Home » Fish » Freshwater Fish » Why is My Goldfish Swimming Upside Down?

Why is My Goldfish Swimming Upside Down?

Renee Whitmore
Last Updated on
by Renee Whitmore

Buoyancy problems are a common issue you can find among many different fish species, especially goldfish. Odd swimming behaviors like swimming sideways or upside down can be a clear indicator of impaired buoyancy.

So, why is my goldfish swimming upside down, and how can you help?

Why Is My Goldfish Swimming Upside Down?

Goldfish Swimming

Your goldfish will swim upside down due to impaired buoyancy, a symptom of swim bladder disease – a common ailment associated with aquarium fish that causes a malfunction of their swim bladder. Without proper bladder function, fish will lose their ability to swim properly.

There are a few causes of swim bladder disease, most of which come down to poor health. However, it’s important not to panic until you can make a precise diagnosis of what might be causing it so that you can determine the best course of action to take.

In this article, we’ll go through a few common causes of swim bladder disease and why your goldfish might be swimming upside down. We’ll also outline a couple of treatments you can try as well as preventative measures.

Related: How long do goldfish live for?

Causes of Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease causes affected fish to float uncontrollably to the top of the aquarium. They often turn upside down or sideways and find it difficult to swim.

Since the swim bladder is in the lower half of the body, the poor guys will find it challenging to maintain their floating balance.

Pressure from a swollen belly, swallowing too much air while feeding, or bacterial infections can also affect a goldfish’s bladder in this way.

As your goldfish floats to the surface, it will eventually develop redness on the belly or dorsal area as it becomes exposed to the air.

The following are some of the most common causes of swim bladder disease:

  1. Poor food quality: If your fish is consuming stale food, low grade, or unsuitable for goldfish, it can cause more gas to be present in the gut. This can worsen if the fish is constipated, which poor quality food can also contribute to.
  2. Swallowing air: Avoid foods that float and consider feeding your goldfish sinking pellets instead. Floating foods make it easier for fish to swallow air while feeding.
  3. Sudden temperature changes: Some round-bodied goldfish are susceptible to temperature changes and could get chills as a result.
  4. Water condition: High levels of nitrate could affect swim bladders for lots of fish species. This can be a result of ammonia buildup from excess food and waste. Ensure you clean your aquarium regularly to prevent this.
  5. Bacterial infection: Unhelpful bacteria can contribute to the loss of balance and buoyancy.
  6. Genetics: As goldfish age, their genetics might make them predisposed to swim bladder disease.

How to Treat Swim Bladder Disease

If you think your goldfish is suffering from swim bladder disease, there is a tried method you can use to treat it. It’s crucial to start treatment as soon as you identify any symptoms to avoid permanent imbalance.

Be sure to move your affected goldfish to a sick bay with fresh, aged water before you administer the treatment.

First, you’ll want to add two teaspoons of non-iodized salt and Epsom salts to the water. Allow it to sit for 2 to 3 days without feeding the goldfish. Analyze its waste for excreta that hangs from the anal pore and look for a light color and gas bubbles. These will be clear signs of constipation.

Be sure to monitor the water temperature so that it stays consistent at about 68oF (20 oC).

If the fish appears to be regaining its balance, you may feed it a small amount of food. Shelled peas are the best option. Allow the food to pass through the fish entirely before feeding again.

Slowly increase the amount of food for at least a week before transferring it back into its aquarium or pond.

If the goldfish has yet to show any signs of regaining its balance, the swim bladder may be, unfortunately, permanently damaged.

How to Prevent Swim Bladder Disease

Feed Goldfish Swimming

Whether you’ve cured your goldfish and want to avoid further issues or just want to implement preventative measures, there are a few efficient ways to stop your goldfish from sustaining swim bladder disease.

  • Avoid over-feeding: Too much food often leads to a bloated belly which will press against the swim bladder. In addition, leftover food will lead to high ammonia levels in the fish tank, which can be highly toxic. A pinch of food a day is sufficient for most goldfish.
  • Avoid floating foods: Floating foods facilitate excess air consumption during feeding, leading to swim bladder disease. Feed your goldfish sinking foods instead.
  • Soak food before feeding: Soaking foods allows them to expand before entering the fish’s belly. Porous foods, when dry, also introduce unwanted air into the fish’s stomach, which we want to avoid.
  • Get a proper filtration system: Properly filtering your water will reduce bacteria in the tank.
  • Monitor water temperature: Because fish are cold-blooded creatures, they need warmer water to maintain a healthy metabolism that prevents constipation.
  • Change the water regularly: Frequently cleaning your tank and adding fresh water will prevent ammonia buildup and high nitrate levels that contribute to swim bladder disease.


If you notice your goldfish having difficulty swimming or staying balanced, it could likely result from swim bladder disease. This common ailment can cause concern but can also be remedied quite easily if you act swiftly.

Always be sure to monitor your fish’s swimming behavior and look out for any irregularities. Avoid over-feeding and make it a routine to clean and filter your aquarium regularly.

Goldfish suffering from swim bladder disease generally recover quite well, but it’s important to monitor its improvement in the weeks after its recovery.

About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.