Betta Fish Swimming Sideways After Water Change

Betta Fish Swimming Sideways After Water Change

Sometimes you clean the water tank and feed quality food, but you find your betta fish swimming sideways after water change. It’s one of the strange behaviors most aquarists report with their fish friends.

Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens), or simply Betta fish, originates from South East Asia. They have been the most widely available aquarium domesticated for over 1000 years.

Betta fish are best known for their appealing body colors, friendly nature, and environmental sensitivity.

You’ll mostly find the wild betta fish in slow-moving streams or shallow water channels, although the domesticated breeds are sensitive to the harsh environment.

However, the most common question new aquarists ask is, why is my betta fish swimming sideways? This happens mostly after changing the water.

Why are Betta Fish Swimming Sideways After Water Change?

blue and brown dragon illustration

Strange swimming habits are triggered mainly by environmental or internal medical conditions. Mostly, it’s caused by swim bladder disease.

The swim bladder controls the fish’s buoyancy while in water. It enables the fish to swim smoothly or rest on the water during sleep. However, swim bladders are sensitive and therefore prone to swim bladder disease.

Swim bladder disease is a condition, although it’s referred to as a disease, which involves swelling of the bladder. When the bladder swells, the fish loses balance and swims without direction.

Causes of Swim Bladder Disease After Water Change

It’s necessary to be keen during cleaning or water change by observing all the regulations if you are a new aquarist. Several factors may lead to betta fish swim bladder disease. Let’s take a look;

  • Overeating and Constipation

Betta fish are well known for their greediness. They tend to gobble up anything they come across. 

You may have scheduled feeding them during cleaning and water change until you complete the process. And by the time you complete the process, your fish friends may have been hungry.

Usually, their digestive process gets blocked when they overfeed, resulting in bloating. On the other hand, when you immediately drop freeze-dried food and pellets, they get engorged with water.

Afterwards, if the fish immediately feed on them, they even expand further inside their stomach.

When the digestive system swells, it pushes the swim bladder, losing regulation. As a result, you’ll notice your betta fish unable to swim normally.

The other reason is if the food first floats on water. When the betta fish move on the water surface to feed, they take food with excessive oxygen, resulting in swim bladder complications.

Read: Betta fish breeding tank size

two Siamese fighting fishes
  • Bacterial Infections

Bacteria in the newly changed water may infect the betta fish. Internal organs, including the swim bladder, are affected once infected, either in the digestive system or the gills. Since the swim bladder is the centre of balance, the fish will swim without direction.

  • Unbalanced Water Temperatures

The environmental temperatures control betta fish metabolism. If you change the water to a lower temperature, their digestive process will slow. The results are constipation and gastrointestinal tract swelling.

Swelling of the internal organs pushes the swim bladder, and you’ll notice betta fish floating sideways on top.

It’s advisable to have the necessary equipment to balance water temperatures before adding your fish to the tank. The standard betta fish temperature requirements are 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Unclean Water Tank

If you notice your fish floating on the side but not dead after a water change, the possible reason is you changed the water without cleaning the tank. Accumulated fish waste and uneaten betta fish food may form ammonia gas.

Ammonia gas transforms to nitrites and later to nitrates. Excessive nitrates lead to osmoregulation difficulties.

Osmoregulation is the ability to regulate body fluid pressure. If the fluids aren’t balanced, the internal organs swell and push the swim bladder resulting in swimming difficulties.

  • Excessive Chlorine in Water

Excess chlorine may burn the fish gills if you never treated the water before changing.  It’s good to have a water conditioner to treat water before adding it to your sensitive fish.

Due to breathing issues, osmoregulation will lower and affect the swim bladder.

Read: Why do betta fish make bubble nests

blue Siamese fighting fish

How to Treat Betta Fish Swim Bladder Disease

Here is how to fix swim bladder in betta

  • Clean the Tank and Change the Water

Although you have changed the water, the tank may be unclean, or your water has contaminants. Transfer your fish to a separate area and clean their tank. Then, treat the water with a water conditioner and warm it to the required temperature before adding your fish.

  • Treat Digestive System Complications

If you clean the water and the fish still swim sideways, they might be bloated. Check if the fish defecate. Suppose they aren’t defecating; you can fast them for 2 to 3 days.

Another solution is soaking the food before feeding them. Already soaked food will soften and become fully engorged with water. As such, it won’t swell inside the fish’s digestive system.

On the other hand, shop for quality food because several aquarists claim low-quality food causes constipation in betta fish.

Read: Betta fish staying at bottom of tank

  • Treat Bacteria and Parasite Infection

If you clean the water tank and treat bloating without signs of success, try to treat bacteria and parasites. Usually, you’ll notice body color change if your betta fish are infected with parasites.

FAQs on Betta Fish Swimming Sideways After Water Change

Do Bettas Like Water Changes?

Bettas do well in freshwater. Although filters clean the water, they may not eliminate fish waste and excessive uneaten foods. Water change and tank cleaning are a necessity for all aquarists. Secondly, you need to be keen on regularly adding the water that evaporates due to temperatures in the tank.

How Can I Tell If My Betta is Stressed?

You’ll usually notice the following signs if your betta is stressed;

– Faded body-color
– Clamped fins
– Lack of appetite

How Long Can a Betta Fish Go Without Water Change?

Betta fish can go for around a week without a water change. However, it’s essential to have a good fish water filter and plan proper feeding schedules to ensure pet fish stay healthy.

On the other hand, observe all the regulations to control swimming bladder disease. Once you notice betta fish swimming sideways after the water change, know it has occurred. 


Animalwised: My Fish is Swimming Sideways

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