SWIM BLADDER DISEASE ("SBD")

Swim Bladder Disease, an extremely common ailment for bettas, involves a malfunctioning of the swim bladder 

Symptoms

  • Buoyancy issues
    • Floating uncontrollably at the surface, or
    • Sinking to the bottom of the tank
  • Struggling to swim, possibly doing so at an odd angle
  • Fish may lie on the bottom of the tank, except for mad dashes made to the surface for air
  • Swollen, enlarged stomach (possible - dependent on cause)

 

View our CASE STUDY - SBD page for a description of one fish's symptoms, the suspected cause, and a treatment outline.

Causes

  • Constipation
    • A backed up, full digestive system may expand enough to press on the swim bladder, interfering with it's function
    • Visit our ANATOMY page to see the proximity of the swim bladder to the intestines
    • Visit our CONSTIPATION - A COMMON PROBLEM page for information and treatment suggestions
  • Overfeeding
    • Even without causing constipation, overfeeding can cause the digestive tract to fill/increase in size so much that it presses on the swim bladder, interfering with it's functioning.
    • Visit our ANATOMY page to see the proximity of the swim bladder to the intestines
    • See the FEEDING section for directions on appropriate food servings
  • Injury
    • Trauma to the swim bladder can temporarily or permanently interfere with its functioning
  • Bacterial Infection
    • An infection of the swim bladder itself may interfere with its functioning
    • Any internal bacterial infection that the fish experiences may cause fluid to accumulate in their body, increasing internal pressure and pushing on the swim bladder
      • See DROPSY for information on swelling related to infection
  • Birth defects
    • A betta may simply be born with a swim bladder impairment
    • This does not mean that the betta cannot live a long and happy life

Treatment

As there are many possible causes for SBD, there are also many possible treatments. It is important to determine the cause of the disease so that an appropriate treatment can be chosen.

 

Below are some tips for distinguishing each cause, and treating accordingly.

 

  • Constipation
  • Overfeeding
    • Distinguished by a bloated/swollen stomach following a meal, normal coloration, relatively normal behavior
    • TREATMENT: fast the fish for a couple days until the large meal passes/bloated stomach and behavior return to normal
  • Injury
  • Bacterial Infection
    • Distinguished by other signs of ill health, such as faded color, refusal to eat, lethargy, septicemia
    • TREATMENT: proceed to our BACTERIAL INFECTIONS page for treatment instructions
  • Birth defects
    • Distinguished by chronic swim bladder issues
    • To be considered as a cause only when all others are ruled out
    • TREATMENT: None necessary. Maintain a low water level if the fish sinks to the bottom as they must be able to reach the surface easily to breathe.

 

View our CASE STUDY - SBD page for a description of one fish's symptoms, the suspected cause, and a treatment outline.

Prevention

  • Maintaining good water quality (see FILTRATION, SETTING UP A NEW TANK, and CYCLING A TANK for information on this)
  • Appropriate FEEDING
  • Appropriate handling of the fish and design of the tank to prevent injury
    • A curious fish exploring a too small crevice may accidentally wedge themselves in, causing injury to the swim bladder even if they escape
    • Rough handling/netting may cause trauma to, or even a rupture of, the swim bladder
    • See AQUARIUM/HOUSING for appropriate decor