How To Treat Swim Bladder In Betta Fish

Swim bladder disorder is a condition that can affect almost any freshwater aquarium fish; betta fish is one of the most susceptible. The swim bladder is more of a disorder than a disease, a secondary symptom of other betta ailments.

Fish that are affected often have buoyancy issues, a swollen stomach, and a curved spine. These are a few different causes for swim bladder disorder in betta fish; over-feeding, parasite/bacterial infection, physical trauma, or shock.

So, how do you treat swim bladder disorder in betta fish? If it’s an infection, you will need an antibiotic. If it is from overeating, you will have to change the diet. Feed them high-quality food and only feed them what they can eat in 2 minutes. 

There are a few treatment options, depending on the cause. Betta fish do not stop eating, even when they are full. Physical trauma, add a small amount of aquarium or Epsom salt to the water. If they are in shock, figure out the reason, if possible.

There are not really any treatments for shock or physical trauma. You can try raising the tank temperature and turning your lights off. 

The swim bladder is an organ that allows your betta fish to control its buoyancy. This saves them energy because they are not consistently swimming to stay in one place (or afloat). The swim bladder is located behind all the other organs. The swelling of the other organs can affect the swim bladder. 

As stated above, swim bladder isn’t actually a disease, but a disorder. A disorder caused by an ailment that your betta is suffering from that is affecting the swim bladder. So when trying to find the correct swim bladder treatment, you are actually trying to cure something else.

Some ailments/conditions can be treated, and your betta fish will be fine. But, other conditions can not be treated and will result in the passing of your fish. 

Swim Bladder Disorder In Betta Fish

Swim bladder disorder has many causes. The first thing you need to try to do is to diagnose the right cause.

Overfeeding or ConstipationIn the majority of cases, overfeeding is the cause of swim bladder disorder in betta fish. Even when they are full, the betta fish will continue to eat.

Often this causes constipation, which affects the swim bladder.

Overfeeding also creates fatty deposits to build up in the bladder—Betta fish feed from the surface, which causes them to gulp air. Too much air will also affect your bettas swim bladder.
ShockThis is not a very common cause of swim bladder disorder. The stress may affect, but a large variety of factors can cause the shock. Sudden temperature change, food change, or light constantly changing can cause shock/stress.
ParasitesParasitic worms are something to consider if your fish have not been overfed or had any kind of shock or stress. Parasites can infest the betta’s stomach and intestines. This can also make it hard for your betta to swim. 
Bacterial InfectionBacterial infections and parasites are often caused by poor water quality in your aquarium. If your betta fish is suffering from a bacterial infection, then swim bladder disorder will be a symptom along with other symptoms.

Unfortunately, if a bacterial infection has gotten bad enough to affect the swim bladder, then putting your fish down (euthanasia) may be your only option. 
Other causes
Low water temperature, cysts in the kidneys, and egg binding in females can also cause swim bladder disorder.

Symptoms Of Swim Bladder Disorder

Overfeeding/constipation/too much air: 

  • Buoyancy issues and trouble swimming: The betta will either float at the top of the tank or hover just above the substrate. 
  • Lopsided swimming: Betta fish often swim on their side if they have swim bladder disorder.
  • Struggling to maintain a normal position: No matter how much your betta fish tries to swim in 1 area of the aquarium, they will either begin to sink or float. 
  • Distended belly: If your betta fish is bloated, this is a sure sign that your betta is constipated.
  • Clamped fins: A good way to know for sure that your betta has an infection. The betta fins will stay close to their body. If this is the case, do not try any other treatment because it is pointless.
  • Shaking: if your betta fish is shaking, it is another crystal clear sign that your betta fish has an infection.

How To Treat Swim Bladder In Betta Fish

If you have a quarantine tank or can get one set up fairly quickly, it is a good idea to use it if you have other fish in the tank with your betta fish. You don’t want to risk harming the other fish with the treatments. The type of treatment is going to depend on what you determine the initial cause to be.


As long as you start treatment immediately, your betta fish has a great chance at survival. 

  1. Fast your betta fish for 3 days. Your fish will be fine! Most fish can go at least a week without eating. 
  1. Raise the water temperature to 80 degrees, slowly, while your betta is fasting. The higher temperature helps your betta fish to go through the digestion process quicker. 
  1. After 3 days, you need to determine whether or not your betta is better. Sometimes fasting for 3 days is all you need to do. 
  1. If your betta isn’t getting any better, then try feeding him a cooked pea. Do not overcook. You do not want it too mushy. 2-3 minutes in boiling water is sufficient. Make sure you peel the skin off. Otherwise, he will have even more digestive problems. 
  1. Feed him 1 to 2 peas a day for a week. If your betta is not better, you may need to go to the veterinarian.


Remember, a parasite is very rare, so try using Melafix. Follow the dosing instructions carefully. Monitor your betta fish daily. Bacterial infections are fairly rare as well. There is a medication for bacterial infections, but it is best if you contact your vet first. The outcome of either one is normally not a good one.


If your tank has gone through a sudden temperature drop or your betta fish has been injured (this can happen if you put 2 betta fish in the same tank), then he is probably in shock. If this is what you suspect, there is not a lot you can do.

You can try to turn the water temperature back up to between 78-80 degrees and turn off the aquarium lights. This allows your betta fish to try and rest and heal, if possible. 


There are many causes associated with swim bladder disorder in your betta fish. Remember, there is an issue with your betta fish that is causing issues with his swim bladder. The swim bladder is an organ that is located behind the other organs. So you need to figure out what the initial ailment is and treat it first and foremost. 

Keeping your tank water clean and healthy will keep away parasites and bacterial infections. Changing 25% of your water once a month, cleaning/changing the filter, and checking your pH level will also help keep the tank healthy.

When you feed your betta fish, feed them sparingly. Only feed them what they will eat in 2 minutes. If you feed them anymore, they will continue to eat, even though they are full. This is the main cause of swim bladder disorder. 

Keep an eye on the water temperature. Get a good thermometer and make sure that you never keep two betta fish, especially males, in the same tank. This will cause fights, which leads to physical trauma, and it may not end well for at least 1 of the 2 fish. 

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