Swim Bladder Disease in Fish: The Who, What, Where, and Why

Posted by Samantha Bubar

Is your fish floating? He may be experiencing swim bladder disease. This disease can affect pet fish and can result from many different causes. If your fish starts floating or swimming in circles, chances are that this problem is to blame.

Swim bladder disease is less of a disease and more of a disorder. If you think your fish may have a swim bladder problem, learning the who, what, where, and why of swim bladder disease will help you figure out what to do next and how to best care for your fish.

Who Can Get Swim Bladder Disease?

Swim Bladder

Swim bladder issues are most common in goldfish and betta fish, but can occur in any aquarium fish.

What Is It?

This disorder happens when the swim bladder of the fish is too full.

Your fish may float to the top of the tank or sink to the bottom. They may swim sideways or float upside down. The spine may look curved and the belly area will look full or bloated.

Swim Bladder

When Does It Happen?

Most commonly, swim bladder can occur when your fish is overfed or gulps too much air. Swim bladder can also happen in cooler water temperatures when the metabolism of the fish slows down.

Swim BladderBacterial infections or parasites can sometimes cause complications with the swim bladder. It can also be a rare birth defect with symptoms showing up very early in the lifespan of the fish.

Where Is It?

The swim bladder is located behind the rest of the internal organs. The diagram below, of a betta fish, shows the swim bladder in blue.

Swim Bladder

Why Does This Happen?

The main cause of swim bladder is overfeeding, which leads to constipation. Another cause is gulping air when they grab food from the surface of the water. Enlarged organs and infections can also cause swim bladder disease.

Betta Fish

Water temperature can also prove problematic for your fish's swim bladder. Cooler water temperatures lowers the metabolism, which makes it harder for food to pass through their system.

What Now?

If you suspect your fish may have swim bladder disease, don't feed them for three to four days. This will allow whatever may be in his system to pass.

Clean the water and raise the temperature to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes also lowering the water level can help make it easier for the fish to reach the surface.

Swim Bladder

Feed your fish a skinned pea after the three-to-four-day fast. Frozen peas work best, and all you have to do is microwave or boil a pea, to soften it enough to remove the skin. Once you have removed the skin, you can feed a piece of the pea to your fish. The pea will help to clear out your fish's system.

How Do I Prevent It?

Swim Bladder

Make sure to keep the water clean at all times, and keep the temperature between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. You can soak dried foods before feeding or thaw frozen foods. Also make sure to only feed the appropriate amount. A fish stomach is about the same size as its eye!

Following these steps can help you prevent and treat any issues that may rise to the surface with your beloved fish friends.

So let's recap! There are a few main causes of swim bladder disease:

The most common cause is when flaky fish food floats at the top of the water, so when fish take a bite they also gulp down some air. This can cause their organs to become enlarged, leading to swim bladder disorder.

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Swim Bladder Disease in Fish: The Who, What, Where, and Why