Cichlid Swim Bladder Disease

Cichlids are prone to swim bladder disease.
Cichlids are prone to swim bladder disease. (Image: cichlid image by Earl Robbins from

Cichlids are large, popular aquarium fish that are kept in both freshwater and saltwater tanks. The species appears in a wide array of colors and sizes. Fish are prone to health concerns and sometimes need special care. One such concern is swim bladder disease.


A cichlid's swim bladder fills with air to help the cichlid maintain buoyancy and swim in a controlled manner. Any damage or dysfunction in the swim bladder leads to inefficient, uncontrolled swimming.


According to NetPets, there are a number of things that can cause swim bladder disease in cichlids. These include trauma, from another fish or from the cichlid running into the side of the tank, genetics, poor diet, poor water quality, and serious disorders like cancer. In cichlids, which are aggressive fish, abuse from other fish is likely.


Symptoms of swim bladder disease or damage in cichlids generally pertain to difficulty with swimming. The cichlid may float upside down or lay on the bottom of the tank. It will swim awkwardly and inefficiently. It may also display an enlarged bladder. These symptoms depend on the fish, its particular form of swim bladder disease, and how far the disease has progressed.


Fish owners treat swim bladder disease in cichlids by attempting to right the wrong that may have caused the disease in the first place, and thereby allowing the fish to heal itself. Cichlids with swim bladder disease should be separated and put in isolated tanks where they are protected from other fish and water quality is more tightly controlled. A cichlid must be fed a higher-quality food, with flakes that are pre-soaked or gel, live or frozen food. According to NetPets, a professor of fish medicine in North Carolina has successfully treated swim bladder disease by feeding fish peas.


Swim bladder disease may prove fatal even with treatment. If the cichlid has been sick for an extended period, or has irreversible damage, the issue is not treatable. Swim bladder disease caused by issues like cancer is not treatable, as it is purely a secondary issue. Some cases of swim bladder disease are treatable only with surgery.

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