Identifying and Treating Swim Bladder Disease

Has your guppy been acting weird lately? Is your guppy facing difficulty swimming? Or maybe you are worried because your fish has lost its appetite. If so, your guppy is probably suffering from Swim bladder disorder!

Swim bladder disorder is a disorder where the swim bladder of a fish stops working for several reasons that we will get to. The swim bladder is an organ that helps fishes, like guppies, maintain their buoyancy. So naturally, it will be very inconvenient for your guppies since they will face difficulty in movement.

Swim Bladder Disease

Fortunately for you though, if you are worried about this disorder, you are at the right place! I will tell you everything you have to know about swim bladder disorder so that it is easier for you to either treat this disease or prevent it from happening in the first place!

What are the Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disorder?

Symptoms of Swim bladder disorder include;

  • Difficulty swimming
  • Lethargy
  • Bent spine
  • Reduced appetite
  • Distended belly

Difficulty Swimming

If you notice your fish is facing difficulty being buoyant, It might be an indication of Swim Bladder Disorder. Your fish will either be floating on top of the fish tank if they gulp too much air while feeding, or otherwise, they will be at the bottom of the fish tank.


If you notice a lack of movement in your fish, it might be an indication of Swim bladder disorder. This is because sick fish tend to stay in one place to heal and eventually feel better.

Bent Spine

That’s right! Sometimes, the inflation in the swim bladder pushes other organs to the side, resulting in a bent spine

Reduced Appetite

This might occur either when your fish is constipated, or just too lethargic to swim up to get food, as a result, it starves itself.

Distended Belly

If you notice a distended belly, your guppies may be suffering from Swim bladder disorder. A distended belly is usually caused by a compressed swim bladder or constipation.

What are the causes of Swim Bladder Disorder?

Before we get to the treatments of the swim bladder disorder, you need to identify the reason or the cause of swim bladder disease in your fish, as there are different treatments for different reasons for the swim bladder disorder.

Before we get to the treatments of the swim bladder disorder, you need to identify the reason or the cause of swim bladder disease in your fish, as there are different treatments for different reasons for the swim bladder disorder.

Physical Injury

Firstly, your fish might be suffering from swim bladder syndrome as a result of some sort of physical injury. Injuries in fishes are common but sometimes they lead to behavioral disorders and even death!

Having aggressive tank mates can seriously harm your guppy’s welfare which can cause different deformities, including swim bladder disorder. Guppies are peaceful creatures and will never attack, or even retaliate when attacked first. These attacks can harm your guppy’s internal orangs, including the swim bladder, causing swim bladder disorder.

Other forms of physical injuries come from ornaments within the fish tank. Any sharp edges or pointy ornaments can harm your fish’s organs, which might include their swim bladder causing swim bladder disorder.

Sudden Changes in the Environment

Sudden changes in the environment can also cause Swim bladder disorder. Any sudden change in the temperature of the fish tank might cause panic among its inhabitants. A sudden fall in temperature also causes the fish’s digestive processes to slow down, which might cause constipation which as a result causes Swim bladder disorder in the guppies.

Furthermore, there can also be a rise in ammonia in the fish tank. A rise in ammonia might cause Swim bladder disorder and you will have to detox the water.

The introduction of new tank mates or relocation also affects your fish’s health. Seeing a foreign environment might cause stress and consequently, your fish may start overeating, or undereating, with will either bloat or compress its stomach causing Swim bladder disorder.


Sometimes, having an overcrowded fish tank increases the chances of inbreeding, and inbred fishes mostly have some sort of deformity.

Breeders often inbreed their guppies for certain color patterns. This will lead to deformed fish and the fish might be affected by birth, which is impossible to heal.

You can avoid inbreeding by adding new fish from a different genetic line into the fish tank and removing or relocating the fish inside.


Constipation can be caused by a lack of fiber in your fish’s diet. Constipation can cause swim bladder disorder as it leads to bloating of the fish’s stomach, this, in turn, pushes the swim bladder to the side affecting its buoyancy.

You can determine if your fish is constipated by focusing on its stool. If it hangs for some time before falling off, your fish might be constipated.

Constipation is also caused by overeating. Overeating can bloat the tummy and move the swim bladder to the side. Overeating usually occurs when you add too much food into the fish tank. Since guppies will munch on anything that is ‘food’, you will have to regulate the potions yourself.


This usually only occurs with older fish; pregnancy is not only hard for humans but for fish as well!

The intense abdominal pressure in your fish’s belly will push some organs to the side, this can also include the swim bladder disorder. There is not much that you can do about this, as it is caused by old age itself.

Some scientists also believe that Swim bladder disorder is hereditary, which means that a female fish with Swim bladder disorder will most likely produce offspring that is diseased too. However, this theory lacks proof so it cannot be included in the reasons as of now.

Parasitical or Bacterial Infections

Some parasites can infect the swim bladder, filling it with a fluid that has a toll on your fish’s buoyancy. Therefore, you should probably consult a vet that specializes in aquatic life before jumping to conclusions yourself.

Only the proper antibiotics that your vet has prescribed can cure parasitical or bacterial infections.

Related Post: Is Swim Bladder Disease Contagious?

What are the treatments for Swim Bladder Disorder?

Now that you have identified the cause of your fish’s swim bladder disorder, we can move on to the treatment.

Treating Swim Bladder Disorder Caused by Constipation

Overfeeding or constipation is the most common cause of swim bladder disorders. Treatment is very easy and your fish can be up and running in a few days!

  • The first method that can be used is quarantining the sick fish(es) and increasing the temperature of the water in the fish tank. Doing this will increase their metabolism and digestion. Repeat this for 2 days; you might begin to notice changes in your fish’s behavior.
  • However, if increasing the temperature does not work, you should feed your fish blanched peas. Frozen peas work the best; boil a single pea for a few seconds until it becomes the perfect texture, not too hard and not too soft that it breaks apart. Skin the pea and soak it in cold water for some time. Give the pea to your fish and let it work its magic! You might have to repeat this process two to three times before your fish is fully healed and healthy. Once your fish is healthy again, toss it back into the fish tank!

Treating Swim Bladder Disorder Caused by Shock or Changes in the Environment

Changes in the environment can either be caused by a foreign fish tank or an increase in ammonia in the fish tank.

There are several ways to go around this:

  • For excess ammonia, you can remove some water from the fish tank and use an ammonia detoxifier to reduce the ammonia levels.
  • If your fish has aggressive tank mates or any ornaments that might bring harm to your fish, remove them immediately and either put them in a different fish tank or throw them away.
  • Although, the best thing that can be done to relieve stress on your fish would be to turn the lights off and remove anything from the fish tank that might generate noise. This will create a relaxing environment for your fish and will help them adjust to anything foreign easily.

How to Treat Swim Bladder Disorder Caused by Parasites?

Parasites can be dangerous for your fish. So, if you notice your fish suffering from a parasite or any bacterial disease, you should quarantine them

  • Set up a quarantine tank and move your infected fish into the tank, make sure there is enough oxygen in the tank
  • I would recommend changing the water of your main tank to eliminate the chances of any future infestations.
  • Contact your vet to get the best suitable medication for your guppy fish.
  • Most of the time, the vets will prescribe API Melafix for your fish.
  • Keep your fish quarantined till you are sure that your fish is fully healed and move it back into the main fish tank.

Measures to Prevent Swim Bladder Disease

Now that you know how to cure or treat swim bladder disease, I am going to tell you a bunch of easy steps you can take to avoid it from happening in the first place! After all, prevention is better than treatment!

Remove Aggressive Tank Mates or Harmful Ornaments

As I mentioned above, guppies are harmless creatures and won’t attack even if attacked first. Therefore, adding them with aggressive tank mates will not do them any good, so if possible, move the aggressive tank mates into a different fish tank to avoid any violent charges from them.

Avoid Injuries

Secondly, if you have any ornaments in the fish tank that might bring them harm, like something sharp, remove them immediately. As it can cause injuries to the inner organs. All in all, removing anything that might harm your guppies is to be removed.

Warm Water for Fish Tank

Using warm water in your fish tank is a great way to avoid Swim bladder disorder. This is because having a warm environment will make the digestive tract faster, which in turn will avoid constipation, the leading cause of swim bladder disorder.

A Healthy Diet

Having a healthy diet is also very important for your fish. Guppies are omnivores which means they require a diet of meat and vegetables. Make sure you soak the food you are about to give in water first. I would also recommend a fiber-rich diet as it avoids constipation and will therefore avoid the swim bladder disorder. Moreover, having a healthy diet will strengthen the immune system of your guppy which can then combat various bacterial diseases, which means more healthy fish.

Keeping Watch on the Water Quality

Another way to avoid swim bladder disorder is to keep a check on the water quality. A fish tank rich in ammonia is very dangerous for your fish as it can not only cause ammonia poisoning but many other diseases too.
Therefore, changing the fish tank’s water regularly to avoid any ammonia buildup can prevent Swim bladder disease.

Should you Euthanize your Guppies Suffering from Swim Bladder Disease?

Euthanasia is never an easy decision; after all, it is hard for anyone to put down a beloved pet that they have gotten close to.

I generally would not recommend euthanizing your guppies if they have Swim bladder disease as there are treatments available for it. However, if you notice that you have tried every available treatment but to no avail, euthanizing seems to be the only humane thing left to do.

There are several ways to euthanize your guppy fish. Some people boil or freeze their fish, while this is the easiest way to do it; it is slow and extremely painful for your fish. Therefore, it is considered inhumane.

The way I euthanize my fish is I take them out of the main tank and transfer them to a different container. After that, I gradually add clove oil in high concentration (adding clove oil gradually is important and a sudden change in the environment will scare the fish. After a few seconds, the fish passes. This is a humane way to put down your fish as it is both fast and not painful.

The Bottom Line on Identifying and Treating Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease is one of the most common diseases out there. However, its treatment is very easy and prevention is even easier. The only complicated thing is determining what caused the swim bladder disease in the first place.

Although this disease is treatable, in some rare instances, the fish is in pain and there is not much that can be done about it. Especially, if it is caused by pregnancy or if the disorder was there since the frying phase of your guppy fish. The best, and the most humane, thing that can be done in this situation is euthanizing your fish to end their suffering.

Another important note to reiterate is that newborn fish can take up to 2 or three days before they learn to swim properly, so don’t panic if your fish is taking time to swim. All in all, a pretty common disease, easy to treat, and most vets will get your fish up and running as it used to in no time, happy fish keeping!

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