How Long Can A Fish Live With Swim Bladder Disease

How Long Can A Fish Live With Swim Bladder Disease10 min read

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How Long Can A Fish Live With Swim Bladder Disease
Image from Flickr

Keeping fish often brings with it unexpected surprises, and you may find yourself asking questions like ‘Why is my Betta Fish Swimming Sideways?’ or noticing other strange behavior in your fish.

For all species of fish, swim bladder disease can be fatal. For sensitive fish, finding your betta fish swimming sideways or your fancy goldfish struggling to float can be distressing. Furthermore, fish floating on the surface, or at the bottom of the tank are usually a clear indication of swim bladder diseases.

Do not worry! In fact, swim bladder disease is much more common than you think. However, how long your fish can live with swim bladder disease depends on two factors. These are whether it is a permanent condition or ailment.

Swim Bladder disease treatment, as an ailment is simple and clears up within a week or two. Permanent swim bladder disease is similarly not always fatal, or debilitating. To investigate the subject of how long a fish can live with swim bladder disease, first it’s best to understand this disease. We will also look at swim bladder disease treatment and prevention.

What Is Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease, also called flipover, is quite a common ailment in tropical fish. Swim bladder disease is mainly a bacterial or fungal infection of the swim bladder organ of tropical fish. Bladder disease can similarly result from an underlying ailment or birth defect. Swim Bladder disease is not always a condition on its own. Sometimes it can develop as a symptom of a more serious disease or injury.

Either way, if you ask yourself questions like ‘Why is my Betta Fish Swimming Sideways?’ it’s best to consider this disease as one of the top causes. Fortunately, swim bladder disease treatment can be relatively easy if you have access to a good aquatics store.

The Swim Bladder And Its Function

The swim bladder is an internal organ in fish. The organ is filled with gasses. The Swim bladder allows fish to stay afloat. It gives fish the accurate amount of buoyancy for them to stay at the current water depth. So that they do not have to waste energy on swimming all the time.

Did you know, the swim bladder in fish emulates lungs in humans up to a more evolutionary form? Furthermore, the swim bladder also functions as a resonating chamber. In this way, it produces or receives sound in fish. You can categorize most tropical fish by the type of swim bladder that they possess.

Hypostomes – These fish fill their swim bladder with air that they gulp at the surface. The air passes through a tube connection to their swim bladder.

Physoclist –  Physoclists have a special gas gland that dissolves gases in the blood. This fills the swim bladder.

Swim Bladder Disease Explained

When a fish has swim bladder disease, they will either float at the surface or sink to the bottom of the aquarium. Mostly internal parasites, poor water conditions, or constipation cause swim bladder disease. What’s more the disease causes fish to be positively or negatively buoyant:

  • Positive – Fish will spend most of their time at the top of the tank. They may have an abnormal posture.
  • Negative – Observing your fish at the bottom of the tank. They too have an abnormal posture.

Mostly swim bladder disease affects carp fish species, which include species such as ornamental goldfish and koi. A betta fish swimming sideways may also be affected by swim bladder disease. and raising the chances of fish survival. Prompt swim bladder disease treatment will also ensure your fish manage to get through it.

Some Symptoms Include:

Because swim bladder disease affects the buoyancy in fish, it can cause the following symptoms:

  • Sinking to the bottom or floating on the surface mostly.
  • Inability to stay upright.
  • A bloated belly.
  • there is a curve on the back of the fish.
  • Loss of appetite and lethargy.

Causes Of Swim Bladder Disease

Causes Of Swim Bladder Disease
High levels of ammonia, waste buildup, and generally dirty tank water can be a cause. Poor water conditions lead to stress and infections. Image from Flickr

If you ask yourself ‘Why is my Betta Fish Swimming Sideways?’ or find a goldfish or other freshwater fish struggling to stay afloat, you may wonder what caused this. In fact, some of the main causes of swim bladder disease include:

1. Poor Feeding Habits

Fish overeating and eating rapidly. Excessive dry-flaked foods that are not balanced in nutrition. A good balance of protein, vegetables, and quality flakes is essential. According to the species of fish, you must determine their diet. Fish can be omnivores, herbivores, or carnivores. Furthermore, each species requires a specific ratio of protein and vegetable-based foods. Eating too fast, and gulping air and water causes bloating and digestive issues.

2. Enlarged Abdominal Organs

Overweight fish, or tumors and cysts in the stomach can cause enlarged organs. Then, the enlarged organs pressing against the Swim Bladder irritate its body. Inflammation can spread to the swim bladder.

3. Poor Water Conditions

High levels of ammonia, waste buildup, and generally dirty tank water can be a cause. Poor water conditions lead to stress and infections, including swim bladder disease. This means you may then catch your betta fish swimming sideways as a result.

4. Infections

An infection in the swim bladder can cause the disease directly. Usually, this means untreated bacterial or fungal infections. Similarly, infections have other causes, such as physical damage and high ammonia levels in your tank. Sometimes, swim bladder disease treatment is not enough if you haven’t found the underlying cause. This is why it’s best to know what went wrong, so you can prevent your fish getting sick again.

5. Birth Defect

The swim bladder may have a genetic defect or abnormality. Genetic abnormalities such as growths, cysts, or underdeveloped organs, are caused Maily by inbreeding. What’s more, certain variations of fish species are more likely to have birth defects.

These include the double tail variations in bettas. Ornamental Goldfish and some koi species similarly suffer from birth defects. So, this is why it is important to purchase fish from a reputable breeder or pet store. Then you won’t have to worry about sudden signs of disease as much.

How Long Can A Fish Live With Swim Bladder Disease

How Long Can A Fish Live With Swim Bladder Disease
Swim Bladder disease may be permanent or temporary. With permanent swim bladder disease, fish can still live a long healthy life. This is if their symptoms are mild, and you give them proper care. Image from Flickr

Swim Bladder disease may be permanent or temporary. With permanent swim bladder disease, fish can still live a long healthy life. This is if their symptoms are mild, and you give them proper care.

However, if causes of the condition include a poor diet, infection, or poor water conditions, fish will not last long. Treatment for the specific cause can take a week or two for affected fish to heal.

Overall, the survival rate depends on the severity of the systems. Survival may be anything from a few days to a few weeks at most. Remember the faster you administer an appropriate swim bladder disease treatment, the more likely it is your fish will survive.

How To Treat And Prevent Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease treatment will depend on the cause and symptoms of the condition. It’s reasonable to suspect it if you catch your betta fish swimming sideways, so read on to find out more as well as the ideal response.

Swim Bladder Disease Treatment

Treatment includes adjusting water parameters and slightly raising the temperatures. Implement a healthy diet with higher fiber content. Furthermore, administer antibiotics for bacterial infections.

Swim Bladder Disease Prevention

Prevention is always better than cure. If you take care of your fish well, you may not have to ask yourself questions like ‘Why is my Betta Fish Swimming Sideways?’. Therefore, you should take the following steps to prevent any risks:

1. Improve Water Temperatures

Keep water temperatures ideal for the fish species in question. Low water temperatures often lead to indigestion. Avoid sudden changes in water temperatures as they cause stress. Betta fish especially require higher water temperatures. Though Betta fish are tolerant to low water temperatures it is not ideal for them. The same applies to goldfish. Aquarium fish need specific temperatures in their home to thrive. Never expose them to lower or higher temperatures.

2. Proper Diet

Feed a good quality pellet and supplement their diet with fresh foods. Feed the specific species according to their need. Higher fiber can help with swim bladder disease. Add deshelled peas or daphnia to the diet. Especially fish with digestive issues can benefit from these higher-fiber foods. Feed smaller meals rather than one or two large meals to prevent overeating.

Try to prevent physical injury. Remove any sharp objects or narrow spaces where fish can injure themselves. Essentially keep only compatible fish species together as tank mates. Fish that fight can cause series injuries to each other. Try not to handle fish, only when necessary.

3. Tank maintenance

Employ regular tank maintenance. Regularly doing partial water changes make sure to keep proper water parameters. Clean water is essential to the health of any tropical fish. Keep your aquarium clean by removing any uneaten foods, or dead plant matter. A proper filter similarly helps to improve water quality. Ensure that the water parameters are adequate and consistent when doing water changes.

Poor water conditions are the cause of many ailments and stress in aquarium fish. Just because a fish species can tolerate low water conditions, does not mean they can thrive in it.

In the end, the aim is to keep your fish happy and healthy. One of the best practices for healthy fish is clean and appropriate water parameters. These can prevent any nasty surprises, such as finding your betta fish swimming sideways.

Swim Bladder Disease In Betta Fish

Swim Bladder Disease In Betta Fish
The symptoms are like those of other fish species. However, Betta fish also tend to float on their sides or swim vertically. Image from Flickr

Swim Bladder Disease in Betta fish is more prevalent, and distressing than other fish species. Though carp species are mostly affected, the condition is just as common in Bettas. In Betta fish, Swim Bladder is not as much a disease as a secondary symptom of an underlying ailment. Luckily the condition is rarely fatal in Bettas if treated promptly. Asking yourself ‘Why is my Betta Fish Swimming Sideways?’ does not immediately have to be the cause for panic that you may think. However, quick treatment is the key. Otherwise, they will only live up to a few days or weeks.

How a Bettas Swim Bladder Works

Located in the abdominal cavity you will find the bettas swim bladder. It is a bulge that forms part of the digestive tube. The bladder contains oxygen and enables Bettas to control buoyancy in water. In Bettas, the swim bladder similarly receives and produces sound.

Swim Bladder Disease Symptoms in Bettas

The symptoms are like those of other fish species. However, Betta fish also tend to float on their sides or swim vertically. A betta fish swimming sideways is always cause for concern, so any unusual behavior is best to check out as soon as possible.

So, if you notice your Betta mostly ate the surface or bottom of the tank or swimming sideways, it may have swim bladder disease.

Other symptoms include:

  • A curved spine.
  • Swollen Belly.
  • Abnormal eating habits, usually eating less.

Did you know that betta fish have a specialized labyrinth organ? The organ allows them to breathe air from the surface of the tank when oxygen levels are low. Have you ever seen your betta at the top of the tank, gulping for air? This is a clear indication of low oxygen levels in the water. Remember, prevention is the best form of swim bladder disease treatment. Keeping a clean tank will ensure that your betta fish does not struggle for oxygen.

What Causes Swim Bladder Disease In Bettas

  • Digestive Issues

Betta fish are notorious overeaters. They will aggressively gobble up food, and this can lead to a betta fish swimming sideways. This in turn causes them to swallow air or overeat. Contact with air or water in the stomach causes bloating and indigestion. Similarly, a poor diet can lead to digestive issues.

  • Low Water temperatures

Betta fish are very sensitive to water temperatures, and changes in temperatures. Low water temperatures slow down digestion causing food to block the gastrointestinal tract. In turn, this places pressure on the swim bladder.

  • Stress

Sudden water temperature or parameter changes cause shock. Stress in Bettas can lead to swim bladder disease and fin clamping.

  • Abdominal swelling

Abdominal organs can swell or have cysts and growths. This places pressure on the swim bladder. Pressure on the swim bladder can onset the condition.

  • Bacterial and Parasitic Infections

Bacteria and parasites both attack the swim bladder organ causing inflammation. You may notice this in Betta’s feces. If the feces are stringy and pale, it can indicate swim bladder disease.

  • Physical Damage

An injury causes physical trauma. Fighting with tank mates can lead to serious wounds. Getting stuck in ornaments, or sharp and rough ornaments cause injury. In this case, physical trauma may directly affect the swim bladder. It can also cause inflammation and an infection.

  • Birth Defect

 Some Betta fish may develop abnormal growths or functioning of the swim bladder. Birth defects are common mostly in double-tail betta fish, and are usually fatal.

Swim Bladder Disease Treatment In Betta Fish

Treat the conditions by effectively addressing the underlying cause or ailment.

Digestive issues

  • Fast your Betta for at least three days.
  • Isolate your betta when feeding other fish.
  • Keep the water temperatures between 75–82 °F (24–28 °C).
  • Daphnia and shelled peas are excellent sources of fiber for indigestion after fasting.


In case of a bacterial or parasitic infection causing you to find your betta fish swimming sideways, you must narrow down the culprit. Parasitic infections may also cause Fin Rot. Physical damage may lead to Fin Rot and a fungal infection via parasites. Fin Rot may lead to Bladder Disease. treat the bacterial infections with a specific antibiotic. If the cause is unknown a broad-spectrum antibiotic will help.


Though Swim Bladder Disease is not contagious, the affected fish must stay in quarantine. It aids in fast and effective recovery. Keep your ill Betta in a separate tank with clean water and slightly higher temperatures. Add some aquarium salts to reduce swelling and promote a healthy slime coat. Keep currents to a minimum to save energy for your fish. A small amount of stress coat is ideal to coat the exposed area of a floating fish.


Keep in mind that bettas are sensitive to water changes. A dirty tank will also quickly cause stress. Keeping water parameters and temperatures optimal and consistent is essential. High-quality foods, along with fresh vegetables, and frozen protein-based foods are ideal. One fasting day a week for your betta helps with digestive issues. Bettas must be fed three small meals rather than one large meal.

A clean tank and a good diet will ensure that you have a healthy and content betta fish or sorority.

In Conclusion

Swim bladder disease is common in freshwater fish, however can be lethal. Asking yourself questions like ‘Why is my Betta Fish Swimming Sideways?’ can be scary, but it’s always best to find the answer. Treating the condition adequately and swiftly is key.

By narrowing down the causes, the correct course of swim bladder disease treatment is easy to administer. A betta fish swimming sideways can be solved this way. However, it is always best to ensure that fish are risk-free. Try to implement a healthy diet, and regular maintenance of the tank, to reduce risks. there are two main factors to prevent and remedy Swim Bladder Disease. Proper Diet and Good water Conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my Betta fish swimming sideways?
Betta fish are so sensitive to water changes and diet. Thus, they have a better chance of developing swim bladder disease. Betta fish need consistent clean water parameters. They also need the right temperatures to stay healthy. Even when Betta fish get stressed it can negatively affect their health. Therefore, ensure that your betta has consistent clean water. Similarly, they are omnivores requiring a well-balanced diet. Ensuring that they get quality fish food, and fresh food is essential. On the other hand, Bettas can contract an injury or infection due to inbreeding. Inbreeding is a large cause of Swim Bladder disease in bettas. A betta swimming sideways is a clear indication of swim bladder disease or indigestion.
Is Swim Bladder Disease Contagious?
Swim Bladder disease luckily, is not contagious. It cannot transmit from one fish to the other. However, it is essential to quarantine an ill fish separately. Set up a quarantine tank. It must have pristine water parameters and higher temperatures. Also, employ proper medication. Ill fish are easily stressed and at risk of physical damage. Other fish may nip at them when they are ill. Similarly, they can get caught in ornaments. Thus, you require a separate tank with clean water for the healing process.
How to Treat Swim Bladder Disease in Betta Fish?
Ideally, you can follow these steps to treat Swim Bladder Disease in betta fish: In case of indigestion, fast your betta for 3 days. Then feed a higher fiber and protein diet. Frozen, thawed-shelled peas are ideal for indigestion or constipation. Daphnia is an essential protein that helps with the condition. An Epsom salt bath or dip is a good solution to follow. Aquarium salts will help with fungal infections. Administer antibiotics in case of bacterial infections causing the condition. If the cause is parasites, use an anti-parasitic treatment. Focus on regular water changes to improve water parameters and quality.
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