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Goldfish Swim Bladder Disease: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention Guide

The increased susceptibility of fancy goldfish to develop a disease of one or both swim bladders is one of the most prevalent issues with these fish.

Depending on the reason, swim bladder condition is typically not deadly, and there are several therapy options available to help your goldfish recover.

Goldfish have two swim bladders at birth. In the bodies of common, comet, and shubunkin goldfish, the structure is proper.

Unfortunately, fancy goldfish such as fantails, Ranchu, Orandas, and black moors have compressed internal organs, and their stomachs exert excessive pressure on the closest swim bladder.

In "Goldfish Swim Bladder Disease: %year% Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention Guide" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org), we will discuss how to recognize the signs of swim bladder disease in goldfish, as well as how to treat and prevent it.

Swim Bladder Disorder Explained

Goldfish use their air-filled swim bladders to maintain their balance and buoyancy in the water. The swim bladder at the fish’s tail is often the biggest and connects directly to the digestive tract. The goldfish will inflate and deflate their swim bladder organs to swim in a regulated manner around the aquarium.

It is usual for goldfish to swallow at the surface after a meal in order to maintain their neutral buoyancy. The swim bladders of fancy goldfish are tubular and compressed within their spherical bodies.

This renders them susceptible to developing buoyancy concerns whenever the swim bladders are subjected to pressure. The front air bladder is connected by tiny bones near the rear of the skull.

Disorders of the swim bladder can lead goldfish to swim on their sides, upside down, or repeatedly drop to the bottom, altering their swimming behavior.

This is a stressful situation for the fish, thus they must be handled immediately. Aside from their swimming difficulties, the fish will seem healthy.

Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disorder

  • Swimming upside down
  • Floating to the surface uncontrollably
  • Swims with its head down
  • Sinking to the bottom
  • Swimming lopsided
  • Rashes and wounds from bottom-sitting or exposure to the air
  • Passes empty poop casings
  • Swollen stomach

Treating Swim Bladder Disorder in Goldfish

Step 1: Place the diseased fish in a therapy tank. This guarantees you do not contaminate the main tank with any drugs.

Step 2: Use an aquarium heater to gradually increase the temperature between 24° to 26°C.

Step 3: Add two tablespoons of Epsom salts per gallon of water.

Step 4: Treat the swim bladder for germs with NT Labs Swim Bladder Treatment or Seachem Focus.

Step 5: If a bacterial condition is ruled out, boil and deshell the pea, then crush it between your fingers and feed it to the goldfish.

Step 6: Rub the goldfish’s tummy gently to expel any trapped air.

Preventative Measures to Try

1. Maintain the cleanliness of the aquarium’s water using a filter and periodic water changes. Unclean water is a breeding habitat for bacteria that can infect the swim bladder.

2. In addition to algae pellets and blanched green veggies, provide high-quality meals.

3. Feed less protein to your goldfish to prevent constipation.

4. Don’t keep goldfish in tall aquariums.

Peas as a ‘Cure'

Peas are typically the first therapy that springs to mind when a goldfish has swim bladder troubles. Peas are touted as a treatment for the disease, but this is untrue.

Peas are unremarkable and lack the antibacterial qualities necessary to eliminate a potential bacterial infection in the swim bladder organ.

Peas are commonly provided to goldfish to aid with waste elimination, however they are ineffective when infections or genetic abnormalities are present.

The Truth About Fasting Goldfish

In addition to eating peas, many goldfish keepers advocate weekly fasting for goldfish with swim bladder condition, claiming it is a prophylactic practice. When goldfish are fasted or denied food, their stomachs return to their previous size since they are no longer required to support a meal. When you resume feeding the goldfish, their stomach will rapidly grow, which might cause abdominal pain and bloating.

The bloating will exert excessive pressure on the swim bladder organ. As a preventative precaution or therapy option for a swim bladder condition, fasting is not indicated. It will do more harm than benefit in the end.

All fish should have access to little amounts of food throughout the day. Large meals once a day can contribute to bloat, and your goldfish may suffer from swim bladder problems for the whole of its life if fed such a diet.

Bacterial Infection of One or Both Swim Bladders

A bacterial infection may compromise the function of the organs of the swim bladder. This is one of the most prevalent causes of swim bladder problem in goldfish.

Certain bacterial infections can affect swim bladders mostly due to contaminated water. This is easily treatable with antibiotics that target Aeromonas or Pseudomonas bacteria.

A change of water will also assist to tackle the issue.

Genetically Faulty Swim Bladder Organs

The overbreeding of fancy goldfish produces aberrant body forms and characteristics. This causes the organs to be compressed in an abnormal manner. It is typical for fancy goldfish to have a genetically deflated swim bladder organ.

This will cause the goldfish to suffer persistent swim bladder difficulties throughout its lifetime. They are typically unsteady in the water and will frequently rest around the aquarium’s bottom. You may also see that they get floating following a large meal.


Constipation is prevalent with goldfish fed an insufficient diet. A staple diet that is heavy in protein should not be offered to goldfish. Vegetable debris and algae are essential for the digestion of goldfish.

If you feed your goldfish a higher proportion of live meals and commercial mixes formulated for carnivorous fish, they are more prone to develop swim bladder diseases. Fiber-rich diets are an effective prophylactic treatment against constipation in goldfish.

Wrapping It Up

Your goldfish will be less likely to develop a swim bladder condition if you take the appropriate preventative steps and provide them with a nutritious food.

Since fancy goldfish with aberrant body types are more likely to acquire this condition, you should only keep goldfish with a body form comparable to that of common or comet goldfish.

If you wish to avoid dealing with genetically impaired swim bladder organs, you should avoid acquiring pearl scales or Oranda goldfish.

We hope that “Goldfish Swim Bladder Disease: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention Guide” by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has helped you successfully identify and treat your goldfish.

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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