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Fish not maintaining swim level


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25ppm Nitrate

0ppm Nitrite 

GH 300

KH 180

ph 7.5

Temperature 72 F

36 gal planted tank with 5 panda corys, 1 hilstream loach, snails, and 9 Cherry Barbs. All fish have been in my tank for about 2 years, not sure how old barbs were at pet store but I think they were juveniles because of how they grew and then stopped.   

One of my cherry barbs is not able to maintain her level in the water anymore. She has to constantly flap her tail to stay or go up. Her roll left to right is good, she is still straight up and down. Has also started to gulp air at surface often. No changes to tank in past two months only note would be the room is normally 75F and tank about 76F but as the winter has come room now 70-72F so the tank is cooler. Her spine is starting to slope down sharply after her dorsal fin I am assuming to accommodate for her new swimming style.


I had another barb last month sink to the bottom and lay on his side. Moved that guy to quarantine tank and treated with salt. I tried using a heater to warm up the quarantine tank and did a bacterial treatment. Neither fish has any pineconing but he was always on his side unlike current fish that is only sinking upright. Tried to feed the guy barb with tongs for weeks but he never ingested any food. We were going out of town and he had lost alot of weight so we euthanized him since we could not follow up with anymore treatment. Hoping to be able to more for this barb.  


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Did you treat any of your fish for internal parasites? If you're using aquarium salt that might not be the best method.

For some issues Epsom salt baths is preferred.

I can't speak to it perfectly, but something I found when researching them was that using both epsom and aquarium salt simultaneously can have a counter productive affect. Meaning, you'd want to stick to just one type of salt, give the fish a break, then use the other if need be.

Something to look into.

Sounds like it might be a lateral line or swim bladder issue and exacerbated by not eating leading to their body shutting down.

Let us know when you can regarding an air stone in that container as well as ammonia and other test results you might have available that aren't listed above.

What would you do?


@Odd Duck

Edited by nabokovfan87
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I would definitely bump the temp up by about 2 degrees per day until you’re at 76’F.  For sure add an airstone.  I would also do aquarium salt but at low levels, just 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons to start.  Might gradually increase to a tablespoon per 5 gallons.  I suspect the bent spine has more to do with an injury - any fish can get startled and ram into the glass or hardscape.  I got home with a pea puffer that had a bent spine that happened in the bag on the way home.  It gradually straightened itself out over a few months.

If you can get the barb to eat, that’s going to be critical.  With the gasping, I would definitely do some deworming even though it doesn’t sound like you’ve added any fish in a couple years.  Have you added any live plants, snails, or shrimp?  Did you disinfect plants before adding them (if there were any added)?

Definitely need to know that ammonia level.

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