Published January 12, 2013
You may be surprised to hear that constipation and indigestion are problems that can affect your aquarium fish. In fact, these two conditions are not uncommon and, if they are not treated promptly, they can result in serious consequences for your fish. While all fish are prone to developing this condition under the right circumstances, certain species are more susceptible than others. The type and amount of food you feed your fish will also play a significant role in determining whether your fish develop constipation or indigestion. To deal with this problem properly, or to prevent it from happening to your fish, take the time to learn about the causes, side effects and treatment options for constipation and indigestion in aquarium fish.
Two of the species most prone to developing constipation or indigestion are goldfish
and betta fish. In some cases, these conditions result from a poor diet but it could also be the result of overfeeding. Some commercial fish foods are made with low-quality ingredients and a number of fillers that do not provide fish with adequate nutrition and may actually cause digestive issues. Feeding aquarium fish large quantities of rich food like beef heart or live foods can also result in constipation or indigestion. Constipation may also be a symptom of certain aquarium fish diseases
infections – this condition commonly afflicts cichlids and it affects the bodies of infected fish in such a way that they are unable to expel feces. The main cause of constipation and indigestion in aquarium fish, however, is simple – a lack of dietary fiber. If the diet of aquarium fish lacks sufficient dietary fiber, the digestive tract will not function properly and affected fish will be unable to expel waste in a healthy manner.
Dangers and Side Effects
Constipation may not sound like a serious condition but it can actually have devastating consequences for your aquarium fish. In many cases, indigestion leads to the development of a secondary condition called swim bladder disease. This disease is characterized by abnormal swimming behaviors
and difficulty staying submerged. Constipation may also result in swelling of the abdomen and loss of appetite. In severe cases of constipation and swelling, the scales of the fish may be raised or might stick out from the body. Not only can this condition affect the ability of aquarium fish to swim properly, but it can also lead to dietary issues if the fish are unable to expel waste and eat. Fish affected by this condition may also exhibit lethargy or listlessness.
The most basic treatment for constipation is to increase the dietary fiber intake of the affected fish. The easiest way to do this is to introduce some vegetable matter into the diet by offering fresh greens. In the wild, both herbivorous and omnivorous species of fish consume algae and decaying plant matter as part of their regular diet – predatory species of fish receive fiber through the stomach contents of their prey. A common way to treat indigestion and constipation in fish is to offer them blanched peas – the fiber content in peas is high enough that it acts as a laxative in fish, helping them to expel accumulated waste. Other vegetables you might try include lettuce, spinach, cucumber, zucchini and carrots – some fish may even enjoy sweet potato. When treating your fish for constipation it is important that you stop feeding them regular food – only offer the peas or other vegetable matter you have chosen until the condition is resolved. Another treatment option is to dose the tank with Epsom salt. Epsom salt acts as a mild muscle relaxant in fish and a dosage of 1 to 3 teaspoons per 5 gallons of tank volume can be effective in helping to treat constipation in aquarium fish.
Tips for Prevention
Because most commercial flake foods and pellets are very low in fiber content it is important that you supplement the diet of your aquarium fish with vegetable matter to prevent indigestion and constipation. A healthy diet for aquarium fish will include a staple diet of commercial flakes or pellets to meet the basic nutritional needs
of the fish but it should be supplemented with a variety of live, frozen and freeze-dried foods in addition to some fresh vegetable matter or algae flakes. It is especially important to include plenty of vegetable matter in the diets of herbivorous species of fish – these species will not thrive on a diet of commercial flakes or pellets alone. In addition to diet, exercise plays a key role in preventing constipation. Certain species of fish like betta fish that are kept in close confines are particularly prone to developing this condition.
If you want to keep your fish happy and healthy it is important to feed them a well-balanced diet. Take the time to select a high-quality staple diet of commercial flakes or pellets for your aquarium fish but do not neglect to supplement that diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and algae wafers.