Why is My Goldfish Swimming Sideways?

Goldfish is small yet most favored by all fish owners. They’re easy to take care of as long as you keep them in a healthy and clean environment. Thus, they are easy to maintain.

However, a goldfish gets sick. Once it swims sideways, you should do something about it. Hence, you need to know the reason and what you can do about it. Therefore, we will tell you everything you need to know about why your goldfish is swimming sideways in our guide.

Short answer

Your goldfish is swimming sideways because it suffers from a swim bladder injury. The swim bladder helps the goldfish to swim in water continuously. If the swim bladder is built up with water and constipated, it could cause an imbalance in the swimming behavior of the goldfish. Because of this, you need to check the condition with your veterinarian.

Long Answer

Like other pets, you need to take care of your goldfish aside from how easy it is to maintain it. When neglected, it will also suffer from sickness until it leads to death. So, when you notice your goldfish is swimming sideways, it means it has a swim bladder disease.

A swim bladder disease is when the goldfish’s swim bladder is compacted. When it happens, the goldfish won’t be able to hold the air in the appropriate areas. As a result, the fish will swim upside down or sideways.

It is a common disease by goldfish due to the shape and structure of the spines. Usually, round and short bodies are prone to compressed organs. As a result, this type of fish is unable to digest food, leading to constipation.

However, it’s not a random disease that a goldfish may suffer at any point. There are several reasons why a swim bladder disease happens. Hence, it’s essential to know the causes to know how you can prevent the disease.

The usual causes of SBD (a swim bladder disease) are the following:

  1. Constipation
    Since goldfish have a round body, it is prone to constipation. When it has constipation, the swim bladder is compacted, which changes the buoyancy of the fish’s body.
  2. Overeating
    If you feed your goldfish food with high nitrate levels, the fish will likely have bloating and constipation. Hence, it will suffer from swim bladder disease.
  3. Bacteria and Parasite Infections
    Bacteria and parasite infections happen when you don’t clean the water in the tank regularly. Note that it’s essential to keep your goldfish live in a clean fish tank to prevent bacterial infections.
  1. Enlarged organs
    Enlarged organs happen when your goldfish swallow too much air from the water. Hence, check the filtration system to see if it’s functioning well.
  1. Cold fish tank
    If the water temperature in your fish tank is cold, it will slow down the goldfish’s metabolism. This results in constipation and other digestive problems, leading to swimming bladder disease.
  1. Chemicals
    Chemicals in cleaning agents are not healthy for this fish or any aquatic life. They destroy the tissues in the goldfish’s body. The goldfish will move sideways instead of swimming in a regular pattern when this happens.

For this reason, avoid using cleaning agents, insecticides, or disinfectants near your fish tank due to possible contamination. Once these chemicals enter the water, they will cause harm to the body of the fish.

How to determine if my goldfish has a swim bladder disorder?

Aside from swimming sideways, a goldfish shows other symptoms when it has a swim bladder disorder. The following signs are essential to know to confirm if your goldfish is suffering from the said disease:

  • The goldfish will move in zig-zag motions or up and down movements in the water. The goldfish may come up to the surface and then swim in the water again in this movement. This pattern means your goldfish is suffering from a swim bladder disorder.
  • You notice your goldfish is not eating properly due to irregular swimming movements.
  • Take a look at the goldfish’s stomach or belly. If it is swollen, it is likely due to constipation, leading to swim bladder disorder.
  • If you observe the fish is swimming at the bottom of the tank or that its head is swimming sideways, it has an SBD. If you spot this behavior, take it to your veterinarian immediately.

Can My Goldfish Be Cured of Swim Bladder Disease?

Fortunately, you can cure your goldfish of swim bladder disease as long as you notice the early signs. However, it’s a disease that cannot be treated with medicine.

A goldfish suffering from SBD is usually diagnosed through observing the symptoms. Another way is to bring your goldfish to a veterinarian specializing in aquatic species.

Your vet will conduct an X-ray with your goldfish to show the bladder’s shape, size, and location. If there is any abnormality and water in the bladder, it’s confirmed that your fish has the disease. The X-ray also shows other potential diseases or possible abnormal growth inside your fish’s body.

The Treatment

If you have brought your fish to the veterinarian, he will help you recover your fish. However, if you’re at home and sure that your fish has an SBD, follow the tips below to treat it:

  • Avoid feeding the fish for a short period: If you see your fish has an enlarged belly or stomach, avoid feeding it for three days.
  • Set the correct water temperature: Once you fast your goldfish, you can raise the temperature between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave it in this range during the treatment.
  • Feed your fish with peas. After the three-day fast, cook and skin the peas to feed them to your fish. Use frozen peas, then microwave or boil them into the proper consistency. After, remove the skin for feeding. You may continue to feed the fish with peas for a few days.
  • Feed your goldfish with a high-fiber diet. A high-fiber diet will improve the digestion of the goldfish. If you keep it feeding with dry food, it will hinder the waste from being released from the body. As a result, it will lead to constipation which could stress the swim bladder, causing it to swim sideways.
  • Use antibiotics: When sure enough that your goldfish suffers from a swim bladder disorder, using a broad-spectrum antibiotic will help. However, avoid using any type of antibiotic. Consult your veterinarian to ensure you buy the right antibiotic for the treatment.
  • Avoid overfeeding: Keep the food in small quantities when feeding your fish with peas or high-fiber food. A small number of meals will help your fish quickly recover and digest the food easily. Remember, you also need to feed them the right way, as it matters greatly when treating the fish.

Other treatments

Aside from the treatments above, you can also do other things to recover your fish. Here are the following:

  • Add aquarium salt to the tank for healthy pH.
  • To encourage the goldfish to swim around within the tank, reduce the water level.
  • Also, reduce the water flow in your tank during the treatment.
  • If you notice your goldfish is floating part of its body above the water, apply a water conditioner to the exposed part. This will help to prevent sores and reddened spots on the exposed body.

Conclusion – Why is My Goldfish Swimming Sideways?

Once you notice your goldfish is swimming sideways, it has a swim bladder disease. This disease causes enlargement of the bladder because of water and constipation.

Some of the reasons your goldfish has a swim bladder disease are overeating, cold temperature, constipation, bacterial infections, and chemicals. Because of this, treat your goldfish with your veterinarian. However, if you’re a frugal fish owner, you can treat it on your own.

To treat your goldfish on your own, adjust the water temperature, fast your fish, feed your fish the right food after the fast, and avoid overfeeding. These tips will help your fish recover from SBD symptoms, leading to early recovery.


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