My catfish (i think thats what its called) has all of a sudden started somersaulting around the tank. Ive had the same fish for 2 years no issues and no changes. Except my largrst fish died recently for some unknown reason. The catfish normally hides and never comes out but yesterday he came out and looked perfectly normal. Today hes somersaulting all over and going to top for air. I dont know what is is or what to do. I dont have another tank to put him into and dont have any testing strips to test the water. Could anyone advise please as dont want the poor thing suffering. Thanku
I've witnessed what you describe lately but, in my own case, it's been elderly fish whose swimbladders have been malfunctioning - more gradual.
In your case, in the absence of knowing your water quality, I would suggest doing a water change - perhaps 25% - which ought to reduce nitrate levels or any ammonia or nitrite presence. Lowering the water level to just cover the filter so that it can continue to function might help too - or at least be less traumatic for the fish as less of a distance to somersault and swim up for air. Make sure that the tank is well-oxygenated, with the filter outflow agitating the water's surface. Presumably you've cleaned the filter recently (rinsed the media in old tank water) so that it's functioning fully? It might be worth 'fasting' the tank for a day or two - that way, if there's an intestinal blockage pressing on the swimbladder, it may alleviate that.
Strip-based tests aren't that good. The ones that have an ammonia test strip in them are notoriously difficult to read. Most don't have the crucial ammonia test, though. I find the nitrite and nitrate reading reliable, the chlorine reading helpful, but the PH vastly lower than my water company and liquid-based test kit results, and the KH and GH vastly higher. Best to go for a liquid-based test kit if you can.
In terms of what to do for your catfish, I would carefully scoop out some water regularly and replace it with dechlorinated water of the same temperature eg even 10% of it scooped out every hour or so, just to ensure that water quality remains high and the action of doing so will help oxygenate the water albeit only briefly. Wrapping a towel round the bowl might help retain the water temperature.
Alternatively, in order to retain water temperature/filtration, you could try a makeshift cave/hide and see if that helps at all. I had a dilemma recently about whether to try to keep a fish in a net propped up at the side of the tank or in a container in the tank to prevent him becoming traumatised by his plunging around the tank but had to weigh this up against whether he might become more traumatised at being trapped - it may take some trial and error to work out what might be best in your case.