As you admire the fish in your tank, you regularly see one fish chasing after another one. The one in the front seems to be swimming away as quickly as possible … and then all of a sudden, the chase is over and they all calm down. What’s going on here? Are they playing or fighting? And which one won?
From your perspective, it probably doesn’t look like either one of them did. Sure, the one in the back looked like the aggressor on the surface, but it didn’t achieve much. Is it possible that they were just playing like children on a playground? And how do you tell the difference?
Here are a few general things you should know that could help you determine what’s going on in that fish tank of yours.
- First of all, it’s natural for them to swim after each other. It’s a way for them to interact, and it can be fun for them. They also might be working on growing their little families in the near future.
- One fish might try to chase another fish out of its territory, but doesn’t actually plan to hurt the trespasser if it doesn’t have to. It just simply doesn’t want to socialize or share its space, and if it involves breeding, that’s to be expected.
- If they are fighting, a fish that feels threatened is more likely to cower in a corner, not dive into the situation head on. Instead of swimming toward the aggressor, the fish that is trying to protect itself from harm might isolate itself. In other words, when a more aggressive fish swims toward it, a weaker fish might hide rather than fighting back.
- There will be visible signs if a fish has been attacked in the tank. Such signs include marks on its body and nips on its fins. A fish that is injured will shy away from the other fish to give itself time to heal.
- Territorial fish are likely to be aggressive toward fish of their own species that are of the same sex. They’re basically trying to protect their breeding ground, and a fish of the same species and sex is competition.
It’s easier to understand the difference between playing and fighting when you compare their behavior with dogs’ behavior. Dogs that are playing, or trying to mate, do chase after each other in a backyard. They might wrestle with each other and even sound like they’re fighting … but then lie down on the grass, give each other loving winks, and stare at the crackling firepit together.
If they’re fighting, it’s undeniable. They’re louder, and aggressive dogs will physically hurt each other if given the chance.
It’s not quite as clear when it comes to fish, but the idea is the same.
Of course, fish will behave differently in a fish tank depending on their breed. For that reason, being able to determine if your fish are playing or fighting requires getting to know their characteristics and normal behaviors better.
Basically, just watch them. If it looks like fun, it probably is.
If it doesn’t, you can have what you’ve always wanted: a second aquarium! Set up a new aquarium environment and migrate the aggressive breeds into it. And now you have arranged quite the sight to see in your home or business.
If this isn’t an option, talk with your friends who are also enthusiasts to see if they would like your fish, as it may fit their environment better. As a last resort, you might be able to give or sell your fish back to the store. If you decide to take this route, make sure you make arrangements ahead of time to make sure the store will take the fish back before you go through the stress of transporting it.
Being able to predict with any reasonable amount of certainty whether or not fish will get along is a skill that requires years of experience. If you’re curious about what types of fish are suitable to add into your existing tank, ask us! We’ll be happy to give you some suggestions.