23-year-old sick goldfish able to swim thanks to a personalized mini life jacket

A video about a 23-year-old goldfish struggling to swim has gone viral on TikTok, where it had received 5.5 million views at the time of writing.

In a clip shared by TikToker Aidan Cramer (@aidancramer), the co-founder and CEO of recruitment tech startup Stride, the goldfish named Sally was seen bobbing at the bottom of a hospital tank, “where we put in sick fish, then we can treat them and try to improve them,” Cramer explained in a later post.

According to the poster, one morning his girlfriend’s goldfish “couldn’t get down from the bottom of his tank.” The user said he then constructed “a little life jacket” using a cork and an old bikini thong to “give it some buoyancy”.

Cramer said: “Eventually we got it swimming again,” as the clip showed the goldfish floating around the tank while wearing the makeshift life jacket.

According to a follow-up video, Sally had a swim bladder problem.

A stock photo of a goldfish seen at the bottom of a glass bowl. A video of a sick 23-year-old goldfish being able to swim again using a “little life jacket” has gone viral on TikTok.
iStock/Getty Images Plus

The swim bladder contains oxygen and gases to help maintain “neutral buoyancy at the depth desired by the fish,” aquatic veterinarian Jessie M. Sanders explained in a December 2017 article for PetMD.

The swim bladder is “very important in overall fish health,” Sanders said. In addition to aiding in posture and swimming, the organ is also used for sound production and detection in some fish.

As other TikTokers have also suggested, the poster gave Sally peas as they “empty their guts” a few times, which previously did the trick. But the peas stopped working for Sally in her “old age,” so he resorted to the last measure of making a life jacket, Cramer explained.

Sanders cautioned, “Owners are always recommended to discuss their options with a veterinarian before trying any buoyancy compensating devices, such as floats or weights.

“Binding foreign structures to a fish’s body can have catastrophic effects on their skin and mucus production. Any type of external device will not provide a long-term cure,” the vet advised.

What causes swim bladder problems?

Swim bladder disorders are common in goldfish due to their round body shape and “a very curved spine” in some varieties, Sanders said.

Poor water quality can lead to sudden and chronic stress in fish. “Stress disrupts regular homeostasis,” Sanders said.

This can lead to negative buoyancy (spending too much time at the bottom of the tank) or positive buoyancy (spending too much time at the top) disorders.

Swim bladder problems can also sometimes be a dietary issue, with excess air entering the gastrointestinal tract during mealtime.

How to Treat Swim Bladder Disorders

If your fish appears to have a buoyancy disorder, “the water quality should be checked immediately and corrected if necessary,” Sanders noted.

For a dietary problem, the vet says feeding your fish “a sinking or neutrally buoyant diet can help correct mild ailments” by preventing excess air from entering the conduit to the swim bladder.

Swim bladder problems can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause of the problem.

Fish with permanent disease “can still live full and happy lives with a few lifestyle changes,” Sanders said.

For example, you will have to hand-feed fish with a buoyancy disorder whose swimming ability has been compromised. “When hand-feeding, don’t catch your fish! Bring the food to them in the position that’s best for them,” the vet said.

If the swimming problem persists, talk to your local aquatic veterinarian to arrange x-rays to assess the swim bladder, Sanders advised.

“Prosthetic swim bladder”

The latest video has delighted users on TikTok.

SandyLion1979 said, “It’s like a fish walker or wheelchair omg (oh my god) it’s so cute.”

Meech Batt said the life jacket looked like a “prosthetic swim bladder”, while cackalackyrob said: “It’s like crutches but underwater!!.”

User Rey said, “the fish looks so excited”, while Sarah Kimball said, “She looks so happy with her life jacket on!”

Karen wrote, “Oh great now I’m crying for a goldfish (sad face emoji with teary eyes).”

User kaitlyn_swisher said, “I’m sobbing,” while Tiffany Lynn Hebert also noted, “She’s so happyyyy (several teary-eyed sad face emojis).”

Newsweek contacted the original poster via TikTok. This video has not been independently verified.

Do you have a similar dilemma for pets? Let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice and your story could be published on Newsweek.


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