How to treat goldfish for swim bladder disease & constipation

Updated November 21, 2016

Swim bladder disease is most commonly found in ornamental goldfish. A fish with swim bladder disease will either have trouble staying off the surface of the water or have trouble swimming to the surface. There are many possible causes of swim bladder disease, including a virus, a bacterial infection or overeating that causes an impaction to occur. Although many goldfish with swim bladder disease end up dying from it, there are steps you can take to try and cure the disease in your fish.

Check your water quality. Use test kits to check the water's pH, ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, water hardness and alkalinity. Your pH should between 6.6 and 7.8. Your ammonia and nitrite levels should be below 0 ppm. Your nitrates level should be between 20 to 40 ppm. Your water hardness should be between -15.0 and -11.1 degrees C. Your alkalinity should be between -13.8 and -11.1 degrees C. If you find that any of your levels are off, this could indicate a possible bacterial attack on your fish. Test kits and treatments for your water quality can be found at your local aquarium supply or pet store.

Remove your sick fish and place it in a hospital tank. A hospital tank is a smaller tank that is set up to treat ill fish. The water quality should be at the same levels as you would have in your main tank. Keep in mind since the tank is smaller, you will need more frequent water changes. Although swim bladder disease is not contagious, keeping your fish in a separate tank will make it easier to treat it.

Refrain from feeding your fish for several days. Fish can survive up to 10 days without food, so you do not have to be concerned about the lack of food. Refraining from feeding your fish can help clear up possible impactions. Overfeeding can make the symptoms worse, so withholding food may help relieve the problem.

Monitor your fish to see if the condition has improved. If not, defrost two to three frozen peas a day for the next four to five days and feed them to your fish. Frozen peas are known to dissolve impactions.

Return to regular feedings. Avoid overfeeding, which could cause future impactions.


Another option is to soak fish food in water before feeding it to your fish. This can help the food to expand prior to ingestion, which may reduce overeating as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Water test kits
  • Hospital tank
  • Frozen peas
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