For many aquarists, caring for red tail sharks is a fun, relaxing, and rewarding experience. It’s always a delight to watch these attractive aquatic creatures swimming through your home tank or backyard pond.
However, even experienced fish enthusiasts and hobbyists can get confused when they see their pet swimming vertically, sideways, or upside down. Pet owners may wonder: Why is my red tail shark swimming vertically?
Well, there are several factors that can cause your fish to swim abnormally, from poor water quality and inappropriate habitat conditions to bullying and stress. In this guide, we’ll uncover and discuss the possible reasons behind your fish’s unusual swimming behavior. Let’s begin!
For some fish species, such as the red tail shark, swimming vertically every now and then can be a part of their normal behavior. If your fish casually changes its orientation while searching for food and reverts back to normal afterward, then there’s generally no cause for alarm.
However, if swimming in a vertical position is an unexpected change for your pet and lasts for several hours at a time, it may be due to the following factors:
Red tail sharks can sense and react to sudden chemical fluctuations in the water much faster than other fish. Poor water quality could be the main culprit behind your pet’s strange swimming behavior.
Thus, regularly monitor your water parameters using an aquarium testing kit to make sure that the temperature, pH, oxygen, nitrate, and nitrite levels remain reasonable. What’s more, immediately remedy inadequate water conditions as soon as you become aware of them.
The following water parameters are ideal for red tail sharks:
- Water temperature: 72 to 79°F
- Water hardness: between 10 to 15 dGH
- pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5 pH
- Flow rate: medium to heavy
Ensure that your red tail shark is in at least a 55-gallon elongated tank with plenty of private caves, vegetation, substrate, and hiding spots. Note that this aquatic creature prefers to live in solitude and is aggressive around other fish.
Owners report that overcrowding in a small tank or a lack of hiding spaces can cause a red tail shark to feel scared or threatened. As a result, it moves to a corner of the tank and swims vertically or upright in one area.
The same behavior is present in some red tail sharks whose previous hiding spots have been occupied by other fish. To remedy the situation, transfer your pet to a bigger tank or create additional hiding spots where your fish can stay.
Incompatible tank mates could be another reason behind your fish’s erratic and unusual swimming habits. Bullying can cause your red tail shark to retreat in a corner to avoid confrontation and start swimming vertically as a result of anxiety.
Curious, aggressive, and bottom-dwelling species don’t get along well with red tail sharks, so it’s best to separate them from your pet. These creatures can also be territorial and aggressive to members of their own species, so it’s best to have one red tail shark per tank only.
Molly fish, tiger barbs, angelfish, neon tetras, and sparkling gourami are some of the best companions for red tail sharks.
Even subtle changes in the environment can cause your red tail shark to feel stress, leading to vertical swimming. Frighteningly loud noises, shifts in lighting, and abrupt movements from people around the tank can cause your pet to feel threatened or stressed.
Have you recently introduced your red tail shark to a new aquarium or added an unfamiliar species to the tank? If so, allow a few days for your fish to adapt to its new environment, and the unusual swimming may resolve on its own.
A more serious reason behind vertical swimming might be that your pet isn’t feeling well. Be on the lookout for accompanying symptoms, such as lack of appetite, lethargy, and a lackluster appearance.
Abnormal floating habits, such as swimming on its side or upside down, can result from underlying health conditions in your red tail shark.
If you’ve already examined your pet’s water parameters and habitat, but haven’t found a possible cause for the oddly angled swimming, consider bringing your fish to the veterinarian for a proper consultation.
Red tail sharks suffering from swim bladder disease have difficulty floating and swimming upright. As the name implies, this disease affects the swim bladder, the gas-filled organ that’s responsible for the fish’s buoyancy.
Common symptoms of swim bladder disease are as follows:
- Distended belly
- Curved back
- Sinking to the bottom of the fish tank
- Swimming upside down or sideways
- Floating to the surface of the tank
Your veterinarian can provide an official diagnosis for swim bladder disease using an X-ray.
Causes of this disease include feeding problems, abdominal organ issues, bacterial infections, and birth defects. Available treatments involve feeding and diet changes, antibiotics, and adjustments to the water temperature.
The sight of a red tail shark swimming vertically, sideways, or upside down can be alarming to most pet owners. In some cases, this might just be the fish’s normal behavior or a temporary habit as it adjusts to a new habitat.
However, abnormal swimming may also mean serious health issues for your fish, such as swim bladder disease. Stress, bullying, and inadequate water parameters are other possible reasons behind this unusual behavior.
Now, you know the answer to the question: Why is my red tail shark swimming vertically?
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.