“Not Waving but Drowning”*

From pethelpful.com:

“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.”

*by Stevie Smith (1972)

Nobody heard him, the dead man,   

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought   

And not waving but drowning./

Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   

They said./

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   

(Still the dead one lay moaning)   

I was much too far out all my life   

And not waving but drowning.

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