Swim Bladder Disease in Betta Fish [A Complete Guide]

When a fish floats, there is a very high probability that he is experiencing swim bladder disease. When it comes to Swim bladder disease, it’s more of a disorder rather than a disease. This does not in any shape or form take away from the fact that it is indeed a disease. If you a wondering what swim bladder disease is, well wonder no more. This is the betta fish swim bladder disease complete guide you are in search of. Yes, one won’t be exaggerating if you call it a betta fish swim bladder disease. Why? Simply because this disease is known to be common in betta fish and goldfish. But it is not limited to these two fishes. It can also affect any aquarium fish.

If you own betta and can easily relate with the signs listed, you need not worry, this piece will put a spotlight on everything you need to know about the swim bladder disease. Most of the time, the result isn’t as fatal as one would imagine. With the right treatment, you can treat your betta in a few days. Just grab a cup of coffee, relax and let us show you the exact way to go about it.


Betta Fish Swimming Sideways?

If your betta fish is floating on top of the aquarium or swimming sideways then there’s a chance that your lovely betta is suffering from Swim Bladder Disease. Swim Bladder Disease is very common in betta fish. But don’t worry. If you know everything about Swim bladder disease in betta fish, you can treat it easily. In this article, you will find out why your betta fish is swimming sideways. You will also find out the causes, treatment, and prevention of Swim Bladder Disease.


What is Swim Bladder Disease in Betta Fish?

The organ responsible for your betta’s ability to control buoyancy is known as the swim bladder. Its job is to make sure the fish stays in place, allowing the fish to focus its energy on swimming generally. With it, your betta (amongst other aquarium fishes) are able to save enough and swim with ease. The swim bladder is located right next to the other organs. In simple terms, the sac-like organ found at the tail end of your betta fish.

For those who don’t understand what the swim bladder is all about, a little swim bladder 101 will help. So, this is a disorder that happens when the swim bladder of a fish is overly full. Some of the signs include floating on the surface of the tank or sinking to the bottom of the tank. Also, some other signs are betta fish (or any other fish affected) floating upside down or swimming sideways. It damages the betta’s swim bladder.


Causes of Swim Bladder Disease in Bettas:

There are several causes of Swim Bladder Disease in betta fish. Let’s have a look at them:

              · Overfeeding

One word: Overfeeding! The main cause of swim bladder disease is overfeeding. Which as you’ve rightly guessed is caused by the pet feeders. A gutty fish will never stop eating even when its fill. Speaking of a gutty fish, a perfect example of a gutty fish is the betta fish. If you own a betta fish, you should be able to determine the right time to stop feeding. Not knowing when to stop due to the fact that they keep eating every food pellet you drop is the reason why overfeeding occurs. From constipation to down to belly bust, when this happens, the fish is most likely to have a swim bladder disease due to the fatty deposits on their bladder.

              · Excess Air

Another reason why your betta fish has the swim bladder disease could be because of excess air. When your betta gulps excess air while trying to pick feed pellet. This could lead to bloating of organs coupled with infections which ultimately affect the swim bladder.

               · Cool Water Temperature.

One other causal agent is the temperature. Yes! water temperature could be the reason why your betta has the swim bladder disease. When the water temperature drops indiscriminately, it tends to lower their metabolism. What this does is it makes it difficult for the digestion of food, the system at this point will most likely block out foods meant for it.

              · Parasites.

It’s a possible scenario that your betta has been infected by parasitic worms. These worms dwells in the betta’s stomach (including their intestines). If and when this happens, it makes it difficult for him to swim. These parasitic worms are not often deadly, but when they infect your fish, it results in the swim bladder disease.

              · Shock.

Asides overfeeding, constipation, drop in the water temperature, and parasites, the shock is one other causal agent that is not often spoken about due to the fact that it is not common. But it is usually a result of something sharp and drastic that happened in their tank. The shock and stress could be the reason why your betta has swim bladder disease. A perfect example of such a drastic event is the sharp drop in temperature.

             · Honourable Mentions.

Asides the causal agents we’ve mentioned, egg binding in female bettas and cysts in the betta’s kidney are also causal agents of swim bladder disease.


Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disease in Bettas:

What are some of the symptoms of swim bladder disease in bettas and other aquarium fishes? When your betta is suffering from the swim bladder disease, the signs vary. Sometimes, these symptoms are exhibited in a synchronistic fashion. These symptoms are defined by the causal agents

Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disease Caused by Overfeeding, Excess Air, and Constipation.

If the swim bladder disease is caused by any of the three reasons listed above, then these are the signs you will notice:

                        · Lopsided Swimming by the betta fish.

When you notice your betta fish exhibiting what is known as lopsided swimming, that is; swimming at the extreme bottom of the tank, or floating at the surface of the tank. A betta fish struggling with the swim bladder disease would exhibit these. Coupled with swimming on their side.

                         ·Struggling with buoyancy and swimming as a whole.

When betta is suffering from the swim betta disease, you will notice your betta struggling with buoyancy and swimming. Betta fish infected with this disease will often struggle to move from the substrate of their habitat. On the other hand, it could also be a usual case of sinking to the bottom or floating to the surface of the tank.

                         · Lethargy.

When a betta fish is lethargic, he sleeps, stays motionless, and find swimming problematic. Your betta maybe just showing pure signs of overfeeding or constipation. Even though these two could also be the reason why your fish is lethargic, don’t let it fool you! It could also be as a result of an infection.

                          · Loss of Appetite

When your betta fish finds it difficult swimming to either side of the tank, eating could be a major problem. As a result, the betta will lose his appetite completely. When a fish is infected with this disease, it causes the betta to lose his food cravings.

                         · A bulgy/distended belly or bent back.

Having a distended belly or a bent back could be a sign of the swim bladder disease. Even though these are signs of constipation and overfeeding, a distended belly could also mean the betta fish is battling swim bladder disease.


Symptoms of swim bladder disease caused by Bacterial and Parasites infections:

If it’s not caused by overfeeding, constipation and excess air, then chances are; it’s related to bacterial infections and parasites. Some of the symptoms of swim bladder caused by these infections include:

                         · Jerking

One of the signs you will notice when your betta is infected by bacteria and parasites is that it will start to shake in the tank weirdly. This has nothing to do with been overfed or constipation as these two literarily leave your betta motionless or with a belly burst.

                         · Pressed Fins.

The most important sign to look out for when dealing with bacteria and parasite infection especially when it has to do with swim bladder disease is, you’ll notice your betta having pressed fins. This usually happens when they are in a lethargic state. When a betta fish is stressed under this state, the fins will stay glued to their bodies.


Treatment of Swim Bladder Disease in Betta Fish:

Now, the treatment your betta needs will be determined by the signs and the causal agent. Have an extra tank in the house as this will serve as the quarantine tank. If you do already, then that’s just fine. What you will do with the quarantine tank is to isolate the betta. With the betta fish isolated, you don’t have to worry about treating his tank mates and plants too.


Treating Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease Caused by Bacterial or Parasite Infection:

When it comes to treating betta fish swim bladder disease caused by bacterial or parasite infection, the treatment process is similar. So, rather than starving your betta, your best bet is to give him the proper medication. How do you do that? Pretty simple, all you’ve got to do include:

Isolate the infected betta fish in the quarantine tank where you’ll be able to give him the proper medication.

Next, treat your aquarium. If you are dealing with parasite infection, you should try Betamax, but in case it’s bacterial you are dealing with, you should try Melafix. Meanwhile, you should try Melafix first, as the chances of it being a parasite infection are pretty low. Parasite infections are very rare, but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. 1 percent chance is still an actual chance. So, do not ignore it.

Lastly, when dealing with a parasite or a bacterial infection. You have to be consistent with the treatment. This is why you must read the instruction on the treatment bottles.

It is important to note that these two infections are rare. They hardly cause swim bladder infection in bettas. But, like we rightly stated earlier, this does not in any shape or form mean that these two should be ignored when you are trying to diagnose your betta. If you finally find out that your bettas swim bladder disease is as a result of these two infections, then, the chances of your betta surviving it are relatively low.


Treating Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease Caused by Shock:

If there is a sharp drop in water temperature in the betta’s tank, or your betta has a wound, then chances are, the betta is in shock. If shock is the cause of the betta fish swim bladder disease, then there is little you can do about it. While hoping that the betta survives it, you can help by making sure the water temperature is where it ought to be and turn off the lights too.


Treating Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease Caused by Overfeeding and Constipation:

When treating betta fish swim bladder disease caused by overfeeding, excess air, and constipation, there are certain things you need to take note of. But, if overfeeding is what we are dealing with, then your betta’s chances of survival are positively high. Just make sure you start the treatment as soon as possible. Now, how do we go about the treatment process?

  • Firstly, when dealing with overfeeding, you’ve got to isolate the infected fish. However, this will only be effective if you’ve got just one betta in the tank. So, let us assume that you’ve got just one betta in the tank, how do you go about it? Try isolating the infected party for proper treatment.
  • The next thing to do is to deprive him of food for 2 to 3 days (we recommend 3 days). You don’t have to worry; wild bettas can days without eating.
  • During this period (leaving your betta without food), start raising the water temperature slowly until it gets to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. With this sort of increase, your betta’s metabolism and ability to break down food will increase drastically.
  • Once it’s 3 days, you should check your betta closely to see if there’s an improvement. At times, the 4 steps are enough to cure your betta of his swim bladder disease, but as you’ve probably guessed right now, you might still need to do more. In that case, continue with the proper treatment.
  • If the four steps aren’t enough, then start feeding your bettas cooked peas. When feeding them cooked peas, you have to make sure that the peas aren’t too soft otherwise, they won’t be compact and could easily break before your betta gets to eat them.
  • If and when you are feeding your betta with peas, you are directly boosting your betta’s ability to process foods. These peas act like laxatives. It helps clear their digestive system.
  • In a situation where your betta is finding it hard keeping up with its swimming abilities, and more importantly, finding it hard getting to the surface to get their food, all you’ve got to do is to hold the pea in place for them.
  • Feed your bettas with peas for a week. The betta should be fed two peas every day for a week.
  • If after a week of feeding your betta, you still don’t see an improvement, then what your betta is experiencing is way more serious than overfeeding and constipation.

How to Treat Swim Bladder Disease using Epsom Salt:

To treat constipation, an important thing to do is to make use of Epsom salt. Do you have Epsom salt? If you do, then we’ll show you how to treat your betta with it. Epsom salt is one of the potent and effective ways of treating swim bladder disease caused by constipation. Let’s find out:

Step 1.

The first step involves mixing 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt with half a gallon of regulated tap water in a container. Ensure that the container is clean before filling it with the conditioned water.

Step 2.

Next, fill the container with half a gallon of the aquarium water. But before you do this, make sure the Epsom salt has fully dissolved (this is important).

Step 3.

Fill your aquarium with the well-regulated tap water. This is a perfect substitute for the water taken from the aquarium.

Step 4.

One of the final things to do is to leave your betta in it prepared water for about 15 minutes. Leaving him in the bath should clear his constipation. But in case this doesn’t clear his constipation, let him stay in his tank.

Step 5.

Now, once you’ve placed the betta in his tank, you should continue monitoring him throughout the day. The two things to look out for during this time is to see if he’s swimming well or he has excreted.

In a situation where the betta stops moving in the Epsom salt bath during treatment, then he should be added back to his tank.

Swim Bladder Disease in Bettas – The Prevention:

When it comes to preventing swim bladder disease in bettas and all other aquarium fishes, you must know what you are doing, literarily. Preventing this disease requires a little bit of change in how you are taking care of the fish currently. In simple terms, to prevent this disease, all you’ve got to do is to follow the steps that we’ve highlighted below.

                    ·Soaking before feeding

Before feeding your betta, you must soak his food properly. Doing this will let the food sink when feeding your betta. What’s this all about? When your betta feeds from the surface of the tank al the time, there is a high probability that it would end up swallowing air. Just as we’ve stated numerously, excess air is a causal agent for swim bladder disease. If you don’t have the time to soak your betta’s food before feeding, then, all you’ve got to do is to opt-in for the sinking fish feed. The benefit of buying sinking fish feed is that it needs no soaking.

                      ·Buy quality fish feed for your betta

Speaking of fish feed, it is also important that you buy the right, top-quality fish feed. When it comes to preventing swim bladder disease, using the right food is key. You can always get one from a reputable fish feed producing brand. What many people don’t understand is the fact that low quality doesn’t just halt your betta’s growth, it is also a feed sac filled with air. Rather than filling up each pellet with quality food content, what you get is a sac filled with more air and less food content. When bettas eat such feed, then end up becoming bloated. At this point, we all know that filling your betta with such low-quality feed could harm your betta. Your best bet is to go the quality feed.

                       ·A well-regulated water

In our previous article, we talked about having sound knowledge of water management when taking care of bettas. Ensure the water quality is top-notch. Generally speaking, the quality of the water a fish inhabits defines their overall wellness health-wise. How do you go about it? Some of the things you ought to take note of when dealing with the water quality that betta inhabits include: make sure the gravel in the tank is siphoned and clean up the algae in the aquarium.

You should also clean up the decorations you have in the tank. Also, change the water regularly. Asides preventing swim bladder disease, you will be protecting your betta from other known illnesses. Remember, while keeping the water in the tank regulated, ensure that the nitrite and ammonia levels are at 0ppm. The nitrate level, on the other hand, should be anywhere below 20ppm.

                        ·The temperature should be kept constant

One of the reasons why bettas experience shock is due to the sudden drop in water temperatures. This sudden change often affects bettas. So, ensure that the water temperature is kept constant. The change in temperature is one of the main causal agents of swim bladder disease. In a situation where the heater gets damaged and the water temperature starts to decline, do all you can to make sure the heater is changed. But while that is going on, there are other ways of warming your betta tank. Use a stronger light, keep the tank in a warm environment, use a smaller tank. Lastly, you can use a canopy or hood to cover the tank. All of these will ensure your betta tank stays warm while you fix the heater.

                         ·Avoid Overfeeding as much as you can

Buying a high – quality feed is, on one hand, great, but what will be the use of such quality feed if you can’t feed properly. As much as you can, you should avoid overfeeding your betta as this could lead to constipation. A betta’s stomach is as small as his eyes. In essence, a small stomach means the fish doesn’t need lots of feed. 2 to 3 pellets a day is enough. A lot of people want to feed their bettas until the fish stops coming for more. Well, a gutsy fish will always come back for more. The best way to manage the situation is to stick to the recommended feeding plan.

                         ·Take out decorations that could hurt your betta

The ornaments and toys we have in our tanks help bettas stay active. But things could go wrong if and when these decorations become destructive toys. From the sharp edges found on plastic toys down to damaged toys, these decorations could hurt your betta. Doing this won’t only save your bettas from getting hurt, it will also ensure that your betta is protected from all sorts of infections and diseases.

                          ·Take out Aggressive tank mates.

Using it loosely, the betta could be the culprit as they are known to be very aggressive. In case your betta keeps getting in a fight with the other fish in the tank, all you have to do is to take out the aggressive party. Asides giving them space, it will prevent them from hurting each other. When you put them in isolation, you reduce the chance of the pairs hurting each other, resulting in wounds that could attract all sorts of infections and diseases.

Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease – Is it Contagious?

Now, this is not as easy as it sounds. The answer lies in the causal agent. For instance, swim bladder disease caused by overfeeding is not contagious. But look at it from another angle, if you’ve got more than one fish in the tank, overfeeding one of them means you’ve overfed all of them. Meaning, overfeeding a betta fish or any tank fish at that could be harmful to the other fish in the tank. Meanwhile, betta fish swim bladder disease caused by bacteria or parasites can be contracted by the other fish in the tank.


For those who are wondering if the swim bladder disease is fatal, the answer to that is pretty complex. The causal agents usually define this aspect of the disease. For instance, a swim bladder disease caused by constipation rarely leads to fatality. On the other hand, swim bladder disease caused by the injuries sustained by the betta could lead to his death. Clearly, the injury will be exposed to different infections. The wound could cause sores and ulcerations. Ultimately, when the wound becomes infected, the chances of survival become slim. Every betta deserves better care, you should take care of yours. Cheers!

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