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Fish Swimming Upside Down! ( The Solution Everybody Needs )

If you are a true fish lover, finding out that your “fish swimming upside down” will give you chills because it is not normal. It will look like your fish is dead, but your fish is still alive and trying to swim and breathe.

Most of the time, this is not normal behavior for your fish, and it indicates a problem. What will it be? Let’s find out below.

swim bladder disease

Why is my fish upside down and not moving?

If your little buddy is turned belly up and struggles at swimming, it means your fish has buoyancy problems. This is not actually the initial stage of this issue.

You either noticed before or not; your fish probably had been swimming sideways or vertically for several days.

When fish exhibits upside-down swimming, their gills will be covered with water, making it more difficult for them to breathe.

After several days, the affected fish will start having problems when trying to eat.

When your fish is struggling to turn back up, it will probably have too much stress and can lead to death if you don’t do something.

This impaired buoyancy is that the swim bladder- an organ that helps fishes control their buoyancy- isn’t functioning properly.

While there are several reasons for this condition, aquarists commonly call this condition swim bladder disease.

Many gold fish varieties such as fancy goldfish are prone to this disease.

Is it bad for fish to be upside down?

If your fish is swimming upside down, it is not a good sign, and you should take some action.

You might be able to correct the problem by yourself, or you might need to take your fish to a pet store or veterinarian.

But upside-down catfish show this unusual behavior without any disease conditions.

Is swim bladder disorder fatal?

Swim bladder disorder can be fatal if it is not treated.

This is especially true when fish is infected with bacterial swim bladder disorder and left untreated until the fish swims upside down. Bacterial infections will spread quickly to other organs, and your fish will die within a few days.

Should I euthanize my fish with a swim bladder?

Not necessarily. In odd cases, even a heavily infected fish will recover. But, the swim bladder disorder fish will be in a lot of pain and discomfort.

If you firmly decide to euthanize your fish- it’s not a problem. At least your fish did not suffer and gave you the pleasure of watching it swim for several days before its death.

But, we strongly suggest not to euthanize your fish because of swim bladder malfunction. Some fish end up with permanent swim bladder and still live a quality, healthy life until the end.

They eat well, swim well ( even if it is upside-down), and get along well with other fish.

In case your fish is losing weight, has difficulty breading, stops eating, or other fish are bullying your swim bladder fish, and it can not save itself and hide, then it might be the time to let it go.

At this point, the quality of life of your fish has dropped dramatically. And your fish is suffering a lot either due to health issues or stress.

This is the time you should euthanize your fish. Until then, you should give it a chance to live on.

Can a fish recover from swim bladder disorder?

Depending on the cause, fish can recover from swim bladder disorder. However, some fish may have a permanent swim bladder and live with the condition for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, some fish that get this disease from birth will not recover. If the fish is deformed due to genetic reasons (congenital), it can not be fixed, no matter how much time and money you spend on it.

Causes of swim bladder disease

There are many reasons why fish get caught with swim bladder issues, such as;

  • Your aquarium fish was injured or sick and the swim bladder filled with fluid as a result
  • Poor water quality caused an infection or disease, which then led to the fish’s swim bladder becoming bloated
  • A congenital birth defect is present at birth (rare)
  • The fish was dropped when young (can be common if the tank is too small and overcrowded)
  • A dietary problem, where the fish is not getting the proper nutrients it needs to maintain its health
  • A parasitic infection

In most cases, there are effective treatments that can help your fish recover.

What kind of damage does a swim bladder disease do?

The impact of swim bladder disease will vary depending on the cause and severity of the infection.

For example, if bacteria enter your fish’s swim bladder when it is injured or sick, your fish won’t be able to control its buoyancy. It can either float or sink, but it will not be able to maintain a stable position.

This uncontrolled buoyancy can make it very difficult for the fish to swim and feed.

If the infection is severe, your fish may start swimming upside down as the infection spreads to other organs. It will become very weak and eventually die.

Swim bladder disease treatments

Treating a swim bladder fish should be done by observing other symptoms of the fish. Often, bacterial or parasitic infected fish will show several other signs other than swimming upside down.

For example, a fish with swim bladder disease may lose appetite and color, which will show that the infection is not just in its swim bladder.

If you are not sure what is wrong with your fish, it is best to take it to a vet who will be able to diagnose the problem and prescribe the right treatment correctly.

The most popular treatments for swim bladder disease are antibiotics and anti-parasitic medications. In some cases, you may need to add a supplement to the fish’s diet to help it recover.

If your fish has a congenital birth defect, no cure is available for it. You will have to manage its condition the best you can with the proper medication and diet.

However, you can try some home remedies at home before taking any decision. But before doing any of these treatments, you should quarantine the sick fish immediately after you spot the difference.

Put your fish in fasting for several days

Many aquarists vow to fast their fish for several days to help them recover, especially when they get sick after feeding. This method will reduce bloating, which can be harmful to your fish.

This method works well if your fish is sick because of overfeeding if they are constipated and do not have parasites. Fasting is essential to let the fish’s digestive system rest and recover from any damage done by what it was fed.

Feed your fish peas

When your fish is constipated, feeding them a fiber-rich diet helps them recover fast. The best food that can be fed to your fish is cooked peas.

The fiber in the pea helps the digestive system recover fast and also absorb fluid, which will help deflate the swim bladder.

Feed your fish Daphnia

If your fish are carnivores and suffer from constipation, feeding daphnia is one of the best home remedies for your sick fish. The thing is, Daphnia is somewhat difficult to find in local stores.

Daphnia is a freshwater crustacean high in protein, fiber, and other nutrients that your fish need to recover.

Lower the temperature for several days

Fish metabolism low down when the temperature drops. So, when you reduce the temperature of your fish tank, it will give them more time for your fish to digest hardened food and release it.

The downside is that many fish will stop eating when the tank’s temperature drops too low, so you need to be careful with this treatment.

Add Epsom salt to the tank

Some people recommend adding Epsom salt to the fish tank when the fish has swim bladder disease

Epsom salt is rich in magnesium. So, it can reduce swim bladder problems and affects the fish’s digestive system. However, some fish breeders swear by the benefits of Epsom salt and claim it helped them treat their sick fish.

Remove all decorations from the tank

When your fish has swim bladder disease, it is best to remove all decorations from the tank. This will help the fish recover faster because there are no obstacles for them to swim around.

If you have a large aquarium, you can also create currents with an air pump to help the fish move faster and easier.

If you want to add decoration, add small stones or use the tank’s glass to make shapes like a cave.

Provide pristine water conditions

If you have a not-so-serious case of swim bladder disorder, pristine water conditions are the best home remedy for your sick fish. In other words, you need to keep up with water changes, regular tank maintenance, and also filtration.

Clean your fish tank once every week with the correct chemicals and use a good quality filter to clean the water.

If you have a larger fish tank, you may need to do water changes every week to keep the water conditions perfect for your fish.

Treat your fish with an antibiotic

If your fish has a bacterial infection, you can try antibiotics to help it recover faster.

There are several antibiotic treatments for swim bladder disorder available in local stores. Still, you need to be careful with the dosage and the type of antibiotic you are using.

If you are not sure about the antibiotic medication, you can always consult a vet or a fish-keeping expert for advice.

Treat your fish for parasites

If your fish has parasites, you can treat them with a medication like praziquantel. 

Praziquantel is a drug that is used to treat different types of parasites. It is available in most local stores, and it is one of the most popular medications for parasites.

However, you should be careful with the dosage and make sure that you follow the medication’s label instructions. 

If you are not sure, it is best to contact a vet or fish-keeping expert for advice.

How to prevent swim bladder disorder?

Swim bladder disorder is very painful and can be fatal to your fish, so it is essential to prevent it. 

There are quite a few things you can do to help prevent swim bladder disorder in your fish, and some of them are:

Feed your fish a healthy diet that is high in protein and fiber

In a well-maintained aquarium, constipation is the main reason why fish get swim bladder disorder. 

To prevent constipation, you need to feed your fish a healthy diet that is high in protein and fiber. This will help keep fish’s digestive system healthy and reduce the chances of getting swim bladder disorder.

Keep the aquarium clean and free from waste

If you have a proper filtration system and you change the water regularly, there is no reason why your fish should get swim bladder disorder.

However, if you do not have a sound filtration system or do not change the water regularly, your fish’s tank will become polluted and full of bacteria. Bacteria will build up in the gravel and rocks, so be sure to clean it every once in a while.

Add Epsom salt to your fish’s water

Epsom salt contains magnesium which is very good for the fish’s digestive system, but you need to be careful with the dosage.

If you add excessive Epsom salt to your fish’s water, it can cause the fish to become bloated and have trouble swimming. 

If you are not sure about the Epsom salt dosage, it is best to contact a vet or fish-keeping expert for advice.

Avoid overfeeding your fish

If you overfeed your fish, they will become bloated and have trouble swimming. 

This is because the excess food will get stuck in their digestive system, and they will not be able to digest it properly.

The best way to prevent overfeeding is by feeding your fish only small portions every day.

If you have a school of fish, try to feed them in several different places in their tank so that they can eat without competition.

Diversify the diet of your fish

Apart from regular fish pellets and flakes, you should feed your fish with fiber-rick food at least once per week.

Feeding your fish fiber-rich food like peas and Daphnia can help prevent swim bladder disorder.

Do not overcrowd your fish tank

If you have an overcrowded fish tank, your fish will not have enough space to move around, and they can easily get stressed

Stress can affect the digestive system and make it more prone to swim bladder disorder.

If you have a large number of fish, it is best to divide them into two or more tanks.


The main cause for fish swimming upside down is Swim bladder disorder. The best way to prevent your fish from getting swim bladder disorder is by taking good care of their tank and feeding them a healthy diet.

If your fish already have swim bladder disorder, you can treat them with treatments we have mentioned before.

In unfortunate cases, the fish may die because of swim bladder disorder. But, it is your responsibility to take every possible step to cure your fish.

Credit to : Syed Shah5001
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.