What Do Bubbles in My Fish Tank Mean?


You have a beautiful aquarium and you’ve taken care to provide your fish with an appropriate atmosphere that includes plants, stones, and hiding places. You clean the tank regularly, and you even use the right lights and aeration system. However, you’re starting to notice strange bubbles appearing in the water. There are many potential reasons why your aquarium is developing bubbles, and while not all are problematic, a few of them could put your favorite finned friends at risk.

When Are Fish Tank Bubbles Normal?

You’re always going to see some air bubbles in water. It’s the nature of the environment. Air-driven filters can cause bubbles to develop, and air stones create cascades of small bubbles that help move water around the tank. Hanging filters can also cause bubbles to form. Put simply, if the bubbles pop shortly after forming, if they don’t cover the entire surface of the water, and don’t appear foamy, then they’re probably nothing to worry about.

According to Tankarium, some species of fish create bubble nests. Healthy Bettas and gouramis do this to attract mates. Bubble nests can look like a mass of floating orbs on the surface of the water and they can also attach to the plants in your aquarium. Sometimes, you might see debris mixed in with the nests, and that’s perfectly normal.

Have you ever noticed tiny air bubbles coating every surface of the aquarium after you refill it? These microbubbles aren’t unusual either. They should go away within a few days, but you can wipe them away if they bother you.

Pearling in Aquarium Plants

Aquatic plants produce oxygen as they undergo photosynthesis. The oxygen may sit on the leaves in the form of small, jewel-like bubbles. This is called pearling and it is a sign of a healthy aquarium. Fast-growing plants will do this more easily than slow developers. If you don’t notice pearling, your water may not have enough oxygen in it. If that’s the case, the oxygen created by the plants is being absorbed by the water. Pearling is most likely to happen when the water is saturated with oxygen.

Foam in Your Fish Tank

What if you notice a layer of foam on the water’s surface? Foam can be caused by a number of things, says The Spruce, and it’s not always a problem, but it could be. When you fill an aquarium, you create some agitation, which causes bubbles to form. It’s the same as shaking up a bottle of water. The foam should dissipate quickly. To avoid it from forming, pour the water in slowly or pour it against a plate so that it splashes against the surface of the plate instead of the inside of the tank.

Bear in mind that foam can be fatal to fish if it comes from soap or cleansers. Don’t use household sponges, buckets, or equipment that has been used elsewhere to clean your aquarium. Even a little bit of residue from a cleaning solution could severely harm your fish. Furthermore, make sure that all of your family members know that they shouldn’t use the aquarium bucket when they’re washing the car or cleaning the bathroom.

Too much protein in the water of a fish tank can coat the bubbles, preventing them from popping. Protein foam is an indicator that your tank needs to be cleaned. A dirty filter and debris in the aquarium can cause this problem. Additionally, a dead fish that’s starting to decompose can lead to protein foam, so be sure to count your fish regularly to make sure that none are missing.

Water Quality

One of the most important ways to keep your fish tank healthy is to fill it with high-quality water. Chlorine can damage your fish tank within minutes. Tap water is treated with chlorine or chloramine, and both are dangerous to fish. Chlorine can be bubbled out of the water, but chloramine cannot. Fish that are poisoned by chlorine may develop redness or mucus all over their bodies, and they usually die if they are not removed shortly after exposure.

If you fill your tank with tap water, use a dechlorinator to neutralize the chemical. Dechlorinators are inexpensive and easy to use. Just be sure to follow the directions on the product to determine how much to use in your tank. If your water supply is treated with chloramine, you may need to purchase a product that neutralizes that compound as well.

Proper Aeration

Fish need oxygen to survive. If your tank is loaded with toxic chemicals, like chlorine and ammonia, the fish get their own oxygen by floating to the surface and blowing bubbles. This is a sign that your fish are in danger. If you notice this behavior, you should retest your tank water and look into upgrading your current aeration system as soon as possible.

In the wild, bodies of water have currents that bring oxygen into the water. You need a way to create the same type of movement in your aquarium. As your fish take in oxygen from the water, they release carbon dioxide. A fish tank air pump creates bubbles that remove undesirable gases from the water. Wands and air stones create streams of bubbles that make your aquarium look pretty, too. As the bubbles break on the surface, the water absorbs oxygen from the environment. Horizontal tanks that allow for greater surface area make it possible for the water to absorb more oxygen. However, it’s worth noting that tall, narrow tanks often don’t provide enough surface area to support many fish.

The filter in your tank can also help with aeration. As it agitates the water, the surface of the tank is disturbed enough to absorb oxygen from the air. Filters also cycle the water from the bottom of the tank to the top, where it can absorb oxygen, but filters can create dead spots in the tank as well, and some people prefer to combine filters with power heads to avoid this problem.

Your Beautiful Aquarium

Even the most well-maintained fish tank will have some bubbles. Think of bubbles as a sign that your fish are getting enough oxygen. As a proud fish owner, you should always strive to provide them with an optimal living environment that utilizes proper aeration and bubblers. Above all else, make sure that you’re cleaning your fish tank appropriately and regularly testing the water for toxic chemicals. An aquarium that’s in good shape will keep your fish healthy and happy for a long time to come.

Click the link to learn more about caring for your fish.

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