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Why Is My Bala Shark Swimming Upside Down?

Why Is My Bala Shark Swimming Upside Down?

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Do you want to keep an exotic freshwater fish? Do you like having active schooling fish in a big tank?

If you answer yes, having bala sharks can be the right decision for you as an aquarist.

Yet, you might notice some weird behavior.

So, why is my bala shark swimming upside down? Is this something I should worry about?

This article will explain your bala sharks’ behavior, so keep reading to learn more about this topic.

Why Is My Bala Shark Swimming Upside Down?

Bala sharks are known to display some eccentric behavior in freshwater aquariums.

These beautiful fish can sometimes play dead. And when stressed, they can start brushing themselves against the tank’s walls, ram themselves into them, or even jump out of the tank to escape their unhealthy environment.

Seeing your bala shark swimming upside down is highly alarming, especially if you’re a novice tank owner. Other fish species can also display this behavior, indicating that your fish suffers from swim bladder disease.

This disease prevents the fish from regulating the amount of air they store and let out of the swim bladder, which is usually located on the fish’s underside.

The swim bladder is connected to the digestive tube. It enables the fish to maintain its depth in the water without floating to the surface or sinking below.

What Is Swim Bladder Disease?

When the swim bladder doesn’t function well because of a physical abnormality, the bala shark is said to suffer from swim bladder disease. Several factors can cause this issue.

  • Some bala sharks are born with congenital defects that cause the swim bladder to bloat. You can notice the symptoms at a very early stage.
  • Health conditions like cysts and fatty liver can push the organs inside the fish’s body, causing swim bladder disease.
  • Swim bladder disease might happen because of overfeeding your fish. Rapid eating and gulping air when the fish eats floating foods can also bloat the swim bladder, leading to this disease.
  • Some types of food can also make the problem worse. For example, dry flakes that expand when the fish swallow them can lead to more bloating.
  • Very low water temperatures can also cause swim bladder disease in your bala sharks. Low temperatures slow down the digestive process, and the fish can suffer from constipation.
  • Bacterial infections and parasites can affect the swim bladder.

What Are the Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disease?

In most cases, you can diagnose your fish by observing them in the tank to see if they display any previous symptoms. Yet, you can always ask a vet to have a look.

  • Your bala shark swimming upside down is the most common symptom.
  • Fish can start swimming sideways, and fins move excessively to keep them upright.
  • Fish struggle to maintain their depths. They float to the tank’s top when there’s too much air in the swim bladder.
  • You might see your fish sinking to the bottom or standing on their heads at the bottom of the aquarium. This happens when the swim bladder is deflated, and the fish can’t retain air.
  • Fish struggle to maintain an upright position even with excessive fin movement.
  • Your fish might experience physical changes like a swollen belly or curved back because the swim bladder is bloated.
  • Fish might display a changed behavior, like a change in appetite, because it has buoyancy problems.

Can Swim Bladder Disease Be Treated?

Fortunately, swim bladder disease isn’t fatal, and a lot of fish can make it to full recovery. If you notice that your fish is suffering from swim bladder disease, you can try doing the following.

  • Test the water parameters to ensure that everything works for your bala sharks.
  • Cut down on the amount of food. Letting the fish fast for about three days can help with a bloated swim bladder.
  • Ensure that the water is warm enough for your bala sharks, especially when they’re fasting. A water temperature below 72 °F can kill your balas.
  • Change the type of food you offer your bala sharks, as it might be causing bloating or constipation. Boiled and peeled peas can be excellent for your balas.
  • After 48 to 72 hours, start offering tiny amounts of food.
  • Add a small amount of aquarium salt to help reduce your fish’s stress levels.
  • The vet might prescribe an antibiotic if your fish swims upside down because of a bacterial infection.

Final Thoughts

Seeing your bala sharks swimming upside down might be bizarre but not alarming. This usually happens because of swim bladder disease.

In most cases, this disease is treatable, and your fish will completely recover. However, some fish are born with birth defects that can’t be fixed, and these will show symptoms at a very early stage.

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