Skip to Content

Why Your Tiger Barb Is Swimming Upside Down And How To Stop It!

Due to their low price, low maintenance requirements, and great looking patterns and colors, tiger barbs are seeing a surge in their popularity right now within the fish keeping community.

Although they do tend to be a relatively beginner friendly fish, we do commonly see people reaching out and asking questions about why their tiger barb is swimming upside down in their aquarium.

The most common cause of a tiger barb consistently swimming upside down in an aquarium is due to the fish having swim bladder disease.

In particularly bad cases, dropsy can also cause a tiger barb to swim upside down and lose control of is buoyancy but in most cases, the issue will be due to swim bladder disease.

Unlike most commonly kept schooling fish in an aquarium, tiger barbs can be aggressive both to each other and to their non-tiger barb tank mates.

If fights break out, injury can cause problems with the tiger barb being able to swim correctly sometimes causing the fish to swim upside down or on its side.

Is It Normal For A Tiger Barb To Swim Upside Down?

It is not normal for a tiger barb to swim upside down consistently and the behavior is almost always a sign of a potentially serious problem with the fish.

In some cases, a tiger barb may go upside down and swim around with its head facing the substrate when foraging for food but this is usually only for a couple of seconds at a time.

When the tiger barb is swimming upside down when looking for food, you can tell that the upside down swimming is intentional in the fish since it will go from one side of the aquarium to the other in a consistent pattern and often only spend a couple of seconds at each spot.

If your tiger barb is constantly swimming upside down, this is not intentional behavior and is almost always due to an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

When a tiger barb is swimming upside down due to an issue it will seem as though the fish has minimal control over its movement.

If you have even slight water flow in the tank you may find that the fish will often move with the tanks water flow than in a deliberate direction that the tiger barb chooses.

Why Is My Tiger Barb Swimming Upside Down?

The most common reason that your tiger barb will be swimming upside down is due to the fish suffering from swim bladder disease. Less common causes include very bad cases of dropsy or a serious injury to the fish that limits its ability to swim but this does tend to be rare.

If your tiger barb is swimming upside down then it is usually safe to presume that the fish is suffering from swim bladder disease due to the odds of that being the issue being so high.

You are able to confirm that the problem is not dropsy if your tiger barb has not bloated up and that its not an injury if there is no visible injury to the fish.

Other symptoms of swim bladder disease in tiger barbs include but are not limited to:

  • The tiger barb being unable to swim properly and often appearing uncoordinated.
  • The tiger barb constantly trying to swim near the surface of the water gasping for air.
  • The tiger barb having a bloated appearance.

If you notice any of these other symptoms in your tiger barb as well as it swimming upside down, then there is a strong chance that your tiger barb has swim bladder disease and you should seek out medical treatment for the fish as soon as possible.

What Causes Swim Bladder Disease In Tiger Barbs?

The most common cause of swim bladder disease in tiger barbs is due to over feeding the fish resulting in a number of problems in the digestive system of the fish that eventually ends up turning into swim bladder disease.

A tiger barb eating too fast or too much in a short period of time can also cause the same problems.

There are some types of food that can also increase the chance of a tiger barb getting swim bladder disease too. For example, live foods that are high in fat content have been linked to swim bladder disease due to the tiger barb not being able to properly digest the food.

This is due to the fat macronutrient containing nine calories per gram where as protein and carbohydrates only contain four calories per gram. The bonds in fat are also stronger further increasing the time required for your tiger barb to digest fatty foods in a safe timeframe.

How Can I Treat A Tiger Barb That Is Swimming Upside Down?

There are a number of commercial treatments on the market that are able to help you treat swim bladder disease in your tiger barb. In particularly bad cases, you may need to purchase a specialist treatment from a veterinarian’s office though to help treat your tiger barb as quickly as possible.

Treating swim bladder disease with “the pea treatment” is commonly recommended on social media and although it can work, it is not as efficient as some people say and there is even confusion as to why it works.

Some people say that peas naturally have something in them to help treat swim bladder disease where as others say the treatment works due to the pea sinking forcing your tiger barb to dive to the bottom of the tank to get the pea to help force the excess gas out of the fish.

One thing that we do know is that the pea treatment can work but it should not be relied upon. It really is as simple as it sounds, you just feed your tiger barb with swim bladder disease one or two peas per day to help treat the swim bladder disease in the fish.

Again though, this is not as effective as some people on social media suggest it may be.

Maintaining optimal water parameters in your tiger barb tank is also important when it comes to preventing swim bladder disease as well as treating it.

This means that you should regularly check and if necessary change the water in your tiger barb tank to make sure that the water conditions are ideal for tiger barbs.

You should also consider changing the diet of your tiger barb to help prevent the swim bladder disease getting any worse.

This means avoiding high fat foods and instead feeding your tiger barb a diet that consists mostly of plant based proteins as these have been shown to be easier for tiger barbs to digest.

You should also soak any pellets or flakes that you feed your tiger barb in water for at least five minutes before feeding them to the fish.

It is commonly recommended that you avoid most flake and pellet based foods when treating a tiger barb for swim bladder disease though.

Should I Quarantine A Tiger Barb That Is Swimming Upside Down?

Swimbladder infections are not contagious, so there is no need to quarantine your tiger barb. However, if you have more than one tiger barb in your tank, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on the other fish to see if they develop any symptoms of swim bladder disease due to eating the same diet as the affected fish.

If you do have a community tank with multiple species of fish then you may want to quarantine the affected tiger barb as best you can to prevent the other fish from being aggressive to it until it recovers.

As we touched on earlier in the article, tiger barbs can be aggressive and some other fish in the tank may want some payback.

Other tiger barbs may also attack the sick tiger barb as they see it as being weak and easy prey. If you do have tiger barbs that are known to be bullies in your tank then you may want to quarantine the sick tiger barb until it recovers to prevent any further bullying from taking place.