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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22461
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My goldfish is struggling to stay level underwater and keeps

Customer Question

My goldfish is struggling to stay level underwater and keeps floating up and diving down again, whatcan ido
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.


How long has she been showing these signs?


Does Wanda appear to be swimming straight or is she losing her positioning in the water as well?


How is her respiration?


What do her feces look like?

When did you last see her pass any?

How is her appetite?


Have you tested your water parameters (ie nitrites, nitrates, ammonia, pH)? When? What were your findings?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hello, she has been doing it for a few days now. She dives down but straight down and then she rolls on her side or comes back up again sometimes backwards and then she dives again but I think she is tired as keeps tryi g to rest under things.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Thank you Kelly,

I suspect that Wanda is trying to rest under things so that she won't float back to the top of the water column.Now her issues with a lack of control on her balance (hence the flank rolling) and buoyancy are highly suspicious of earl stage swim bladder based disease. If she is a fancy goldfish, then we’d have had to consider congenital reasons for this condition (since they have smaller/compressed swim bladders). But if she isn't, this means we are left to consider and try to address non-congenital differentials for swim bladder disease. And in that case, we can see this due to idiopathic reasons (most common), imbalance issues, trauma (perhaps less likely here), 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 her signs, you can start by reducing or fasting her of normal food while offering fibrous veggies. Peas are the most common one people offer their fish but you can also try 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 had been the cause for swim bladder compression.

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/14 degrees C) can impede active gut movement.

To support her with the stress of the 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 tbsp 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 area of 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 her 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 be influencing 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 of the 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, Wanda's signs are highly suspect that she is fighting with progressive buoyancy issues. Therefore, I would advise starting the above and montioring her fecal output. Hopefully, if we act quickly and her condition treatable, we will see her 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. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )