Discus Fish Loss of Balance – Causes and Treatments

What causes loss of balance in discus fish? This is a very important question for a lot of aquarists. Well, if you’re one of them, then keep reading to find its causes and treatments!

So, what causes loss of balance in fish? Swim bladder disease is one of the common causes of loss of balance in fish like discus. In such a case, instant medical attention must be given to the Discus fish. However, if the difficulty is due to overeating, then you should avoid feeding the discus for 3 days.

Loss of balance in fish mainly refers to the imbalance that is caused when a collection of issues is upsetting the bladder. This is not a single disease as mentioned above; it is referred to multiple issues.

Swim Bladder Disorder

This is often found in the fish living in an aquarium. This sort of issue can be faced by any fish species, however; mostly bettas and goldfish are found to be a victim of it. The main issue that the fish face is the movement and loss in function of the swim bladder.

It leads to physical defects which further results in difficulty in swimming properly. Swim bladder disorder is a disease that must be handled quickly to save the fish from discomfort. One should look for symptoms if there is even a slight hint of instability.

One of its major symptoms includes noticeable buoyancy which may also include sinking to the lower area of the tank, floating upside down, or even standing on their head. If you notice that your fish is struggling to maintain balance or uphold a standing position, it might be a sign of the swim bladder disorder.

There are other symptoms as well which can be noticed by examining the body of the fish. A curved back or a swollen belly are two important signs to look for. The fish could be having these issues at a minor level, however, in case of extreme levels, they may be found at the surface level of the aquarium or might not be having enough food intake as such a condition fades away the appetite.

You must be wondering what would cause your fish to be in such a condition. It can be due to overeating or eating too quickly which swells the belly. Inhaling or gulping air heavily can be another reason for the disorder too. Sometimes, when the fish eat dry food, it expands when it gets in contact with water. This often leads to a distended belly if it happens frequently.

Other reasons include a slow process of digestion which is mostly caused by the low temperature of the water. These are the most common reasons; but there are many others that are less common such as enlarged organs, kidney cysts, fatty liver deposits etc.

How to Cure Swim Bladder Disease


As we have discussed earlier, the most likely reason for swim bladder disorder is a bloated belly or enlargement of the intestines due to overeating or eating too quickly. The single most important thing you need to do is let your fish fast for three days.

Yes, you read it right.

Avoid feeding your fish which are diagnosed with this disorder. Simultaneously, increase the temperature of the water in the tank. Remember, low temperature can result in slow digestion. It is advised to raise it to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the entire treatment process.

After the third day, you can feed your fish but make sure you do not feed them dry food. Go for skinned peas or cooked food. Since it is difficult for the fish to move around or stay balanced, you are suggested to keep the volume of the water low. This will drain less energy while the fish try to swim their way up, down, back or forth in the water.

Treatment for more serious causes

Your fish might not show any signs of improvement if you are wrong in its diagnosis. In such a case, your fish may be facing other uncommon issues such as infection. The signs can be body tremors, clamped fins, and reduced appetite.

An infection must be treated quickly because if the infection gets serious, it would become difficult to get hold of it and it may have fatal results if it goes bad.

In these cases, antibiotics are recommended by experts. Do not give antibiotics on your own. It is a sensitive matter and you should make sure you consult a proper vet before the treatment. Another thing to keep in mind is that once you start the treatment, do not skip any dose of medicine; be regular.

Feeding and Caring

During the entire treatment, you may notice that your fish is not ingesting food as it should. This is not always because of lack of appetite. In fact, such a scenario can be caused due to weakness, lethargy or issues with movement.

In this case, you will need to feed your fish by hand. Make sure, you do not stress your fish and be very gentle to it. The existing discomfort is already enough to upset your fish so you must feed them carefully.

Give them the right amount of food, preferably cooked and soft foods which will not expand upon contact with water.

Related questions

What other reasons can make the fish float at the surface? There can be many other reasons why you notice one or multiple fish floating at the surface of the water. This can be due to a crowded tank. The fish may find it more peaceful at the bottom. Moreover, fish are also likely to stay down if they are scared of other fish. The fish in your tank may have also been in trauma or a physical accident therefore, always pay close attention to their behavior.

Is Swim Bladder Disorder contagious? Swim Bladder is a disorder and not a disease which is why it is safe to say that it is not contagious. Other fish might not catch it however, fellow fish might face similar issues due to similar living conditions.

Can a fish die due to swim bladder disorder? A fish might have a permanent or a temporary issue and can still live a long and happy life if proper changes are made to the lifestyle. It totally depends on the seriousness of the problem and whether proper measures are taken to treat it.


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