Swim Bladder Disease in Goldfish

  • Symptoms : The function of the swim bladder is to help the fish stay stable in the water and control how it floats. Goldfish with swim bladder problems sometimes float to the surface, unable to dive. They may also sit on the bottom, unable to move up, or else swim on one side. In extreme cases, they flip over and swim upside-down (belly up), unable to get a proper balance.
  • Possible Causes: With fancy egg-shaped goldfish, this issue is quite common when it occurs after a meal. Read the tips below on how to avoid or reduce the issue. Less commonly, can be caused by a bacterial infection (Pseudomonas fluorescens and Aeromonas) or by a parasite.
Upside-down goldfish with swim bladder issues (fish belly up)

Fish with swim bladder problems, unable to regain proper balance

  • Following a meal: If the symptoms described above are recurrent following a meal and if your fish behaves normally after a couple of hours or so, it may be because your fish sucks a large amount of air on the surface when you feed it. The solution is very simple: when you feed your fish, create a gentle movement at the water surface to make the food sink rather than float on the surface, or just use sinking pellets.
  • Some fancy goldfish can develop chronic swimbladder problems due to their compacted shape (e.g. the bladder is compressed): To alleviate or eliminate the issue, don’t feed your fish for 48 hours after you notice the first symptoms. Then, in addition to staple pellets or granules, regularly feed your fish with veggies. For example, boiled and crushed peas without the shell (frozen or fresh but not canned, as cans contain additives and salt). Also try: small pieces of zucchini; peeled cucumber; lightly steamed lettuce or spinach; steamed kale and brocooli. You can also attach a steamed lettuce or spinach leaf on a veggie clip, and leave it for a few hours: this will also keep your goldfish busy! Click here to learn more about feeding your goldfish.
  • For all goldfish, always add veggies to their menu from time to time: Goldfish love it and this can avoid constipation and swimbladder issues to appear in the first place.
  • Test your water for the possible presence of ammonia and nitrite. It has also recently been shown that nitrate accumulation in water could lead to swim bladder disorders in goldfish. This calls for regular maintenance of our tanks (regular water changes especially) and a tank large enough for your fish. When making water changes, make sure that the replacement water is at about the same temperature as your tank water (to avoid sudden temperature changes). 
  • Other options: If the problem seems constant and the above measurements remain ineffective, antibacterial treatment is to be considered, although a bacterial or viral origin (no known treatment) is very difficult to establish. If it is a genetic factor (malformation for example) or old age, there is unfortunately no cure.