How to Cure Swim Bladder Disease in fish?

How to Cure Swim Bladder Disease? A Complete Guide

Have you ever seen your fish having difficulty swimming? Or floating on the surface of the water?

Despite the ultimate care and protection you provide to your fish, your fish can still contract several disorders. Swim bladder disease is a group of diseases that commonly affects goldfishbettas, koi fish, or the fish having swim bladder organs.

In the swim bladder disorder, your fish can show several symptoms. Most commonly, your fish might face difficulty swimming and will start floating on the surface of the water. Unhealthy eating, over-eating, fluctuations in water parameters, and another bunch of reasons can cause this swim bladder disease.

Although there is a very slim chance of your fish dying from swim bladder disease, it can still prove pretty tough for your fish. The good news is that its treatment and prevention are both available and are quite easy.

Thus, in this article, we will cover every aspect of this disease, including its causes, symptoms, swim bladder disorder treatment, and prevention.

Let’s not wait any longer and find swim bladder disease cure.

What is Swim Bladder Disease?

The first question that arises is that what is this swim bladder disease? Well, basically, swim bladder disease is not just a single disease but a set of multiple diseases. It is a syndrome containing all the clinical signs and symptoms secondary to the disease process.

It generally affects the swim bladder organ involved with your fish’s ability to swimming or floating.

Swim bladder disorder is also referred to as “air bladder” or “gas bladder.” Any environmental, physical, biological, or mechanical factor leading to buoyancy is a leading cause of swim bladder problems.

What is Swim Bladder Organ?

Before getting to know the reasons or symptoms of this disorder, we should first acknowledge ourselves with this swim bladder organ, its structure, and functioning.

Well, basically, swim bladder organ or gas bladder is an outpouching of the digestive tract. It’s an embryonic organ that is divided into two main chambers. An anterior chamber and posterior chamber. Generally, the anterior chamber is laden with thick tissues, whereas the posterior chamber is mainly filled with gas. The anterior and posterior chamber is communicating through a thin duct. 

Now that the structure of the swim bladder is crystal clear, let’s talk about its functions. So mainly, the most important function of the swim bladder is the control of buoyancy when the fish inflates or deflates the gas bladder, the fish floats or swim,s respectively. Occasionally, in some fish, the swim bladder servers’ other functions in addition to buoyancy. The swim bladder also helps in hearing and talking.

Types of Buoyancy Disorders

In general terms, a defective swim bladder is not the sole cause of swim bladder problems; thus, it is known as buoyancy disorders to clarify it further in medical terms.

There are two basic types of buoyancy disorders.

  1. Positive buoyancy disorder
  2. Negative buoyancy disorder

To make the right diagnosis, the correct symptoms of both types of disorders should be well understood. So, now we will be discussing both types of disorders in detail.

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Positive Buoyancy Disorder

Positive buoyancy disorder is a condition in which the fish floats on the surface of the water. Moreover, belly up, back carved, or abnormal posture is also seen in most cases. A part of fish skin is exposed to the outside air. Most commonly, the positive buoyancy disease is seen in short-bodied fish.


The most common cause of positive buoyancy is over-inflation of the posterior chamber. This over-inflation could be because of the following reasons.

  • In some cases, the short-bodied fish could even lack the posterior chamber; this condition makes them prone to positive buoyancy.
  • Many factors are contributing to positive buoyancy, including trauma, infection, parasitic infestation, and in many cases, cancers.
  • Moreover, in the case of polycystic kidneys, a portion of the kidney resides within the posterior chamber of the gas bladder. This commonly leads to hyper-inflation and posture changes.
  • Another common cause of over-inflation is gastroenteritis. Excessive stress, shipping, improper water conditions, or unhealthy food can all lead to gastric infection.
  • Additionally, in certain GI tract disturbances, there is an overproduction of gases in the abdomen. These gases also show the symptoms of positive buoyancy, such as belly up and postural changes.


When it comes to the effects of positive buoyancy on fish health, they are enormous.

  • Firstly, due to skin exposure to the outside air, the depletion of the mucosal barrier occurs.
  • Due to damage to the mucosal surface, skin irritation occurs, leading to ulceration and bacterial infection of exposed parts.
  • If you neglect the ulceration, your fish can face serious organ damage.
  • Your fish with swim bladder disease will face difficulty in swimming and breathing as well.

Negative Buoyancy Disorder

So, basically, in negative buoyancy disorder, there is fluid accumulation in the gas bladder, which makes the fish unable to swim, and it stays in the bottom of the tank. It is opposite to the positive buoyancy.

The commonly seen symptoms, in this case, are round swollen belly, inability to swim, turning of the fish to one side, and the swelling is commonly asymmetrical.


The main causes of negative buoyancy disorder are the following.

  • The fluid buildup could occur because of excessive fluid ingestion through the duct connecting the posterior chamber with the oesophagus during feeding.
  • Moreover, the parasitic viral or bacterial infection can lead to greater fluid production in the GI tract. This fluid takes the place of air in the gas bladder.
  • Stress or trauma are also leading causes of negative buoyancy disorder.
  • Any factor leading to the rupture of the swim bladder is the direct cause of negative buoyancy.
  • In some cases, low temperature also slows down the digestive process. this leads to enlargement of the GI tract, which ultimately puts pressure over the gas bladder.


The effects seen in the negative buoyancy disorder are somewhat similar to those seen in positive buoyancy.

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Swim Bladder Disease Treatment

The swim bladder disease treatment mostly depends on its original cause. The treatment for positive buoyancy is quite different from that for negative buoyancy. Thus, to know how to treat swim bladder disease, you need to know the disease’s accurate cause.

Swim bladder disease treatment can be started once you have done identifying the root cause.

How to Treat Swim Bladder Disease

The swim bladder disease treatment mostly depends on its original cause. The treatment for positive buoyancy is quite different from that for negative buoyancy. Thus, to know how to treat swim bladder disease, you need to know the disease’s accurate cause.

Swim bladder disease treatment can be started once you have done identifying the root cause.
A fishkeeper must know how to cure swim bladder disease

  1. Removing the Excess Air/Gas

  2. Removing the Accumulated Fluid

  3. Maintain the Water Quality

  4. Increasing the Water Temperature

  5. Reducing the Water Level

  6. Hand Feeding

  7. Reducing Water Currents

  8. Selection of Feed

Removing the Excess Air/Gas

In the case of positive buoyancy disorder, removing excess gas is the ultimate solution. For this purpose, don’t feed your fish for the next two to three days. This will give your fish enough time to release the unwanted gas.

Secondly, you can remove the air by piercing a syringe into the swim bladder and removing the excess air.

Rounded peas are a perfect diet for a fish suffering from swim bladder disease as it helps eliminate excessive air.

Removing the Accumulated Fluid

As there is excessive fluid accumulation during negative buoyancy disease, ultrasound is the best possible method to detect it. Mostly an acute bacterial infection is the leading cause of fluid over-production.

A broad-spectrum antibiotic is the best solution to prevent the over-secretion of fluid in the gut.

Maintain the Water Quality

Maintaining a healthy atmosphere around your fish is not only the best treatment, but it also prevents many diseases, including swim bladder disease. Therefore, it is important to maintain the water quality.

Partial water replacement is an appropriate way to eliminate harmful bacterial colonies in poor water quality.

Sodium chloride or aquarium salt are recommended to maintain pristine water conditions. 2-4 grams of salt per liter of water is suitable to avoid poor water quality in the tank.

Increasing the Water Temperature

Another important remedy that is believed to increase immunity and reduce the disease possibility is to increase the water temperature by certain degrees, reaching almost 70-80-degree Fahrenheit.

Increased temperature also amplifies the metabolism and digestive process of your fish that helps relieve buoyancy problems.

Reducing the Water Level

Most of the experts recommend decreasing the quantity of water to help your fish. Reduced water level ultimately decreases the pressure over the fish and helps it swim well.

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Hand Feeding

Hand-feeding the fish helps as it doesn’t require much effort from fish, and thus it is convenient for the fish.

Reducing Water Currents

Sometimes large water currents are a great hurdle in the free movement of your fish. Thus reducing the water currents or removing the water pump for some time might relieve this situation.

Selection of Feed

The selection of appropriate feed is another important factor that contributes to healing your fish. Skipping the meal for a few days followed by lightweight food is another helpful remedy.

Avoid feeding fish pellets or flakes that float.

How to prevent swim bladder disease?

  1. The best thing to do is to avoid the disease in the first place. Some basic health tips help prevent swim bladder disease.
  2. Above all, clean and healthy water ensures maximum protection. Regular water changes and water testing with appropriate kits are inevitable.
  3. Feeding the proper amount of food is another important step that prevents swim bladder disease.
  4. Feeding in a small portion more than twice a day is the best way to feed.
  5. Moreover, avoid feeding floating food, including flakes and pellets. Floating food will lead to gulping an enormous amount of air that eventually causes swim bladder disease. Thus, switch immediately to sinking food.
  6. Maintain a higher water temperature to improve digestion and metabolism and to relieve constipation as it is one of the common reasons, including intestinal parasites.


Although, swim bladder disorder is quite common and its prevention and treatment are both in hand, but still if you face any difficult curing your fish you can always seek to experts or health professionals.

Commonly seen symptoms of this disease are fish floating on the surface or stuck at the bottom. If you notice your fish facing any difficulty swimming then try to diagnose the type of disorder and then seek help.

I hope this article will assist you in diagnosing, treating, and above all preventing swim bladder disease.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is swim bladder disease fatal?

It is the most commonly asked question that can fish die from swim bladder disease. Fortunately, it can easily be treated with the help of an expert veterinarian or simple remedies and hence is not fatal.

Is swim bladder disease common?

Yes, but it mostly depends on the fish and is most commonly found in goldfish and koi. The fancy varieties of goldfish are more prone to it with a high percentage, and 99% of koi get the swim bladder disease because of poor water quality.

How do you cure swim bladder disease?

The quick remedy you can opt for is to counter constipation, Feed the green pea to the affected fish, however, it is important to consult a fish surgeon who can also adjust the buoyancy of the fish.

Is swim bladder a bacterial infection?

Yes, it is one of the reasons and it is caused by a poorly maintained aquarium

Learn more about fish care guides

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