/Can Fish Drown? Secrets And Information Revealed.

Can Fish Drown? Secrets And Information Revealed.

Fish in water

It looks like a simple yes/no question, but after a few research, I just discovered that many things can really go wrong, depriving fish of the ability to breathe properly to the point that they could drown or suffocate as the case may be. Browsing through fish websites and educational sites has led me to the answer that fish could drown when the water doesn’t have enough oxygen.

By definition, I think it’s more of suffocation than drowning because fish don’t die from inhaling water. Fish can die due to lack of oxygen in densely populated water or in fish tanks without a good running filtration system.

Fish need oxygen as we do. And the oxygen is present in the water as dissolved oxygen gas. And if the oxygen is not enough in the water, fish can drown. It is possible for water to run out of oxygen if there are many fish and other creatures that consume the oxygen from the water. Fish require constant ingestion of oxygen to survive. The gills take in oxygen from the water molecules while the water goes through their gill membranes.

Therefore, fish can drown if they cannot get enough oxygen from the environment. Read on for more explanation on this question, because in the following paragraphs we will take a look at, how fish breathe, the meaning of Dissolved oxygen, and some factors that could affect oxygen circulation in the water and cause fish to drown.

How do fish breathe?


Fish have gills that let them breathe. The gills are a wide network of blood-filled capillaries that provide a large area for the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Fish breathe in oxygen through the mouth. Then they create pressure in their mouths that forces the water to cross the thin layers of the gills.

The dissolved oxygen then circulates into the bloodstream due to a lower concentration of oxygen in the blood than in the surrounding water. And carbon dioxide is as well expelled through the gills back to the water. Fish react harshly to low oxygen levels in the water, this can be obvious through slow and difficult breathing.

Just like humans, while they breathe, they take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Although sometimes in an enclosed aquatic environment like a fish tank, slowly exhausts the life-sustaining oxygen from the water. And because this surface is limited compared to the total volume of water, we notice air pumps are used in aquariums to move oxygen-deficient water to the surface through bubbles floating upwards, thus creating a circulation effect and maintaining the oxygen levels necessary for the fish to survive.

Dissolved oxygen

To understand how oxygen levels in water affect fish, it is important to first consider how oxygen moves from air to water. Dissolved oxygen is the scientific measure used to determine the amount of oxygen in the water, to be used by living organisms. As the oxygen concentration in the air remains relatively constant at 20 percent, its concentration in the water varies with various physical, chemical, and biological factors, this creates an additional dimension for living organisms in the water. The following are factors that can affect Dissolved Oxygen.

Factors that can affect Dissolved Oxygen


Oxygen penetrates the water through two major sources: through contact with the atmosphere and through aquatic plants photosynthesis. Dissolved oxygen concentrations are continuously affected by the following factors.


 The water temperature can affect the concentrations of enough oxygen in the water. This is because Coldwater will retain more dissolved oxygen; this means when the water surface temperature is low, dissolved oxygen concentration will be high. And when the water surface temperature is high or too hot, the dissolved oxygen concentration will be low, because enough air cannot dissolve in it. And if there is not enough oxygen, then the fish can drown.

Atmospheric exchange:

 One of the major ways that oxygen penetrates the water column is during the surface exchange. Mostly, this is achieved through water blending with the atmospheric oxygen during waves and wind. This implies that a highly turbulent river will always have higher concentrations of dissolved oxygen than the stagnant lake.


 Just like trees undergo photosynthesis, aquatic vegetation and plants also convert carbon dioxide to oxygen while processing their food. One autotrophic plankton known as phytoplankton is particularly important in the course of contributing to dissolved oxygen by carrying out photosynthesis throughout the day on the water surface.


 Some organisms that don’t undergo photosynthesis undergo respiration, where oxygen is transformed into carbon dioxide. Such organisms are snails, fish, and crabs, including the same phytoplankton we mentioned earlier. Bacteria are one of the largest groups that use respiration. As nutrients and minerals enter the system, algae and other photosynthetic organisms start to thrive under these conditions; this generally occurs due to the overflow of fertilizers and additional nutrient-rich solutions that enter the ecosystem unnaturally.

The algae can become so thick that the water turns green and prevents all light from penetrating beyond the first few inches of water. Eventually, this will leads to starvation of the aquatic plants due to their inability to undergo photosynthesis.

Simultaneously, the algae start to die as excess nutrients are engrossed and depleted from the water. This is when bacteria begin to decompose the rotting algae and other plants. Since there is much of this food to support the growth of the bacteria, the number increases, and therefore respiration also increases, reducing oxygen levels as they respire. And as these oxygen levels rapidly decrease, the water becomes anoxic. When oxygen is lacking, all organisms that require oxygen to survive usually die.

So, after considering the above factors and how it affects oxygen concentrations in the water, we can simply answer this question, that fish can drown in water. And having your fish drowning is not a nice experience. So, it is important to maintain high levels of dissolved oxygen in your aquarium by having lots of water movement and exchange with air on the surface.

Keep water parameters; look out for diseases and parasites, and hopefully, you will not experience what occurs when fish drown. The main reason for this is the lack of adequate oxygen. And diseases like alkalosis and gill flukes can also drown your fish. To prevent drowning/ suffocation, keep your tank clean, and provide plenty of sources of oxygen. And lastly, before we conclude let’s take a look at other related questions.

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Do fish have lungs?Fish-lungs

Fish generally do not have lungs. Most of them you will see or hear about have a set of gills on each side of the body. But this is not the case for all fish.

Can fish drown if pulled backward?


Sure, this will cause the fish to drown because the water flows to the other side. As such, the fish will not be able to absorb the much-needed oxygen. Though some fish can handle the reverse movement of water, it will get exhausted and drowns. And as the fish tries to free itself from the grasp, it becomes tired.  And the Combination of tiredness with the reverse movement of the water will finally drown the fish.

Can fish drown in milk?

Yes, if the milk does not have sufficient oxygen. Fish are not made to survive in milk.  So, they become susceptible to bacterial infection, and the accumulation of ammonia and nitrite will eventually kill the fish within a matter of days.

Can fish drown in juice?

Fish will probably die due to dissolved oxygen concentration and pH. Therefore, the fish wouldn’t have sufficient oxygen to survive. Also, the pH of juice is somewhat acidic that would put the fish in a pH shock.

How long does it take to drown?

Fish-drown time

For normal aquarium fish, it will take around 5 to 10 minutes before dying, while other species can take months, particularly for lungfish. A few that breathes through the skin can last for a few days.

From the above discussion, we can conclude that a fish can drown in water. Concerning other liquids, it all depends on the liquid. Fish can survive for variable periods of time and can behave normally when they return to their natural habitat. But, other liquid will kill the fish quickly due to suffocation or other unpleasant factors.

There has been a shortage of proper research on this subject matter, but subjective facts from home experiences and common knowledge of fish breathing needs suggest that the great majority of fish will not be able to survive in liquids other than water for a long period of time. Except the liquid is thoroughly tested, perfectly balanced, and carefully treated to duplicate water from ponds, streams, lakes, rivers, or ocean water, it will have negative effects on your fish health.

Although, we have made some suggestions in this article regarding the different liquids that a fish could likely survive for a short time. But, we in no way endorse this kind of testing at home, as we do not promote injury or unofficial experimentation to pets or animals. This is more of a thought experiment rather than a practical experiment, and a discussion that can be reasoned based on what we already know. Such is the beauty of scientific advancement.

How long can goldfish live?


Goldfish are the longest-lived of all aquarium fish. They can easily outlive a cat, dog, or even a turtle and according to the Guinness records. The oldest goldfish lived to the age of 43. These are maximum numbers, and most fish will live perhaps half that long, but only if they are kept properly.

Most of the goldfish are neglected by their owners and are not given proper conditions to survive, which is sad. Please do thorough research before bringing any pet home. Goldfish are large animals and require a very, very large tank or small pond to thrive.

They do not grow ‘only as large as their tank,’ but simply decline in health and die if their tank is too small to support normal growth. They succumb to poisoning from unclean water and oxygen deprivation.

What’s the Average Goldfish Lifespan?


Generally, it’s possible for a goldfish to live more than the average lifespan who is typically between 5to 10 years with good and adequate care. It’s recommended to keep them in an environment that can improve their development like a fish tank instead of a bowl and frequently change the water. also because they like to be in movement a tank size will depend on the number you have to keep.

1 to 5 fish for a 10-gallon fish tank and 6 to 10 for 15 / 20-gallon fish tank.

How long do Goldfish live in Bowls?


first of all, bowls are not the best homes for goldfish because they are too small. It can be difficult to believe that because goldfish are often seen in the bowls; having a filter installed in the bowl can help goldfish live significantly longer. Nevertheless, the lifespan is always less than life in tank fish.

As mentioned earlier goldfish tank water needs to be well maintained to keep them in good health. In the bowl with the filter installed they can live 3 to 5 years.

How Long Can Goldfish Survive Without Food?


Well depending on the size and state of the tank and the number of inhabitants. Goldfish are from the carp family so are omnivores so they are fairly resilient in an established tank they will eat algae on the glass an eat the algae off the media covering the tank floor if there is no food. Even to the point, they will harass each other to poo only to eat it even when flakes or pellets are offered.

So as long as your tank is established a just goldfish you could get away a not feed them at most would be 7 days. Not that I’d recommend it on a regular basis but a once-off they will in turn clean the tank if need be.

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