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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 18967
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian and am happy to discuss any concerns & questions you have on any species.
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My fish is swimming sideways

Customer Question

My fish is swimming sideways
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.

Hello, I am afraid that the expert you have requested is not currently available. Still I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

How long has your fish been swimming on its side?

Can it swim normally at all?

What are your water parameter (pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates) readings?

Any lesions, sores, fluff, or changes on the body/tail/fins?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I just noticed it. I does swim normal at times. I don't know the readings. Fish looks pretty normal
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you,

First, I would note that it is always advisable to check water parameters when a fish is unwell. This is because often husbandry can play a role in situations of this nature. Just to note, if you do not have a test kit at home, most aquarium shops will test water samples for free.

In any case, based on this fish's signs, it does sound like we have a buoyancy issue. The most common reason will be swim bladder based disease and this can be triggered by idiopathic reasons (most common) but also imbalance issues, trauma, infection, compression from impacted feces in the GI/masses within the body (constipation being one of the most common reasons), and even tumour growth inside the swim bladder.
To start to rule out differentials and address these signs, you can start by trying to treat the most treatable issue here. To do so, consider reducing the volume of normal food you are offering and instead supplement with fibrous veggies. You can offer peas, spinach, cucumber, or even Daphnea as 'laxative/clearing' agents. The reason we use these is because we are attempting to clear the GI out, in the hopes that increased material in the gut is triggering these swim bladder signs. As well, if we are trying to rule out full guts as a reason for compression, do pay mind to the water temperature, as colder water (below 55 degrees F/14degrees C) can impede active gut movement. So, we do want to check that and potentially move it up (while staying in the temperature comfort zone for this species) if it is too low.

Otherwise, to support this fish with the stress of this situation, you can also consider using a salt treatment here. Ideally, we'd use an aquarium salt and start with a a dose of 1 teaspoon per gallon of tank water. And when adding the salt, pre-dissolve the salt in tank water before adding. And then do so slowly into a high water flow areaof the tank. This will help support the fish, and if there is a lapse in its osmotic balance then the salt will help relive that for it as well.

Finally, if you try the above treatments and don't see improvement over the next week, then you do need to consider other causes of swim bladder disease could beinfluencing what you are seeing. In those cases, treatment tends to be more difficult for pet fish as they usually need the assistance of a fish vet. These vets can xray the swim bladder (to rule out infiltration with tumor or infection both in the swim bladder and around it) and/or sample the contents ofthe swim bladder (which can be cultured for infectious causes and examined under the microscope to uncover the nature of the material extracted). Depending on the findings, an appropriate course of treatment can be initiated and an overall prognosis appreciated.

Overall, your fish's signs are highly suspect that it is fighting with a buoyancy issues due to swim bladder disease. Therefore, I would advise starting the above and monitoring its fecal output. Hopefully, if we act quickly and this is due to constipation, we will see it settle and get back to swimming without trouble.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thankyou and hope to see you again soon! : )

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Dr. B.

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