10 Reasons You Have A Bloated Gourami And How To Treat It!

Gouramis, popular and colorful freshwater fish, can sometimes experience bloating. Bloating in gouramis may not seem like a serious issue at first, but it can lead to discomfort and potential health risks for these beautiful aquatic pets.

Bloated gouramis can result from a range of issues, including overfeeding, constipation, swim bladder disease, internal parasites, and poor water conditions.

Addressing these potential causes in a timely manner can ensure the well-being of the fish and prevent further complications. In this article, we will explore the different reasons behind bloated gouramis, various quarantine measures, and recommendations to maintain proper health for these elegant and striking fish inhabitants.

Key Takeaways

  • Addressing bloating in gouramis involves understanding its various causes, such as overfeeding or swim bladder disease.
  • Quarantine measures and maintaining proper water conditions are crucial in preventing and treating bloating in gouramis.
  • Proper diet and care can prevent future instances of bloating, ensuring the well-being of these popular freshwater fish.

Correctly Recognizing A Bloated Gourami

bloated gourami

Many people new to keeping gourami fish in their tanks misdiagnose bloating in their fish resulting in a whole lot of worry for no reason. Although we do usually recommend that beginners be over cautions when keeping a new species in their tanks, trying to treat a non-existent problem usually causes other problems in your fish and is best avoided.

Due to this, we want to quickly go over some common symptoms of bloated gourami fish to help you better confirm the problem before you start making changes or dosing treatments.

An infographic going over the Symptoms Of A Bloated Gourami

Physical Symptoms

Recognizing a bloated gourami is crucial to promptly addressing the issue and implementing the appropriate treatment. A bloated belly is the most visible symptom, and may indicate conditions such as constipation, swim bladder disease, or internal parasites. Other physical signs to observe are:

  • Scales sticking out, giving the fish a pinecone-like appearance
  • Discolored or swollen areas around the belly
  • Difficulty or modifications in swimming patterns

Behavioral Changes

Aside from physical symptoms, it’s important to pay attention to changes in your gourami’s behavior. A bloated gourami could display the following behavioral changes:

  • Lethargy, with the fish spending more time at rest or hiding in the aquarium
  • Floating near the surface or sinking to the bottom, indicating potential swim bladder issues
  • Loss of appetite or refusal to eat

By carefully observing your gourami and noting any physical symptoms or behavioral changes, you will be better equipped to identify and address any potential health concerns promptly and effectively.

Quarantine Measures

A Gourami in a tank relaxing

If possible, you should try to place your bloated gourami in a separate quarantine tank as soon as you confirm the fish has a problem. This can help prevent the problem from spreading to other fish in the tank while also making it easier to treat certain problems with the bloated fish.

Some people do choose to avoid quarantining their bloated gourami in favour of treating their full tank for the problem. This is usually in the case of infections as it allows you to treat all of the gourami in your tank at once including those that may be infected but not currently showing symptoms.

As with most things within aquarium keeping, there is definitely a trade off between choosing to quarantine a fish or not but we usually prefer to quarantine an infected fish. If other fish in the tank start to show signs of bloat after the initial fish is quarantines then and only then will we administer tank wide treatments.

It is often beneficial to Quarantine a bloated gourami

Here are some key points to consider when deciding if you should quarantine your bloated gourami or not:

  1. Preventing Disease Spread: Bloat in Gourami can be a sign of an underlying disease or parasitic infection that might be contagious. If the condition is infectious, it can rapidly spread to other fish in the community tank. Quarantining the affected fish helps contain the disease within that specific individual, reducing the risk to the other inhabitants.
  2. Specialized Care: Quarantine provides an environment where specialized care and treatment can be administered without affecting other fish. This includes adjusting water parameters, administering medications, or altering food that might be inappropriate or harmful to the other fish in the community tank.
  3. Monitoring the Affected Fish: By isolating the bloated Gourami, you can closely observe its behavior and symptoms. This observation helps in understanding the root cause of the problem and monitoring the progress of any treatment. In a community tank, the symptoms might be harder to track, and the affected fish might be stressed by competition or aggression from other tankmates.
  4. Stress Reduction: Community tanks can be stressful for a sick fish. Other fish might bully or compete with the affected Gourami, aggravating its condition. Quarantine ensures a peaceful environment where the fish can recover without additional stress.
  5. Avoiding Medication Impact on Other Fish: Some treatments might require medication that could be harmful or unnecessary for other fish in the community tank. Quarantine allows targeted treatment without exposing the entire community to potential side effects.
  6. Easier Water Quality Control: A sick fish might require specific water parameters different from those in the community tank. Quarantining the affected Gourami makes it easier to tailor the water quality to its specific needs without disturbing the other fish.
  7. Ethical Consideration: Ensuring that a sick fish is properly cared for and not left to suffer in a community environment is a humane and ethical obligation for aquarium keepers.

Specific Gourami Species And Bloating

Two healthy Gourami in a community tank

There are some species specific causes of bloating in gourami that are often more common within the effected species than the generic causes of bloating in gourami. Due to this, we want to quickly touch on these as it can help save a large amount of time and effort.

Dwarf Gouramis

A Dwarf Gourami recovering from bloat

Dwarf Gouramis (Colisa lalia) are known to be susceptible to bloating. One species specific cause of bloating in Dwarf Gouramis is the Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus, which affects this species specifically.

General symptoms of the iridovirus include bloating, color loss, and difficulty swimming but it also includes specific symptoms such as lesions on the body and excessive abdominal swelling.

Unfortunately, once a gourami becomes symptomatic with Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus the survival chances of the fish drop to zero. There are currently no known cures for the problem and some fish keepers prefer to euthanize their bloated dwarf gourami that have the condition.

Banded Gouramis

A Banded Gourami in its tank

Some breeding lines of Banded Gouramis (Trichogaster fasciata) can be far more prone to developing swim bladder disease than other types of gourami.

Although the exact reason for this is unknown, some fish keepers theorise that it is due to inbreeding or poor breeding pairs resulting in the weakness in the fish.

Swim bladder disease is a common cause of bloating in all types of gourami but if your bloated gourami is a Banded Gourami then we would recommend you look for additional symptoms of swim bladder disease before checking for anything else.

An infographic going over common causes of bloating in Gourami fish


A recovered bloated gourami

Overfeeding is a common reason for bloated gourami. Gourami fish, particularly the dwarf variety, are known to be voracious eaters and can easily overeat if given the opportunity with bloating/weight gain being one of the more commonly displayed symptoms of this problem.

When feeding gourami fish, it is crucial to provide a diet that consists of a variety of quality flake foods, pellets, and live or frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms.

To prevent overeating, feed them small amounts of food at regular intervals, ideally two to three times per day. Observe how long it takes for the fish to consume the food – if it takes more than five minutes, it is likely that too much food has been provided.

Overfeeding can cause weight gain and bloating in gourami

A helpful practice to avoid overfeeding is the use of timers or automatic feeders, which can precisely control portions and prevent overeating.

Additionally, monitor the community dynamics of the fish tank: a dominant fish might overeat and deprive smaller or more submissive fish of their fair share of food. Adjust feeding strategies to ensure that all the fish in the tank have access to food without overfeeding.

Although overfeeding is a common cause of bloating in gourami and other types of fish, it is usually not as threatening as some of the other potential causes featured in this article. This means you usually have the time to test and adjust the amount of food you give to your gourami and deal with the issue before there is any serious risk to your fish.

In most cases, your gourami will lose weight and stop bloating when fed a regular amount of food and return to full health within four to six weeks.


Some healthy gourami in a community tank

Dropsy is a relatively common condition that can affect gourami fish that causing them to have swollen bellies due to fluid retention. This condition is often a symptom of a more severe issue, such as bacterial infections or organ failure.

It is crucial to identify dropsy and provide appropriate treatment to help your gourami recover.

One of the most visible signs of dropsy in gourami fish is a bloated abdomen and scales that stand away from the body. These symptoms indicate a buildup of fluid in the fish’s body cavities. Fish with dropsy may also exhibit lethargy, color loss, and a decreased appetite. It is essential to monitor your gourami closely and take action if you notice any of these symptoms.

Infection can commonly cause bloating in gourami

Initially, it is important to separate the affected fish from the rest of the tank to prevent the potential spread of infection.

To treat dropsy, you can use medications such as Kanaplex and Epsom salt. If you catch the dropsy early enough then a suitable medication such as Kanaplex should be enough to treat the issue and help your gourami return to full health.

Always follow the exact dosing instructions on any treatments that you use when treating dropsy in your gourami. Although Kanaplex is our recomended treatment of choice, there are other medications that contain different amounts of kanamycin that have different dosing instructions.


Constipation can be a common cause of bloating in gourami fish

Bloated gourami can commonly suffer from constipation, which occurs when the fish has difficulty passing waste. This can lead to a buildup of waste material in the body, causing the fish to appear bloated and potentially affecting its overall health.

One cause of constipation in gourami fish is a diet that lacks sufficient fiber. Feeding the fish high-fiber foods can aid digestion and alleviate constipation. A popular remedy for constipated fish is offering them a thawed, deshelled frozen pea, which acts as a natural laxative and helps the fish expel waste.

Constipation is another common problem for gourami fish that can result in them bloating

There are a number of other common household foods that can be used to help treat constipation in your gourami too. In our experience, peas are definitely the best option as they work well and most types of gourami will eat them without issue but smaller gourami may need you to break the peas up for them.

If your gourami often bloat due to constipation then we would highly recommend that you change their diet but more on this later as we have a dedicated section on poor diet.

When dealing with constipated gouramis, it is important to monitor their behavior and physical condition closely. If the fish does not show improvement or if its condition worsens, it may be necessary to consult with an aquatic veterinarian for further advice and possible treatment.

Improper Water Conditions

gourami fish thriving in a community tank

Bloated gouramis can often be attributed to improper water conditions in the aquarium. Maintaining a healthy environment is crucial for the wellbeing of gourami fish, as they are sensitive to changes in water quality.

Firstly, it is essential to monitor the water parameters, such as ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Elevated ammonia levels can lead to various health issues, including bloating and dropsy. Regular water testing and appropriate water changes are vital to prevent such issues.

Secondly, the water temperature plays a significant role in the overall health of gouramis. These tropical fish usually thrive in water temperatures between 72°F and 83°F.

When temperatures fluctuate or fall outside this range, fish can become stressed, making them more susceptible to illness, including bloating. To maintain stable temperatures, use a reliable heater and monitor the water temperature regularly.

Poor water parameters can cause bloating in gourami

Lastly, maintaining a clean and well-filtered aquarium is paramount. Gouramis can be exposed to harmful bacteria and parasites, especially when water quality is poor.

Some parasites can cause bloating in dwarf gouramis, and anti-parasite medication can help treat the issue. Regular tank cleaning and proper filtration can prevent such problems.

In summary, improper water conditions can significantly impact the health of gourami fish and lead to bloating. To ensure the wellbeing of gouramis, it is essential to maintain clean water, stable temperatures, and proper water parameters.

Swim Bladder Disease

A gourami swimming in its tank

Swim bladder disease is a common issue affecting gourami fish, often causing them to appear bloated. The swim bladder is a gas-filled internal organ that plays a crucial role in maintaining a fish’s buoyancy.

When the swim bladder malfunctions or becomes damaged, the fish may struggle to maintain an upright position, often floating upside-down or sinking to the bottom of the tank.

There are various reasons why a gourami fish could develop swim bladder problems. Most commonly, these issues stem from overfeeding, which leads to constipation and pressure on the swim bladder.

Feeding the fish a diet rich in fiber, such as blanched peas, can help alleviate constipation and prevent future swim bladder problems. Additionally, regulating the portions and frequency of feedings can prevent overeating and maintain a healthier swim bladder.

Swim Bladder Disease can cause your gourami to bloat

Another cause of swim bladder disease might be a bacterial infection. In such cases, it is essential to closely monitor the water quality in the tank and perform regular water changes to reduce the chances of infections. Identifying and treating infections early can help the fish recover and regain normal swim bladder function.

Stress and poor environmental conditions can also contribute to swim bladder issues in gourami fish. Ensuring that the aquarium is set up with appropriate decorations, hiding spots, and compatible tank mates will help minimize the stress levels for the fish and promote their overall well-being.

Treating swim bladder disease in your gourami can be challanging, especially if the condition has had time to develop but is our recommended process for treating a gourami with swim bladder disease:

  1. Quarantine the Affected Fish: If you haven’t already done so, move the affected fish to a separate quarantine tank. This allows for easier observation and specialized treatment without affecting other fish.
  2. Adjust the Water Quality: Maintain optimal water conditions by ensuring proper pH, temperature, and ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels. Clean, well-oxygenated water can support recovery.
  3. Examine the Diet: Overfeeding or feeding inappropriate foods can lead to swim bladder issues. Consider fasting the fish for a day or two and then introduce a high-fiber diet. Peas that have been skinned, boiled, and cooled can be a good option. They help in clearing any potential blockages in the digestive system.
  4. Use the Right Medication if Needed: If a bacterial infection is suspected to be the underlying cause, a broad-spectrum antibiotic that’s safe for fish might be required. Consult with a veterinarian or a knowledgeable pet store employee to choose the right medication.
  5. Reduce Stress: Minimize stress by keeping the lighting low and maintaining a quiet environment around the quarantine tank.
  6. Add Epsom Salt: In some cases, adding Epsom salt (Magnesium sulfate) can be beneficial. It can help reduce swelling. Make sure to follow the instructions or consult with an expert for the proper dosage.
  7. Observe and Monitor: Keep a close eye on the fish’s behavior, eating habits, and overall appearance. Look for any signs of improvement or deterioration.

Depending on the severity of the condition, swim bladder disease can take anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks to treat in gourami. If the condition has been able to develop then there is also a moderate to high chance that the fish will perish even if you do everything right in your treatment plan too.

Internal Parasites

Internal Parasites can often be a leading cause of bloating in gourami fish

Dwarf gouramis can sometimes develop a bloated appearance due to internal parasites. These parasites often attach themselves to the digestive tract and can cause a variety of symptoms. A fish which is suffering from internal parasites may become pale, have white or clear stringy feces, and may also exhibit a lack of appetite.

Certain types of internal parasites can also be seen in the poop of your gourami helping you confirm the problem.

Internal parasites can be introduced into an aquarium through contaminated water, live food or even new fish added to the tank. It is crucial to properly quarantine new fish before adding them to the main tank and to maintain good water quality and filtration in order to reduce the risk of parasite infestation.

There are several types of internal parasites that can affect gouramis, including worms, protozoa, and microsporidia. These parasites can not only lead to bloating but may also cause other health issues, such as swim bladder issues, lethargy, and potentially death if left untreated.

Internal parasites can cause a number of problems for gourami including bloating

To treat internal parasites in gouramis, it is recommended to utilize an anti-parasitic medication specifically for fish. Most medications are added directly to the water in the aquarium, allowing the fish to ingest the treatment. It is typically recommended to treat the entire tank, not just the infected fish, as the parasites may have already spread through the water, affecting other inhabitants.

During the treatment process, it is important to monitor the water parameters closely and maintain a clean environment for the fish. Proper tank maintenance, such as regular water changes, proper filtration and testing the water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, can help prevent future parasite infestations and keep your gouramis healthy.

Here are some of the more popular medications for treating various types of internal parasites in gourami. Many of the anti-parasitic treatments for fish on the market contain two or more of these ingredients to help you get the best possible results.

IngredientParasites TreatedUsage Notes
PraziquantelFlukes, tapeworms, etc.Often used in both freshwater and saltwater tanks; dose as per instructions on the product or consult with an expert
FenbendazoleVarious wormsOften administered through food; follow guidelines or consult with a professional
LevamisoleNematodes, wormsCan be used in both food and water; follow the instructions or seek professional guidance
PiperazineRoundwormsFollow the specific instructions for use with fish; can be used in food or water
FormalinProtozoans, flukes, etc.Highly effective but toxic; handle with care and follow instructions precisely

Poor Diet

Poor Diet can sometimes cause bloating in a gourami

A poor diet can contribute significantly to bloating in gourami fish. Gouramis are sensitive to the types of foods they consume, and an unsuitable diet may lead to digestive issues, including constipation and excess gas production.

In the wild, most gouramis are omnivores, feeding on both plant and animal matter. Their diet primarily consists of small insects, crustaceans, and plant materials, such as algae and detritus.

When kept in an aquarium, it is crucial to replicate this balanced diet to prevent bloating and maintain their overall health.

When feeding gouramis, it is essential to incorporate a variety of high-quality, nutrient-rich foods to ensure they receive the necessary vitamins and minerals. Opt for a mixture of high-quality flake or pellet foods, live and freeze-dried food, and fresh vegetables.

Some suitable food options for gouramis to help prevent bloating

We usually like to include a mixture of the following foods to help keep the diets of our gouramis as well rounded as possible.

Commercial Foods

  1. Flake Foods: Specially formulated for tropical fish, including protein and plant matter.
  2. Pellet Foods: Available in different sizes to match the fish’s mouth; good for providing essential nutrients.
  3. Freeze-Dried Foods: Such as brine shrimp or bloodworms; provide good nutrition and can be used for treats.

Live Foods

  1. Brine Shrimp: Excellent for protein; can be fed live or frozen.
  2. Bloodworms: Good for occasional feeding, offering protein.
  3. Daphnia: Great for smaller gouramis; provides essential nutrients.
  4. Tubifex Worms: Nutritious but should be fed sparingly as they can be fatty.

Frozen Foods

  1. Frozen Brine Shrimp: Convenient and readily accepted by gouramis.
  2. Frozen Bloodworms: Good protein source; best fed in moderation.

Vegetables and Plant Matter

  1. Lettuce: Softened by boiling and then cooled; provides necessary fiber.
  2. Cucumber: A thinly sliced piece can be an occasional treat.
  3. Peas: Skinned, boiled, and cooled; great for fiber and helping with digestion.
  4. Algae Wafers: For those gouramis that enjoy munching on algae.
  5. Zucchini: Softened and sliced; a nutritious vegetable option.
  6. Spirulina Flakes: Algae-based and rich in vitamins and minerals.


  1. Fruit: Occasional treats like banana or apple slices can be offered.
  2. Insect Larvae: Such as mosquito larvae, providing natural protein.

Please note that some types of gouramis prefer plant-based food and others prefer insect-based food but this is rare and most types of gouramis are omnivore and will happily eat both.

In conclusion, offering a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet for gouramis can prevent bloating caused by an unsuitable diet. By mimicking their natural feeding habits in the wild and being mindful of portion sizes, gourami owners can better maintain their fish’s health and avoid digestive complications.

Tumors And Cysts

A gourami in a tank after recovering from bloating

Gouramis, like other fish, can suffer from the development of tumors and cysts that may lead to a bloated appearance. Tumors are abnormal growths that can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), while cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can develop in various parts of a fish’s body.

There are a wide range of different types of cysts and tumors that can form on your gourami and bloat the fish up. In most cases, it will be better to seek specific advice from a professional in your local are who is able to inspect the fish and offer better advice.

Only a small number of cysts and tumors are treatable in fish but thankfully, many fish are able to live out their lives with minimal discomfort if they have certain types of cysts or tumors on their body that are untreatable. In some cases it may be better to have your gourami euthanized though but without being able to see the fish in question, it is difficult to offer any further advice.

Kidney Disorders

Some gourami fish recovering in a quarantine tank

Kidney disorders can be a potential cause of bloating in gourami fish, although they are not as common as other factors such as poor diet, internal parasites, and swim bladder disease. Understanding the role of kidneys in a fish’s body will help identify potential issues.

The function of fish kidneys is primarily to filter the blood, help maintain water balance, and remove waste through the production of urine. Inflammation of the tiny filters in the kidneys, known as glomerulonephritis, can lead to decreased filtration and the accumulation of waste and excess fluid in the fish’s body.

Symptoms of kidney disorders in gourami may include bloating, lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty swimming.

As mentioned, these symptoms are similar to other causes of bloating in gourami, and it’s essential to consider other possibilities before determining that kidney issues are the problem. A distended abdomen due to kidney inflammation may not be as severe as the appearance of a severely bloated gourami with some other common causes.

To help prevent kidney-related issues in gourami, ensure that you maintain optimal water quality by regularly testing and adjusting various parameters, such as temperature, pH, and ammonia levels. A well-maintained aquarium environment supports healthy kidney function and minimizes stress on the fish’s body.

If you suspect your gourami has a kidney disorder, consult with a veterinarian specializing in aquatic animals to determine the appropriate treatment plan.

The course of action may involve medications, water adjustments, or even dietary changes depending on the severity and specific diagnosis. Remember that early detection and intervention are crucial in managing kidney disorders and other health problems in gourami. Always monitor your fish’s behavior, appearance, and overall well-being to catch any signs of potential issues and seek help promptly.

Swallowing Air

A gourami fish gulping air from the surface of its tank

Swallowing air is a common issue among gouramis that can lead to bloat. Gouramis are labyrinth fish, meaning they have a unique organ that allows them to breathe atmospheric oxygen. This organ enables them to survive in low-oxygen environments, but it also exposes them to a higher risk of swallowing air.

Gouramis may gulp air at the surface, which can lead to the ingestion of too much air and cause their swim bladders to become overinflated. The overinflation makes it difficult for them to maintain their buoyancy, resulting in a bloated appearance. Swallowing air can also cause internal pressure on other organs, leading to discomfort and stress for the fish.

When feeding gouramis, consider the type of food you’re providing and how it’s presented. Sinking pellets or flakes may encourage gouramis to feed at the bottom of the tank, reducing their need to gulp air at the surface.

In most cases, the excess air in your gourami will eventually work its way out of the fish over a matter of hours and your fish should return to normal without any intervention from yourself.

Preventing Future Bloat In Your Gouramis

There are a number of things you are able to do to reduce the chances of your gourami having problems with bloat again in the future.

To prevent future occurrences of bloating in gouramis, it is essential to maintain a healthy living environment and adopt proper feeding habits. A well-maintained tank provides a suitable environment where gouramis can thrive without the risk of bloating from various causes.

Tank conditions: Ensuring that the tank is adequately sized according to the number and species of gouramis is crucial. A larger tank allows better water circulation and decreases the likelihood of stress among the fish. Regularly cleaning the tank and removing debris is also vital for maintaining a healthy environment.

Water changes: Conducting regular water changes helps prevent the buildup of harmful substances such as ammonia and nitrate in the tank. Typically, replacing 10-20% of the tank water every two weeks is sufficient, and using a water testing kit to monitor the levels of ammonia and nitrate is advised.

Water quality: Consistently maintaining optimal water parameters in the gourami tank is necessary for their overall health. A suitable temperature range is 24-28°C (75-82°F), with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Maintaining these levels can lessen the possibilities of bloating issues caused by stress and related diseases.

Feeding habits: Overfeeding gouramis or providing them with an inappropriate diet can lead to bloating. It is recommended to feed gouramis small portions 2-3 times a day and remove any uneaten food after five minutes. Incorporating varied and easily digestible food sources, such as live or frozen daphnia and brine shrimp, can improve their digestive health.

By consistently monitoring and maintaining the tank conditions, water quality, and feeding habits of gouramis, the risk of bloating can be significantly reduced. Diligent care helps ensure that gouramis live a healthy and stress-free life.

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