Last Updated: May 26, 2022 by Dave Gibbins
Have you found your betta alive but laying on the bottom of the tank or swimming upside down? We have certainly seen this issue with our bettas at least once. It can be very distressing to find your fish swimming sideways or upside down.
We put together this article so anyone dealing with this betta swim bladder issue can help their fish as quickly as possible.
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What is the betta swim bladder?
The swim bladder is an air-filled organ that helps your betta remain buoyant and float at the depth they want to be at. Most bony fish have a swim bladder. Problems with the swim bladder can result in odd swimming or difficulty changing depth.
As you can see, betta fish swim bladder health is very important for your fish. You may be wondering, “Can fish die from swim bladder disease?” Good news, so long as you treat the cause promptly, your fish should be just fine.
What are swim bladder disease symptoms?
The symptoms can vary a bit, but are all difficulties with swimming and keeping buoyant. You may see your fish swimming upside down or sideways. You might notice problems reaching the top or bottom of the tank. Or even see your betta swimming in circles.
Your fish can stop producing poop or won’t eat. If you notice this alongside the swimming difficulties, it can indicate that overfeeding or constipation issues are causing the swim bladder issues.
You may also notice a bloated appearance or a sudden s-curve to the spine. All of these point toward betta fish swim bladder disease. Betta fish swim bladder can be delicate, and injuries or digestive issues can cause major problems in a betta swim bladder.
What are the causes?
There are many potential causes of issues in a betta swim bladder.
The most common causes stem from feeding issues or poor water quality. Problems with the betta swim bladder typically indicate other diseases or health problems. The symptoms can also be similar to more severe conditions like dropsy.
Overfeeding is a common cause. Your betta’s stomach is only the size of their eye – keep this in mind as you feed them. Ingested air from food gulps can also cause problems. Some owners soak their betta food before feeding, or buy sinking betta food.
Bacterial infection, parasites such as in Velvet disease, and injuries can also cause symptoms in the betta swim bladder. Check your fish for signs of these and treat the underlying condition quickly.
Some fish are just born with problems with their swim bladder. If you have never seen them swimming normally, this might be the case. However, some young fish do grow out of it as they age.
Betta swim bladder problems can also be a symptom of more serious conditions like dropsy or look similar to other diseases. Be sure to rule these out first before deciding on a treatment.
How to cure swim bladder in betta fish
You may be wondering what you can do for your fish and how to treat swim bladder conditions. This depends on the cause. Let’s have a look at the most common…
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For bacterial infections or parasites, you need to move your fish to a hospital tank and treat their specific condition. Since bacterial infections are more common, try that before moving on to parasites. Use melafix for bacterial infections or bettafix since it can have better results for bettas.
Remember to read package directions carefully when using any medication. Be sure you’re using the right treatment. The manufacturer has many helpful diagrams and advice on treating many common fish ailments with their products.
If overfeeding is the cause, you only need to move your betta to a hospital tank if it has tank mates. Otherwise, you can stop feeding your fish for up to 3 days. Raise the heater gradually to 80 degrees Fahrenheit to speed digestion. After a few days, your fish should be better. Just don’t overfeed or feed air-filled food again.
Floating betta food or cheap foods can encourage your betta to ingest air, making it harder for your fish to dive down in the tank. In severe cases, it can be stuck at the surface. Fasting for a few days can help.
For constipation, it’s best to move to a hospital tank so you can monitor if your fish has produced poop (or just keep a close eye on the little guy). You can either fast them, or give them a small amount of blanched peas. Peas function as a laxative for betta fish.
Be sure not to feed peas to them more than twice a day, and make sure they’re cooked first. If your fish is having trouble reaching the pea in time to eat it, you can cut it into smaller pieces and hold it for your betta.
If the problem is due to age or a birth defect, you can’t fix it besides waiting it out. The best thing to do is to change up the tank. Give your betta a shallower tank that still has the same gallon size. Put in silk or live plants with wide leaves so they can rest more easily.
This can be a good option for any fish that seems to be having trouble swimming. Just remember to follow proper betta care and select a tank large enough for your fish. Bettas need at least 5 gallons with a heater to be happy and healthy.
If you find yourself dealing with health problems in your fish often, be sure to check things like your water quality and your temperature. Be sure to never use sharp decorations or plastic plants with betta fish, since these can rip fins and cause infections.
Using Epsom salt for a swim bladder treatment
If you google “how to treat swim bladder” one recommendation you will see is using epsom salt. This won’t work for all causes of betta swim bladder troubles. It works mainly for bacterial infections, and a proper medication might be more effective.
Betta swim bladder epsom salt bath treatments can be tried if you already have some. The dose is 1 tablespoon for every 5 gallons of water. This is the general recommendation. Just be careful with this like you would for any other treatment and follow instructions from the manufacture.
Can my fish die from swim bladder problems?
Generally, no so long as you treat promptly. While dropsy can present similarly with bloating, it also tends to involve the scales sticking out like a pinecone. This condition can be fatal, but it isn’t as common as simple swim bladder conditions.
Even if the issue is permanent, like with birth defects, you can easily change up your tank to make your fish more comfortable. Just limit the amount of swimming it has to do to get food or reach the surface by changing up your tank as recommended. Your fish should do much better so long as you accommodate its difficulties.
While swim bladder issues are somewhat common with many causes, it is very treatable. Use melafix or bettafix for infections, or fix the feeding or tank issues causing the condition. If you have any questions, be sure to comment. Our friendly community will be happy to help.
- Make note of the symptoms
- Check them against a list of disease to determine the underlying cause
- Either medicate or follow the appropriate steps to cure your fish
- Make sure you avoid the causes in the future, either with feeding or tank changes