Under normal circumstances, your gouramis are going to be swimming near the top of the fish tank. This is because they’re labyrinth fish.
These fish have a special organ that allows them to essentially “breathe oxygen” at the surface of the tank. For that reason, they stay near the top portion of the fish tank.
If your gourami fish seems to be sinking to the bottom of the tank, then that definitely isn’t normal. It wouldn’t stay at the bottom of the tank normally.
What is going on with your gourami fish? Why would it appear to be sinking to the bottom this way?
Continue reading to learn why this is happening. Once you’ve learned everything that you need to know, it’ll be easier to know what actions you should be taking.
1 – It Could Be a Swim Bladder Issue
It’s very possible that your gourami fish could be sinking to the bottom of the tank because it can’t control how it swims any longer. You see, gouramis have an organ that is known as a swim bladder.
Swim bladders are organs that help many types of fish to control their buoyancy. It’s an organ that makes it possible for fish to maintain balance and swim in the water.
When this organ malfunctions, the fish isn’t going to be able to swim properly any longer. It can be a real problem because fish with swim bladder issues might not even be able to eat easily.
You might notice some fish swimming upside down when they’re having swim bladder trouble. Others might swim sideways while certain fish will barely be able to swim at all.
It’s pretty common for gouramis to just sink to the bottom of the tank when their swim bladders stop working. This situation can be very worrying for gourami fish owners since they usually don’t know what to do at first.
If this is your first time seeing a fish have swim bladder issues, then it’s normal to be at a loss. You might be confused and even a little bit scared for the fish.
This could be an easy issue to take care of or it could be a complicated one. It really depends on what is causing the fish to have swim bladder issues.
As you might expect, there are a number of different things that can cause fish to have swim bladder problems. You’ll want to learn a bit about each situation so that you can determine how to proceed.
2 – Constipation
Believe it or not, constipation is a very common cause of swim bladder issues. Many fish will become quite constipated if you feed them too much.
This can happen to gourami fish, too. These fish will keep eating even after they’ve had enough if you don’t know when to stop.
You’re supposed to feed gouramis twice per day. It’s recommended to only give them as much food as they can finish within a few minutes.
Going overboard will cause the fish to become constipated. Constipation leads to the fish developing a swollen belly.
This swollen belly pushes against the swim bladder. A swim bladder is really just a gas-filled sac that inflates and deflates as necessary.
With the swollen belly pressing against the sac, it’s not going to be able to function properly. This is what causes the gourami fish to sink to the bottom of the tank.
So what can you do when something such as this occurs? You can give the fish a frozen pea to make it poop a lot.
Making the fish poop a lot will clear up the constipation issue. It should go back to normal and the swim bladder will function again.
Of course, there are more troublesome things that can cause swim bladder issues. Constipation issues are easy to take care of, but you still need to endeavor not to make your fish constipated again by overfeeding them.
3 – Infections
Infections can easily cause gourami fish to have problems with their swim bladders. There are many different types of infections that can cause issues.
A bacterial infection could cause a gourami fish to experience swelling. Sometimes these infections will cause intestinal swelling, but they will also cause the belly to swell.
Any type of swelling in that region of the fish can cause the swim bladder to malfunction. It’s the same idea as the constipation issue mentioned above, but it’s harder to deal with.
If the fish has an infection, then you’ll need to work to clear the infection up. This means treating the fish and giving it medication.
Generally, it’s going to be best to put a sick fish in a quarantine tank. You can give it antibiotic or antibacterial medication to help get rid of the infection.
You want to put it in a quarantine tank because fish that aren’t sick don’t need this medicine. Typically, the medicine will be introduced directly to the water.
It might be beneficial to stop feeding the fish for several days as well. Raise the temperature of the water in the tank to between 78 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using aquarium salt to help speed the recovery of the fish is a common choice. Just be sure to use real aquarium salt and only add the recommended amount to the fish tank.
Eventually, the fish should be able to recover from the infection. The swim bladder issues will subside when the swelling goes down.
If you don’t treat the fish properly, then the infection could cause permanent damage. In some cases, this could lead to permanent swim bladder issues.
It’s likely that if you notice your fish is sick early enough that you won’t run into trouble. Just do your best to care for the fish so that it can get back to normal.
4 – Physical Injuries
Physical injuries also have the potential to cause swim bladder problems. A fish could get seriously injured in some type of fight with another fish.
It’s also possible that you could accidentally injure a fish while handling it. For example, you could drop the fish while trying to transfer it from one tank to another using a standard net.
Physical injuries might heal or they might not. It depends on the severity of the injury.
The injury would need to be located around the area of the swim bladder for it to cause these issues. It could also be the case that the injury will cause some type of swelling that will lead to swim bladder malfunction.
Do your best to treat the fish and try to get it to feel better. If the fish has been permanently damaged, then the swim bladder issues might not get any better.
Since many fish cannot move around at all when they don’t have functioning swim bladders, it might be best to euthanize the fish. It depends on whether the fish can eat normally and if it can function well enough to live happily in your tank.
In some cases, it seems kinder to euthanize the fish. Just observe the fish and then decide what you want to do.
5 – Stress
You should also consider whether the gourami is at the bottom of the aquarium due to stress. If the gourami fish is moving around fine, then it likely doesn’t have swim bladder disease.
Gouramis will sometimes get so stressed that they will hang out at the bottom of the tank. This is unusual for gouramis, but it can happen when the fish becomes stressed enough.
Many different things can cause fish to become stressed. Being placed in an overcrowded fish tank will cause significant stress.
It’s also possible that there could be other fish in the aquarium that are bullying the gouramis. Any situation that can cause stress might make the gourami fish feel as if it needs to hide at the bottom of the tank.
Water parameter issues can also make gouramis hang out near the bottom of the tank. Check the water parameters and then try to determine if there are any other factors that could be causing the fish to feel stressed.
Solving these issues might help the fish to return to normal. You might need to look out for the fish better in the future to avoid things such as this.
6 – Shock
Shock has been known to make gouramis act strangely. If the gourami fish is new to your tank, then it could be shocked by entering a new environment.
If you moved the gouramis into a new tank recently, then that could cause them to feel shocked. Significant changes in temperature and water chemistry can cause shock issues as well.
Failing to introduce a gourami to a tank properly will make shock more likely. You’re supposed to slowly introduce gouramis to a tank by floating them in the bag above the tank first.
Think about whether you’ve done anything that could cause the fish to experience shock. If so, the gourami should recover and act normally if you care for it properly.
7 – General Disease
General issues with disease might make gouramis stay at the bottom of the tank. It likely won’t make them appear to be “sinking to the bottom,” though.
When these fish get sick, they might not have much energy. This can lead to them just hanging out at the bottom of the tank and waiting to die.
Your gourami fish could indeed be dying if it’s just hanging out near the bottom of the fish tank. This isn’t necessarily the case, but it is a possibility.
You’ll need to examine the fish to figure out what its symptoms are. Then you can look up the specific symptoms to try to determine what disease the fish is dealing with.
Conversely, you could enlist the help of an exotic veterinarian who cares for fish. A professional such as this will be able to help you diagnose the fish promptly.
You might be able to get the fish to be healthy again if you can treat it soon enough. It will also depend on whether the disease is curable or not.
There are all sorts of things that can cause gourami fish to stay near the bottom of the fish tank. If a gourami fish is experiencing stress, then it might feel as if it has to hide at the bottom of the tank.
This is a common issue when gouramis are being bullied by other fish in a community tank. You might not have done a great job picking out good tank mates for your gouramis if this is happening.
Another possibility to consider is that the fish could be in shock. A fish that is in shock might stay at the bottom of the tank and act unusual.
Gouramis will go into shock when you don’t take the time to introduce them to the tank properly. You might not have floated the bag properly and instead rushed putting the gourami fish into the aquarium when you bought it.
Water parameter fluctuations can also make fish enter a state of shock. It’s important to keep an eye on the water conditions so that your fish can stay healthy.
Disease could cause gouramis to stay at the bottom of the tank. You’ll want to treat the fish as soon as you can if you think that it might be sick.
Swim bladder disease is the most likely reason why a gourami fish would sink to the bottom of the tank. A swim bladder malfunction makes it so that the gourami fish can’t control its buoyancy any longer.
Many things can cause swim bladder disease such as constipation, infections, and physical injuries. Try to treat the fish so that it can get back to normal as soon as possible.
This information should help you to figure out what is going on. Issues like this can be very troubling, but you can try to help your fish by paying attention and taking the right steps to treat the fish.
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.