Swim Bladder Disorder in Aquarium Fish


Swim Bladder Disorder in Aquarium Fish

Swim bladder disease, also called swim bladder disorder or flipover, is a common ailment in aquarium fish. The swim bladder is an internal gas-filled organ that contributes to the ability of a fish to control its buoyancy, and thus to stay at the current water depth without having to waste energy in swimming. A fish with swim bladder disorder can float nose down tail up, or can float to the top or sink to the bottom of the aquarium.

Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disorder

Fish suffering from swim bladder disorder exhibit a variety of symptoms that primarily involve buoyancy, including sinking to the bottom or floating at the top of the tank, floating upside down or on their sides, or struggling to maintain a normal position.

Other physical signs such as a distended belly or curved back may also be present. Affected fish may eat normally, or have no appetite at all. If severe buoyancy problems exist, the fish may not be able to feed normally or even reach the surface of the water.

Causes of Swim Bladder Disorder

Low water temperature can slow the digestive process, which in turn can result in gastrointestinal tract enlargement that puts pressure on the swim bladder.

Other abdominal organs may become enlarged and affect the swim bladder. Cysts in the kidneys, fatty deposits in the liver, or egg binding in female fish can result in sufficient enlargement to affect the swim bladder.

Parasites or bacterial infections can inflame the swim bladder as well. Occasionally a hard blow from striking an object in the tank, a fight or fall can damage the swim bladder.

Rarely fish are born with birth defects that affect the swim bladder, but in these cases, symptoms are usually present at an early age.


  • Keeping the water especially clean and between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Adding a small amount of aquarium salt to the tank
  • Reducing the water level to make it easier for the fish to move around within the tank
  • Reducing water flow in tanks with a strong current
  • If the affected fish floats with part of its body constantly exposed to the air, applying a bit of stress coat to the exposed area may help avoid the development of sores
  • Hand feeding may be necessary if the fish has significant issues with movement

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