How to Treat Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease

By Cuteness Team

If your favorite betta fish isn't swimming the way he should, there is a chance he is suffering from swim bladder disease. Swim bladder disease is a common problem in bettas but is easily treated. The swim bladder is a gas-filled sac inside your fish. It helps the fish rise and lower in the water much like a buoyancy control device a diver might use. A betta with this disease will either float involuntarily along the surface or they will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Additional symptoms are a lopsided body position while swimming, lethargic behavior and swelling of the stomach. Usually caused by over-feeding and constipation, swim bladder disease is not contagious and is easy to treat.

Blue Siamese fighting fish in an aquarium, against white background
credit: GlobalP/iStock/GettyImages
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Step 1

If your betta is in a community tank, move the fish to a smaller fishbowl. Keep the bowl clean throughout the treatment. When your betta has a bowel movement, use a dropper or small fishnet to remove the waste, preventing bacteria growth and infection. The waste typically looks like one round pellet. Continue the treatment even if your fish has a bowel movement.

Step 2

If the betta is having trouble reaching the surface to breathe, fill the bowl with only a few inches of filtered water. Add a plant or decoration on which the fish can rest closer to the surface. Bettas use a labyrinth rather than gills to breathe. The labyrinth functions similar to human lungs, and bettas must breathe oxygen from the surface.

Step 3

Do not feed the betta for three days to give its digestive system a chance to rest and naturally clean itself out. If constipation is to blame for the swim bladder disease, this will treat the disease as well.

Step 4

On the fourth day, thaw a frozen pea until it reaches room temperature. The pea works as a laxative. Do not use a fresh pea because it may have harmful pesticides and bacteria. Do not use a canned pea because it contains too much sodium.

Step 5

Remove the outer skin of the pea. Slice off 1/4 of the pea and cut the quarter into betta bite-size pieces. Don't feed the fish any more than that, because its stomach is approximately the size of a betta eye.

Step 6

If your betta still has not eliminated waste by the next day, repeat Steps 3 to 5. Consult a fish specialist at your local veterinarian or pet store for further advice.

Step 7

Once your betta has recovered from swim bladder disease, add a pinch of aquarium salt with each bowl cleaning. This aids in healing and helps prevent infection.