Angelfish Swimming Vertically: 5 Effective Solutions

Disclosure: When you purchase something through my affiliate links, I earn a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Although fish don’t use words to communicate, their actions reveal a lot about them.

I’ve often observed my angelfish swimming vertically, which initially caused me some worry.

After dedicating quite some time to researching and understanding this behavior, I’ve found successful solutions.

Now, I’m thrilled to pass on what I’ve learned to fellow enthusiasts.

So, let’s jump into the details.

Why Is My Angelfish Swimming Vertically?

Several reasons might have caused your angelfish to swim up and down in a vertical manner:

1. Swim Bladder Disease

This ailment affects the swim bladder, causing buoyancy issues and resulting in vertical swimming.

  • Abnormal Swimming Patterns: Fish may swim with their nose up or down and show a loss of equilibrium due to the affected swim bladder.
  • Contributing Factors: Causes include overfeeding, poor water quality, and rapid consumption of foods that expand in the stomach.
  • Physical Symptoms: Symptoms like bloating, reduced appetite, and difficulty in maintaining normal swimming posture are common.

Also Read: Angelfish Swim Bladder Disorder

2. Water Quality Issues

Subpar water conditions can lead to stress and health problems in angelfish, manifesting as vertical swimming.

  • Signs of Poor Quality: Indicators include lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal swimming.
  • Toxicity Levels: Elevated ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates can stress the fish, causing swim bladder issues and vertical swimming.
  • Environmental Stressors: Fluctuating pH, inappropriate hardness, and temperature inconsistencies can lead to vertical swimming behaviors.

3. Parasitic Infections

Parasites can severely impact the health of angelfish, leading to issues like vertical swimming.

  • Direct Impact: Parasites can physically damage internal organs like the swim bladder, causing abnormal swimming postures.
  • Secondary Symptoms: Infected fish may exhibit lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal swimming patterns, including swimming with the nose down.
  • Common Parasites: Parasites like flukes and worms can infect the swim bladder, leading to buoyancy issues and vertical swimming.

Also Read: Why Is My Angelfish Fat

4. Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections in angelfish can disrupt their internal organ functions, notably impacting the swim bladder.

This often leads to vertical swimming, as the fish struggle with buoyancy control.

  • Internal Organ Damage: Bacteria can harm organs like the swim bladder, causing issues with buoyancy and resulting in vertical swimming.
  • Symptoms of Infection: Signs include erratic swimming, bloating, or the presence of ulcers, all hinting at a bacterial infection affecting swimming behavior.
  • Impact on Behavior: Infected angelfish may show changes in behavior, like lethargy or difficulty in maintaining normal posture.

5. Physical Injury or Deformities

Physical injuries or congenital deformities in angelfish can directly affect their swimming mechanics. This can manifest as vertical swimming as the fish struggle to maintain balance.

  • Effect of Injuries: Injuries to the spine or swim bladder can lead to abnormal swimming postures, including swimming with the nose up.
  • Deformity Consequences: Congenital deformities, especially affecting the swim bladder or spine, often result in difficulty maintaining buoyancy and equilibrium.
  • Behavioral Changes: Fish with physical impairments may exhibit altered swimming behaviors, such as favoring vertical positions.

Treating Angelfish Swimming Up And Down

The way to treat an angelfish that’s swimming vertically depends on what’s causing it. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Addressing Swim Bladder Disorder

This condition is often responsible for angelfish swimming abnormally. Correct diagnosis and treatment are key to helping your fish regain its natural swimming behavior.

  • Dietary Adjustments: Feeding cooked, shelled peas helps clear the digestive tract; replace one regular feeding with peas once a week to aid digestion.
  • Water Temperature Regulation: Maintain aquarium water at a stable 78-80°F; consistent temperatures reduce stress and assist in swim bladder function.
  • Reduced Feeding Frequency: Limit feeding to once daily, ensuring portions are no larger than what your angelfish can consume in three minutes.
  • Use of Epsom Salts: Adding 1-2 tablespoons of Epsom Salt (link to Amazon) per 5 gallons of tank water can reduce swelling and help treat swim bladder disorder.

Also Read: Angelfish Swimming Sideways

2. Improving Water Quality and Habitat Conditions

Maintaining optimal water quality and habitat is vital for the health of your angelfish, especially to prevent and treat vertical swimming issues.

  • Regular Water Changes: Perform 20-25% water changes weekly to keep the water clean and free from harmful toxins, maintaining a healthy environment.
  • Adequate Filtration: Use a high-quality filter appropriate for your tank size; it should cycle the entire tank volume at least 3-4 times per hour. I personally use this Fluval C4 Power Filter (link to Amazon), which is extremely effective.
  • Monitoring Water Parameters: Regularly check and maintain ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm, and nitrates below 20 ppm for ideal water conditions.
  • Proper Tank Size and Decor: Ensure your tank is large enough (minimum 20 gallons for a pair of angelfish) and includes hiding places and plants for stress reduction.

3. Treating with Anti-Parasitic Medications

When parasitic infections cause vertical swimming, specific treatments are necessary to address the root cause.

  • Correct Diagnosis: Identify the specific parasite (like flukes or worms) through symptoms or professional advice to choose the right medication.
  • Medication Selection: Use anti-parasitic treatments such as PraziPro (link to Amazon) or Metronidazole, following dosage instructions based on your tank’s volume.
  • Quarantine Infected Fish: If possible, treat infected fish in a separate quarantine tank to prevent the spread of parasites to other tank mates.
  • Post-Treatment Care: After treatment, continue monitoring your fish for any signs of recurrence and maintain excellent water quality to prevent future infections.

4. Administering Antibiotics for Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections can cause buoyancy issues in angelfish, leading to vertical swimming. Treating these infections with antibiotics can be crucial for their recovery.

  • Identifying the Infection: Look for signs like ulcers, red streaks, or bloating, which indicate a bacterial infection needing antibiotic treatment.
  • Selecting the Right Antibiotic: Use broad-spectrum antibiotics like Maracyn or Tetracycline, following dosages specific to your aquarium’s size and water volume.
  • Isolating Affected Fish: Treat infected angelfish in a separate hospital tank to prevent the spread of bacteria and to monitor their recovery closely.
  • Completing the Treatment Course: Ensure the full course of antibiotics is completed, usually 7-10 days, to effectively eliminate the bacterial infection.

5. Providing Supportive Care for Physical Recovery

Physical injuries or deformities in angelfish require supportive care to aid their recovery and help them regain normal swimming patterns.

  • Creating a Stress-Free Environment: Adjust the tank environment to reduce stress, such as dimming lights and providing hiding places like plants or caves.
  • Maintaining Optimal Water Conditions: Keep the water clean and at a stable temperature (78-80°F) to promote healing and reduce the risk of secondary infections.
  • Gentle Handling: If handling is necessary, do so gently and minimally to avoid additional stress or injury to the recovering fish.
  • Observing and Monitoring: Regularly monitor the fish for improvements in swimming behavior and overall health, adjusting care as needed based on their progress.

Additional Symptoms for Swim Bladder Disorder in Angelfish

Swim Bladder Disorder in angelfish is characterized by more than just abnormal swimming patterns like swimming up and down.

It can manifest through various physical and behavioral changes that are crucial to observe for timely intervention.

  • Loss of Appetite: Affected angelfish often show a decreased interest in food, which can lead to weight loss and weakened immunity, exacerbating the condition.
  • Lethargy: Fish with swim bladder issues may appear unusually inactive, spending excessive time at the bottom or corner of the tank without much movement.
  • Abnormal Posture: The fish might rest at an unusual angle, such as tilted to one side or even upside down, which is a clear sign of swim bladder problems.
  • Difficulty in Righting Itself: When disturbed or attempting to swim, the angelfish may struggle to orient itself correctly, often failing to maintain an upright position.

Swim Bladder Disorder Prognosis

The prognosis for Swim Bladder Disorder in angelfish largely depends on the underlying cause, the promptness of treatment, and the overall health of the fish.

If addressed early and effectively, especially in cases caused by dietary issues or minor infections, recovery rates can be quite high, often above 70%.

However, in cases involving severe infections, chronic conditions, or irreversible physical damage, the prognosis can be significantly lower, sometimes below 30%.

How to Prevent Swim Bladder Disorder in Angelfish

Preventing Swim Bladder Disorder in angelfish involves maintaining optimal tank conditions and proper feeding practices.

These steps are crucial to ensure the overall health and well-being of your angelfish, reducing the risk of developing this condition.

  • Balanced Diet Tip: Offer a mix of flakes, pellets, and fresh foods in moderation, making sure the pieces are small for easy digestion. Consider TetraCichlid Cichlid Flakes (link to Amazon) for a nutritious option.
  • Regular Water Changes: Perform 20-25% water changes weekly to maintain water quality, keeping ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm and nitrates below 20 ppm.
  • Stable Water Temperature: Keep the aquarium temperature stable, ideally between 78-80°F, to prevent stress that can lead to swim bladder issues.
  • Avoid Rapid Feeding: Feed your angelfish slowly to prevent rapid eating, which can cause air swallowing and lead to swim bladder problems.


For quick readers, here’s a short summary:

  • Angelfish swimming vertically can be caused by swim bladder disease, poor water quality, parasitic or bacterial infections, and physical injuries or deformities.
  • Treating vertical swimming in angelfish involves addressing the underlying cause, such as adjusting diet for swim bladder disorder or improving water quality.
  • For parasitic and bacterial infections, specific treatments like anti-parasitic medications or antibiotics are crucial for recovery.
  • Supportive care, including creating a stress-free environment and maintaining optimal water conditions, is essential for angelfish with physical injuries or deformities.
  • Preventing swim bladder disorder in angelfish requires a balanced diet, regular water changes, stable water temperature, and avoiding rapid feeding.