Goldfish Swim Bladder Disorder

Written by sarah goodwin-nguyen
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Goldfish Swim Bladder Disorder
Round-bodied goldfish are most prone to swim bladder disorder. (feuer im wasser image by Victoria p. from

Swim bladder disorder occurs when the swim bladder, a gas-filled sac near a fish's tail that controls the fish's ability to rise to the surface of the water or sink, becomes injured, infected or impeded by stomach distension. Goldfish, especially the round-bodied types such as lionheads, black moors and orandas, are more prone to swim bladder disease than sleek-bodied goldfish like comets or shubunkins. Treatment and prevention of swim bladder disease can range from simple at-home techniques to state-of-the-art veterinary care.


The most common reason for swim bladder disorder is overfeeding or improper diet. A goldfish fed solely a diet of pellets may develop constipation, which causes a distended stomach and impedes the swim bladder. Other causes are poor water quality, because ammonia, nitrates and nitrites from fish waste can cause a bacterial infection of the swim bladder. Finally, fighting or scraping against sharp objects in the tank can injure the swim bladder.


A goldfish's swim bladder gives the fish buoyancy and also controls the fish's equilibrium. The most obvious symptoms of swim bladder disorder are goldfish swimming upside down or on its side, being unable to dive or lying on the bottom. Some fish will exhibit a distended abdomen or an S-shaped spine.

Dietary Changes

Swim bladder disorder that improper diet causes is treated by reducing feedings or by putting the goldfish on a fast for one to two days. Soaking pellets in water before feeding makes then easier for the goldfish to digest. Introducing food with high fibre, such as romaine lettuce, zucchini, spinach, squash and grated carrots, may cure constipation and relieve the swim bladder disorder. Dr. Greg Lewbart, professor of fish medicine at North Carolina State's College of Veterinary Medicine, says that offering one cooked pea daily will help break down impaction in the goldfish's stomach.

Treating Bacterial Infections

An aquarium that is overstocked or has inadequate filtration may cause a goldfish to contract a bacterial infection. You should quarantine fish suffering from a bacterial infection and treat them with fish-safe antibiotics (for example, minocycline, tetracyclilne or erythromycin). You also must resolve water quality issues in the goldfish aquarium to prevent further illness.

Veterinary Care

Dr. Doug Mader of Marathon Veterinary Hospital in Florida believes swim bladder disorder requires a visit to a veterinarian, who can identify the infection or injury and prescribe antibiotics. State-of-the-art veterinary techniques for curing swim bladder disorder are to surgically remove some of the air from the swim bladder, or to surgically insert a pebble in the goldfish's abdomen to weigh a floating fish down.

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