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Why is my Bloodfin Tetra Swimming Upside Down?


While I have been researching fish, a common issue that I have discovered is fish randomly swimming upside down. This seems to affect a lot of people, and why I felt compelled to research this article for you.

Why is your fish upside Down?

What has been considered normal behaviour concerning the different species of aquarium fish vary widely. For a considerable number of aquarium fish, it's perfectly normal for them to occasionally swim upside down.

However, according to mom, for the majority of them, this disorder is usually a red flag. It's a strong sign that something might be severely wrong with your fish and you may need to attend to it

Lionfish and upside down catfish swim like this all the time so it's a pretty normal thing for them, but, in the case of the bloodfin tetra, it's definitely a bad sign.

If you notice your bloodfin tetra swimming this way then you should be concerned. When your fish swims this way it's normally a sign of possible swim bladder complications.

According to thesprucepets, Swim bladder disorder is a symptom connected to several diseases and is not technically a specific disease in itself. Swim bladder issues and complications could stem from physical injuries from fighting, shock and infection. 

When you notice your tetra swimming upside down you'll need to begin a little investigation to determine what's causing the problem. This is because the ultimate cause of the problem is what will determine what treatment should be used on your fish.

If your fish starts swimming this way, your first course of action should be to look for any recent aquarium changes you might have made. If you recently added water or a new fish to the aquarium, shock may be the reason why it has started swimming on its backside. 

Dimming your room and aquarium lights can help reduce your bloodfin tetra's stress levels as well as help it adapt to the introduction of new fish.

bloodfin tetra swimming upside down

What is Swim Bladder Disorder?

Swim bladder is basically more of a disorder than it is a disease and it occurs when your fish's swim bladder is too full. When this happens, you'll begin to notice your fish floating upside down or swimming sideways.

The area of the belly will look bloated and full and the fish's spine may seem a bit curved. It merely refers to the complications and issues affecting the swim bladder.

It's most commonly noticed in bettas and goldfish, however, it can strike and affect almost any fish species. In this disorder, environmental/mechanical factors, physical injury and disease may cause the swim bladder not to function as it's supposed to.

According to homeaquaria, fish that are affected with this condition exhibit buoyancy problems. Interestingly enough, some fish like rays and sharks don't have a swim bladder.

What Causes Swim Bladder Disorder?

According to thesprucepets, compression is one of the root cause of this disorder. Now, the main cause of compression of the swim bladder is a distended stomach which happens because of overeating, rapidly eating or gulping air.

Dry or freeze-dried flake food usually expands when it gets wet. This will often lead to an enlarged intestine or stomach.

Water temperature levels that are very low can slow down digestive processes. This, in turn, could also cause an enlarged intestine. The result is excessive swim bladder pressure which could then inevitably lead to your fish contracting the swim bladder disorder.

The enlargement of other organs is a less common cause of swim bladder compression, however, they can still give rise to the disorder. The liver's fatty deposits, cysts in the kidney or egg binding can result in swim bladder disorder as well.

Bacterial infections and parasites can cause inflammation of the swim bladder. An inflamed swim bladder can inevitably lead to swim bladder disorder as well as the occasional hard blows from hitting an object in the aquarium or tank, and falls or fighting.

This problem can be permanent sometimes. Fish are rarely born with such a defect, so symptoms of swim bladder can present themselves at an early age. Keep vigilant for such signs even though your fish is still of a tender age.

What are the Symptoms of Swim Bladder Disorder?

Fish that suffer from swim bladder disorder showcase a wide variety of signs and symptoms. Most of these symptoms primarily involve complications with buoyancy such as sinking to the tank's bottom, floating upside down, struggling to maintain normal upright positions or standing on their head. They will also usually have a swollen belly as well as a curved spine.

Fish that are affected by this disorder may eat normally as they usually would, or they will completely lack any appetite at all. If the buoyancy problems are of a severe nature, the fish suffering this disorder may not have the ability to reach the water surface let alone feed normally as it usually would.

How Do You Treat Swim Bladder Disorder?

Because an enlarged intestine or stomach is usually what most commonly causes swim bladder disorder, the first and foremost thing you should do is to avoid feeding your fish for at least three whole days.

During this time frame, increase the aquarium's water temperature to around 82 F and then leave it at this level throughout the course of the treatment.

When the three days are up, feed your fish skinned peas that have been cooked on the fourth day. Frozen peas are perfect for such situations for they can be boiled or microwaved for a few seconds in order to thaw them, which will result in giving rise to proper consistency.

Peel of the skin before you serve the peas to your fish. This particular course of action is a solution to several cases of swim bladder.

During treatment, water level reduction is usually advised so as to make movement easier for your fish while it's still in the tank. Reducing the water levels in tanks that have strong water currents will help you effectively treat your fish.

If the fish that's affected floats with some body parts exposed to the air constantly, you may need to apply a little stress coat in those areas so as to help keep away the development of sores. If the fish's movement issues are severe you may have to hand feed it.

If feeding it peas and fasting don't do the trick, and the fish's bowel movements remain normal, constipation or an enlarged stomach may not be the cause of the problem.

Lack of appetite, shaking and clamped fin are also signs of infection and they may begin to exhibit these. In such scenarios, a broad spectrum antibiotic procedure might be required as treatment.

Can They Die From this Disorder?

Fish can certainly die from this disorder if it's left unchecked. If the cause is because of injury or a fall, then only time will heal it. Sometimes, adding a little aquarium salt into the fish tank, keeping the water clean and at a stable temperature of around eighty degrees can help.

However, if it doesn't and symptoms persist, then the most humane thing to do would be euthanasia.

How Do You Prevent It?

According to wikihow, you should soak fish food in water before feeding it to your tetra. When flaky fish food is floating on the water surface when the fish comes to bite, it gulps down air in the process. 

The excess air gulped in the process is what may lead to organ enlargement and eventually the swim bladder disorder. When you soak the fish food first before you feed it to the fish, you're ensuring your fish eats without taking in that extra air. You can also try buying fish food that sinks automatically without having the need to be soaked.

Try not to overfeed your fish. Giving your fish too much food may cause it to have constipation. This will eventually lead to stomach and intestine enlargement and finally swim bladder. 

Usually, fish should be fed food in tiny amounts only once every day. Even if you might think your fish is always hungry, it only needs to be fed once a day, with a tiny amount of food to stay healthy.

Keep your fish tank clean. A filthy aquarium harbors parasites and bacteria, which puts a strain on the symptoms the fish has which in turn sometimes lead to infection.

Cleaning your tank frequently will ensure you're fish is swimming around in clean water. Also, try keeping the temperature of the water in the fish tank appropriately warm.

Check the temperature whenever you can to make sure it stays at around twenty-one degrees Celsius. Keeping it in very cold water may begin to strain its digestive systems.

Can Using Epsom Salt Cure It?

Epsom salt is the name which is commonly known for magnesium sulphate. According to cuteness, Magnesium can be beneficial for treating swim bladder disorder.

If the treatment methods mentioned above don't work, you can try adding some epsom salt into the water in your fish's aquarium then increase its temperature and keep it steady at a range between seventy-five and eighty degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the ratio of epsom salt to water at an eighth per teaspoon to five gallons of water.

What Should You Feed Your Bloodfin Tetra Fish?

Bloodfin tetras are omnivorous fish. They live primarily off of insects when they're in the wild. You should feed it a varied diet two to three times a day. At one time give it wingless fruit flies, at another, mix it up and give it freeze-dried or live bloodworms.

You should also provide your fish with algae, whether in water form or live, fish pellets and freeze-dried brined shrimp. You can either buy these types of foods from your local pet store or hunt and gather them in the wild.

Tetras, from time to time, need shelled and thawed frozen peas. Thawing them and then shelling them helps with digestion. Sometimes, they might be afraid to come up and feed so when this happens you may need a dropper so that it can help you place the food near the fish.

On a side note, don't overlook adding organic matter. Tetras while in the wild are normally the most comfortable in waters that have a lot of plant life. You can install semi-aquatic or aquatic plants of which you can get from any pet store. Driftwood and leaf litter can also help replicate the natural habitat of a bloodfin tetra. These things are also a way of keeping them entertained by giving them places to hide.

What are the Best Tankmates for a Bloodfin Tetra Fish?

Peaceful fish, that won't threaten them and that is not considerably larger than they are the ideal tankmates for the bloodfin tetra. According to theaquariumguide, keeping them among other schooling fish that are of similar shape and not too bigger then they are will usually work harmoniously in a community fish tank.

Avoid housing any boisterous fish with a true bloodfin tetra for this will only stress them out. They'll normally feel more comfortable when they are amongst there own kind. They sometimes become testy and nibble at long finned fish that are swimming slowly, if they're kept in schools of less than six.

Other tetras such as Cories or Loricaiids will normally make great tankmates for the bloodfin tetra. An African dwarf frog can also coexist with this type of tetra and can make a great tank mate as well. Also, crabs, snails and shrimp make good tank mates because they're peaceful aquatic creatures.

Always make sure to quarantine new arrivals first before adding them into the aquarium. Unfortunately, this will require you to have an extra aquarium or fish tank if you lack one. You'll need to keep the new fish in the quarantine aquarium or tank for a minimum of two weeks. This will help prevent any spread of any contagious disease that the new fish might have.


Hopefully this article has enlightened you about why your Bloodfin Tetra is swimming upside down, and how you can help it.

As you may have learned, these fish are great, with a good temperament, so they are great for your family pet.

However, don't forget to get a tank that will offer them sufficient space to move around freely.

Adding a few Bloodfin tetras will give your aquarium, and any aquarium for that matter, a new lease of life. It's something you certainly won't regret having.


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.