How to solve a problem like swimbladder disease

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How to solve a problem like swimbladder disease

One of the most visible goldfish health problems has a very common cause. Take our advice to find out what to do if your goldfish starts to turn upside down.

What is this problem and how can I identify it?

It’s easy to spot. A goldfish suffering from a swimbladder disorder will be floating at the surface and not able to dive. It will be swimming on its side or often upside down at the surface, but, apart from that, appear healthy.

What causes it?

Although frequently referred to as swimbladder disease, few if any floaty goldfish have anything terminal. Instead, it’s caused by one thing — food.

Fancy goldfish aren’t great swimmers, due to their double tail fins and short, fat bodies. Within their bodies the swimbladder, which controls buoyancy, is bent, so doesn’t work as well as it should.

Feed them foods that contain air, like flake, floating sticks or floating pellets, and the fish take in air as well as food. The result is a fish looking as if it has a giant air bubble as it floats to the surface and then can’t right itself.

How can I fix it?

The natural reaction of the goldfish keeper is panic. In the fish world upside down often means dead, so naturally it’s assumed that even though it is still breathing it is close to death. Far from it.

Next step is to seek a remedy and these are often available as a treatment for swimbladder disease, and the advice given is to add some salt. Both are administered, yet weeks later the problem persists. As mentioned it’s not a treatable disease, merely a result of short-bodied fish with bent swimbladders accumulating air.

The real remedy is not to feed for 24 hours. As a result of the many times we’ve experienced this you’ll find that when it isn’t fed, the fish doesn’t float. After that only offer sinking foods like Tetra Gold Japan, Hikari Lionhead and Saki Hikari, and lots of frozen foods like bloodworm, Daphnia and brineshrimp. Problem solved!

What long-term precautions can I take?

It seems that only the fat-bodied, fancy goldfish varieties experience this inconvenience, while the more slender, single-tailed Common goldfish, Comets, and Shubunkins don’t suffer.

So you could just avoid fancy goldfish altogether and instead keep hardier, more natural goldfish!

However, if fancies are your thing, be aware that generally the shorter the body the more compressed the swimbladder — so avoid the extremely fat varieties like Pearlscales and short-tail Ryukin and instead, go for the longer-bodied fish.

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