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Why Is My Discus Head Standing? (2 Likely Reasons)

Why Is My Discus Head Standing? (2 Likely Reasons)
This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addtion, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Having discus fish in your aquarium should be a great experience. You love how beautiful these fish are and you want them to thrive in your tank.

The only problem is that discus fish can be tough to care for. They’re a bit needy and you need to pay close attention to water quality.

If you see that the discus fish are acting odd you’re likely going to be worried. Have you seen your discus fish head standing as of late?

Is there a reason why the fish would choose to do this? Read on to learn all about this topic and what you should do.

1 – It Could Be a Swim Bladder Issue

There’s a good chance that your discus fish is experiencing some type of swim bladder problem. Most types of fish have an organ known as a swim bladder.

A swim bladder is a gas-filled sac that inflates and deflates. It’s meant to control buoyancy so that fish can remain upright as they swim.

When the swim bladder is malfunctioning it’ll cause the fish to have problems swimming. They won’t have good balance and might swim sideways or even upside down.

You’ll notice fish swimming in circles or they might simply stay in one spot due to not being able to get around properly. There are a few different things that are known to cause this condition.

Constipation can cause swim bladder issues. When fish eat too much their bellies will swell and this will press against the swim bladder.

It keeps the sac from filling up with gas so the fish won’t be able to swim normally. If constipation is the cause of the problem, it’s easy enough to fix.

Many people just feed fish boiled peas and they will poop a lot. You can also stop feeding the fish and wait it out to see if the fish will get better naturally.

There are other causes of swim bladder disease, though. Intestinal infections can cause inflammation that will lead to the swim bladder not functioning properly.

So the fish might need to be treated for some type of bacterial infection. The important thing is to determine what’s wrong so you can help the fish get back to normal.

If you don’t wish to use boiled peas, Epsom salt can be a good treatment option as well. You can add one tablespoon of salt for every 40 gallons of water in the tank.

Don’t ignore swim bladder issues because fish are vulnerable when they can’t swim properly. It makes it hard for them to eat and they might even die of starvation or get bullied by other fish in the tank.

Note that you might have to try to feed the fish by hand if they can’t get around well enough to eat normally. Make sure that the fish is eating while it’s recovering and things should get back to normal soon enough.

Preventing Swim Bladder Disease

Preventing swim bladder disease involves being careful about two things. The first is feeding the fish.

When feeding the fish you don’t want to give them so much food that they will become constipated. Be mindful of how much food you’re giving the discus fish to avoid complications.

You also need to pay attention to the water condition. Poor water quality will make discus fish susceptible to getting sick.

Coming down with some type of bacterial infection that will lead to swim bladder issues will be easier when the water is dirty. Keeping the fish tank clean and paying close attention to the water parameters will protect the fish.

It’s recommended to do multiple water changes per week. Also, you need to test regularly so you’ll always know that the water parameters are where they need to be.

2 – The Possibility of Nitrite Poisoning

Nitrite poisoning is a serious problem that you want to avoid. When discus fish have nitrite poisoning you might see them head standing.

Often, the fish will lean over rocks or against the side of the tank. They’ll look as if they’ve lost balance or something.

It can be easy to mistake nitrite poisoning for swim bladder issues at first. One good way to tell if the fish has nitrite poisoning is to pay attention to its breathing.

Fish that have nitrite poisoning will usually experience rapid or heavy breathing. They’ll look like they’re having a hard time breathing normally.

It’s also very common for fish with nitrite poisoning to become lethargic. Your once active fish will now likely be rather sedentary in the tank.

You could see the fish gasping for air at the top of the tank sometimes. This is a sure sign that there are issues with the water quality that must be addressed immediately.

Discus fish are so sensitive that they will have a tough time dealing with water quality problems. When the water isn’t clean they can get sick faster than you think.

You can’t allow the nitrite levels in the tank to rise at all. These are fish that react incredibly negatively to dirty water.

So you have to focus on keeping the water as clean as possible. This means multiple water changes each week and regular tank maintenance.

It helps to keep discus fish in a tank that is more than large enough. Smaller tanks are harder to keep clean because waste builds up faster.

Every discus fish needs ten gallons of space to be comfortable. It’s recommended to keep at least six in a tank, and that means going with a 60-gallon aquarium or something larger is best.

If you don’t have the time to focus on regular water changes, cleaning the tank, and testing the water, it’s not wise to buy discus fish. There’s a good chance your fish will simply die due to problems with water quality if you can’t put in the necessary effort.

Can Nitrite Poisoning Be Treated?

Nitrite poisoning is something that is better to prevent from happening altogether. Allowing the discus fish to get nitrite poisoning is too much of a risk.

There’s always a chance that you will lose fish when the water quality isn’t where it needs to be. Keep this in mind and make decisions that will help you to keep the water quality high.

If your fish do get nitrite poisoning, change the water as soon as you can. An immediate water 30 to 50% water change is recommended.

You might need to buy better filters for your tank as well. Adding a filter from a cycled tank can help to solve nitrite issues.

Using a water conditioner is something that can help as well. This is a type of chemical that can remove nitrite from the water.

Final Thoughts

Don’t ignore the issue when you see your discus fish head standing. It’s likely a sign that something is wrong.

Typically, you’ll need to figure out if the fish has nitrite poisoning or if it is dealing with a swim bladder malfunction.

Both problems need to be dealt with swiftly. The fish can die of nitrite poisoning if you don’t take action.

Swim bladder problems might cause a fish to die since it won’t be able to eat properly due to not being able to swim as usual. You can treat these problems, but since discus fish are delicate there’s a possibility that they might die when experiencing stress.

Do your best to prevent problems such as this from happening at all. Maintain high water quality, feed the fish the best foods, and don’t overfeed them.

If you do your best to focus on tank maintenance and basic fish care, everything will likely be fine. Hopefully, if your fish does have problems right now, you can solve things and get it back to feeling healthy again.