It can be quite alarming to find your goldfish swimming sideways or even upside down in the water. There are several causes of this problem including your fish eating either too much or too quickly. Here we answer the question- why is my fish swimming sideways?
Why is my fish swimming sideways?
Swimming sideways caused by swim bladder disorder?
Swim bladder disorder is a condition that causes the swim bladder to stop functioning properly and for your goldfish (and other aquarium fish) to have problems with buoyancy and his ability to sink or swim.
Swim bladder disorder is usually caused by one of several different problems rather than just one disease. It may appear at first glance that your goldfish is dead, but closer examination will reveal that he is still breathing but is having problems with both his balance and buoyancy.
As well as swimming sideways, a goldfish with swim bladder problems may float to the surface or swim upside down. This is because their buoyancy is badly affected. Your goldfish may also be using his fins far more than usual to try and keep in the correct upright position.
The good news is that with care your goldfish can be nursed back to health and make a full recovery. It is important to know what has caused the problem to avoid it happening again.
What is the role of the swim bladder?
The swim bladder is a large internal organ that is filled with gas and acts like a buoyancy tank for your goldfish and will also help him maintain balance. There are a number of problems that goldfish can develop with their swim bladder. These problems can affect many other species of fish too.
Could your fish have constipation?
If the water in your tank is on the cool side, your goldfish could well have constipation. The reason for this is that cool water slows down the digestion of food. Also, too much food has accumulated in the gastrointestinal tract.
It is best to test the water temperature and if necessary to raise the temperature of the tank to 21- 27C ( 70- 80F).
This can be easily done by using a heat pad or probe heater. It is a good idea to fix a thermometer on the tank wall. This is so that it is immersed in water and easily read on a regular basis.
- If warming the water doesn’t work, try the frozen pea trick mentioned below. Frozen peas are a good source of fiber which should get your fish’s digestive system working again.
Fish swimming sideways- a sign of enlarged organs
Another reason that your goldfish could be swimming on its side is an eating problem – or to be more accurate – an overeating problem. When a goldfish overeats its internal organs become enlarged. This prevents the swim bladder from doing its job properly.
The best way to get your goldfish better is to stop feeding the fish for three days. By doing this, you are giving your fish the chance to digest the food in their body properly – without adding to it.
The result will be that their body will be able to process the food normally, giving organs like the stomach and intestines, the chance to reduce back in size to how they should be.
Whilst fasting for three days will not cause your goldfish any harm, you should not let him go without food for any longer.
Keep a close eye on him throughout the fasting period. Hopefully his condition will improve. If your fish still has the problem at the end of the third day try feeding him extra fiber.
Try the frozen pea trick!
This may sound strange, but there are two benefits for feeding your goldfish cooked frozen peas.
The first benefit is that the peas are packed with fiber which can ease constipation problems.
The second benefit is that it is possible that your goldfish swallowed some air when eating his flaked food.
Peas are very different in consistency and easily help solve the problem. However, they must be prepared carefully and given to your goldfish following three days of fasting.
- Your goldfish should be fed only 1-2 frozen peas per day.
- Cook the peas until they are soft, remove the peel and chop the pea into small pieces and drop on the surface of the water.
- Be careful not to overcook the peas as they will quickly turn mushy and difficult for your fish to eat.
- Continue this diet for one week.
Food can sometimes cause this problem
It is well worth reviewing the diet of your goldfish as this can sometimes be the cause of your fish swimming sideways. What causes the problem is when your fish swallows excess air when he is feeding. The excess air gets into the gastrointestinal tract and then the duct to the swim bladder. Therefore affecting the buoyancy and balance of your goldfish.
If you think that this could be causing your goldfish to be swimming sideways, it is best to try soaking the food in water for a few moments before popping in the tank. Alternatively, try a different type of food such as a product that is a sinking or neutrally buoyant one. This could alleviate the problem.
Infections cause fish swimming sideways
If your goldfish has an infection, the swim bladder can become inflamed by either parasites or a bacterial infection. If you suspect this, it is best to seek the advice of your veterinarian who will be able to prescribe antibiotics to quickly resolve the problem.
What other reasons why my goldfish is swimming sideways?
There are sometimes other reasons why one of the organs in the goldfish’s abdomen has become enlarged and is now affecting the swim bladders.
There is the possibility that cysts have formed on the kidneys or fatty deposits have accumulated on the liver. In female goldfish, the cause can be egg binding. If you suspect any of these it is best to take your goldfish to your veterinarian.
Occasionally, damage to the swim bladder can be caused by your goldfish swimming into an object in the tank or getting into a fight.
What else can I do for my goldfish?
There are a few measures that you can take that will not harm your goldfish – whatever is causing them to swim sideways. These include –
- Keep the water in the tank exceptionally clean and at the correct temperature
- Lower the depth of the water and reduce the flow of water so that it is easier for your goldfish to swim around.
- Add a tiny amount of aquarium salt to the water as this will help prevent parasites and microorganisms.
If your goldfish has part of his body exposed to the air for lengths at a time, it would be a good idea to apply some stress coat conditioner. This will maintain your fish’s slimy scales and prevent them from drying out. Applying the conditioner will also prevent any sore or red spots from developing.
How can I prevent swim bladder problems in the future?
Prevention is better than cure and there are 4 steps to ensure that your goldfish doesn’t get swim bladder problems again:-
- Keep the tank really clean to avoid infections and regularly change the water.
- Keep the water at the correct temperature as this will help your goldfish digest his food and thus prevent constipation.
- Feed your goldfish quality foods switch to different foods if your goldfish is taking air in with his food.
- Monitor how much food your goldfish is getting and avoid over-eating.