Treating Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease

The Betta fish, or the Siamese Fighting fish, is a beautiful freshwater fish that makes a great addition to any aquarium. They come in a variety of vibrant hues that add color to any home fish tank.

Unfortunately, Betta fish are very sensitive to poor water conditions and can easily develop Swim Bladder Disease (SBD). Swim Bladder Disease refers to a host of conditions that affect the Betta fish’s swim bladder. If you notice your Betta fish swimming awkwardly or in an unusual way, it could be SBD. Fortunately, this is not a serious issue and most fish recover fully with brief treatment.

What Is A Swim Bladder?

A swim bladder, also called air bladder, is a structure present in all bony fish. It is the organ responsible for maintaining buoyancy and is located within the fish’s body. The swim bladder usually contains oxygen but can also contain oil in some species. The organ helps your fish maintain its buoyancy without sinking or floating upward. When a fish’s swim bladder is affected, it causes issues with buoyancy and swimming.

What Is Swim Bladder Disease?

Swim Bladder Disease (SBD) is a condition that affects many Betta fish and some types of goldfish. It is not an illness but can occur due to other conditions or environmental changes. When treating SBD, it is the underlying conditions that require treatment. It could be an infection, injury, or simply environmental changes causing issues with your Betta fish’s swim bladder.

Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disease

You will notice many symptoms in fish suffering from Swim Bladder Disease. Symptoms may vary depending on the issue causing the condition. These symptoms can include:
  • Your Betta fish will experience trouble maintaining buoyancy. You will either notice that your fish is unable to move from the substrate at the bottom or floats at the top of the tank.
  • Betta fish with Swim Bladder Disease also struggle swimming in a directional way. While your fish may float to the bottom or top, you will also notice them swimming in a lopsided way rather than in a straight line.
  • Swimming may appear erratic as your Betta fish struggles to maintain one position. Regardless of the area of the tank swimming occurs in, your fish will keep floating to the surface or sinking to the bottom.
  • If your Betta fish appears bloated or with a distinct curve along the back, this is an obvious sign of Swim Bladder Disease. However, if your fish only shows this symptom without any trouble maintaining buoyancy, it could be another illness. It’s best to confirm with your veterinarian.
  • Your Betta fish’s appetite can also be affected when suffering from Swim Bladder Disease. It may lose its appetite or be unable to access food since it has trouble swimming.
  • The swim bladder helps your fish reserve energy when swimming since it doesn’t need to struggle to stay afloat. Betta fish suffering from SBD can appear lethargic or too tired to move.
  • If your Betta fish shows the above symptoms and you notice their fins clamped, your fish could have SBD due to an infection. Infection could occur due to bacteria or parasites.
  • Infections can also cause your Betta fish to shake. Shimmying is the term for when fish lack control of their muscles or nerves. This can also occur due to stress caused by water conditions.

Common Causes of Swim Bladder Disease in Betta Fish

Your Betta fish can suffer from Swim Bladder disease due to a variety of reasons. It is important to diagnose the cause before trying to treat your fish. Treatment options vary depending on the cause of the condition. Some causes can be more severe than others and will require medication and a trip to the veterinarian.

Digestive Issues

The most common cause for Betta fish to develop Swim Bladder Disease (SBD) suddenly is due to digestive issues. Betta fish can be very greedy and do not stop eating even if they are full. If your fish eats too quickly, it can cause the stomach to swell and put pressure on the swim bladder. Constipation can have a similar effect on the swim bladder. Constipation usually occurs after consuming food that contains too much air.

Some fish also swim to the surface to feed and end up gulping too much air while eating. It is also important to remember that frozen food expands upon contact with the water. Feeding your Betta fish more than needed can cause blockages in the intestinal tract, leading to SBD symptoms.

Low Water Temperature

Another cause for Swim Bladder Disease to develop among Betta fish is the temperature of the tank. Betta fish are very sensitive to changes in water temperature and prefer a temperature of 78°F. If the temperature of your tank drops below the ideal, it can cause issues with digestion and affect other organs as well. Low temperature can slow down digestion, causing constipation and other issues. Ultimately, this puts pressure on the swim bladder and causes Swim Bladder Disease.

Shock

Shock can occur in Betta fish due to various reasons, but it usually happens due to changes in water temperature or conditions. This can result in Swim Bladder Disease and fin clamping. Shock is a serious condition and requires prompt treatment or it can worsen quickly. If you’ve added more water to your tank, it is best to move your fish till the tank heats up again. If your fish is suffering from Swim Bladder Disease due to shock, you will also notice symptoms such as lethargy, coma, and low immunity.

When the temperature is too high, you will notice symptoms such as rapid breathing, erratic swimming, and lingering on the surface.

Swollen Organs

Another reason your Betta fish can develop Swim Bladder Disease is swollen organs. If any of the organs are inflamed or have cysts, they can expand and put pressure on other organs. Since the swim bladder is located underneath the fish’s other organs, any changes in the other organs can directly affect it. Swelling in these organs can put pressure on the swim bladder and cause Swim Bladder Disease.

Injuries

A Betta fish’s swim bladder can also be affected by injuries, leading to Swim Bladder Disease. This can occur when fish fight with tankmates or come into contact with sharp tank ornaments. Betta fish are highly aggressive and males often fight each other. They are very territorial and need a wide, spacious tank to prevent any fighting.

If you’ve seen your Betta fish fighting and your fish starts to show symptoms of SBD, it could be due to injuries. It is best to take your fish to the veterinarian if that is the case.

These injuries can also occur if your Betta fish sustains a fall. They might try to jump when you are cleaning the tank or adjusting any element of your aquarium. Proceed cautiously so your Betta fish stays safe.

Birth Defects

Some Betta fish are born with birth defects that affect their organs, including the swim bladder. In this case, symptoms usually show soon after your Betta fish is born. The condition usually leads to death among young Betta fish. The chances of a Betta fish being born with birth defects vary based on how they’re bred. When Betta fish babies reach sexual maturity, it is best to separate the males and females or they try to mate with each other. If not, the fish bore through inbreeding can have birth defects and other health issues.

Parasites

If your tank is at the right temperature and you are certain your Betta fish has not been overfed, the cause for SBD could be parasites. Parasitic worms can infest the Betta fish’s stomach and intestines to cause digestive disorders. Young Betta fish can die without developing any symptoms if infected with parasites. However, older Betta fish develop Swim Bladder Disease and other conditions due to the infestation.

Bacterial Infection

A bacterial infection can also cause Swim Bladder Disease. Bacterial infections and parasites usually arise when the fish tank and water are unclean. If your Betta fish is suffering from a bacterial infection, you will probably observe other symptoms as well. If a bacterial infection is severe enough for your Betta fish to develop SBD, the chances of recovery are very low.

Treating Swim Bladder Disease

In most cases, you can easily treat your Betta fish’s Swim Bladder Disease at home. If the cause of the disease is a severe infection, it is best to consult your veterinarian. Depending on the cause of SBD, you can treat your Betta fish at home using the following guidelines.

Digestive Issues

If the cause for your Betta fish’s Swim Bladder Disease is digestive issues, treatment is simple and recovery usually takes two to three days. You can transfer your Betta fish to another tank, but it’s not necessary since it won’t affect the other fish in your tank. You can also use a breeder net to separate your fish if necessary.

Firstly, do not feed your fish for a minimum of three days. The act of “fasting” won’t harm your Betta fish but actually aid her metabolism and digestive system. If you have other fish in your aquarium, you can separate your Betta fish in a cup when feeding the others.

Increase the temperature of your tank by two or three degrees during the treatment as this can aid her metabolism. This won’t harm the other fish in your tank if they are Betta fish as well. However, you should increase the temperature gradually so they can adjust to it slowly.

When three days are over, you can opt for fiber-rich food such as a skinned pea or Daphnia to help your fish recover fully. It is best to avoid dry fish food for a couple of days after and continue feeding Daphnia to your Betta fish.

Infection

If the cause for your Betta fish’s SBD is an infection, you can use a broad-spectrum antibiotic to treat the condition. Consult your veterinarian to determine the parasite or bacteria causing the infection and the needed medication. It is best to move your Betta fish to a separate tank so that the medication does not affect other fish and plants. Your veterinarian can guide you about how to use the medication. Most antibiotics can remove the amount of oxygen in your tank so ensure the water is well-oxygenated for your Betta to have a speedy recovery.

Preventing Swim Bladder Disease

Since Betta fish are sensitive to temperature and water conditions in their tank, they can develop Swim Bladder Disease easily. It is best to have prevention measures in place to prevent your Betta fish from developing Swim Bladder Disease.

Cleaning your tank routinely is essential for your fish’s health. A dirty tank can compromise your Betta fish’s immunity and increase the risk of infections. Keep your tank clean and carry out partial water changes when necessary.

Maintaining a steady temperature is ideal for preventing SBD in Betta fish. The ideal temperature is 78°F which ensures a healthy digestive and immune system. The temperature of your tank can also fluctuate due to external factors such as the water changes and the weather. Ensure your tank stays at the desired temperature constantly to prevent any issues for your Betta fish.

A high-quality diet is the best way to prevent digestive issues that put pressure on the swim bladder. Before feeding dried food, soak it in some water so it sinks to the bottom of the tank. Surface-feeders can gulp too much air, which leads to constipation. Avoid feeding your Betta fish a large meal and stick to small portions. Their stomachs are small so 2 to 3 pellets are enough daily. It is also recommended to have a “fasting” day to ensure your Betta fish’s metabolism stays stable.

Conclusion

Betta fish can develop Swim Bladder Disease fairly quickly since they are sensitive to their tank’s water and temperature conditions. Most Betta fish develop SBD due to low temperature, digestive issues, injuries, and infections. SBD is easy to treat and prevent in most cases. It is recommended you keep your tank clean and avoid overfeeding your Betta fish.

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