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Swim Bladder Disorder – The Ugly Truth

I notice healthy fry will swim and dart around the second they are free from the egg. In a few hours they start to rest and slowly sink to the bottom of the breeding tank rest a short time and dart to another location. In a day or two they have things figured out and they will start to roam the sides of the tanks. Keep in mind I do not use the males here to take care of the fry though.

At the first sign of swim bladder issues culling would be done ASAP. Get it out of the line is my thinking if there are any.

Let’s put some info behind the cause: Swim bladder disorder can occur in fry when the organ that controls the pressure inside the fish fails to develop correctly. On normal fry this bladder will fill with an air like gas and adjust in size as the fish moves up and down in the water from the pressure the water exerts on there body. Some fish with bad genetics can develop swim bladder issues later in life also.

If you have a large number of belly sliders you should look at food and water as this is 90% the cause of large numbers of sliders. BBS (baby brine shrimp) I see is the root cause associated with most swim bladder issues and micro worms with fin issues. Though some breeders will say otherwise this issue can be duplicated in laboratory settings.  With my one breeding I have see this to be true with a few sliders in fry grown on bbs also. But, for sure the BBS has a higher slider rate than say micro water flea, microworms or nupi liquid foods designed for the shrimp farms to feed just hatched shrimp.

I can not stress how incredibly important it is to have clean and corrected water perimeters. Brine shrimp should be decapped before you hatch and you might find boiled egg yolks give better results than BBS to some extent. Some breeders will say when feeding egg yolks or microworms there fry grow slow. Well slow is better than dead I think, right? Now if you have access to water fleas none of the above applies as the shell can be digest to some point and will not plug and bloat your fry. Nutrients are far better in the water flea then the rest above and is a little better rounded nutrient profile as well.

If you do have belly sliders, you could give them a few weeks in good clean adjusted water with a change of foods and some anti-fungal dye in the water to see if it was a environment issue and not a genetic issue. Some times this is not a great option because some will recover I bet and will show some swimming ability though labored I bet. I hate to say the cull but with this issue culling is the most humane thing you can do. Unless you feel OK with fish that swim tail down and labor to feed or swim for there whole life and could get mixed up in your breeding genetics and keep the issue going. Also, a not that eggs that get a little fungus and do not get eaten by the male can produce sliders also. This can happen if you breed and hatch with out the male. I have had this issue when I was first learning how to hatch the eggs without the males….







Swim Bladder Disorder – The Good, Bad and Ugly Truth
Symptoms: Betta fry are ‘sliding’ not swimming or darting across the bottom on their bellies as though they cannot swim any other way. Older betta or adult betta fish float sideways as if ‘stuck’ to the surface or always tail down. Other times betta adults will float tail down, vertically. Some become adult ‘Belly Sliders’ and will pass this to fry if spawned.
Information: SBD (Swim Bladder Disorder = SBD) is an undesirable incurable abnormality that is usually culled out by real breeders. However, it should be noted that not all SBD is life threatening but does degrade the quality of life for the betta and is very sad to see, or you could be one of the people to just leave it be and brag to your friends about the baby you didn’t cull and rescued it. Otherwise, to be truthfully honest to you the young fish should be humanely destroyed so as to not pass on the genetics or let it suffer a long and hard life.
There are different opinions from breeders as to the causes of SBD. I personally believe there is no single cause to this issue. There are a lot of different types of SBD, therefore different causes for each spawn that you might see SBD in.
1 – One theory is that at least one type of SBD is genetic and nothing could be done to cure it, therefore it will be passed on from generation to generation if not culled. This makes sense to most as fish with SBD are being sold buy bulk breeders or passed off as rescued fish to new breeders or betta rescue crazy people, who, in turn, breed them being told it is not genetic. This passes the SBD gene around and keeps it active. This, of course, being that there IS a SBD gene and not much research on this yet from us.
2 – Another great theory is that one type may be caused by the over feeding of BBS (Baby Brine Shrimp) that were not de-caped before hatching. That the brine shrimp harbor air bubbles or shells that will get trapped and cause the swim bladder to develop incorrectly or food to rot and cause issues inside the young fish during the first few weeks of needed development. An under developed or mal-developed swim bladder or digestive tract will not return to normal and no witch doctor treatment will work. Once the organ is developed, it is done. We tested this a little and have fed entire spawns with nothing but uncapped BBS and had higher rates of SBD. The other test group was feed only micro worms and fin issues and the last spawns were feed egg yolks or water fleas and no SBD were detected. The test group was the same parents.  So, I do think this theory holds much more water than people think.
3 – Cancer or Tuberculosis (TB) in an organ near the Swim Bladder. This is curable as it is not the Swim Bladder that is the cause but has its own set of issues later.
4 – Rapid Fluctuation in temperatures are thought to have an effect by some but I think this is more of guessing than actual proof.
5 – Serious Parasitic or Bacterial infestations could also be a cause as fungus on eggs seem to produce SBD if the fry hatch. (need more research when we have time)
6 – Common on bad genetic DT bettas (is why we say it might be genetic), the short body will produce a mal-formed, miss placed or short swim bladder, causing it to float tail down.
7 – Constipation is a more common problem than some breeders realized. BBS shells are killers of betta fry for sure.
8 – Sudden change in any diet is also a common cause in adults. Adjust their diet and remember blood worms are like white bread. Sure, you could live on eating just white bread but would it be a well-rounded diet?
Out of all these causes listed above, the most common are simply bad genetics and bad BBS I think. Sometimes keeping a fry with an under developed Swim Bladder, later in life, will not even inhibit the fish. Later in life, they may seem perfectly normal to most untrained eyes, but the genetics are still in question.  Other cases, I surly have seen some very, very sad and inhumane cases where the fish should have been put down and was not. Instead, they were given away as a gifts and rescued fish, I assume for rescue bragging rights or from bad breeders to get them off their hands and be able to say that they did not cull them.
Treatments : Tender love and care is not a option here, sometimes in serious cases the fish may need to be euthanized. It is sad I know, but it is sometimes sadder to watch a fish slowly starve and whither because it cannot swim correctly to breathe or eat and is in a constant state of drowning (yes fish can drown). In many cases the betta will be fine and be able to live a somewhat normal life is you let live, but in most cases they cannot.
Prevention: Proper feeding, good water quality and selective breeding is your best chance and sometimes there is no prevention and we are with you on that sad day you need to cull your spawn and try again. Good breeders have been there and done that and we do feel the pain. We do also see no need in letting the genetics stay in place to kill more fish later.


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