Dealing With Stressed Fish In A New Tank – Causes, Prevention & Impacts

Estimated read time 12 min read

In this article, you’ll learn how to deal with fish stress, how to minimize stressors, how to deal with stressed fish and a few products that you can use if your fish are really stressed.


What Causes Fish Stress

Just like us, Fish can feel stressed if they’re exposed to changes or disturbances around them.

As much as you want to think Fish don’t have anything to stress about, that’s not true.

Below you’ll find 7 things that can stress your fish out.

1. Moving From One Tank to Another

One of the most significant stress-causing factors in Fish is moving them from one fish tank to another.

If you’re planning on transferring your Fish over a long distance, like a new residence in a new town, the move can be even more stressful.

The longer your Fish are out of their tank – or out of their comfort zone, the greater the chances of them getting sick or even passing away.

However, you can try to make the move stress-free.

Here’s what you can do when dealing with a stressed fish:

  • Transfer your Fish to a bowl or bucket and place it in the dark
  • If you’ve to move your Fish to a new tank in a new home, pack your fish in clear sealed plastic bags (like the pet shop does), half-filled with air or in a container.
  • It’s best to have the plastic bags holding your fish, filled with oxygen from a pet shop, instead of air.
  • Feed your fish well before the move.
  • Avoid exposing them to too much light, noise or movement.

After you’ve transferred your fish to the new tank, you’ll observe symptoms of stress and anxiety for some time.

Your Fish will appear restless – but be assured that it’s normal. It’ll take some time for them to familiarize themselves with their new home.

Note: Avoid putting them under any further stress like loud noises, bright lights, or unfavorable tank water conditions.

2. Water Parameters

Other common stressors for your Fish are changes in the water parameters, whether from water changes or a new tank.

It’s incredibly vital to maintain a high quality of water in your fish tank. When you move your fish to a new tank, the water isn’t the same as their old tank, and they’ll know it.

The new tank environment will be new – from the pH to the number of beneficial bacteria to the amount of nutrients and toxins.

What can you do to reduce stress when there is a change in water conditions.

The first thing you should do is check the new tank’s water quality before moving your Fish.

The pH and the levels of ammonia and nitrates should be suitable for the type of Fish you’ve got. You can do so using a water quality test kit or have it checked by a professional.

Acclimating your fish to the new water parameters is a great way to help reduce stress on your fish. If you are not sure how to do this, we shared some of the best ways to transfer and acclimate your fish.

Once you’re done checking the water quality, make sure that the filtration system is working efficiently. It would be best to consider adding a suitable product to remove chlorine from water and detoxify water from the heavy metals that may cause your Fish to undergo additional stress.

Lastly, ensure an additional oxygen source in the new fish tank so that your fish don’t have to struggle with their breathing.

3. Noise

Noise is also a major stress-causing factor for Fish. Loud noises, floor vibrations, banging on a door, or evening shouting and screaming can all stress Fish out.

This may come as a shock to you, but loud noises can even cause your Fish to die.

The best way to prevent that from happening is to be extra cautious. Don’t make any noises near your fish tank.

Let your children at home or visitors of the precautions they must take when they’re around your fish tank.

4. Lighting

Setting the perfect lighting in your fish tank can be quite a challenge.

Too much light or too little light can cause Fish to stress out. Even flickering or flashing lights can serve as a significant source of stress.

Most beginners don’t understand that using the wrong kind of lighting can also cause stress in Fish.

The best way to minimize light-induced stress is to avoid leaving the light on or off for too long.

Just like humans, Fish have a sleep cycle that’s dominantly affected by light.

You should also consider the type of light you use for your fish tank. Your best options are LED lights, metal halide lights, and fluorescent bulbs.

Avoid using any lights that give off a lot of heat, especially if the size of your fish tank is pretty small.

5. Temperature

Continuous changes in the temperature are highly likely to cause stress in Fish. The water in your fish tank shouldn’t be too hot or too cold; it needs to be juuuuust right!

The ideal range for most tropical fish is between 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your tank’s water is too hot, the metabolism rate in Fish will speed up, and your Fish will become too active – or even hyperactive that can tire them out soon.

If the water is too cold, their metabolism will slow down, and your Fish will become sluggish, dull, and sleepy.

You may not find anything wrong with that, but frequent fluctuations in temperature can drastically disrupt Fish’s metabolism, which will eventually affect their health.

It’s best to check the water temperature with a thermometer to ensure the temperature is controlled and doesn’t go out of the recommended range.

You can also install a heater and a thermostat for efficient temperature regulation.

6. Ammonia & Other Water Parameters

The chemistry of water in your fish tank can have a significant impact on your fish.

Too much in the way of nitrates or ammonia, or incorrect water pH can put your Fish under a lot of stress.

The quantity of ammonia in a fish tank could be due to various reasons. Either the tap water that you’re using has too much ammonia, or too much ammonia is being released through the decomposition of organic matter in the aquarium.

Another reason why there might be too much ammonia in your fish tank is that you’re overfeeding your Fish. Bacteria builds up in the leftover food and produces ammonia.

Even Fish produce ammonia in their bodies that then seeps into the tank water through their skin and gills.

Another toxin present in the water is nitrites, which are toxic to Fish.

Nitrites are converted into nitrates through the Nitrogen Cycle.

Nitrates are harmless, but they, too, in excessive quantities, can cause harm.

The key to keeping your fish tank’s water chemistry in check is to change the water regularly.

For immediate relief from this stress, you can try lowering the pH or replacing 50% of the tank water.

Chemical pH controllers are readily available that can neutralize ammonia almost immediately.

7. Lack of Tank Mates & Companions

Most fish don’t like to be alone, especially schooling Fish.

If there are no tank mates to accompany your fish, it’ll feel scared and vulnerable to attacks.

If you keep schooling Fish alone for too long, they tend to feel depressed.

Your Fish will appear sluggish, stop eating and swimming enough, which can prove to be fatal for your Fish.

In short, a lack of tank mates for too long can lead to fish death.

What Does A Stressed Fish Look Like?

Sure signs and symptoms can tell you whether your Fish is stressed.

A stressed fish may appear sluggish or hyperactive. They will display strange swimming patterns, like swimming frantically or crashing into the aquarium walls or the tank’s bottom.

If a fish is stressed, it may even lock its fins on its sides and stop swimming.

It may even rub itself on the rocks and gravel present in your fish tank. Both of these can cause a lot of bodily harm and can even lead to your fish’s death.

It’s pretty easy to tell when a fish is stressed. They’ll show odd behavioral patterns that aren’t hard to miss.

Diseases Fish Can Get When They Are Under Stress

Stress causes diseases in human beings, and this statement falls true for Fish as well. If your fish in your tank are stressed out for too long, they can become sick.

Consistent stress can decrease your fish’s ability to resist disease, and as a result, your fish can develop bacterial, viral, or parasite infections.

If the stress is present too long, specific physiological changes occur as your fish prepares itself for an emergency.

An inflammatory response is triggered, and the water balance is disrupted. Your Fish absorbs excess water and over-hydrate. These changes are followed by increased blood pressure and increased respiration.

If the stress isn’t addressed on time, these physiological changes can worsen and lead to fish death.

Stress Impacts on Fish Lifespan

We, as fish keepers, can’t quantify the amount of stress that Fish can withstand.

Any stress, be it the changes in water chemistry, temperature, lights, or presence or absence of tank mates, can affect your fish’s lifespan.

If any of the stressors are present for too long, your fish’s disease fighting capability is reduced, and hence, they’re likely to die sooner.

Dealing With Fish Stress & How to Reduce Fish Stress Levels

Fish stress management involves the management of all the factors that can cause stress in Fish.

It encompasses the management, control, and maintenance of all the stress inducers that we’ve discussed earlier, including water chemistry, light, noise, temperature, and fear.

Below is what you can do to reduce fish stress levels:

  • Clean the tank regularly
  • Don’t leave the tank lights on or off for too long
  • Don’t overfeed your fish
  • Maintain the correct water Ph
  • Avoid overcrowding of fish tank
  • Don’t keep your Fish without mates for too long
  • Don’t allow the tank water to get overly hot or cold
  • Detoxify tank water regularly
  • Maintain the correct water composition and chemistry
  • Wait 24 Hours to Put Fish in a Tank

Once all the stressors have been omitted, it’ll take about 4 to 5 weeks for your fish to recover from the stress.

Video: 7 Ways To Reduce Stress On Aquarium Fish

Here is a great video from DWSDARIUS fish tanks.

Useful Stress-Reducing Products 

There are plenty of products that can help you reduce fish stress. Some of the best ones are discussed below:

Stress Coat Products

API Stress Coat

API Stress Coat is one of the best stress coat products that you can invest in.

It makes the water safe for a fish tank. It removes chloramines, chlorine, and heavy metals from the tap water.

It also contains Aloe Vera that can reduce fish stress by as much as 40% and assist in quick wound healing.

Adding API Stress coat to your fish tank before adding Fish ensures that your fish are welcomed to ideal tank conditions.

Seachem StressGuard

Seachem StressGuard is a fish stress coat product that reduces ammonia toxicity and overall fish stress during Fish’s handling.

What makes the Seachem StressGuard such an excellent product is its ability to promote wound healing, and by doing so, prevents the development of infections in Fish.

It contains active protein colloids, which attach to any spot on your fish body with abrasion or wound and disinfect it, thereby initiating the wound healing process.

API Stress Zyme

Stress Zyme is an ideal fish tank cleaning product. It contains more than 300 million live bacteria that feed on the sludge that accumulates in your fish tank and keeps the water looking clean.

The cleaner your fish tank, the more stress-free your fish will be. It promotes a natural aquarium cycle, cleaner aquarium, better water quality, and healthier Fish!

Water Conditioners

Seachem Prime

Seachem Prime is a highly concentrated water conditioner that is suitable for both saltwater and freshwater.

It removes chloramines and chlorine from water effectively and detoxifies nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia.

What makes Seachem Prime better than other water conditioners is its strength.

It’s five times stronger and more effective than any other water conditioners available in the market.

We love Seachem Prime and created an article that shows you the right way to use this awesome product.

API Water Conditioner

Using tap water for fish tanks directly is highly discouraged. Tap water can be harsh for your fish; however, with the API Water Conditioner, all the tap water’s harshness and toxicity are overcome.

API Water Conditioner removes the problematic toxins efficiently, and you can add Fish to the tank almost immediately.

It removes chlorine and heavy metals and ensures that your fish tank environment is safe and healthy for your Fish.

Fluval Aqua Plus Water Conditioner

An excellent solution for your fish tank water conditions, the Fluval Aqua Plus Water Conditioner works by neutralizing chloramines, chlorine, and heavy metals.

It removes anything and everything that can pose a risk to your Fish.

It’s made from pure herbal extracts that make the tank environment safer and healthier and reduce the stress on Fish by a great deal!

Fritz Complete Water Conditioner

One of the finest water conditioners for your fish tank available in the market today is the Fritz Complete Water Conditioner.

It’s a full-spectrum solution that detoxifies ammonia, heavy metals, chlorine, nitrate, and nitrites.

It’s safe to use in freshwater and saltwater. It performs water changes quickly, which means you don’t have to wait to put in your Fish when setting up a new fish tank!

Key Takeaways

Even though Fish are small, expressionless creatures, they show signs of stress that aren’t hard to miss.

Fish can get stressed when moving to a new fish tank, loud noises, poor water quality, and lack of companionship.

It’s your responsibility as a pet fish owner to ensure you keep the stress inducers at a minimum and your Fish healthy and thriving.


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