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Do Goldfish Yawn? Facts & FAQ

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

yawning goldfish

Every so often, you may be watching your goldfish and observe one of them begin to open its mouth incredibly wide, splay its fins in all directions as if stretching, then return back to how it was.  Is this a goldfish “yawn?”. The fact of the matter is goldfish don’t really yawn the same way humans do. 

Do Goldfish Yawn?

Goldfish don’t actually yawn.  At least, not in the same way that people do.  When people yawn, they take in a larger amount of air than usual in order to stretch their eardrums, then let out a deep exhale of breath.  With goldfish, it is different.

Goldfish breathe when they take in water in one direction.  It passes over their gill rakes and allows them to absorb oxygen.  Occasionally, they decide it’s time to reverse the process in order to clean themselves.  They then take in water from the opposite direction and force it through their gills to keep them from clogging up at all.  They do not do this to stretch their gills or their bodies at all, but to stay in tip-top shape.

Goldfish aquarium
Image By: Mirek Kijewski, Shutterstock

Does a Yawning Goldfish Mean Something is Wrong?

Not unless there is a problem in the goldfish’s environment.  Goldfish may yawn repeatedly when they are suffering from poor water quality and are trying to regulate their oxygen level.  If this is accompanied by gasping at the surface of the water, you are probably encountering a problem in the tank such as oxygen deficiency or an ammonia surge.  A fluke infestation, which damages the gills of the goldfish, may cause the goldfish to do this behavior repeatedly.  But when nothing is wrong with the goldfish, it will only yawn once in a while and you have nothing to worry about.

You may also notice that your goldfish’s eyes seem to “blink” when this happens.  Goldfish don’t have eyelids, so they are actually not blinking as we know it during this time, but are sort of rolling their eyes in a way that mimics a human squeezing their eyelids shut.

If you're new to the world of goldfish or are an experienced goldfish keeper that loves to learn more, we recommend you check out our best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, on Amazon.

From diagnosing illnesses and providing correct treatments to ensuring your goldies are happy with their setup and your maintenance, this book brings our blog to life in color and will help you to be the best goldfishkeeper you can be. 

Featured Image Credit: Noheaphotos, Shutterstock

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

Authored by

Lindsey discovered her passion for fish keeping after a junior high school field trip to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Prior to becoming Editor-in-Chief of It's a Fish Thing, Lindsey studied marine biology at the University of California-Santa Cruz. She loves goldfish, tetras, and mystery snails, and recently began experimenting with a saltwater aquarium.

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