FAQs on Goldfish Swim Bladder Ailments
Related Articles: Goldfish
Systems, Goldfish Disease, Goldfish, Goldfish Varieties, Koi/Pond
Fish Disease, Livestock
Treatment System, Bloaty, Floaty Goldfish,
Disease/Emphysematosis, Pond Parasite Control
with DTHP, Hole in the Side
Related FAQs: Goldfish Disease 2, Goldfish Disease 3, Goldfish Disease 4, Goldfish Disease 5, Goldfish Disease 6, Goldfish Disease 7,
8, Goldfish Disease 9,
10, Goldfish Disease
11, Goldfish Disease 12, Goldfish Disease 13, Goldfish Disease 14, Goldfish Disease 15, Goldfish Disease 16,
17, Goldfish Disease 18,
Goldfish Disease 19, Goldfish Disease 20, Goldfish Disease 21, Goldfish
Disease 22, Goldfish Health 23, Goldfish Disease 24,
Goldfish Health 25, Goldfish Disease 26, Goldfish Disease 27, Goldfish Disease 28, Goldfish Disease 29, Goldfish Disease 30,
31, Goldfish Disease 33,
Goldfish Disease 34, Goldfish Disease 35, Goldfish Health 36, Goldfish Health 37, Goldfish Health 38, Goldfish Disease 39
& Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Nitrogen Cycling, Koi/Pondfish
Disease, Goldfish in General, Goldfish
Behavior, Goldfish Compatibility, Goldfish
Systems, Goldfish Feeding, Bloaty, Floaty Goldfish, Goldfish
|Mmm, let's see: First off, there
is no such thing as "swim bladder disease"... This is a
symptom... borne of a few possible "causes".
Genetic/developmental (by fancy breeds of sorts especially).,
Nutritional (from too much, too long feeding w/ high protein dried
foods), some pathogenic (though rare comparatively) etiologies.,
and a few environmental ("water quality" issues.
Goldfish With Hemorrhaging and Swim Bladder Issue 10/14/12
I have a 4 year old fancy goldfish alone in an established 50 gallon tank.
As you can see she is floating upside down and blood is pooling in her belly
area- this is NOT due to injury or trauma- it started out as tiny pinpoints
of blood that looked like a rash and has progressed over the past few days.
The area that is red is the area that sticks up out of the water as she is
floating (could be from drying out?). Her scales are not lifted, she has no
intestinal blockages- I have been feeding a couple peas per day and they
pass. She was upright a week ago- this is very sudden. I change 30% of the
tank water twice a week.
<I do not see any images attached to your email. This sounds like a
bacterial infection to me. Take a look at the images on this page:
The images start about half way down. The hemorrhaging you described sounds
a lot like the second photo. That your fish is floating upside down might
indicate an infection in the swim bladder as well. Antibiotics for aquatic
use are readily available >
<Welcome and good luck. Rick>
Re: Goldfish With Hemorrhaging and Swim Bladder Issue 10/14/12
Thank you Rick-
The photos do look similar but the bleeding in my fish is much more
<Unlike dogs, where illness is very noticeable, it very easy to wait too
long before treating an illness in a fish. This is especially true if it
happens to occur during a period where you are busy. Always better and
easier to treat as early as possible.>
I have put Kanaplex in the water now since I have read that Kanamycin is one
of the few antibiotics that can be absorbed through a fishes skin. The fish
is still hungry but I am afraid to feed her: can food make the infection
worse or is it okay to give some vegetables? I can make some gel food with
Kanaplex in it if this would help.
<Feeding with medicated food is an excellent idea.>
Thank you so much!!
<Again, you're welcome. Good luck. - Rick>
Re: Goldfish With Hemorrhaging and Swim Bladder Issue 10/14/12
Last email, Rick:
<Keep emailing if the problems persist.>
I made some gel food last night using Kanaplex and the fish is eating (she
is quite hungry, actually). Unfortunately when I tested my water this
morning I am getting a reading of 10 ppm ammonia. I did a 50% water change
but am still detecting ammonia which it is especially serious since the pH
of my tank water is 9.05 (this is cutting my horrid tap water with 50% RO
water). My tap water is pH 9.5 and even pure RO water still has a pH of 8
after going through the filters.
<It's rare indeed when I find somebody with harder, more alkaline water than
mine! Maybe use pure "RO" water here if it still has a little hardness.
(Might mean you need new filters in the RO system.)>
I know I need to hit this infection with an appropriate dose of antibiotic
but the stuff I added to the water is killing my good bacteria (even though
the product is not supposed to do so, according to the rep).
<It will after continued dosing after a little reading on the Seachem forum.
It suggests resting the tank for 3-4 days to allow the beneficial bacteria
I chose Kanaplex because it can be mixed with food, is one of the few meds
that is actually absorbed by the fish and it one of the best rated for very
high alkalinity (and I happened to have several vials of it in case of
What can I do to reduce the impact on my filter? How deadly is 5 to 10 ppm
ammonia in a pH of 9.05? I hate to NOT add medication to the water if it
gives the fish a better chance, but ammonia poisoning is just as lethal.
<I think you want to get some zeolite crystals and add it to the filter path
if possible. They absorb ammonia. Now, in my opinion this is not a permanent
solution, just something to get you past the illness. Once the fish
recovers or passes, then it's time to look for a more permanent
solution to the ammonia problem.>
I am treating the fish in her tank as she is too big for a hospital tank- I
drained out quite a bit of the water for comfort for the fish (she was
swirling all over the place trying to right herself) and to ensure that my
oxygen levels in the tank stay nice and high during treatment. I have 25
gallons in the tank (about 5 inches of water) which keeps the fish much
calmer than when it was full.
<Interesting. Diligent water changes. Less room for the fish waste.>
Should I stop adding medication to the water and concentrate on feeding
her the antibiotic food instead? The Kanaplex frustratingly does not give a
dose in relation to the fishes weight- they just say to add a level scoop to
1 tablespoon of food paste. Hopefully I am giving her enough- I am not sure
if it is safe to add more and the rep that I
called did not understand what I was asking when I called to find out how
much Kanaplex I needed to treat a 340 gram fish.
<I'd try the Seachem support forums and see if you can get a good answer
that way in terms of dosing by fish weight or mass.
I think that if you can get the ammonia under control with zeolite, then
continue dosing the water. If not, then just in the food. See also if
you can get some java moss or the like to put into the tank to help absorb
Sorry for my long letter but the fish is still very interested in food and I
am clinging to the slim hope that I may be able to save her. She was my very
first goldfish and is infinitely precious to me so I am most grateful for
<We all have fishes that we grow fond of. Write back if this doesn't work.>
Re: Goldfish With Hemorrhaging and Swim Bladder Issue
Just wanted to give you an update on this fish: I made gel food with the
Kanaplex (I never did find a correct amount per weight so I just made it
up as per directions and fed the fish a little bite every 20 minutes to
keep the antibiotic in the bloodstream). I also raised the temperature
of the tank up to 30 C to kill off any Aeromonas. It took about a week
and a half
for the bleeding in the stomach to disappear and about a week after that
she was still upside down but at the bottom of the tank rather than the
top. She has since flipped upright. She is still lethargic but has very
much improved- thank you so much for your help with this fish!
<Great! Sounds like you are making good progress. Keep it up. It's easy
to let down your guard after you see the fish starting to recover.
Hopefully the recovery will continue and the fish will live a long and
happy life. -
Swim Bladder Infection? Goldfish --
My name is Dawn.
I have a 20gal. tank with a Marineland BioWheel 200. I had previously
had four comets in that tank but recently after much reading on your
site, donated them to a local botanical garden park where there are
many ponds with Koi and goldfish.
I figure this would be a better home for them than my twenty gallon (I
also didn't want to take them back to the pet shop so they could be
sold as feeders).
Back to the my question, I have one Fancy goldfish left (a Calico
Ryukin named Pepper). I adopted from the pet store (Petco) six to eight
weeks ago. The reason he was not sold to me because he has a swim
<Almost never really a swim bladder infection. It's worth
mentioning neither of my fish health manuals mention this disease. Have
you ever heard of KreislaufstÃ¶rung? It's something
Germans worry about endlessly, devoting huge amounts of time to
recuperating from, but it doesn't actually exist. Swim bladder
disease in fish is the same. Rather, it's a way aquarists (and
seemingly shopkeepers) describe fish that are, for one reason or
another, not swimming properly. Likely causes including constipation,
exposure to toxins, or systemic bacterial infections. But the swim
bladder itself is just an empty bag of air, and not very likely to
become inflamed or infected.>
I was in there one day looking for dog stuff and wandered over to the
fish department where I see this fish sitting on his tail. It is quite
comical. He sits like a Buddha and waddles when he swims vertically. He
did not seem to have any disease and looked clean. He is also a very
stronger swimmer given his condition. I found the store manager and
asked about the sitting goldfish and he said that the fish had been
that way for at least 6 months. No one would buy him because of his
sitting on his butt all day long.
The manage then told me that if I wanted him he would adopt him to me.
I went home to think about it and decided I'll check back in a week
to see if it is true the fish is "surviving" like this. Sure
enough, he was alive and seemingly healthy aside from the waddling back
and forth with his belly forward. I agreed to adopt him and took him
<Almost certainly, this fish is either constipated or deformed.
Fancy Goldfish are prone to problems with constipation because of their
deformed spines and distorted swim bladders, so even the slightest
blockage of the gut can cause all sorts of swimming problems. But
"belly sliders" are also common among farmed fish, especially
deformed ones like Fancy Goldfish. If the swim bladder is the wrong
shape, too small, or not properly inflated, the fish cannot swim in
After much research I found that he could have a tumor, genetic
abnormal growth, constipation, swim bladder infection, etc.
I have tried a fast of peas, medication (Melafix), changing his water
35% of water every other day, no pellet food, moth balls and other live
plants for him to munch on. I don't want to medication him too
aggressively and because from is strange swimming pattern he eats,
swims, rests, plays and pretty much is "normal", no sores to
pimples and even gets along with the comets when they were around.
<Indeed. Would take care not use anything abrasive on the bottom of
the tank though. Ideally, leave it bare, with black paper or something
underneath to limit reflections. Otherwise soft silica sand would be
ideal. Why? Because the scales at the bottom of a fish aren't meant
to support the weight of midwater fish, and they're easily abraded,
especially around the anus and fins. Damage can quickly become
infected, and that leads to sickness.>
The pet shop also tried treating him (with what they did not say/ or I
remember them saying) before adopting him to me. My water conditions
are Ammonia-0, Nitrate-0, Nitrite-0, PH-(I don't know but I use
Zehpirhills Spring water to change their water and nothing else)...
<Not all spring water is ideal. Unless you have soft water, then
ordinary hard tap water that has been dechlorinated is absolutely
I want him better
<Don't think that's going to happen...>
but I also have been running his water with an all natural no chemical
approach aside from putting marine salt
<Marine salt? Why?>
and plant food in there every water change. I would really appreciate
any suggestions. Thank you so much for your wealth of information. ( I
spend hours at work when it's slow reading your FAQS page. P.s:
sorry for grammatical mistakes I didn't catch.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Swim Bladder Infection? -- 06/09/10
Hello again! Thank you for your response.
<Glad to help.>
As to the substrate, I have a combination of gravel (mostly pet shop
brand) they are smooth surfaced and larger than the small bits you
usually see with the generic blue gravel.
The Marine Salt I guess is overkill since I was afraid he would get
stressed out from my squishing around in his house every time I change
Also I have a few live plants, driftwood and rocks from Lake Malawi,
the rocks have algae on them and he like nibbling at that. Should I
throw a couple handfuls of sand in to line the bottom?
If so, how would I go about vacuuming and cleaning the tank to keep the
sand from falling through the gravel? I feed him anything from peas,
bloodworms, shrimp, seaweed, and as I mentioned before all the
are live plants. I also have another question, I have the Marineland
BioWheel 200 (turnover 200/hr). Is that too many current for a 20gal.
<It's a lot, yes. For Fancy Goldfish, turnover rates 6-8 times
the volume of the tank per hour is about right, towards the lower end
if the fish can't swim well. But if there aren't any obvious
problems, I wouldn't worry.>
I also just bought a Fluval U3 (turnover 160/hr if I can recall) and is
planning to put it into a new 40gal. tank with the BioWheel along with
a Pleco and two more fancies. Are my aspirations obtainable?
<For a 40 gallon tank, you want a cumulative filtration rate (i.e.,
with one or both filters attached) of a total of 6 x 40 to 8 x 40
gallons per hour, i.e., 240 to 320 gallons per hour.>
Since I have read on the sight that for goldfish the turnover rate
needs to me 6-8 times the volume of the tank. However even with the
BioWheel 200 for the 20 gal I find that if I don't change the water
every other day the
ammonia goes up.
<Do check the filter is [a] set up properly and [b] has lots of
biological media. Don't waste space with Zeolite or carbon for
example. Really all you want are sponges and/or ceramic
(I secretly wonder if my mother is feeding them when I am not
I work full time and go to school. I also have a golden retriever that
needs just as much care and attention. So if there's any way to
limit water changes to just once a week or less I would be more than
overjoyed to learn about. Thank you again Crew for all that you do. I
appreciate you spending the time to answer my questions.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Swim Bladder Infection? -- 06/09/10
WHOOPS! not saltwater aquarium salt- freshwater salt. Haha you must
think I'm trying to kill my poor fish. I use the Aqi freshwater
salt (1 table/5 gal?)
<Likely does little good or little harm.
Freshwater salt doesn't raise the pH and hardness, which is
something Goldfish appreciate. On the other hand, Goldfish tolerate
sodium chloride quite well, so small amounts of what is basically
cooking salt won't harm them.
AHHHH! NEALLLLEE!!!!!!!! -Pepper is playing dead and my
blood pressure can't take this! 7/2/10
Hello again Neale,
(I do SINCERELY apologize for writing you again so soon)
I have a few questions (still reading the web site everyday) just to
make sure I've carried/carrying out the correct procedures. I'm
not too confidant on my diagnoses of what's going on yet also as
far as tank size I am 99% sure I am doing everything correctly.
Researched, water change, water tests, 2 filters, vacuum, nutrition,
water conditioner, temperature, live plants, love, attention, not to
mention gooey talk....
I got home from school today and Pepper (the one we decided had a
genetic problem with his swim bladder and is waddling around the tank
discombobulated) was upside down suspended like he had croaked and went
fish paradise. My heart stopped and when I dashed to the tank he
"woke" and acted as if nothing was the matter.
I am waiting a couple of hours for the water I conditioned yesterday to
hit the 24hr. mark so I can do a water change. Do you think I should do
25, 30, or 50 percent?
<Unless there's a good reason to do otherwise, I'd stick
with 25% on any one day.>
I did a water change yesterday (about 30%) I didn't fill it up as
much as I usually do because I ran out of water that I know for sure is
safe and conditioned. There is about 3-4 inches left from water surface
to the rim of the tank. I also took out one of two 10gal. Aqueon (older
filters from another tank) filter and put in a Fluval C2 (119g/h
turnover rate and it can a flow adjuster that I turned to min. so that
the fish wouldn't be tossed around and there would be less chance
of saturation in the small tank- 20gal.).
I rinsed out all new media before putting it into the filter and onto
the tank. I just did a water test Ammonia -.50 (high, thus the water
change is a bit),
<Yes, but would still only change 25%, or at most 25% twice during
the day, with at least 3 hours between the two water changes.>
Nitrite- 0, PH 8.2 (from tap but I'm leery about messing with it
and also the fish have not yet seem to be bothered),
<A pH of 8.2 is fine. Goldfish are MUCH happier with high pH levels
than low pH levels. In ponds, pH can go up to around 9!>
Nitrate- 0. This is test results from 5 min. ago. I fed them this
morning with cooked lettuce and peas mixed together.
Yesterday they had a veggie frozen food mix. The day before that they
had blood warms and Omega One goldfish flakes. I've been doing 2
water changes a week and have been keeping the older filters in until I
(yesterday) then I switched the filter to the biggest size possible and
am planning on leaving the smaller older one on with ammonia removers
in it only until I get a bigger tank.
<Any filter media that says it is an "ammonia remover" is
Zeolite. This is not what you want here. Zeolite is for hospital tanks.
It needs to be constantly replaced and/or recharged. Even in a small
aquarium with tiny fish it's expensive to use compared to
biological media. Instead, focus on having mature biological filter
media: sponges and ceramic noodles. Don't waste your time with
Zeolite or carbon.>
I use NutraFin AquaPlus to condition the tap water (both chlorine and
chloramine). However the gallons of water that leave out for more than
a week start to turn green (the water).
I figured that since I leave them outside the sun has something to do
with algae growth???
I used it because I figured that algae (green) is healthy.
<Well, yes, up to a point.>
This is also yesterday. I was going to write you and ask about it but I
didn't want to abuse my privileges and know that other people with
dying fish need your time.
<Not a problem.>
I also read WWM everyday like I said so I thought I could eventually
find something that pertains to the issue of green conditioned water. I
don't know if this is a big factor. (I am wondering if I should
test the green water. Stupid me I should have.)
<It's really not a huge factor. Any reason you can't use the
conditioner on fresh tap water? If you have hard, basic water out of
the tap, then simply adding water conditioner should make it INSTANTLY
suitable for use in aquaria.>
I hose off the feces and junk stuff from the filters with the garden
<Whoa! Treat live biological media like you would a fish. It's
JUST as sensitive to changes in water chemistry and temperature. Much
better to empty water from the aquarium into a bucket, place the filter
media in there, squeeze or rinse the media to clean it, and then put it
back in the filter. It doesn't need to be spotlessly clean. If you
want to thoroughly clean the filter media, then clean just 50% of the
media every 6 weeks by rinsing it under a lukewarm (aquarium
temperature) tap in the kitchen.>
I also read on the site that this is not a good thing to do that I
should rinse it with old aquarium water instead but I stopped doing
that because it was not getting cleaned and there is A LOT of gunk on
the filter anyhow (filter works with the gunk I check every time I do a
water change by the way). Did I goof up here?
<Yes. Do read about rinsing media under the tap, above. That's
what I do. The chlorine won't kill all the bacteria, and provided
you're only cleaning HALF the media that way, the remaining half
will quickly make good any damage.>
I let everything sit out and dry off
<Argh! No NO NOOOO! Drying = dead bacteria!>
before I put it back into the filter. I don't know what
Pepper's issue is.
All I've read indicates that most "wobbling and upside down
scare your provider to death" types of behavior is water related.
I am changing the water twice a week (even though you told me once is
ample but I still saw ammonia on my tests so off go and change the
water every time I find ammonia)
<Yes, but ammonia is NOTHING to do with water changes. Ammonia is
about poor filtration. You're abusing your bacteria terribly!
Bacteria are our friends. We have to be nice to them. We depend on
them. The art of keeping fish is the science of keeping bacteria alive.
Get that right, and everything else is easy.>
His fins are raised, the other two (Mandy and Cane) are doing good and
seen healthy. Nothing that indicates parasite, fungus, ich, etc.. They
swim and eat and beg for food. It is just today that this new symptom
occurred and I am besides myself. If I forgot to mention it I also
vacuumed the gravel yesterday but I will just do a water change
<Again, go easy with the gravel. A good stir and siphon to suck out
any detritus is fine. But don't wash it with soapy water or
anything like that.>
If there are any details I've left out please let me know. If you
don't remember me I will gladly send the last messages back so that
you can do a review. (it's Dawn, the one that offered to buy you a
round -I did and I
hope you got it-)
<Yes, thank you.>
Could this be the "end point" for his deformity? I don't
know and don't know where to start. Would it be more humane to
euthanise? I don't know if I can even do that without breaking my
heart. GOOD GRIEF
<I suspect it's a filtration rather than fish effort.>
Thank You so much again for your time and effort! I am anxiously
awaiting your reply.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: AHHHH! NEALLLLEE!!!!!!!! -Pepper is playing dead and my
blood pressure can't take this!
<Hello again Dawn,>
Pepper is really a Super Trooper, he's still so perky after all the
abuse I've inflicted on him. I think I'm going to change his
name to RamRod.
Gooey talk = baby talk- "Good morning my fine flippered
I woke up this morning and he was back to his normal dork self. He was
sitting in the middle of the tank with his back to me so I am relieved.
I'm sure if he could talk he would have a few choice words for me.
The filter media I used before switching to the Fluval C2 was the kind
with the felt squares that is shaped like a pocket and hold a
tablespoonful of carbon (which I'm sure by now no longer
<Indeed not. Carbon has a working lifespan of about 1-2 weeks, after
which it's essentially just biological media. It's actually not
bad biological media at all, but there's a slight risk that toxins
it absorbs can be leached back out again, so it's generally not
used as biological media.>
It has plastic around the edges to keep everything intact. The felt
material is really hard to clean without rubbing or "pressure
washing" if you will that's way I've been hosing it
<Your filter should have some sort of pre-filter, typically a white
pad of some sort. This is meant to trap solid waste, and is essentially
disposable, though you can aggressively clean it under hot water if you
want. If you're getting solid waste on the biological media you
can't rinse out, then you don't have a pre-filter, or
aren't cleaning the filter often enough.>
After work today I am going to stop at a couple of LFS to try and find
some. The Fluval has a sponge in it but I'm going to get extras.
(Any suggestions on brand names and what to look for as for a quality
<All much of a muchness. The best value is usually ceramic noodles
for biological filtration, plus a sponge or pad for the pre filter. But
with some filters you may be locked into certain
The tap water I use for the fish I condition at least 24hrs. Last time
I attempted to use it right away it didn't turn out too good.
After the last time we talk I chucked the plant that didn't belong
and now just have a couple in there. The rocks have algae on them and
the water is always clear!
(I was proud of this because I thought I was doing all the right things
to keep a good environment for them since there's 3 waste producers
of dynamic proportions in a small tank. However, I think I've been
doing too good of a
I have a couple of little questions. I notice that RamRod have been
poop stringy clear poop occasionally. His poop has always been
irregular, but I thought it was because of his condition. Like I've
said he is active and seems healthy.
<Goldfish are herbivores; they produce a LOT of faeces. Unless the
strings are really long, or consistently white and mucousy, I'd not
be too concerned.>
One of the other fish, the Red Cap Oranda, developed a black line above
his upper lip nowhere else. It looks like a mustache. (He looked like a
Frenchmen.) It has since started to disappear. I'm real curious if
it's color change or if he injured himself.
<May be either. Again, unless there's obvious signs of
infection, wouldn't worry.>
Thank you Neale you've been so much help. I'm going to get you
another round as soon as I get paid again! :))))
<Very kind of you.>
Also will it be alright with you if I write you once I am in the
process of upgrading to the bigger tank?
I wont need a lot of help I just need a trusted source of reassurance
just in case I hit a bump and am in doubt to what to do (and can't
find answers). I promise I wont write for every little thing! I just
want someone (like my Professor) to check my work and grade my progress
that I know I can trust.
<By all means do so. But do also introduce yourself to Lynn and the
others over the WetWebMedia forum. Sometimes, it's nice to chat
with others and share photos, ideas, and get feedback. We're always
happy to provide advice here at the FAQ, but I certainly enjoy spending
time on fish forums, too.>
If not I completely understand. :) Thank you again I really appreciate
your help. (RamRod too).
re: AHHHH! NEALLLLEE!!!!!!!! -Pepper is playing dead and my blood
pressure can't take this!
Oh! I forgot one more thing- is there a way to tell how long
RamRod's life span will be because of his handicap?
<Not really. But fancy Goldfish can comfortably live for at least 10
years, and 15 years is far from unusual. Standard Goldfish usually live
for longer though, typically 15-20 years. Simply being
"disabled" should dramatically alter longevity assuming the
fish can eat easily and avoid being bullied by other fish.>
I want him to have the most comfortable and carefree life for as long
<Indeed, why not!>
I've researched how big they can get and I want him to have that
chance like all the other kids.
I'm think about putting a handicap sign sticker on the tank and
starting a goldfish rescue and education organization in my area. Like
WWM. What do you think?
<Oh boy, I think that's a great idea, but where to begin!
There's a lot to be said about simply educating those around you.
Helping out those with pet fish, and in particular educating those
*thinking* about buying a pet fish.
Goldfish are wonderful pets in so many ways, with an aristocratic
pedigree going back to the Chinese emperors, and yet we tend to treat
them like they are disposable freebies. Anyway, you might start by
seeing if there's a fish club in your city or state. There are pet
rescue agencies and volunteers who specialise in fish, and again, these
might be worth contacting. Sometimes even the little things can help:
adding a section about what you've discovered about your pets on
your Facebook page for example can get ideas across to people who'd
never dream about picking up an aquarium book. So there are lots of
things you might consider. Cheers, Neale.>
URGENT help needed :-( GF
Greetings from Texas!
<And a hello from England.>
I have a five year old fancy tail goldfish who has been prone to swim
bladder on and off thru the years.
<Hmm... the whole "swim bladder problem" concept is a bit
of a myth. There are really two reasons Goldfish lose their balance.
The first is chronic constipation. Because Fancy Goldfish are deformed,
their spines and swim
bladders have shapes evolution never intended, and it doesn't take
much blockage in the gut to throw them off their balance.
The second reason Goldfish lose their balance is weakness or secondary
infection, usually caused by the stress of being exposed to poor water
quality. In other words, they're sick or dying, and because they
lack the energy to do otherwise, they float about the tank.
I only feed her peeled frozen peas, so that she doesn't gulp a lot
of air with floating foods. I also give her an orange slice every once
in a while as a treat.
<Goldfish do need to eat more than just cooked (not raw!) peas,
whether boiled or cold from cans (canned peas are cooked
About a week ago she began floating upside down (again) and was unable
to swim to the bottom to eat her peas. I prepared a salt bath with
aquarium salt for her in a smaller container and placed her in it for
about 20 minutes each day.
<Aquarium salt has no value here. Do understand the difference
between salt (sodium chloride, which does nothing) and Epsom salt
(magnesium sulfate, which is a muscle relaxant). Your aquarium shop
will sell you salt happily enough, but few aquarists actually
understand what it's for.
I fed her while she was in the salt bath and I assisted by gently
holding her in an upright position and guiding her towards the food.
Her appetite has not diminished in the least bit.
Usually her condition improves after a few days of this, but this time
it hasn't improved yet. To make matters worse, because she is
floating upside down, her belly is sticking out of the water and drying
out which caused an ulcer.
I purchased a container of Melafix to treat the ulcerated skin. In only
two days of treatment with Melafix, the ulcer has greatly improved.
<Fairly mild anti bacterial medication, and not going to fix
what's causing her to float upside down.>
Today I noticed when I went to take her out for her salt bath, one side
of her belly appears to be larger than the other side, almost like a
tumor. It wasn't like this yesterday. Do you think that because she
is in a constant upside down position that she is not able to poop and
its just building up inside of her??? If so, can this kill her and what
can I do to relieve her of this problem or will it fix itself?
<You need to narrow down the likely problem between the two
mentioned above. Constipation generally fixes itself given a
combination of Epsom salt and high-fibre foods like Daphnia and live
brine shrimps, alongside green foods. Constipated fish are generally
perky and lively, they just can't swim the right way. Stressed fish
are totally different, and will be lethargic, disinterested in food,
often breathing heavily. Secondary infections are common, including
ulcers and abdominal swelling. Be honest with yourself, and check
whether the aquarium is acceptable for Goldfish. Bowls are right out as
being useless, and tanks less than 30 gallons really cannot be
considered viable. Filtration needs to be robust, i.e., around 6 times
the volume of the tank per hour (so for a 30 gallon tank, a 30 x 6 =
180 gallon/hour filter). Water changes should be regular, around 25%
weekly, with dechlorinator used every time. Water chemistry should be
hard and basic, and water quality good (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10+
general hardness, and pH 7.5-8). Soft or softened water shouldn't
be used, and care should be take to avoid poisons, such as insect
I attempted to place her right side up in a fishnet suspended just
under the water level, but she was flipping around and I felt that this
was causing her more stress than she is already under.
I was reading your website responses to other people with my problem
and you suggested placing Epsom salt in the tank water.
I did a 40% water change this afternoon, but there is still Melafix in
the tank water (at a lesser concentration than yesterday). Is it safe
for me to add Epsom salt to this mixture OR should I do a complete
water change before adding the Epsom salt??
<Is safe to use them together.>
Also if I need to euthanize her, what is the most humane method?
Her tank buddy who died two years ago had the same problem and when he
quit eating I figured his time was near.
<That you have two fish suffering the same almost certainly means
the problem is to do with how you keep the fish. Be honest with
yourself, don't rationalise away inconvenient truths, and be
critical about your set-up.>
I used clove oil to euthanize him, but it was really heartbreaking to
have to do it myself and see him die. I know you mention the freezer
method but is it really painless for the fish?
<No, the freezer method is not painless.>
I don't want her to be afraid in the freezer by herself
I know you answer this type of question very often from other fish
<Yes, very often. One reason I recommend beginners avoid Goldfish is
the fact they are demanding and expensive to maintain. Given they grow
to 30 cm/12 inches (20 cm/8 inches for Fancy varieties) and live 20-30
would be depressed to know how many poor Goldies never get anywhere
near that lifespan. Yet, they're among the smartest animals we keep
as pets, and genuinely become tame and learn their keepers. So
they're lovely animals.
But I'd say pond fish rather than aquarium fish, unless you have a
Thank you for any help and or advice.
<Cheers, Neale.> <<Excellent. B>>
re: URGENT help needed :-( 2/28/10
Thank you for your quick response!
My goldie is alone in a 10 gallon tank and a 20 gallon filtration
<Here's your problem. A 10-gallon tank is too small. Was, is,
and always will be. Think about the size of Goldfish, and how messy
they are. Even a 20-gallon tank is small, and given they should be kept
in pairs, at least, a 30-gallon tank is the realistic,
tried-and-trusted minimum size for two Fancy Goldfish. Almost anything
else I say will be redundant so long as you keep this fish in such a
small aquarium. A 10-gallon tank lacks the capacity to dilute the
wastes produced by this fish, regardless of the size of the
Every week I flush the carbon filter with clear water and I have always
been very diligent about keeping the tank water clean so I don't
think her illness has anything to do with dirty tank water.
<But I think it does have everything to do with dirty water. Until
you perform some water chemistry and water quality tests, you can't
really back up your assertion. On the other hand, my experience of
dealing with people owning Goldfish in small tanks backs up my point of
view very strongly.
Almost all Goldfish kept in tanks less than 30 gallons in size die
prematurely for one reason or another. The carbon filter is largely
irrelevant. What carbon does is remove dissolved organic chemicals from
the water, the stuff that tends to make the water yellow. It has hardly
any useful impact on water quality, with ammonia and nitrite needing to
be processed by biological media. To be fair, after carbon has been in
a filter for more than a couple of weeks, it becomes a pretty good
biological media, but at that point it stops being a chemical filter.
Carbon removes medications added the water, so in general, I recommend
against people using it simply because folks often end up medicating
their aquarium and wondering why nothing improved. Often, it's the
carbon that's to blame.>
The people at the pet store are the ones who told me to use aquarium
That is why I decided to ask your opinion on this.
She's definitely VERY alert and still has her appetite, and it
doesn't look like she is near death yet....other than her bloated
I will go buy some Epsom salt tomorrow and high fiber food for her.
Thank you again!
<Fear that the Epsom salt won't be the magic bullet you seem to
want it to be. A bigger tank, please. Cheers, Neale.>