Swim Bladder Disorder: How to Tell if Your Floating Pet Fish is Dead

Updated on May 22, 2019

Have you ever found your pet goldfish floating listlessly at the top of the tank on its side? Most people who make this discovery assume that little goldie has passed on to the other side and immediately scoop him or her from the tank and toss them in the toilet for a traditional goldfish funeral. Unfortunately, in many cases the fish isn't actually dead, but rather suffering from a problem with their swim bladder due to over feeding.

There are plenty of warnings about over feeding fish, but many people are unaware of just how easy it is to over feed. The danger of over feeding is that it can lead to constipation, which can in turn lead to problems with the fish's swim bladder.

The swim bladder is an organ that is flexible and filled with gas. Fish use this organ to maintain their buoyancy in the water. The gas expands in lighter pressures, helping the fish to rise, and is compressed when the fish dives, which helps it descend into deeper waters. Problems with the swim bladder can lead to the fish floating on the surface, sitting at the bottom of the tank, or even standing on its head at the bottom of the tank.


If you find your fish floating on its side, not feeding it for three or four days can often solve the problem as the fish's body recovers from the gorging and rights itself again.

Feeding small deshelled peas can help alleviate constipation, which in turn will help the fish's swimbladder to work effectively once more.


The problem may also have been caused by the fish swallowing air, so pre-soak the fish food in future to avoid this problem.

Feeding a fresh diet as opposed to fish flakes or pellets might be beneficial. Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and even small amounts of vegetables can help your fish be more healthy.

The most important thing you can to to prevent these problems is to regularly test your water, and ensure good water quality.

You should also change your water frequently (the 50% per week rule holds here), and ensure that you do not stir around in the gravel when you change the water. Doing so can unleash nasties into the water that otherwise would stay trapped in the gravel.

Never use water straight out of the tap. Instead use a water conditioner and test the water for the correct pH before adding it to your fish tank.

This has been a basic article aimed at the beginner fish keeper. I know I wish I had known this when I was keeping fish as a child, as I am sure I killed at least one fish unnecessarily who may have simply had a swim bladder disorder.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      10 days ago

      Thank you that was very infromative

    • profile image


      8 weeks ago

      My guppies gorged themselves on fry after a large female gave birth and now ive noticed two that cant swim down from the top of the tank! What do i do???

    • profile image

      Liam Swift 

      2 months ago

      I have checked all of my water and everything is clear, however 3 of my fish have already died and one is lying lifeless. I don't think it was all because of a bladder problem and I don't know what to do

    • profile image

      Bryson Gooden 

      4 months ago

      I have 3 guppys and i think i flushed one of my fish that was still alive..... i woke up and he was inside the filter intake but didnt look hurt and i think he got hurt then got sucked in and i put him back and he just floated there on his side so he might have still been alive

    • profile image

      Alex riachi 

      12 months ago

      I think my fish was not dead but I buried him before knowing this

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      My fish was fine yesterday, eating and swimming around. (He looked a little tired last night but I don’t know) but I woke up this morning and now he is on his side on the bottom of the tank, I have many other fishes however he is the only affected.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      My fish is lying on the bottom of the pot but is not breathing

      I think I overfed him.

      What should I do?

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      My fish bowl brome down . so i put my fish in a big tub but its not transparent is it okay to put them tgere i will be getting an aquarium soon

    • profile image

      Anna Shannon 

      15 months ago

      Thank you so much for this. i have got some baby fish in my pond and was so upset to see they were lying on their side. I want to do my best for them.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      My fish was fine yesterday, eating and swimming around. (He looked a little tired last night but I don’t know) but I woke up this morning and now he is on his side on the bottom of the tank, he is an only fish. Also, this morning I came into my room and my cat was on the desk so maybe she scared him.

      I don’t think he is breathing but I can’t be sure. If he is stressed I’m afraid that if I try to wake him up or move him it will cause him to become even more stressed and die ( if he hasn’t already). I need help.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      my fish is floating at the surface of my tank breathing and moving her find trying to swim. I think I may have over fed her. she has a bump on her side. what do I do

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      My fish might live another day!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      My goldfish is going upside down, laying on the rocks for 2 days and she is not dead yet because she is still swimming a little bit but he is going to the top and bottom of the tank// switching about every 3 minutes, and laying there. Is there anything I can do? At all? Do you happen to have any idea what the problem may be?

    • profile image

      Dat goldfish lover 

      2 years ago

      Thank you! You might of just saved my goldfishes life!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Our little gold fish from the school carnival is now five years old and seven inches long. How much should I feed him a day?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My little brothers angel fish is floating on its side at they top of the tank but still swimming and trying (but most times failing) to eat

      This has been for approx.4 days now

      On the second day it was back to normal but by the next day it was it was afloat again pls help

      My little brother is very very sad

    • profile image

      Kelsey ---- 

      3 years ago

      Hm... My poor Undyne is still having a problem. Is there anything else I can try?

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • Hope Alexander profile imageAUTHOR

      Hope Alexander 

      12 years ago

      Yes, pet stores and private people selling fish should really supply this basic informtion, and it is incredibly basic.

    • wychic profile image

      Rebecca Mikulin 

      12 years ago from Sheridan, Wyoming

      Great "basics" article! It's sad how many goldfish are inadvertently abused due to misunderstandings about their space requirements, feeding, and common ailments. I also feed mine spirulina flakes regularly to help prevent SBD, not as easy to obtain as the peas but if you run into a fish that won't eat something so different than what the pet store gave it it's worth a try :D

    • Hope Alexander profile imageAUTHOR

      Hope Alexander 

      12 years ago

      As a child I didn't know either, which seems very silly, as this is a very common affliction amongst goldfish and other commonly kept pet fish. It seems very remiss of pet shops to sell fish without this sort of vital information. There are probably thousands, if not millions of fish killed every year needlessly because the owners had never heard of this problem.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      12 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Ah ha..... I see now. Thanks. I never knew.

    • Just Toyia profile image

      Just Toyia 

      12 years ago from Tennessee

      I had a fish with this problem and nothing helped her except temporarily, but she lived for 2 years -I wrote about it here a few weeks ago-


    • Raven King profile image

      Raven King 

      12 years ago from Cabin Fever

      Oh, that's why I never had much luck them. Thanks. :)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)