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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11461
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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I believe my oranda is suffering from swim bladder. Initially

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I believe my oranda is suffering from swim bladder. Initially I thought a possible bacterial infection so I placed him in a 10 gallon hospital tank and began a treatment of E.M. Erythromycin (yesterday). He appears so weak, I did not expect him to survive the night. This morning to my surprise he is still alive but closer to floating upside down as appose to vertically as he had been for the last two days, which made me think swim bladder. I tried feeding him a shelled pea yesterday by hand because he seemed to weak or just unable to turn over to swim. My nitrates were usually a steady 0 but lately I can't seem to get them under 20-40ppm in the 55 gallon in which he usually lives with 2 other smaller oranda ( I will continue to do the necessary water changes to get his home tank back on track, I know that this can be a contributing factor to his sickness :((). I placed a piece of the filter sponge from another 55 gallon and a decorative rock in his hospital tank in hopes of providing some needed beneficial bacteria. How do I go about feeding him if he can not eat on his own? I just ordered a medicated food from Fish Connection. I'm afraid he may not make it in the day or two it will take to receive the package online. Do I continue the treatment of E.M. Erythromycin in the meantime? I don't want to give up on him because although he seems weak he is still breathing and seems determined to survive. Every once in a while instead of just floating he looks as if he's attempting to move or swim.

I apologize that no one has responded to your question sooner. Different experts come online at various times. I just came online and saw your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with many years experience keeping fish. I'm sorry to hear of Buster's illness. Some additional information will be useful.

When he was floating vertically, was it head down or tail down?

Are any of his scales sticking out?

Is his abdomen swollen?

Did you test for ammonia and nitrites, as well as nitrates? If yes, what numbers did you get for them?

How long has your 55 gal. tank been set up?

Are there any red streaks on Buster's fin or tail?

All of this information will help me figure out the best next step for you?

Thank you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for replying.


-Tail Down


-No scales sticking out


-No swollen abdomen


-I use an API Freshwater Master Kit amonia 0.25, 0 nitrites, nitrates between 20-40ppm


-Tank has been up for over a year


I don't know if this is relevant but I lost another oranda to what I believe was hole in the head about 3 weeks I'd had her for about 3 months when I purchased her she had what I thought was a "birth mark" over her eye. Which turned into a sudden hole in her head (it seem to happen very quickly) about 3 weeks ago.


-I've done several large water changes since then, sometimes changes every 3 days. Trying to lower my nitrates and out of concern for any bacteria that may have caused "Missy" to have this disease.


-I cant really see if there are red streaks on Buster's fin or tail as he is a red and black oranda and his tail and fins are solid black.


-I've been up eyeing "Buster" all night he still just drifts aimlessly in a vertical position. He seems to be curved, not straight I can't imagine that this is a good thing.


Please know that this is an urgent matter for me. I could not rate it that way because of the cost that was quoted, I have spent money for a hospital tank, additional air pump, filter, medicated and premium foods from goldfish connection for when he recovers and E.M Erythromycin within the last 24 hours. I just could not afford a higher cost for this service.


I've had him for about 2 months, he has always favored two corners in the top of the tank. Always a healthy appetite it seems as if he would come out to eat and play then when he was done he would swim back to that exact spot with his face facing the back of the tank. My boyfriend mentioned how odd it seemed in comparison to the other 3 in the tank but he kept an appetite and would come out to swim just return to his spot when done.



Thank you for getting back to me. When I'm online, I treat all of my customers as urgent, regardless of what they are paying. The new information you've given raises another question. When you say Buster is curved, is the curve in his spine, so that he almost has a U or s shape?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank You! Definitely not an "S" I can see the shape of a U but I'm almost afraid to say that because that shape seems a little extreme for what I am seeing. I just went to the tank, I've noticed this morning that he seems to be trying to move more than yesterday and last night.

Thanks. I wanted to let you know that I'm working on your answer - i didn't want you to think I'd forgotten you. It will take a few minutes to get it typed up.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you sooo much Anna! This is breaking my heart. Going to busy myself and do a water change on my other aquarium. I'll keep my phone close.

Thank you for waiting. I 'm very sorry to have to give you bad news, but I feel you deserve honesty. Unfortunately, when a fish's spine bends like this, even somewhat, it is very serious. There are three main causes of this condition in mature fish. One is a spinal injury. Another disease that can cause the spine to bend is Myxosoma cerebralis. It causes the bent spine and often, but not always, the fish will start whirling in a circle, so it is sometimes referred to as whirling disease. Even when a fish doesn't whirl, it usually floats in a vertical position.

Finally there is fish tuberculosis. The main symptoms are spinal deformity, weight loss, and skin problems including scale loss, color changes, and skin lesions. Not all fish will develop all the symptoms. I think it is more likely that Buster has whirling disease, but the treatment is the same for both diseases. Until recently, there was absolutely no treatment for either whirling disease or fish tuberculosis, but sometimes now good results can be obtained with kanamycin. Many fish keepers simply choose to euthanize a fish that is infected because treatment has to be carried out for an extended time, usually about 3 months. Not all fish respond to it, but since Buster is special to you, it is probably worth trying. Both diseases are slightly contagious to other fish, but often they don't become infected unless stressed in some way. Here is an online source of a smaller amount of kanamycin:

You'll see on that page that it can be combined with Furan 2 and Metronidazole for stubborn bacterial infections. Both fish tuberculosis and whirling disease are stubborn, so you may want to consider this. Just follow the instructions on the medication labels. No other antibiotics have any effect on these diseases. If you choose not to treat, Buster will possibly live for quite some time, but his condition will steadily worsen.

I also want to give you some information about water quality because what you see on the testing kits isn't reliable for goldfish. Nitrates are one of the end stages in the nitrogen cycle, and under normal conditions, they don't cause problems. The numbers you are obtaining are not anything to worry about. You can read more about nitrates here:

Ammonia at .25 ppm is another story. That isn't enough to be fatal, but levels that high weaken the immune system, and that makes fish susceptible to other diseases. Despite what the test kit may say, there is no safe amount of ammonia for goldfish. Both ammonia and nitrites must be at zero. If you still have ammonia in your main tank, you can start a series of water changes. Begin by changing 1/3 of the water in the tank. Be sure the new water is the same temperature as what's in the tank already, and that it has been dechlorinated.

If you have filters that use activated carbon, put in new carbon or cartridges. Then test your water every day. Every day after today, until ammonia and nitrites are at zero, you'll need to change 10-20% of the water, always temperature-matched, dechlorinated water.

I'll also give you a few bits of information on hole in head disease in case any other fish develop it. It's believed that several factors interact in causing the disease - a parasite, less than optimal water conditions, and a sub-par diet. Treatment involves fixing all of these problems. Metronidazole is the only medication that kills the parasite. I already explained what to do about water. Make sure the food you're using is a high quality one, such as Mazuri.

If you have more questions, let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope Buster respond to medication.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Anna,


First can you give me a humane way to euthanize Buster? I hope it doesn't seem selfish but it breaks my heart to constantly see him like this. I have 3 other tanks (2) 55 gallons at home and (1) 25 gallon that I keep at my office. I honesty don't think I can maintain a 4th without beginning to loose quality in one or all of the others.


I have just tested Buster's home tank again and it reads as 0 nitrites, 20 nitrates and again .25 ammonia. I don't believe I am over feeding, and it is not overstocked 4 Oranda Buster being the largest at 3.5 inches. I began feeding once every other day once I began to get these reading and have two large filters on the tank one for a 40-70 gallon tank (Tetra Whisper) the other for a 70 gallon (Aqueon).


In looking at my tanks I noticed that Buster's tank has more gravel in it than my others. Although I vacuum when I do my water changes do you think the gravel can be holding more bacteria, possibly working against my efforts? What is your opinion on little to no gravel in aquariums? If little to none would it be safe to remove it when I do my 30% water change?


I don't mean to go off topic but if I am going to euthanize Buster I want to make sure that I do everything I can to not have a repeat of this scenario. I have cried thru this entire e-mail.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. No, it's not selfish at all. I'll give the humane method, then I'll come back in awhile with t he other information you requested.

You’ll need some clove oil (eugenol) and some vodka. Clove oil is sold in pharmacies a s a toothache remedy. First take some water out of the tank. Measure it and keep track of how much it is. Put the water in a small container, and then put in the fish. Next take a small jar or bottle and fill it with water from the tank. Add a drop of clove oil, and shake well. The clove oil will emulsify in the water, which should then turn white.

Pour some of the clove oil/water mixture into the container the fish is in. After about 10 minutes, the fish should be asleep on the bottom. If it isn’t, add more of the clove oil/water. When the fish is asleep, add 25% vodka to the container. That means if you used one cup of water to begin with, you’ll add 1/4 cup of vodka. Wait about 20 minutes. Check the fish to see if it is still breathing through its gills. If the gills don’t move for one minute, the fish has died.

I'll be back in a little while. I want to read through all your information again to see if I can figure out why you're getting ammonia.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you! I'd appreciate it!

I just finished - I appreciate your patience. When I first started keeping fish, I lost 3 goldfish, each about 5 inches long, due to ammonia in their tank. I didn't know any better at the time and believed the test kit when it said I had a safe amount. And I couldn't believe the ammonia could be that bad since they were in a 90 gallon tank. I learned my lesson, and it was heartbreaking to lose those fish. I'd had them since they were tiny, but they simply got to be too large for their home. Goldfish are incredible dirty. It used to be recommended to have one gallon (about 4 liters) of water per inch of fish.That still holds true for tropical fish, but not for goldfish. Some authorities recommend 30 gallons (about 113 liters) per fish, regardless of size. Others recommend 10 gallons per inch of goldfish. That's the rule I follow. That means that two 2 inch goldfish would need 40 gallons.

I have an undergravel filter, a hanging filter, and a powerful canister filter on my 90 gallon tank. It takes all three of those filters to maintain perfect water quality for two five inch goldfish.

Gravel is one of the most important homes for good bacteria. Without them, a tank will always have water quality issued. I wouldn't eliminate the gravel. At any time, a fish tank is full of good and bad bacteria. When water quality is optimal, the immune system of a fish can fend off any infection. When we have ammonia or nitrites in the water, the fish become vulnerable to infection. The nitrogen cycle, in which ammonia from fish wastes is changed to nitrites, and then nitrates, depends entirely on those good bacteria.

If your remaining fish are 2 inches in length, your tank is just big enough for them. What I recommend is that you add a third filter, an undergravel filter. They fit under the gravel. At the following website, you can buy filters and there's a photo with part of the gravel cleared away so you can see the filter itself:

Once you put in the new filter and do a large water change, the tank will probably need to cycle (establish the nitrogen cycle again) just as if it were a new tank. That results in changing levels of ammonia and nitrites and puts a lot of stress on the fish. It also reduces the amount of oxygen the water can hold, and the fish may gasp at the surface. The following website gives detailed instructions and also explains cycling in depth.

The first stage results in an ammonia spike. The second stage, a nitrite spike. during this time, you'll need to do a 10% water change every day and be sure to test the water every day. When both ammonia and nitrites stay at zero, cycling is complete.

Goldfish have a reputation as easy fish to keep, but I have found them more difficult than tropical fish, just because of the quantity of waste they produce. I still like them because they ahve so much personality, and that makes it worth the trouble. I hope you'll be able to get everything straightened out in your tank.

I know words don't really help, but all I can do is offer my condolences on Buster.

If you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask.

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