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How To Help A Fish With A Broken Back!

As the number of people getting involved in the fish keeping hobby continues to sky rocket, the number of questions that we see being asked from the fish keeping community also continues to increase with each month that goes by.

We have already answered a large number of questions from the community that we see about the various health problems about fish but one of the more common ones that we have seen recently is about having a fish with a broken back.

This often takes people by surprise with some people even thinking that fish dont have bones! They do, and just like any other animal, fish are able to break their bones, including their back.

There are a number of different reasons that fish may break their back so we decided to publish a dedicated article going over the subject as most of the advice that we see from the community on social media is far from accurate.

Another thing is that we usually see three slightly different questions about having a fish in your aquarium with a broken back.

We have decided to answer them all in this article in the hope of being able to answer all three questions in a single space rather than our readers having to go off and check different articles for the answers for all three questions.

Why Does My Fish’s Back Look Broken?

If the back of your fish looks broken then there is a good chance that its back is broken. This can be the result of an injury as a fry, a fight with its tank mates, one of its tank mates trying to eat a smaller fish and breaking its back or due to a tuberculosis breakout in your tank.

In some very rare situations, issues with swollen swim bladders can cause issues with the back of a fish too.

Depending on the condition, the back of your fish and how it tries to move will change, especially if the broken back is due to the fish being attacked by another fish or due to the fish having been injured as a fry.

Some people will book a video call with a veterinarian to have them assess to fish that appears to have a broken back but unfortinatley, there really is little to nothing that you are able to do for some of the conditions.

Another very common thing that we see time and time again is for people new to fish keeping misidentifying what their fish should actually look like as adults.

Mollies are without a doube the most common example of this due to many people getting normal mollies with a of balloon mollie mixed in.

The photograph below is of a balloon mollie and as you can see, its back can look broken or damaged but this is just how the fish should look and there are multiple species of fish that have variants of the species like this with it being a very common mistake for people to make.

“IMG_0754” by kndynt2099 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Can A Fish Heal From Broken Back?

A fish may be able to heal from a broken back depending on what is causing the issue but it does tend to be rare. If your fish is having an issue with swim bladder disease causing its body and back to swell up then you can potentially treat the issue and heal your fish.

Although dropsy does not usually break the back of your fish, the swelling can make it look like the fish has issues with its back but once you treat the dropsy it should go back to normal.

Good old Melafix is our default recommendation for any fish that have dropsy and it can treat the condition rapidly.

There are various No products found. that you are able to use to treat swim bladder disease in your fish if you suspect that this is what is causing the issue.

If your fish has a broken back due to injury, being attacked by a larger fish or due to tuberculosis then this really is difficult to treat and people often opt to euthanize the fish.

Any fish with a broken back will have a lower quality of life than a healthy fish and depending on the level of the injury to the back of the fish, it may not even be able to move at all.

How To Help A Fish With A Broken Back!

In some situations, you may actually be able to help your fish that has a broken back but this will come down to exactly what is wrong with the fish.

Some infections in fish such as dropsy and severe swim bladder disease are able to make a fish look as though its backs broken when it is simply due to swelling with both conditions being treatable if you catch them early.

If your fish does have dropsy then it definitely needs to be quarantined as dropsy can quickly spread to the other fish in your tank.

Some people will still treat their normal tank with their health fish in with something like Melafix to try and treat any early onset dropsy in their other fish.

The same can also be said for swim bladder disease but dropsy is much easier to accidentally spread to your other fish.

If your fish is injured or has had issues with tuberculosis then there really is not much that you are able to do to help it.

This is why many fish keepers will euthanize their fish in these situations as the fish will have a low quality of life and choosing to euthanize the fish can be the kinder path to take.


That brings our article going over how to treat a fish with a broken back to an end. We hope that we have been able to help our readers better understand the various causes of broken backs in fish as well as hope some backs may appear to be broken when in actual fact they are totally fine and just the way the fish is meant to look due to selective breeding exagirating some features.