Fish & Aquariums

Why Do Aquarium Fish Chase Each Other?

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Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.

Why Do Fish Chase Each Other?

Fish chase each other for a variety of reasons, such as defending their territory, establishing dominance, competing for food, and mating. Even fish that are typically docile fish may chase others because of constant stress. This could be due to incompatible tank mates, poor water conditions, or an overcrowded tank.

When fish chase each other, it may look like they are playing, but this behavior is a warning sign. Something is wrong in your tank, and it is time to do a little investigative work and find the problem.

This article will cover the most common reasons that fish chase each other and offer potential solutions. Remember that it is impossible to know what a fish is thinking or feeling, and the best we can do is go by our best guesses and make changes we hope will work.

It is important to understand the care needs and temperaments of every fish you intend to stock before you bring them home. You can avoid many common problems if you simply research fish before you buy them.

Territorial Fish

Some fish are territorial. They may lash out at others of their kind, others of the same sex, or they may not want any other fish near them. This is especially problematic in small aquariums.

When a fish establishes a territory, it will chase away any other fish it sees as a threat. This is not only stressful for the fish being chased but also for the fish doing the chasing, which is always in fight mode. Stress is one of the biggest reasons fish die too soon, so we want to eliminate it as much as we can.

Some fish look to establish dominance over others of their species or even fish of other species. This is seen especially in African cichlids, but several other freshwater aquarium fish may exhibit dominant behavior as well.

In small tanks, there may not be enough space for this complicated interaction. Sometimes, even a 55 or 75-gallon tank isn’t big enough. The result is stressed fish that might hurt each other, or at the very least die too soon.

Depending on your aquarium and which fish you stock, you might expect to see some minor aggression in your fish tank. A fish that establishes a small territory may chase others away, and they more or less learn to avoid that area of the tank. Fish such as African cichlids may appear aggressive while establishing a hierarchy, but that behavior ought to calm down once everyone knows their place.

However, constant aggression such as chasing isn’t good for any fish, including the ones that have nothing to do with the interaction. It creates an ecosystem where every fish is stressed and on edge, right on the verge of fight or flight.

Stress is one of the biggest reasons fish die in home aquariums. In most cases, it is preventable, if you know what to watch for. Fish chasing each other constantly is one of those things.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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