.
Gill flukes and most parasites can be easily dealt with through perseverance, keep on top of those gravel vaccs and water changes, and slowly increase the temperature of the tank to around 26C / 78F, this will greatly help with reducing and killing off any parasites present in the water.
We also agree that letting water to sit is an unreliable method, as while chlorine may evaporate over time, there are other substances in tap water that are harmful to fish, such as chloramine, lead, mercury and even arsenic.
seachem prime or any dechlorinator will remove these harmful substances.
going forward, keep doing what you are doing, try feeding your fish a little more frequently to aid in their immune system, and increase the temperature a little if possible.
hope this helps and good luck with your goldfish 🙂
Thank you so much for your reply. I ended my goldfish’s suffering today, sadly. He was listing and quite frankly, struck me as blind. He’d gotten worse. The surviving goldfish (who is in top health) will go to my parent’s outdoor pond that holds numerous healthy, happy goldfish. I plan on completely overhauling my tank including a complete gravel change…basically starting from new. I’ll cycle the tank for a good while before I introduce two new little goldfish.
sorry to hear you lost your fish, sometimes as much as we might want to, it isn’t always possible to save them.
We are happy to hear about your other fish though, which is doing well and will be moving to a nice pond, sounds great!
Sounds like you are taking the best course of action and being exra safe by starting fresh, parasites can be tricky sometimes if they get in the gravel, in some cases they just keep reappearing no matter how hard you try to get rid of them and it is best to just bomb the tank and start again.
hope you have some better luck next time around, let us know what you decide to keep in your tank once you set up again, we would love to hear about it!