Beginner's Guide

Why Is My Fish Floating Upside Down?

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Nightmare can come in any shape and size during any hour of the day. And seeing your fish floating upside down in the tank will definitely feel like a bad dream with sleep paralysis. And if you are experiencing this for the first time, then may God give you strength till you find simple answers to this. The reason, cause, and cure will be the first few thoughts you will have when you see your fish swimming strangely. Why is fish floating upside down? What causes fish to float upside down? How can you make your fish swim properly again?

Well, Swim bladder disease and bloating are two definite reasons for your fish to float upside down in the tank. And these problems are caused due to Improper water parameters, unplanned diet, and birth deformities mostly.

But don’t worry, once you manage everything back to normal and ideal, your fish will be back to normal healthy life too.

I know this information will not suffice and sate your curiosity about swim bladder disease and fish floating upside.

So, here is a treat for you, my friend, a whole article dedicated to the why, how, and what about fish floating upside down.

Let’s dive in!

Why Is My Fish Floating Upside Down?

If your fish is floating upside down with no movement or activities whatsoever, then it is probably dead. Sorry!!

But if your fish is floating upside down while maintaining their daily routine then that is due to buoyancy issues they might be facing.

When the swim bladder of a fish stops working or malfunctions, the balance of the fish to float starts to rumble.

The swim bladder lies on the lower half of the body. So, when it is affected by a certain force or pressure, you will find your fish having a problem swimming normally.

Swim bladder disorder is quite common in bettas and goldfish where the swim bladder stops working and the fish will start to float uncontrollably upside down.

They will either swim upside down or sideways when the external or internal factors affect the well-being of the swim bladder.

The floating balance of the fish will crumble and the buoyancy issue will intervene making a fish swim strangely.

Causes Of Fish Floating Upside Down/Swim Bladder Disorder

There are few causative agents that cause your fish to float upside down in the tank. Floating upside down can be caused by various factors that your fish might be exposed to without your knowledge.

Overfeeding Your Fish

Overfeeding can bring consequences in fish that you cannot imagine. The hazardous and unaccounted food consumption will lead to gulping more air by the fish.

When the accumulation of air reaches its peak, the fish will start floating upside down due to buoyancy issues and improper balance of the body.


Overfeeding the same type of food can cause fish digestive systems to slower than usual. The absence of fibrous food in the fish diet leads to constipation.

A bloated stomach will press the swim bladder making it narrower and hence causing the swim bladder disorder.

This will lead to the buoyancy issue making the fish float upside down in the tank.

Low Temperature

Low temperature slower the digestive process of the fish that will in turn lead to constipation and the enlargement of the gastrointestinal tract.

This will affect the swim bladder and puts pressure on it. Hence, the balance of the fish will be on the see-saw and you will see the fish floating upside down.

Bacterial Or Parasitic Infection

Bacteria and parasites present in the water can inflame the swim bladder too when the water quality starts to go down.

Physical Trauma

Sometimes, fish can injure themselves by colliding with other fish or bumping into the wall of the aquarium. These incidents can rupture the swim bladder of the fish causing the swim bladder disorder.

Birth Deformation Of Swim Bladder

Some fish are born with a defect in the swim bladder but still can live a happy and healthy life if you maintain the special water parameters they require.

Enlargement Of Other Abdominal Organs

When other organs present in the abdominal area like kidneys, liver, etc. start to grow larger due to the development of cysts, fat deposits, or production of eggs, the swim bladder can be pressed down causing a disorder.

Treatment For Fish Floating Upside Down/ Treatment For Swim Bladder Disorder

Once you see your fish struggling to live a healthy life, you want to nurse them back to good health and happy swimming as soon as possible.

I understand it so I will try to ease your pain by giving some instant solution to overcome fish floating upside down properly.

In a way I mean I will help you to cure swim bladder disease or disorder (whatever you like to call it) in the fish.

Here are the methods to cure or treat swim bladder disease in the fish:

  1. Fast your fish for three days and increase the temperature to 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to feed your fish thawed, boiled, and peeled peas on the fourth day.
  2. Keep the water clean and temperature towards the warm side to improve digestion and let go of constipation in fish.
  3. The addition of Two spoons of non-iodized salt or aquarium salt will do the trick too. Learn more about What are the Benefits of Aquarium Salt? | Fishkeeping Guide
  4. Make it easier for fish to move around the tank by reducing the water level a little bit.
  5. Apply stress coats to the area of the fish body that is exposed to the air to avoid sores development.
  6. Check the water ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate level and maintain it optimum to avoid ammonia poisoning and nitrate intoxication.
  7. Change the 40% of aquarium water.
  8. Visit the vet if the problem doesn’t go away and ask for antibacterial or antiparasitic treatment.

How To Prevent Fish Floating Upside Down Disease Or Swim Bladder Disorder?

Preventing disease is a piece of cake honestly if you know what you are doing. People tend to mess up raising a fish in the tank because they are just a beginner and don’t know what’s wrong and what’s right.

You might like to read more about Most Common Beginner Aquarium Mistakes When Setting Up New Tank.

So, I am here to guide you to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place. This is the best way to save your fish, trust me.

Let me make fish keeping and preventing swim bladder disease your cup of tea too. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Check all the water parameters and make sure ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite level are ideal in the tank.
  2. Clean the fish tank more often and properly. Use proper aquarium filtration method according to the fish you have.
  3. Don’t let the aquarium water get cloudy or foamy. Read more about Cloudy Water in Aquarium: Causes and Prevention
  4. Do not feed them oversized food.
  5. Feed them varieties of food and alternate the food every day. Here is what will help you: Fish Food 101: A Beginner’s Guide On How To Feed Aquarium Fish
  6. Make sure you get high-quality food only for your fish diet.
  7. Thaw the frozen foods properly before giving them to your fish.
  8. Keep the temperature to the warmer side to improve fish metabolism and digestion.
  9. Avoid overfeeding your fish.
  10. Try sinking foods for the fish that gulp air from the surface while eating.
  11. Note the amount of food you fed your fish throughout the week.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the FAQs you might be wondering about.

Can Swim Bladder Disease Go Away On Its Own?

Depending on the causative agent of the swim bladder disease, it can stay for a while and getaway on its own once everything is back to normal and ideal.

There are many instances where the fish has lived a long life happily even though it was detected with permanent swim bladder disorder.

Is Swim Bladder Disease Contagious?

To be honest, if the swim bladder disease is caused by parasites or bacteria present in the water and is strong enough to infect one fish then it can be contagious to other fish too.

So, it is wise to quarantine the sick fish as soon as possible. Relocating is a clever move than leaving the fish in the tank to infect others, isn’t it?

Can Parasites Cause Swim Bladder Disease?

Yes, actually intestinal parasites can invite swim bladder disease in the fish along with constipation and bacterial infection too.


In a nutshell, Fish floating upside down isn’t that scary as it seems to be. But I know the feeling when you see your fish suddenly swimming upside down. God, it is like living through a nightmare and a flashback of all the aquarium and beginners mistake you made. But don’t worry, you will be fine until you follow my instructions properly. Everyone messes up on the beginning days, I did too. So, just sit back and give your fish what it wants. See how happily your fish will entertain you and enlighten your fish tank.

Good Luck!!

Happy Fishkeeping!!!

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