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6 Reasons Your Bala Shark Is Swimming Upside Down!

There has been a huge surge in the number of beginners getting started in the fish keeping hobby recently and as more and more people get involved in the hobby, the number of questions that we see people asking just keeps on increasing.

Due to bala sharks having the word “shark” in their name even though they are not sharks, they seem to attract a large number of beginners to the fish keeping hobby and we have noticed a number of questions being asked about keeping a pet bala shark this month.

One question that a large number of people have been asking about is why their bala shark is swimming upside down so we wanted to publish this article going over the topic.

Although some of the problems that can cause your bala shark to swim upside down are generally very easy to treat, some of the more common problems can be fatal if not treat quickly.

We hope that our article will be able to help as many of our readers as possible who are having issues with their pet bala shark and increase the chances of you being able to save it.

Why Your Bala Shark Is Swimming Upside Down!

We have our short list of the possible reasons that your bala shake is swimming upside down below but we will cover them in more detail throughout the rest of the article.

  • Dropsy!
  • Swim Bladder Disease!
  • Internal Gas!
  • Injury!
  • Issues with Water Flow!
  • Unsuitable Water Parameters!

Although rare, some fish may actually have two or even more of the problems from our list above at the same time so try not to get fixated on a single potential issue.


Dropsy is a condition that can affect many different species of fish and is more common in freshwater fish than saltwater fish.

The main symptom of dropsy is your fish’s scales appearing to stick out from its body accompanied by bloating with the condition being caused by your fish’s body being filled with fluids.

Dropsy can cause your fish to lose its ability to swim correctly often causing it to swim upside down.

In some cases, the swelling caused by the condition can be so bad that it causes your fish’s organs to be pushed out of its body cavity through its mouth or vent.

Although you can technically treat dropsy, it does act quickly so unless you have a suitable treatment in your home ready to go as soon as you notice the issue, the chances of the condition being fatal are high.

Many fish with dropsy will, unfortunately, perish within 48 hours so you really don’t have time to spare.

Swim Bladder Disease!

The swim bladder is an internal organ that fish use to help them maintain their buoyancy and enable them to swim correctly in the water column of their tank.

Many different things can cause problems with your fish’s swim bladder which often results in it being unable to maintain its position in the water column correctly causing it to either sink, float or swim upside down.

Swim bladder disease often also has bloating making it look similar to dropsy but the scales tend not to lift off the fish as much as they do with dropsy.

Thankfully, swim bladder disease is much easier to treat than dropsy and the chances of your bala shark making a full recovery is much higher.

You can use the pea method or one of the commercial treatments for swim bladder disease that most local fish stores will stock.

Internal Gas!

Bala sharks will eat almost anything that they can find in their tank, even if they shouldn’t be eating it and these unsuitable foods can then cause excess gas when digested.

This can then cause the fish to have problems controlling its ability to swim and although rare, your bala shark may end up swimming upside down.

There is usually no need to get any specific treatments to counter this and your bala shark will usually be able to just pass the gas after a few hours and return to normal.

You will often notice that this is more common in tanks with snails or shrimp as your bala shark may eat a decomposing snail or shrimp that ends up causing the excess gas.


If your bala shark has been injured in some way, it may result in it being unable to swim correctly and often swimming upside down is a symptom of an injury.

This could be something as simple as your bala shark scraping against a rock or some shark substrate in its tank causing a wound to its fin or tail.

You will usually be able to see a wound that is large enough to cause your bala shark to swim upside down though and in most cases, with time the fish will heal with no long term problems.

Unsuitable Water Parameters!

If your bala shark’s tank isn’t set up correctly with the correct water parameters then it can cause many different problems for your fish.

This can irritate your fish and cause it to swim erratically and although it is rare that it will swim upside down, it may do it temporarily.

The cheap water test kits on the market will be able to help you get an idea of any potential water parameter problems that your tank is having and allow you to correct the issue once you know the problem.

Issues with Water Flow!

If your tank has a high water flow rate then it may cause problems for a weak, sick, or old bala shark and cause it problems with being able to swim correctly.

This is very rare and will only apply to some tank setups and we doubt that many of our readers will find this is their problem.

In most cases, if your tanks water flow level is causing your bala shark to swim upside down then lowering the water flow will be enough to prevent the issue.