Having clownfish in your fish tank will be something that brings you a lot of happiness. These fish are very pretty, and they often put smiles on peoples’ faces because of how silly they can be.
Clownfish swim funny sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that you should ignore strange swimming. If a clownfish is suddenly swimming upside down, then it could be experiencing a swim bladder issue.
Swim bladders are important organs that clownfish need to be able to stay afloat and get around properly. What exactly happens when a clownfish starts experiencing swim bladder issues?
What causes a clownfish to suddenly have its swim bladder malfunction? Continue reading to get all of the important details.
What Exactly Is a Swim Bladder?
A swim bladder is an organ that many different types of fish possess. Specifically, bony fish have swim bladders that help them to maintain buoyancy in the water.
This is an organ that is essentially a gas-filled sac. The swim bladder will inflate and deflate as necessary to help the fish swim around.
It truly is an essential organ for the vast majority of fish. A healthy fish is generally not going to experience any swim bladder issues.
There are various things that can happen that will cause the swim bladder to malfunction. When these things happen, it makes it very tough for a fish to get around as normal.
If you ever notice your fish swimming upside down or otherwise having a tough time getting around, then there’s a good chance that your fish is experiencing a swim bladder malfunction.
Understanding Swim Bladder Disease
Swim bladder disease is a term that people use to refer to problems with the swim bladder. Sometimes, a swim bladder issue will occur due to an infection, but it could also happen due to something as seemingly innocuous as constipation.
You see, when a fish eats way more than it’s supposed to, it’s likely going to become constipated. The fish gets backed up and this causes its belly to inflate.
A fish with a swollen belly will have problems with its swim bladder. The swollen belly presses against the swim bladder and prevents it from being able to do what it needs to do.
Earlier, you learned that a swim bladder is essentially a sac that fills with gas. If the swim bladder is being pressed on by a swollen belly, then it won’t be able to inflate and deflate normally.
This causes the fish to lose its control over its buoyancy. In some cases, the fish might be able to keep swimming, but it might not be able to maintain its balance.
When this occurs, you’ll see the clownfish swimming upside down or sideways. Normally, clownfish do swim in a sort of funny way, but this type of movement is substantially different from the quirky way that clownfish will sometimes move sideways.
It’s also worth noting that sometimes swim bladder issues will be so bad that the fish won’t be able to move around at all. The fish might essentially be stuck in the same spot unable to do much but go in circles.
How bad things will be will depend on the situation. Sometimes, fish are able to get around well enough even if they have malfunctioning swim bladders.
What Causes Swim Bladder Problems?
Now it’s time to dig into more information about what causes a fish to experience swim bladder disease. There are actually many potential reasons why this can occur.
One of the reasons has been touched on already. Feeding a fish too much has the potential to cause it to become constipated.
This means that you need to be quite careful with how much food you’re giving to your clownfish. Don’t give the clownfish too much to eat at once.
You want to ensure that the clownfish is finishing its food within a few minutes. If the clownfish is leaving some food behind, then that’s a sign that you’re giving it way too much.
Another potential problem involves the clownfish getting an infection. A clownfish might get an infection that will impact the swim bladder.
If this occurs, then you’ll need to treat the fish with antibacterial or antibiotic medication. This can help the infection to clear up so that the swim bladder can return to a normal state.
A parasitic infection could easily cause a clownfish to experience swim bladder disease symptoms as well. You want to keep an eye out for signs of parasitic infections so that you can try to help the fish as soon as possible.
Water Parameter Issues
Water parameter issues can easily contribute to swim bladder disease. Generally, clownfish will be pretty safe from infections unless they have compromised immune systems.
When clownfish experience significant stress, they will wind up developing compromised immune systems. This happens when there are problems with the water quality in the tank.
You’re supposed to keep a close eye on things such as the pH balance of the water. It’s meant to remain between 7.8 and 8.4, but you might have the pH level of the water fluctuate.
If you haven’t been testing the pH balance regularly, then the level could be way off without you knowing. This can harm the fish, and it’ll make it easier for ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels to rise in the tank.
You can adjust the pH balance by using certain chemicals. It shouldn’t be hard to raise or lower the pH balance, but you do need to remember to keep an eye on things.
The water temperature is also quite important. It’s supposed to remain between 74 degrees Fahrenheit and 79 degrees Fahrenheit on average.
Significant fluctuations can cause your fish to experience stress. In this situation, it might lead to swim bladder issues.
Not keeping the water clean will also be very bad. You need to clean the fish tank from time to time or else things can get out of hand.
Also, you need to do regular water changes. It’s generally recommended to change 15% of the water on a weekly basis.
Keep an eye on the salinity of the tank as well. If you don’t, then it’s going to have a negative impact on the clownfish.
The salinity of the tank should remain between 1.020 and 1.025 on average. Some say that 1.021 and 1.026 will be a better range, but it should be fine if you stick with either estimate.
Other Sources of Stress
There are many other sources of stress that you should consider. Since stress is such a contributing factor when it comes to swim bladder disease, you’ll want to try to limit stress as much as you can.
Sometimes, noise can cause fish to feel more stressed than usual. You might have your fish tank in a very noisy part of your home.
If the fish tank is next to your stereo system or your television, then that’s going to be less than ideal. Consider putting the tank in a quieter spot that will not stress the fish.
Keep children from tapping on the glass of the fish tank. This is something that is known to cause stress to various types of fish.
You should try to see whether factors inside of the tank are causing the fish stress as well. For example, the fish tank might be overly crowded.
If you try to put too many fish in one aquarium, then it can lead to big problems. You might wind up having the fish get sick due to being stressed about having too many tank mates.
Clownfish might choose to host in one area of the tank and they won’t go anywhere else. If you see the clownfish looking sluggish, then that’s not a good sign.
Remember, each clownfish is going to want to have 10 gallons of space. If the clownfish is in a community tank, then you’ll need enough space for the clownfish and the rest of the fish that you want to keep in there.
Generally, it’d be better to have a larger fish tank. If you have the room for it, then try to go for a bigger tank than you need to keep the fish happy and healthy.
Remember, the tank mates that you pick for the fish matter as well. Some fish might agitate the clownfish and cause them to experience stress.
You can avoid problems like this by simply planning ahead. If you can keep sources of stress to a minimum, then the fish will be far less likely to get infections that might lead to swim bladder issues.
Physical trauma can cause swim bladder problems very easily. This can happen in a few different ways.
If you have your clownfish in a community tank with other fish, then a bully fish could have attacked it. It’s imperative to only put clownfish in fish tanks with fish that it is compatible with.
When you don’t take the time to look into compatibility, mistakes like this can occur. The fish might have been harmed by a predator such as a lionfish.
Physical trauma to the swim bladder will lead to the swim bladder malfunction. This may or may not get better depending on the severity of the trauma.
Another possibility involves mishandling the fish. You could have dropped the fish or harmed it with a fish net when trying to transfer it to a different tank.
It’s recommended to be very careful when you’re handling the fish and moving it to a new tank. You definitely don’t want to cause the fish physical harm.
What If Swim Bladder Issues Don’t Get Better?
There is a possibility that a fish could develop a swim bladder issue that won’t get better. Some infections could leave a fish with permanent damage or scarring.
Physical injuries might leave a fish with a swim bladder that will never truly heal. This means that it could be in a position where it will never be able to swim normally again.
If this was to be the case, then should you euthanize the fish? It really depends on how the fish appears to be doing.
In some cases, the fish will be able to live pretty well even with a malfunctioning swim bladder. If the fish can get around and is able to eat, then you might not need to euthanize it.
However, if the fish seems to be in pain, then it might be kinder to humanely euthanize it. This is a judgment call that you will have to make after seeing if the fish will ever get better.
Can Swim Bladder Disease Kill a Fish?
Swim bladder disease won’t be the direct cause of a fish dying. That doesn’t mean that it can’t wind up being what kills the fish when you look at the big picture.
If a clownfish is unable to eat due to not being able to swim properly, then it’ll wind up starving to death. You can probably prevent this from happening by quarantining the fish and ensuring that it gets enough to eat, but it’s still a real concern.
It’s also true that other fish in the tank might be able to kill the clownfish while it’s in this awkward state. The fish won’t be very maneuverable and that will make it vulnerable to bully fish.
Having a swim bladder disease problem could indirectly lead to the fish dying. However, it’s also very possible that things will be just fine if you’re able to take care of what caused the fish to have a swim bladder malfunction in the first place.
Now that you know a lot more about swim bladder disease, you should have an easier time figuring out what to do. This certainly isn’t a problem that you want to ignore.
Sometimes, swim bladder disease might get better on its own by giving a fish a healthy diet and trying to treat the cause of the injury. It could wind up being a permanent issue if things are really bad, though.
You’re going to want to do what you can to protect the fish while it’s in this vulnerable state. It’s very possible that the fish might not be able to move around well.
Some fish that have swim bladder disease will have trouble even being able to eat. Others will be able to get around well enough even if they have to swim upside down.
You want to try to get your fish better as soon as you can. Solving a constipation issue will be easy and you can clear up infections using antibiotic or antibacterial medications.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.