12 Signs Your Angelfish Is Dying (With 7 Fast Solutions)

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Several months ago, I noticed my angelfish lying at the bottom of the aquarium, breathing rapidly and deeply. It was apparent that my angelfish was dying and needed immediate care.

Fortunately, thanks to my previous experiences with aquarium fish, I recognized the signs and knew what to do. I was able to nurse my angelfish back to health in just a few days.

In this article, I’m going to outline the actions I took to help my fish recover. Hopefully, these steps can guide you to a successful recovery for your angelfish as well.

Let’s dive right into it.

Also Read: Facts About Angelfish

Signs That an Angelfish Is Dying

An angelfish that’s dying usually displays a mix of these symptoms:

1. Loss of Appetite

A decrease in appetite is a clear sign of distress in angelfish. It’s essential to observe their eating habits closely.

  • Reduced Feeding Frequency: A healthy angelfish eats 2-3 times daily. Notice if they start skipping meals or show disinterest during feeding times.
  • Ignored Favorite Foods: Pay attention when they avoid foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms, which are usually irresistible to them.
  • Weight Loss: Look for signs of weight loss, such as a more pronounced spine or thinner appearance, indicating prolonged appetite loss.

Also Read: Why Is My Angelfish Not Eating?

2. Lethargy

Lethargy in angelfish is a critical warning sign. These fish are usually active and alert.

  • Less Movement: Monitor if your angelfish spends excessive time at the bottom or hiding, instead of its usual active swimming.
  • Delayed Response: Observe their reaction speed to stimuli, like food or tank changes, which should normally be quick and lively.
  • Weak Swimming: Notice any changes in their swimming strength, such as struggling to swim against the tank’s current or weak tail movements.

Also Read: Why Is My Angelfish Not Moving?

3. Abnormal Swimming Patterns

Changes in swimming behavior are often indicators of health issues in angelfish.

  • Erratic Swimming: Be alert for unusual swimming patterns like sudden darting, spinning, or swimming in tight circles.
  • Floating or Sinking: Watch for difficulties in maintaining buoyancy, such as constant floating near the surface or staying at the bottom.
  • Unbalanced Swimming: Look for signs of struggle in maintaining equilibrium, like tilting to one side or swimming with a noticeable lean.

Also Read: Why Is My Angelfish Swimming Erratically?

4. Fading Color

The bright colors of an angelfish are indicators of its health, and any fading is concerning.

  • Dull Appearance: Observe any loss of vibrancy in their colors, which should normally be bright and striking.
  • Patchy Coloration: Look for uneven color distribution, such as spots or patches where color seems to have faded.
  • Loss of Shimmer: Check for a reduction in the natural glossy sheen on their scales, which should normally reflect light.

Also Read: Why Is My Angelfish Turning White?

5. Clamped Fins

The fins of an angelfish can indicate its wellbeing. Clamped fins are a sign of distress or illness.

  • Fins Held Tight to Body: Notice if the fins are consistently held close to the body, which is abnormal for relaxed and healthy angelfish.
  • Lack of Fin Movement: Observe if there’s minimal or no fin movement, especially when the fish is swimming.
  • Physical Damage: Inspect the fins for signs of tearing, fraying, or other physical damage, which can exacerbate stress.

6. Gasping for Air at the Surface

When angelfish gasp for air at the water’s surface, it’s a serious sign of respiratory distress or poor water quality.

  • Frequent Surface Visits: If your angelfish is constantly swimming to the top to gulp air, it’s a sign of oxygen deprivation in the water.
  • Open Mouth Breathing: Notice if the fish keeps its mouth open while at the surface, indicating difficulty in getting enough oxygen.
  • Reduced Gill Movement: Observe if the gill movements are slower or more labored than usual, which can accompany gasping for air.

Also Read: Why Is My Angelfish Gasping For Air?

7. Bloating or Swollen Abdomen

Bloating in angelfish can be a symptom of various health issues, including infections or organ failure.

  • Noticeable Abdominal Swelling: A swollen belly that’s out of proportion to the rest of the body is a clear sign of bloating.
  • Scale Protrusion: Look for scales sticking out, giving a pinecone-like appearance, which often accompanies severe bloating.
  • Changes in Poop: Irregularities in feces, such as stringy or discolored poop, can indicate digestive issues linked to bloating.

Also Read: Why Is My Angelfish Fat?

8. White Spots or Fungal Infections on Body

White spots or fungal growths on the body of an angelfish indicate parasitic or fungal infections, which are serious.

  • Small White Dots: Ich, a common parasitic infection, appears as tiny white dots resembling salt grains on the skin and fins.
  • Cotton-Like Growths: Fungal infections often look like cotton wool patches on the skin, gills, or mouth of the fish.
  • Rapid Spread: Monitor the progression; these infections can spread quickly over the body if left untreated.

Also Read: Angelfish White Fungus Disease

9. Ragged or Torn Fins

Damaged fins are often a result of physical injury, poor water quality, or fin rot, a bacterial infection.

  • Frayed Edges: Look for fins with uneven or frayed edges, which are not typical for healthy angelfish.
  • Visible Tears or Holes: Notice any tears or holes in the fins, especially if they appear to worsen over time.
  • Reddened Fin Bases: Check for redness or inflammation at the base of the fins, often accompanying fin rot.

10. Eye Clouding

Cloudy eyes in angelfish usually indicate an infection or poor water quality. It’s a sign that shouldn’t be ignored.

  • Milky or Hazy Appearance: Observe if the eyes of your angelfish have a milky or cloudy layer, which is not normal.
  • Reduced Vision: Notice if the fish has trouble finding food or bumps into objects, suggesting impaired vision due to eye clouding.
  • Eye Swelling: Look for any swelling or bulging of the eyes, which often accompanies cloudiness and indicates an underlying issue.

Also Read: Why Does My Angelfish Have Red Eyes?

11. Ulcers or Open Sores on Skin

Ulcers and open sores are signs of bacterial infections or parasitic attacks and need immediate attention.

  • Visible Wounds: Check for any open wounds, red spots, or ulcers on the skin, which are clear signs of skin infection.
  • Deteriorating Condition: Monitor the progression of these sores; they can rapidly worsen and lead to more serious health problems.
  • Secondary Symptoms: Look for other signs like lethargy or loss of appetite, which often accompany such infections.

13. Unusual Hiding Behavior

Angelfish are naturally curious and social. Excessive hiding indicates stress or illness.

  • Constant Concealment: If your angelfish is spending most of its time hiding behind plants or decorations, it’s a sign of distress.
  • Avoidance of Light or Activity: Notice if the fish avoids well-lit areas or activity in the tank, which is unusual for healthy angelfish.
  • Skittishness: An angelfish that darts away or seems unusually skittish when approached may be feeling vulnerable due to illness.

How Do You Save a Dying Angelfish?

If you see these signs in your angelfish, it’s likely in a tough situation and might not be doing well. Here’s what you should do immediately:

1. Check and Adjust Water Parameters

The first step in saving a sick angelfish is to ensure the water conditions are ideal, as poor water quality is often the root cause of stress and disease.

  • Test Water Regularly: Use a reliable aquarium test kit to check pH levels (ideal range: 6.8-7.8), ammonia, nitrite (should be 0 ppm), and nitrate levels (below 20 ppm). I personally got the API Freshwater Master Test Kit (link to Amazon).
  • Adjust Temperature: Maintain the water temperature between 76-82°F (24-28°C), as extreme temperatures can stress angelfish.
  • Monitor pH Stability: Angelfish thrive in stable pH conditions. Sudden changes can be harmful, so adjust gradually if needed.
  • Regular Water Changes: Perform regular water changes (around 20-25% weekly) to keep the water clean and reduce harmful substances.

Also Read: Angelfish Water Parameters

2. Increase Water Oxygenation

Proper oxygenation is crucial for the health of your angelfish, especially if it’s showing signs of distress.

  • Air Stones or Bubblers: Install an air stone or bubbler to increase oxygen levels in the tank, which is essential for angelfish recovery. My recommendation: Hygger Aquarium Air Stone (link to Amazon).
  • Ensure Good Water Flow: Use a filter with adequate flow rate to circulate oxygen throughout the tank, preventing stagnant areas.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: Keep the tank population appropriate for its size to ensure there’s enough oxygen for each fish.
  • Regularly Clean Filters: Clean or replace filter media regularly to ensure efficient oxygenation and removal of waste products.

3. Quarantine the Sick Angelfish

Quarantining the affected fish can prevent the spread of disease to other tank inhabitants and allows for targeted treatment.

  • Separate Quarantine Tank: Set up a quarantine tank with similar water conditions to the main tank to isolate the sick angelfish.
  • Maintain Water Quality: Regularly test and maintain the water quality in the quarantine tank, just like the main tank.
  • Monitor Fish Closely: Keep a close eye on the fish’s behavior and symptoms in the quarantine tank to assess its recovery.
  • Avoid Stress: Ensure the quarantine environment is calm and stress-free, with adequate hiding places and low lighting.

4. Administer Appropriate Medication

Using the right medication based on the specific symptoms or diagnosis is critical in treating your angelfish.

  • Identify the Illness: Determine the illness (e.g., bacterial infection, fungal disease, parasites) to choose the right medication.
  • Follow Dosage Instructions: Carefully follow the dosage and treatment duration instructions for the medication.
  • Consult a Vet if Unsure: If you’re unsure about the diagnosis or treatment, consult a veterinarian specialized in fish.
  • Observe for Side Effects: Watch for any adverse reactions to the medication and adjust treatment as necessary.

If you’re unsure about the infection affecting your angelfish behavior, you can consider using a broad-spectrum treatment such as Seachem PolyGuard (link to Amazon).

This product is effective against fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

5. Maintain a Stress-Free Environment

Ensuring a tranquil environment is crucial for the recovery of a sick angelfish, as stress can impede their healing process.

  • Minimize Noise and Disturbances: Position the aquarium in a quiet area of your home, away from high-traffic zones and loud appliances like televisions or washing machines.
  • Provide Hiding Places: Add plants like Java Fern or decorations with caves to the tank, offering safe spots for your angelfish to retreat and feel secure.
  • Gentle Lighting: Use a light with adjustable intensity or a timer to provide a natural day-night cycle, avoiding harsh, bright light that can stress the fish.
  • Limit Handling: Only handle the fish when absolutely necessary, such as during tank cleaning or medical treatment, using a soft net to reduce physical stress.

6. Offer Nutritious Food

Feeding your sick angelfish with nutrient-rich food is essential to bolster its immune system and aid in recovery.

  • High-Protein Diet: Incorporate foods like frozen brine shrimp or bloodworms, which are rich in protein, to enhance their strength and energy levels.
  • Vitamin-Enriched Foods: Opt for specially formulated angelfish pellets or flakes that are fortified with vitamins A, D, and E to boost overall health. You can also use additives like the Seachem PolyGuard (link to Amazon).
  • Varied Diet: Rotate between different types of food, including live, frozen, and flake foods, to ensure a balanced intake of nutrients.
  • Small, Frequent Meals: Feed small portions 2-3 times a day rather than one large meal, making it easier for the sick fish to eat and digest.

Also Read: What Do Angelfish Eat?

7. Monitor and Adjust Treatment as Necessary

Continuously assessing the condition of your angelfish and adjusting the treatment accordingly is vital for effective recovery.

  • Daily Health Checks: Observe your angelfish daily for changes in symptoms, appetite, and behavior, noting any improvements or deteriorations.
  • Consult with Experts: Regularly consult with a veterinarian or an experienced aquarist to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment and make adjustments.
  • Adjust Medications if Needed: Be prepared to change medications based on the fish’s response; some ailments might require a different approach if there’s no improvement.
  • Keep a Treatment Log: Maintain a log of all treatments, water parameter changes, and behavioral observations to track progress and identify what works best.

Can a Dying Angelfish be Saved?

Yes, a dying angelfish can often be saved, particularly if the illness is detected early and appropriate steps are taken promptly.

The key to recovery includes improving water quality, providing proper nutrition, and administering suitable medication as needed.

It’s also crucial to maintain a stress-free environment and monitor the fish closely for any changes in behavior or appearance.

How Long Does It Take for a Dying Angelfish to Show Improvement?

The time it takes for a dying angelfish to show improvement varies depending on the severity of its condition and the effectiveness of the treatment.

Generally, some improvement may be noticeable within a few days to a week if the treatment is appropriate and the fish responds well.

However, full recovery could take several weeks, especially in cases of severe illness or if the fish was very weak when treatment began.

How Do I Know if My Angelfish Is Stressed?

Identifying stress in angelfish is crucial for their well-being, as prolonged stress can lead to health issues.

Signs of stress include changes in behavior, physical appearance, and eating habits.

  • Loss of Appetite: A stressed angelfish may lose interest in food or eat significantly less than usual, which is a clear sign of discomfort.
  • Hiding Behavior: If your angelfish is constantly hiding behind plants or decorations, more than its usual behavior, it’s likely feeling stressed.
  • Erratic Swimming: Stressed angelfish often exhibit erratic swimming patterns, such as darting around the tank or swimming against the glass.
  • Color Changes: Noticeable fading or darkening of their colors, which are normally vibrant, can indicate stress in angelfish.

Why Did My Angelfish Die Suddenly?

Sudden death in angelfish can be shocking and is often due to a few common causes, such as poor water quality, disease, or environmental stressors.

Identifying the cause is important to prevent future occurrences in your tank.

  • Poor Water Quality: Sudden changes in water parameters (like pH, ammonia, or temperature) can shock and fatally harm angelfish. Regular water testing and maintenance are crucial.
  • Undetected Diseases: Diseases like Ich or bacterial infections can progress rapidly and be fatal if not treated in time, highlighting the importance of regular health checks.
  • Toxic Substances: Accidental introduction of toxins, such as soap residue or heavy metals, can be lethal. Always rinse hands and objects before placing them in the tank.
  • Aggressive Tank Mates: Sudden stress from aggression or bullying by other fish can lead to shock and death. Monitor fish interactions and separate if necessary.

Also Read: Angelfish Keep Dying

For example, here are some compatible tank mates you can put with angelfish:

  • Neon Tetras
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Gouramis
  • Cardinal Tetras
  • Swordtails
  • Cherry Barbs
  • Harlequin Rasboras

On the other hand, I would avoid species like:

  • Betta Fish
  • Goldfish
  • African Cichlids
  • Tiger Barbs
  • Parrot Cichlids
  • Plecostomus (in some cases)
  • Mollies (in some cases)


For quick readers, here’s a short summary:

  • A dying angelfish may show reduced appetite, lethargy, odd swimming, fading color, and clamped fins, signaling distress and necessitating prompt attention.
  • Saving a dying angelfish involves improving water quality, increasing tank oxygen, isolating the fish, administering targeted medication, and ensuring a calming environment.
  • Recovery time for a dying angelfish varies; some improvements might be seen in days, but complete healing can take weeks, depending on the illness severity and treatment efficacy.
  • Stress in angelfish is indicated by changes in behavior, appetite, swimming patterns, and color; recognizing these signs early can prevent serious health issues.
  • Sudden angelfish death could result from poor water quality, rapid disease progression, toxins, or aggressive tank mates, underscoring the need for regular tank maintenance and monitoring.