What is a swim bladder?
Ever wonder why fish are able to sink downward at times then ascend to the top without even moving a fin? There is a trick to how fish maintain their position and balance in water. This buoyancy come from an organ named the swim bladder. This organ is located along the spine in the back half of the body. It fills and deflates with the use of a gas gland and is often referred to as a lung. It expands to fill with gas which helps them to the surface much like a helium balloon.
What is Swim Bladder Disorder?
Swim Bladder Disorder occurs when there is a blockage or build up within the fish that disrupts normal functioning of the swim bladder organ. This disruption will cause a loss of balance in betta fish.
It is important to note first that Swim Bladder Disorder is not a disease and it is not contagious to other fish.
Bettas and other fish are most likely to acquire this ailment because of constipation due to over feeding and not having enough variety in their diet. More rarely SBD can be caused by a birth defect. Older bettas are more likely to get Swim Bladder Disorder as well.
What are the symptoms associated with Swim Bladder Disorder?
Before your betta has issues swimming you may notice belly bloating. As I said before, constipation is the number one reason for Swim Bladder Disorder. If you can spot any build up early on then you can prevent the following symptoms from occurring.
Luckily Swim Bladder Disorder is the easiest ailment to spot. Even if your betta fish does not look constipated you will notice unusual swimming patterns and behavior. When the swim bladder is compromised it will cause a loss of balance in your betta fish. This will cause him/her to swim sideways, sink to the bottom of the tank repeatedly or even cause your betta fish to float upside down at the surface.
Treatment & Prevention
Treating betta swim bladder disorder is the same as the treatment for betta constipation. Constipation is very common in betta fish which means it is very easy to recover from. Start by putting your betta fish on a fast. This means do not feed your betta for the next few days. His/her system needs to be cleansed.
A water change is not necessary for the treatment of constipation or swim bladder disorder.
What you could do is add some aquarium salt to the water to aid in his relief. I have never actually heard of this being used in treating a betta’s constipation. However, it works wonders for other creatures suffering from a lack of relief and will help reduce any stress your betta is experiencing so you might as well try it.
If after a few days your betta’s belly is still a little bloated you can try feeding it peas. Peas are high in fiber. Though a betta is carnivorous it will be willing to eat the peas after a fast. Start by boiling the peas and allowing them to cool to room temperature. Then remove the skin and break off small chunks for your betta.
Here is my detailed article on Betta Constipation.
Once your betta fish has recovered from swim bladder disorder be sure to change his/her feeding habits and diet regimen. A betta needs a variety of oils and proteins. This is why there are betta pellets which have balanced dietary levels. If you are more integrated in betta foods be sure you are varying often. All blood worms or all shrimp is not healthy. Also do not feed your betta fish too often. Bettas in the wild eat as much in one sitting because they instinctively know they might not see food for days. This makes it confusing to feed them as pets.
Here is a more detailed article on Feeding Betta Fish.