Learn what betta fish swim bladder disease and how it can affect your pet's quality of life. Find out what's the best medication to use to keep them healthy.

Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease: What’s the Best Cure?

Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease

They classify betta fish as bony fish. Bony fish have a specialized organ known as the swim bladder. This organ’s function is to maintain the fish’s buoyancy as it navigates various depths. This organ is very important to a betta fish’s overall health. A lot of problems may also come with it such as betta fish swim bladder disease and dysfunction.

Let’s discuss this to help you understand Swim Bladder Disorder (SBD), its prevention, and viable treatments.

What is the swim bladder of betta fish?

Swim-bladder

We also call the swim bladder as the gas bladder, fish maw, or air bladder. It is an internal organ filled with air. This organ helps the fish control buoyancy and maintain depth in the water without having to swim too much. This mechanism is efficient in conserving the fish’s energy. The swim bladder is covered by a tough outer membrane and is near the fish’s spinal cord, kidney, and stomach.

What is Swim Bladder Disease (SBD)?

Swim bladder disease or swim bladder disorder is when bettas suffer from a dysfunctional swim bladder. This is a common problem in aquarium fish and can also affect bettas.

Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease

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What are the signs and symptoms of swim bladder disease?

A fish with swim bladder disorder may float face down with its tail pointing up towards the surface of the tank. It can also show that the fish will float to the top or sink to the aquarium’s bottom without the ability to control itself. Another sign would see your betta with its belly facing up towards the tank. This can be a stressful sight for betta fish keepers.

What is the cause of swim bladder disease or swim bladder disorder?

Bacterial or parasitic infection can trigger problems of the swim bladder. Overfeeding may also lead to this. In younger betta fish it can manifest because of their swim bladders not yet developed. This disorder is not rare when keeping betta and it just goes away by itself when you can remove the primary cause. The disease is not contagious but the bacterial or parasitic infection that caused it may infect other fish.

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​​​​​​​Swim bladder disease can manifest as a symptom of another condition such as an ongoing fin rot disease or parasite attack. Intestinal parasites can lead to the fish’s intestines to become swollen and put pressure on the swim bladder. This will not let the swim bladder suitable space to contain the air it needs to keep the fish buoyant.

Poor water conditions can also lead to swim bladder disease. The environment of your betta fish affects its health. Having its life spent in water means that its health depends on the water’s cleanliness. You should provide your betta with good water parameters for it to thrive.

An increase in harmful substances such as ammonia, nitrites, and too many nitrates will cause stress to your fish. Ammonia spikes are lethal and can cause ammonia burns on the gills and internal organs of your pet betta fish. This will be an opportunity for disease to strike because it affects your betta’s immunity. Bettas are tough but aren’t indestructible.

Overfeeding is another factor that may induce constipation because of the impaction of food in the digestive tract of your betta fish. This will also cause the stomach and intestines of your fish to impinge on the swim bladder. Pressure on the swim bladder will not let it to function properly.

Betta fish are tropical fish and need the temperature in their environment to be between 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit or 25-27 degrees Celsius. This is the optimal temperature range for betta fish. Lower than 24 degrees may cause your betta fish’s metabolism to slow down. A slow metabolism will lessen its digestive functions which may lead to constipation. A bloated stomach and intestine of a betta fish will exert pressure on the swim bladder.

Related: Betta Fish with Velvet: How to Treat and Prevent it

Do I need a separate tank for the treatment of swim bladder disease or disorder?

If poor water condition is causing your betta fish’s SBD then you may decide not to use a separate quarantine tank. Treating swim bladder disease depends on what is causing it. The first thing you should do is test your water. You can purchase a master test kit to help you determine the water parameters of your betta fish tank. Ammonia and nitrites should be 0ppm. Nitrates should not be more than 20ppm. pH should be slightly acidic to neutral at 6.5-7.5. Recommended GH (general hardness) is 3-4 dGH (50-66.7 ppm) while KH (carbonate hardness) is 3-5 dKH (53.6- 89.4 ppm).

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Partial water changes of 20-25% on a regular weekly schedule can help maintain water parameters. This is the first step to do when you notice your betta has SBD. Keep your betta fish tank clean by avoiding overfeeding. Feed your betta the amount it can finish within 2-3 minutes. Take out any uneaten food.

If your betta is suffering from an infection, then you may use a separate tank especially if your betta is living in a community tank. Your betta might have live plants in its main tank which can be harmed by salt treatments and medication. This is one reason you may want to use a separate quarantine tank.

How do we begin treating Swim Bladder Disease?

You might not need any medication or special treatments when a pleasant environment and a proper diet are present. You may notice your betta improving just by practicing good husbandry.

It would be best to seek help from a veterinarian who specializes in fish care. They will diagnose, treat, and give proper advice for the problems your pet fish encounters. It may happen though that you can not find a professional in your area. We base these recommendations on the experience of many betta enthusiasts.

Related: Betta Fungal Infection: Symptoms and Best Treatment

How to prevent Swim Bladder Disease from happening?

Keep your fish tank well maintained and give your betta fish a varied diet made especially for bettas. They are carnivorous fish and need a high protein diet.

Provide a good-sized tank. 5 gallons is the minimum recommended for beginner betta keepers. This will give enough water volume to avoid harmful substances to suddenly accumulate.

Proper filtration is also critical to let biological and mechanical filtration to occur and keep betta fish swim bladder disease from happening. Make sure to use an aquarium heater to provide the optimal temperature for your betta fish.

Monitor your betta fish for the next few days after providing all these. Swim bladder disorder mostly heals and goes away on its own when your betta is in a healthy environment.

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