Swim Bladder Disease in Betta Fish (4 Easy Cures)

Do you suspect swim bladder disease in your betta? Well, if they swim awkwardly, struggle to stay afloat, and lay on their side on the surface, you might be right.

Unlike most fish, bettas are prone to Swim bladder disease because of their tiny bodies and large appetites. The disease can be caused by betta’s overeating, a bacterial infection, or just poor water conditions in their tank. 

When my betta got sick, I had to put on my investigative hat and find the root cause. He would lay on the water’s surface and not bother to swim. This was unusual behavior, but the change of diet the week before could have been the cause.

While treatment for this disease can take between 3 days to three weeks, depending on the cause, you can get your betta feeling as good as before. 

To find out how to diagnose, treat, and prevent swim bladder disease in bettas, read on below.

What is Swim Bladder Disease? 

Bony fish have a unique organ in their body known as a swim bladder.

The swim bladder is an air-filled organ found in fish to help them swim. It allows them to control their buoyancy (ability to float and rise in water). While that’s their primary function, the swim bladder also helps with respiration and sensing pressure fluctuations in their water environment. 

Swim Bladder Disease describes when the bladder isn’t working as it should. It could be damaged or swollen and harm your betta fish. Problems with the bettas swim bladder result in erratic swimming patterns, poor eating habits, and difficulty staying afloat. 

Causes of Swim Bladder Disease in Betta Fish

Several different reasons cause swim bladder disease in bettas. With these tropical fish being extra sensitive to their tank environment, their water, tankmates, or food could make them sick. You’ll need to identify the cause before seeking any treatment for your fish. 

Using the wrong treatment can make your betta’s situation even worse. So here are some common causes of swim bladder disorder in betta fish you should know. 

1. Overfeeding

Overfeeding is one of the most common causes of swim bladder disease in betta fish. 

It’s easy to overfeed betta fish because they have small bodies with tiny bellies. But when they start eating, it’s hard to make them stop.

betta fish overfeeding

The problem with overfeeding is it leads to constipation which is painful for betta’s. Constipation affects their swim bladder, which leaves them in discomfort and stress. 

Constipation can also be caused by your betta gulping too much air while eating. Because bettas swim up the tank to eat their food, they could be gulping excess air each time they are fed. 

Another cause of constipation is feeding your betta fish low-quality food. A bad diet can quickly affect your fish’s digestive system and cause them to constipate. 

The dumps they excrete when constipated cause a buildup of ammonia in the tank, which is poisonous for betta fish. 

But if feeding your betta fish sounds complicated, we break down tips to treat your fish if they are constipated or overfed. The good news is you can use plenty of home remedies and medications to eliminate constipation in your betta fish. 

2. Bacterial Infection

Another more common cause of this swim bladder issue is a bacterial infection. You’re probably wondering where a betta can get a bacterial infection when in a tank all day. It’s from the water. 

A bacterial infection is bound to happen if they are in a tank with poor water quality.

One of the most common symptoms of bacterial infections in betta is swim bladder disorder, so there might be other symptoms you should look out for. 

You should know that a bacterial infection is severe in betta fish  and can be fatal if caught too late. 

3. Parasitic Infection

If you’re confident it isn’t a bacterial infection or overfeeding, it might be a parasitic infection causing the swim bladder disorder in your betta. 

When the parasitic worms infest your betta’s stomach, they will have difficulty swimming in their tank. In most cases, parasitic worms aren’t fatal to bettas, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek treatment as soon as possible. 

4. Birth Defects

Sadly, some fish are born with swim bladder problems. If from the moment you got your betta fish from the pet store, they have been swimming erratically and having trouble staying afloat, then the disease could be genetic.

betta fish birth defect

Some aquarists have reported receiving their betta fish with swim bladder disorder and having to treat it within their first weeks together. The symptoms will be evident from an early age if it is genetic.

It might be cured as they grow older, but sometimes it can shorten the lifespan of your betta fish. This problem is common among double tail bettas.

5. Temperature Shock

Another cause of swim bladder disease is temperature shock. While these fish seem hardy, they are quickly affected by sudden changes in their tank environment. 

Changes in the tank’s pH levels and water temperature can shock your betta’s tiny body. Low water temperatures affect your betta’s digestive system and put excess pressure on their swim bladder. 

If they cannot digest their food, it will lead to constipation. High temperatures can also wear out your betta fish because they will become stressed. A stressed betta won’t eat either, affecting their immune systems and ability to fight off diseases.

6. Physical Trauma

Sometimes, a betta can get swim bladder disease because of damage caused by physical trauma.

If your betta is in a community tank or sharing it with another betta fish, they can quickly get into fights that leave them hurt.

Tank decorations like live plants and tank equipment like heaters or a filter system can also cause physical injury to your betta.

When stocking your tank, you should ensure that you aren’t using items that can hurt your betta’s fragile body. 

Swim Bladder Disease Symptoms in Betta Fish

When your betta fish is sick, there are various swim bladder disease symptoms you should expect to see in their behavior and on their bodies.

Some are easy to spot, while others must be monitored for a few days. 

In this article, we will break down which symptoms you should know according to the specific causes: 

Symptoms of Overfeeding Related to Betta Fish

When a betta fish has overeaten, or you’ve fed them food that causes bloating, here are some symptoms you should monitor: 

Lack of an appetite

Overfeeding your betta fish can significantly affect their appetite. If you find that they aren’t eating any food you drop in their tank; then they might be too full. 

betta fish food

One of the significant symptoms is you’ll find your betta laying at the bottom of the tank. This could also be because they can’t swim to the top of the tank for more food. 

An illness like swim bladder disease that causes constipation could be one of the reasons why your betta fish is not eating as much as they usually do.

Curved Back

If you notice that your betta fish has a curved back or round belly, it might suffer from swim bladder disorder. 

This is one of the surest signs that your betta is overeating and could be constipated. If your betta’s fins are also pine coning (scales flaring out), then it might be a symptom of dropsy which is a more severe disease. 

Trouble Swimming

Is your betta fish swimming normally? If you notice your betta is swimming erratically and can’t stay in one spot for too long, their swim bladder may be affected. They could also be swimming lopsidedly or on their side. 

Symptoms Related to Bacterial or Parasitic Infections

Here are the symptoms if your betta fish is suffering from swim bladder disease caused by bacterial or parasitic infections: 


Like other symptoms, you must pay close attention to your fish’s behavior. If your betta fish is shaking in their tank and the temperatures are correct, they could have a bacterial or parasitic infection. 

Clamped Fins

If your betta is clamping their fins, they are likely trying to fight off an infection. Keeping their fins closer to their bodies shows that they are stressed, and an infection could be the reason. The treatment required will be different than that used to treat constipation. 

betta fish clamped fins

How to Treat Swim Bladder Disease In Betta Fish

The good news is you can treat swim bladder disorder with the proper medication and care.

The success of the treatment depends on what is causing swim bladder disease in your betta fish. 

So, here is how you can treat your betta fish with swim bladder disease: 

Swim Bladder Disorder Caused by Overfeeding 

You shouldn’t worry too much if your betta fish overeating causes this disease. It is easily treatable if you make changes as soon as possible. 

Here are the steps to follow: 

  1. Separate the sick betta from other fish by putting them in a quarantine tank. 
  2. Fast him for three days to reduce the betta fish’s bloating or constipation. 
  3. Raise the temperature in the betta’s tank. Higher temperatures help with a betta fish’s digestion. 
  4. Monitor your betta fish behavior for the next couple of days. 
  5. If nothing has changed, give your betta fish a laxative like daphnia or a pea diet rich in fiber. Fiber helps in digestion and can get rid of constipation in fish. 
  6. If you chose a pea as a laxative, ensure to cook it,  cut it into small pieces,  and remove the cover before feeding it to your betta fish. 
  7. If there is still no change, then your betta could be suffering from much more than constipation. 

Swim Bladder Disorder Caused by an Infection 

If you suspect your betta fish is suffering from a bacterial infection, you will need to use medication instead. 

After moving your betta fish to a quarantine tank, the next step is to medicate the water. You should use Betamax for parasite infections and Melafix to treat bacterial infections. 

If they are sick because of an infection, the chances of making it better even with this medication are low. So you should be prepared for any outcome. 

Swim bladder Disorder Caused by Shock

It’s easier to treat swim bladder disease if it’s caused by shock. Is the temperature between 70 and 80 degrees? Is the water too hot or too cold? 

If you notice some of the betta fish tanks parameters aren’t right, the first thing to correct is adjusting the temperature or conducting water changes.

Ensure you carry out the water changes slowly not to shock your betta further. It would help if you also tried dimming the lights in their tank. Like in their natural habitat, bettas are more likely to relax and rest with dim lighting. 

They can recover much faster from the shock that way. 

Epsom Salt Baths To Cure Swim Bladder Disease

Epsom salt is a reliable cure if your betta fish suffers from this disease. It works primarily for bacterial infections and constipation if you don’t want to use medication.

epsom salts for betta fish

You can find this type of salt at a pet store. Mix a tablespoon of Epsom salt with half a gallon of betta-specific water or conditioned tap water. Add another half gallon of water after the Epsom salt has dissolved. 

If the salt bath hasn’t cured his constipation in 10-15 minutes, you can put the affected fish back in their quarantine tank. Your betta might excrete much later in the day and be active like they should. So you should keep an eye on them for the next 24 hours.  

Preventing Swim Bladder Disease in Betta fish

Prevention is always better than cure. So if there is a way you can ensure your betta fish doesn’t get swim bladder disorder, it’s better to try! 

Here are some tips to prevent swim bladder disease in betta fish: 

  • Feed your betta fish high-quality food: What are you feeding your betta fish? If it’s leftover food or stale food, it can cause digestive problems. If it’s high-quality food, it’s less likely to cause bloating, which can lead to swim bladder disease. Ensure frozen foods thaw completely before feeding them.
  • Do not overfeed your betta: A Betta’s stomach is tiny, so feeding them smaller portions twice daily will meet all their dietary needs. Even though they will always be hungry, you should try to feed them at least 2-3 pellets daily. If any pellets are not eaten, you should remove them from the tank to prevent waste buildup. 
  • Fast your betta fish once in a while: Bettas can survive a couple of days without food. To prevent overfeeding them, you can fast them for a few days. To prevent any more diseases while fasting, ensure that the water conditions are correct for the health of your betta. 
  • Maintain good water quality for your betta fish tank: To prevent swim bladder disease and other ailments, you need to choose the best water for betta fish and maintain it . Constant water changes and cleaning of the tank to remove algae.  Ensure the tank’s nitrate and ammonia levels are low to prevent any poisoning. 
  • Keep the temperatures warm for your betta: Betta fish are tropical freshwater creatures that need warm water to survive. They need warm waters between 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Sudden changes in the betta tank’s temperature can cause shock, stress, and swim bladder disease. 
  • Reduce stress factors in your betta’s tank: if your betta fish is in a community tank, other fish could be causing them stress. Removing them from the tank could also prevent physical injuries leading to swim bladder disease. 
  • Adding aquarium salt to the betta’s tank: While aquarium salt doesn’t work the same way as Epsom salt baths to treat swim bladder disease, it is still beneficial for these fish. The aquarium salt strengthens the fish’s slime coat and boosts their immune system to help fight off any infections or illnesses.

Is Swim Bladder Disease Fatal? 

Swim bladder disease is rarely fatal, but it can be depending on the cause. You don’t have to worry about death if the condition is caused by constipation or overfeeding. 

is swim bladder disease fatal

If a bacterial or parasitic infection causes it, it may be fatal to your betta fish.

In severe cases, swim bladder disease could be a symptom of dropsy which is fatal to bettas. If this is the case, the chances of your betta surviving are very low.

Usually, symptoms of swim bladder disorder are more likely to cause death than the disease itself. It’s easy for your betta to get hurt when they aren’t swimming well. 

If they can’t get away from the surface, their skin will get damaged, leading to sores and other infections that can shorten the betta’s lifespan. 

When a betta fish can’t swim away from the bottom of the tank, they can also get injured by the rocks and ornaments within their tank environment.

Is Swim Bladder Disorder Contagious? 

Whether or not this disease is contagious also depends on the underlying cause. If your betta has swim bladder disease because of an infection, it’s more likely to spread to other fish in the betta’s tank.

This is because the harmful bacteria or parasite is already in the tank’s water. The other fish don’t stand a chance if you don’t separate and quarantine the sick betta as soon as possible. 

If the betta has this disease because of overfeeding, it won’t be surprising if other fish or bettas in the tank are also overeating. You might be throwing too many pellets in their tank during feeding too. 

It is almost impossible to spread swim bladder disease if the underlying cause is constipation. 


How do peas help with swim bladder disease? 

Peas are a healthy vegetable for fish. Due to their high fiber content, they help fish with constipation, digestive issues, and swim bladder disease.

Peas increase the stool load your fish will excrete, which helps to control their constipation which is a significant sign of swim bladder disease.

For betta fish, you should peel and cut the peas into small sizes and cook them for around 30 seconds before dropping them into the tank.

How often should I give my sick betta a salt bath? 

Once a day for a sick betta. As beneficial as salt baths are to betta fish, they don’t need it all the time. Frequent salt baths can give your betta temperature shock, worsening the condition if they are already sick.

Is Epsom salt safe for betta fish?

Yes, it is. Epsom salt helps treat illnesses in tropical fish like constipation and swim bladder disease. Because these fish are freshwater, you shouldn’t overexpose them to this salt. That can harm their health. 

Wrapping up

Swim bladder disease can be relatively common in these fish, but that doesn’t mean it’s incurable. Thanks to multiple treatments like Epsom salt baths, fasting, and medication, your betta fish can relieve their active days in no time.

The vital thing you shouldn’t forget as an aquarist is that you can’t treat this disease if you don’t know what caused it. It could be anything from poor water quality to parasitic infections or a bad diet.

Monitor your betta constantly for several days if you suspect they are sick. If none of these treatments work for treating swim bladder disease, you should head to the nearest vet or pet store to help your betta recover.

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