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Goldfish Constipation & Indigestion: Signs & Treatment

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By Lindsey Stanton

Goldfish In Tank

Goldfish are known to be particularly prone to constipation and indigestion, and more severe cases can cause swim bladder issues to appear (they lose control of their buoyancy in the water and swim either upside down/sideways or bottom sit often).

The main causes of indigestion and constipation in goldfish is caused by a diet that is lacking valuable fiber and has high amounts of animal-based protein in the food, which is easily avoided by a balanced diet. There are a variety of reasons a goldfish can develop swim bladder issues, and luckily, these issues caused by indigestion or constipation can most likely be helped with fiber rich foods slowly being introduced into your goldfish’s current staple diet.aquarium plant divider

Constipation & Indigestion in Goldfish

Constipation and/or indigestion happens when the goldfish cannot pass its waste efficiently, and the waste build up will put extra pressure on the swim bladder organ. Keep in mind that the more rounder fancy varieties already have compressed organs, making it more severe for fancy goldfish. The slim bodied varieties seem to have a less chance of developing constipation or digestive problems.

Sick goldfish lying _mrk3PHOTO_Shutterstock
Credit: mrk3PHOTO, Shutterstock


Signs of Constipation & Indigestion in Goldfish

Signs of constipation or indigestion is easily diagnosed at home by monitoring your goldfish’s behavior. You will be able to establish what is normal and healthy. Behavior that is off can be a sign of an underlying illness.

Credit: Ammit Jack, Shutterstock
Most symptoms of constipation or indigestion include:
  • Buoyancy issues from a swim bladder issue
  • Pooping less
  • Stringy poop
  • Poop containing air bubbles
  • Bottom sitting
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Floating, sinking, or swimming lopsided and uncontrollably
  • Scale color fading
  • Clamped fins
  • Inactivity

aquarium plant divider

Treatment for Constipation & Indigestion

Treatments generally include a change to your goldfish’s diet – to one higher in fiber and lower in protein, as well as frequent Epsom salt baths (muscle relaxant). It is ideal to feed high fibrous vegetables such as deshelled peas, cucumber, boiled and softened lettuce, to name a few. The fish should be fasted (do not feed the main diet) for 3 days and bathed 3 times a day in an Epsom salt bath. Treatment should begin as soon as you notice most of the above symptoms.

goldfish medicine_sarintra chimphoolsuk_shutterstock
Credit: sarintra chimphoolsuk, Shutterstock

Feed the peas or other goldfish safe high fibrous vegetables for the 3 days, in appropriate proportion to your goldfish’s size. Feed a mix of vegetables through those days, especially peas, which seem to be quite popular among goldfish keepers when treating constipation or indigestion. If you are unsure of how to treat your goldfish’s symptoms, here’s a simple yet effective treatment plan.

  • Fast your goldfish for 3 days
  • Feed fibrous vegetables twice a day
  • Place the goldfish in a bare bottom tank away from the others unless they show symptoms as well
  • Add the recommended dosage of Epsom salt per your aquarium or quarantine tank’s gallon or liters volume
  • Feed deshelled peas in the morning and cucumber and peas in the evening
  • Gradually raise the water temperature in the tank
  • Change the diet to one higher in protein and lower in protein

As common as indigestion and constipation is in goldfish, fortunately, if treated immediately and effectively, it can be managed with a good outcome. Of course, the above is not a cure for all, it does help goldfish with digestion issues.

Fancy goldfish especially need high-fiber diets and some peas every now and then as a treat, even if your goldfish is not displaying any symptoms of indigestion or constipation. Make sure to treat as soon as you notice symptoms, as the earlier you treat these problems, the better the outcome will be. Your goldfish may not show symptoms of swim bladder issues, which is quite common if treatment is not thorough. Feeding a balanced diet rich in vegetable-based fiber can generally avoid digestive issues in the long run.

If you suspect your fish is sick and want to ensure you provide the right treatment, we recommend that you check out our best-selling and comprehensive book The Truth About Goldfish on Amazon today.

The Truth About Goldfish New Edition

It has entire chapters dedicated to in-depth diagnoses, treatment options, a treatment index, and a list of everything in our fishkeeping medicine cabinet, natural and commercial (and more!)

Featured image credit: Suthiporn Hanchana, Shutterstock

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