Guppy Swim Bladder Disease (Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention)

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Last Updated on 2023-12-18

Guppy swim bladder disease can appear to pop up out of nowhere. But there’s often a reason why it’s happening in the first place.

So if your guppy has swim bladder disease, you’ve come to the right place! Not only will you find out why swim bladder disease occurs, but you’ll also learn what the symptoms are, how to treat it, and most importantly how to prevent it!

So keep reading to find out!

Key Takeaways

  • Guppy swim bladder disease is a complex disorder with various potential causes, demanding tailored treatment based on the specific cause.
  • Causes of this disease in guppies include physical damage, constipation, shock, newborn fish issues, low water temperature, infections, pregnancy, and organ problems.
  • Symptoms of the disease include buoyancy problems, lopsided swimming, a distended belly, and behavioral changes.
  • Treatment varies by cause; it may involve fasting, temperature adjustments, Epsom salt baths, or medication, with prevention being preferable.
  • Prompt treatment is crucial, especially in infection cases, as self-cure is unlikely. Preemptive measures, like maintaining good water quality and a balanced diet, are essential.

What Is Swim Bladder Disease?

First of all, it’s important to understand what swim bladder disease is. Because it’s not just one disease, but it’s more like a disorder. There can be multiple different reasons responsible for swim bladder disease. And to treat it effectively, you’ll need to find the right cause first.

In short though, swim bladder disease is when the swim bladder has stopped working correctly.

CauseDescriptionPrevention & Management Tips
Physical DamageAggressive tank mates can bully guppies, leading to swim bladder injury. Accidental damage can also occur from tank ornaments or handling.House guppies with peaceful mates like platies, mollies, neon tetras, and ghost shrimp. Monitor for signs of bullying.
Constipation/Digestive IssuesConstipation can affect the swim bladder, or swim bladder issues may cause constipation. It’s a tricky cycle.Regularly monitor your fish’s health and look into their diet. If constipation is suspected, consider using specialized fish food.
ShockSudden temperature changes, fluctuating water parameters, or a new environment can shock your guppy.Gradually acclimate your fish when introducing them to a new tank. Maintain stable water parameters.
Newborn FishGuppy fry may initially struggle with swimming, and some might have swim bladder issues.Observe the fry for the first few days; if they don’t improve, consult an expert. Unfortunately, sometimes it can’t be fixed.
Low Water TemperatureA cold tank slows down metabolic processes, causing slow digestion and gastrointestinal issues.Maintain a stable and appropriate temperature range for guppies. Consider using a reliable aquarium heater.
Parasite and Bacterial InfectionInfections can indirectly affect the swim bladder by infecting other body parts.Consult with professionals for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, which may include medication.
Pregnancy and Egg BindingPregnancy can strain guppies and may lead to swim bladder disease.Monitor pregnant guppies carefully and provide an optimal environment for recovery after birth.
Problems With Other OrgansIssues with kidneys, liver, or stomach can cause swim bladder disease.Maintain good water quality and provide a balanced diet to keep internal organs healthy.

What Causes Swim Bladder Disease In Guppies?

Before you begin any sort of treatment of swim bladder disease, it’s important to know all the different causes. After all, different causes may require different treatment.

Here are the most common ones.

Physical Damage

If your guppy lives with aggressive tank mates, then they may be getting bullied. If the bullying becomes too aggressive then it could result in a swim bladder injury.

So if your housing your guppy with aggressive fish, then make sure you’re checking they’re not getting bullied or attacked.

Sometimes it’s not even anything that’s attacked them either. They may have damaged themselves on an ornament on your tank, or even when you were handling them.

(If you want to house your guppies with peaceful tank mates then some great choices are platies, mollies, neon tetras, and ghost shrimp.)

Constipation/Digestive Issues

Another common cause of swim bladder disease is constipation. If your guppy becomes too constipated then it could affect their swim bladder.

However, in some cases, swim bladder disease can also cause constipation to occur. So you may need to figure out which is causing which.

(Here’s what you need to know about guppy constipation.)


There can be lots of different things that shock your guppy. For example, the temperature could drop too suddenly in the tank, or the ammonia could arise to quickly.

One of the most common times your guppy may end up getting shocked is when they’re first introduced to your tank. The sudden change from water parameters they’re used to could shock them.

Shock can even occur when you change your water, however, it’s not as likely to happen.

Whatever the reason though, shock can be the cause of swim bladder disease in a lot of cases.

They’re Newborn Fish

Sometimes you may notice that your guppies newborn fish aren’t able to swim properly. This is perfectly normal during the first couple of days they’re alive. However, anything longer than this and they have a problem.

If you notice that guppy fry are struggling to get off the substrate after a few days, then it’s most likely a problem with their swim bladder. And, even more unfortunately, you probably won’t be able to fix this either.

Even guppies that have good genetics, can still occasionally produce weak offspring.

(If you’re interested in breeding, here’s how you selectively breed guppies.)

Low Water Temperature

When the water temperature in your tank is too low, all of your gupies metabolic processes are going to slow down. This means that it’s going to take them a lot longer to digest food.

If they struggle to digest food, then they’re gastrointestinal tract can enlarge, which can cause constipation and even push on the swim bladder.

Parasite And Bacterial Infection

There are parasites and bacteria that will infect your fish, which can possibly lead to swim bladder disease. However, it’s important to note, that generally they won’t infect the swim bladder itself, but rather various part of the body which then affect the swim bladder.

If this is the case, then it can often be difficult to treat, and you may need to use medication. Before deciding anything though make sure you speak to a professional.

Pregnancy And Egg Binding

Pregnancy is always going to take a toll on your guppies. And while most of the time they’ll recover fine, sometimes they won’t. If you notice that your guppy has swim bladder disease after pregnancy, then that’s probably what’s caused it in the first place.

Problems With The Other Organs

And lastly, problems with other organs surrounding the swim bladder, can also cause swim bladder disease. This may be completely out of your control, but often with a good diet, and good water parameters, you can stop this from happening.

It will normally be caused by problems with the kidney, liver, or stomach.

What Are The Symptoms Of Swim Bladder Disease In Guppies?

The symptoms that come with swim bladder disease are fairly easy to spot. So make sure you’re looking out for the following if you think that your guppy has the disorder.

Buoyancy Problems/Trouble Swimming

The most common sign of swim bladder disease is your guppy is going to be having trouble staying buoyant. They may only be able to float at the top of the tank, or lay on the substrate.

Lopsided Swimming

And when they can swim, the swimming may end up being lopsided. This is because their swim bladder will be affecting how they position themselves normally, making it harder for them to stay upright.

Lopsided swimming often presents itself as your guppy swimming sideways, however, it can also be struggling to stay upright too!

A Distended Belly

If you notice a distended belly along with other symptoms, then there’s a good possibility that it’s swim bladder disease your guppy is suffering from. And it’s also going to be much more likely that this is being caused by overfeeding or constipation.

If you notice that your guppy also has pine-cone scales though, you should begin treating them for dropsy as soon as possible. If it is dropsy, you’re not going to have much time.

They Can’t Stay In One Position

Another common sign is that your guppy can’t stay in one position when they’re still. Instead, they may end up floating to one side, or up, or leaning forward or backwards. Once again, this is because they’re swim bladder can no longer give them the proper buoyancy they need.

They’ve Stopped Eating

When your guppies are suffering from swim bladder disease, even eating can become too much of a problem for them. Getting to the top of the tank, or even staying there can just be too much effort.

Or simply, the fact that they’re feeling sick can put them off their food as well.


And of course, you may notice that your guppy appears lethargic. If they’re sick, they’re not going to want to move around nearly as much. They’re going to spend most of their time in one place, trying to recuperate.


When fish are sick or diseased, they often try to hide so they don’t become prey to other fish. Because of this, you may notice any guppy with swim bladder disease is just hiding in plants or ornaments, trying to stay as far away as they can from other fish.

Clamped Fins

Clamped fins are normally a sign that your guppy is suffering from a parasitical or bacterial infection. So if you notice that they have clamped fins, treating them for constipation or being overfed may not be the best decision.

An Example Of Swim Bladder Disease In Guppies

How Do You Treat Guppy Swim Bladder Disease?

The way you’re going to treat swim bladder disease, will depend on what’s causing it. As you can guess, different causes are going to need different solutions. Here are the different treatments.

Treating Swim Bladder Disease Caused By Overfeeding/Constipation

Guppies can often become overfed and constipated. And if this becomes too much then it’s likely that your guppy will suffer from swim bladder disease.

If that is the cause of your guppies swim bladder disease, then here’s how to treat it.

  1. First of all, if possible you should move your guppy to a quarantine tank, where it can be safe away from any other fish. And you can keep a better eye on it. (If you don’t have a quarantine tank, then you’ll just have to do the best you can).
  2. Once your guppy is in a quarantine tank, fast them for 3 days. If you can’t keep them in a quarantine tank, then you can catch them in a net while you’re feeding your other fish.
  3. You should also increase the temperature in your tank over a couple of days by a couple of degrees Fahrenheit. Doing this will increase their metabolism and their digestive system will work quicker.
  4. Do this for three days and look for any improvements in their condition. This can sometimes cure swim bladder disease in itself.
  5. However, if it doesn’t, you should begin feeding your guppy blanched peas. You should cook them for about a minute, so they’re soft enough to eat, but not too soft that they fall apart. And when you do cook them, make sure you remove the shell before feeding them to your guppy. A pea a couple of times a day should be enough.
  6. Keep doing this for about a week. If you notice their condition still isn’t improving, then they may be suffering from something more serious.

Treating Swim Bladder Disease With Epsom Salt

If the above method didn’t work, then you can try treating swim bladder disease with Epsom salt. An Epsom salt bath is going to be the best method, and while having a quarantine tank is always going to be better for your guppy, it’s not going to be 100% necessary.

Here’s how to treat your guppy with Epsom salt.

  1. Get a container and add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to a half-gallon of conditioned tap water and mix them together.
  2. Once the Epsom salt has dissolved fully, you should then mix half a gallon of your tank water into the container as well.
  3. Take your guppy out of the tank and add them to the Epsom salt bath. Leave them in there for 10-15 minutes.
  4. If you notice they’re acting strangely in any way, immediately move them back to the tank.
  5. Monitor your guppy throughout the day and see if their condition improves.
  6. You can give your guppy 2-3 Epsom salt baths a day, but if they’re too weak, make sure you don’t go past 1.

Treating Swim Bladder Caused By Shock

If your guppy is suffering from shock, for example, caused by sudden temperature drop, an ammonia spike, or damage from other fish, then the best thing to do is just leave them, while fixing the issues in the tank.

If the temperature changed drastically, then get it back to normal. If the ammonia levels have risen too high, then remove some of the water and use an ammonia detoxifier to reduce the levels.

If there’s an aggressive tank mate, or something that can injure your guppy in the tank, then remove them, and place them in another tank (or in the case of an ornament, in the bin).

Lastly, turning the lights off when your guppies are shocked are a great way to keep them calm, and can reduce swim bladder disease.

How To Treat Swim Bladder Disease In Guppies Caused By A Bacterial/Parasitical Infection

If you’re guppy is suffering from a bacterial infection or parasite, then you’re going to need a quarantine tank to treat them. You’ll need to use medication which could be harmful to some of your guppies tank mates, especially, invertebrates.

  1. First things first, set up your quarantine tank and move your guppy into it.
  2. Make sure you remove the chemical filter media and add an air bubbler to make sure the tank is getting enough oxygen.
  3. Begin dosing your tank with the required medication. If you suspect it’s a bacterial infection use something like API Melafix, but if it’s a parasite try something like BettaMax.
  4. To treat your guppy follow the instructions on the container.
  5. You should also perform a 75-100% water change in your main tank, to reduce the chance of other fish suffering from the infection as well.

Unfortunately, if your guppies are suffering from an infection like this and it has already caused swim bladder disease, then they prognosis doesn’t look too good.

How Do You Prevent Swim Bladder Disease In Guppies?

Fortunately, there are so many things you can do to reduce the chance of your guppies suffering from swim bladder disease. Here are the best ways to prevent swim bladder disease in your guppy.

Give Them High Quality Food

This is the source of SO many problems, and it’s one of the things so many people overlook. While there are so many different types of food you can feed your guppy, high quality food is a little bit harder to find.

If you’re not sure what food you should feed your guppies, then I highly recommend TetraMin Tropical Flakes. They’re extremely high-quality and they’ll keep your guppies healthy and happy.

However, I’ve also created a helpful article which can help you decide. So check out the best fish food for guppies.

TetraMin Plus Tropical Flakes, Cleaner and Clearer Water Formula 7.06 Ounce (Pack of 1)
  • TROPICAL FORMULATION: Highly digestible flake blend for use as staple food for all tropical fish.

Give Your Guppy A Balanced Diet

You should also make sure that you’re giving your guppy a balanced and mixed diet. Tropical fish flakes are great, but alone they’re not going to be enough,

As well as feeding them tropical fish flakes, you should also feed your guppies live, frozen or freeze-dried food, as well as making sure they’re getting lots of plant matter like algae and blanched vegetables in their diet as well!

(Here’s another great article on what you should be feeding your guppy in general as well.)

Make Sure You’re Not Overfeeding Your Guppies

It’s also important to make sure that you’re not feeding your guppies too much either. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t be feeding your guppies more than they can eat within two minutes, two or three times a day.

If you’re feeding your guppy any more than this then the chances are you’re going to be overfeeding them. Which can often cause swim bladder disease.

Keep The Water Quality Good

You should also make sure that you’re not letting the water quality slip too much. Poor water quality is going to increase the chance of your guppies suffering from swim bladder disease, as well as a whole other host of illnesses.

This means you should be performing water changes regularly as well as vacuuming the gravel and cleaning the filter as well.

The amount you’ll need to do this will depend on the size of the tank, as well as how stocked it is. And on that note you should also make sure that your tank isn’t too overstocked.

Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter 20 Gallons, 130 GPH, with Stay Clean Technology
  • QUIET AQUARIUM FILTER: The Tetra Whisper IQ Power Filter with Stay Clean technology contains a sound shield for quiet filtration less than 40 dB.

Keep The Water Temperature Constant

Extreme temperature fluctuations can cause temperature shock, which can inadvertently result in swim bladder disease. So make sure you have a heater in the tank to keep the waters temperature level.

And as well as this, make sure you’re keeping the water temperature at a warmth your guppies can live comfortably in. If it’s too cold, then they’re going to become lethargic and their metabolism will slow down massively. Which can increase the chance of swim bladder disease.

Fluval M50 Ultra-Slim Submersible Aquarium Heater – 50W Underwater Heater for Aquariums up to 15 Gal.
  • Modern Aesthetic: M-Series heaters combine modern aesthetics with reliable Italian construction. Employing an ultra-slim profile, these heaters are a welcome departure from traditional, bulkier designs.

Remove Aggressive Tank Mates And Dangerous Ornaments

Aggressive tank mates and dangerous ornaments both increase the risk of your guppy suffering from swim bladder disease. If there’s anything in your tank which is too sharp or hard then take it out.

If you have an aggressive tank mate then consider taking them back to the store, or moving them to another tank.

(Check out 41 of the best guppy tank mates!)

Is Swim Bladder Disease Contagious to Other Fish?

Swim bladder disease doesn’t pass from one fish to another, so you don’t have to worry about it spreading. However, if you have a sick fish, it’s a good idea to move them to their own separate tank for treatment and observation.

In this special tank, it’s important to keep things simple – no gravel or plants – so you can easily keep an eye on your fish. Use fresh water for this new tank, and don’t use water from the tank your fish came from, as the old water could be part of the problem.

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Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about swim bladder disease in guppies!

Can Swim Bladder Disease Kill Guppies?

If left untreated, swim bladder disease can be fatal, especially in cases where the cause of it is due to an infection of some kind.

Can Swim Bladder Disease In Guppies Cure Itself?

While it is possible, it’s highly unlikely that swim bladder disease can cure itself, if the cause was due to bloating or overfeeding. However, it’s still best to treat swim bladder disease in your guppy as soon as possible.


Now you know everything there is to know about guppy swim bladder disease. If your guppy has matched the symptoms listed above, then you should definitely begin trying to treat them. Remember, though, before anything it’s always best to consult a professional first.

And of course, instead of treating swim bladder disease, you should always try to prevent it in the first place!


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