Swim bladder disease

swim bladder disease in goldfish“Swim bladder disease” is one of the most common problems affecting goldfish.

Although often called a “disease”, it is actually a symptom or disorder affecting the goldfish’s swim bladder that can have a number of different causes. There is not one specific “disease”  that is the cause of all swim bladder problems in goldfish!

As it is not actually a disease, swim bladder problems are not contagious. If one fish has a problem, your other fish won’t “catch it”, though they may still be at risk of developing similar problems.

Fortunately, swim bladder problems can usually be cured fairly easily.

Read on to find out more about swim bladder disease and how to treat it…

What is swim bladder disease?

Goldfish have an organ in their bodies called a swim bladder. The job of the swim bladder is to help the goldfish stay stable in the water and control the way in which it floats.

If the goldfish wants to swim upwards, towards the top of the tank, then it will take air into its swim bladder. This makes the goldfish more buoyant (like an inflatable in a swimming pool) and it rises towards the surface.

If the goldfish then wants to swim downwards, towards the bottom of the tank, it will release air from the swim bladder. You may see this air coming out of the fish’s mouth in the form of bubbles as it swims to a lower point in the tank.

Swim bladder disease is when a fish loses its ability to regulate the air going in and out of its swim bladder.

Symptoms of swim bladder disease

Losing the ability to regulate air going in and out of the swim bladder can lead to too much air within the swim bladder.

This excess air, which the goldfish is unable to get rid of by controlling their swim bladder as they normally would, may cause the goldfish to float near the surface, swim upside down or lean heavily to one side.

Causes of swim bladder disease

Fancy goldfish often suffer from deformed swim bladders, as they have been bred to have such unusual body shapes.

Other causes include:

  • constipation
  • swallowing air at the surface of the tank when eating
  • fermentation of food in the gut
  • sudden changes in temperature
  • bacterial infection
  • parasitic infection

Treating swim bladder disease

As you can see from the list above, the eating habits of goldfish are the most common cause of swim bladder disease. Constipation causing excess food to press against the swim bladder, swallowing air when eating, or eating the wrong type of food that then ferments in the gut are by far the most common causes.

You should therefore take the following steps to treat swim bladder disease:

  1. Test the water quality and monitor the tank temperature (Is the temperature stable? Is the tank properly cycled? Do you do regular water changes? Is there ammonia or nitrite in the water?)
  2. Do not feed the fish for at least 48 hours (Don’t worry – goldfish really don’t need to eat much!)
  3. After 48 hours, start to feed the fish very small amounts of peas with the shells removed
  4. Add some aquarium salt (one teaspoon per gallon) to de-stress the fish
  5. You could try a swim bladder treatment if you think that you’ve already been feeding your goldfish the right types and amounts of food and that an infection may be the cause of their swim bladder problems

Follow the above steps and your fish should hopefully show signs of improvement and swim in a more stable manner.

Changing your goldfish’s diet

After your fish has recovered from swim bladder disease and you resume feeding, you should consider making the following changes to the fish’s diet:

  • Feed less regularly. Goldfish really don’t need to eat much at all (did you know they don’t have stomachs?), but they’re very greedy and will continue to eat and eat if you give them too much food!
  • Avoid flake foods – feed sinking pellets instead
  • Feed your goldfish peas with the shells removed, boiled vegetables, bloodworms and brine shrimp
  • Soak food in tank water for a few seconds before adding to the main tank to make sure it sinks

This post is part of our series on Goldfish DiseasesRead more…

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  • Fabian Lau

    I need some help,i noticed my goldfish gulping air.I’m afraid that they will get swimbladder problems.The tank is big with only a few goldfish.It has an air pump and a filter.What can i do to stop them from doing this?

    • TheGoldfishTank

      Hi Fabian,

      When you say the tank is big – how big do you mean? Are you able to give us the size in gallons, litters or measured by length, width and height?

      Do you know the ammonia levels in your tank? If not, the best idea would be to get a test kit and check your water parameters.

      Let us know how you get on!


      • Fabian Lau

        My tank is 50.5 us gallons.Only has 13 common goldfish.
        I don’t think the ammonia levels is high because i just bought them the day before i posted here.

        • JSB3

          You should probably only have 1 fish for every 10 gallons. So you have to many in one tank.

        • Anyonomous goldfish lover

          Be very careful, that tank is terribly overcrowded. And if you just got them, is your tank cycled?

  • Fabian Lau

    I need some help,i noticed my goldfish gulping air.I’m afraid that they will get swimbladder problems.The tank is big with only a few goldfish.It has an air pump and a filter.What can i do to stop them from doing this?

  • pauline

    Hi I have two goldfish one gold and roundish the other white and we’ll normal. My gold one has been acting strange for weeks now by almost lieing on its side at the bottom of the tank. The white one has recently started to float around the top of the tank.. Iv not a clue what’s wrong or of their dieing. HELP PLEASE.

    • Anynomous goldfish lover

      If your goldfish ate acting strange, try the steps on this article. They probalbly have a much more complicated and informed idea of things as they have written a whole blog on goldfish. (Lol)
      I have felt the same way many times. Actually, my oranda is having some issues with her swim bladder too. My dad keeps feeding the fish this terrible brand of flakes (they normally eat a mix of hikara lionhead and omega one pellets) and it is driving me crazy. One of the best remedies for this is peas, im getting some as soon as possible. For the goldfish to eat them, they must be chopped in half (at least for smaller goldfish) and have the shell taken off. The shells on the peas usally slide right off if you kinda push on it with your nail.
      Another cause might be water quality. I assume you have a fancy goldfish and a comet? Comets come in white and orange and are the most common goldfish found in pet stores. Fancies are round with more complicated fins, they can be simply longer or get crazy (if you wanna see a really funny goldfish search up “crown pearlscale oranda goldfish images”) Fancy goldfish like tanks 30 gallons or bigger for two. Comets need 55 or bigger, they get big quick given the right care. The more crowded your tank is, the easier it is for the water to foul.

  • pauline

    Iv recently came across the answer to ur question. From what iv found if ur gold fish has swimmers bladder don’t feed it or them for 48 hours after 48 hours it says u then feed them peas but take the skin off them first it also states to change feed to pellets other than flakes and not to feed them too often as they don’t actually have stomachs although they will constantly eat. Hope this helps.

  • chicofalso88

    Please if anyone can tell me why my goldfish dont live more than four weeks .When i add my fish to the tank they act fine and happy for two or three weeks then they start hanging more at the top of the tank and then they rnd up dead or floating around before dying. My water parameters are fine, the ph is 8.2 but stable. Have two filters one canister and a hob, an air pump with a bubble wand.My tank is a 55 gallon i use prime for conditioner…

    • fjsdnfosdnfojnsd

      You might be buying unhealthy goldfish