Why Does My Cichlid Have a Sunken Belly? {Treatment & Prevention}

Have you noticed recently that the belly on your cichlid has become sunken? Why does my cichlid have a sunken belly?

Is this something you need to worry about? How do you treat a cichlid with a sunken belly?

In this article, we will examine cichlids up close and particularly around their bellies to see what’s going on.

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Why Does My Cichlid Have a Sunken Belly?

When a cichlid has a sunken belly it it most likely due to internal bacterial or parasitic infection.

It can also be due to eating protein-rich food as the fish digestive system does not suit it. Loss of appetite can also accompany the sunken belly.

Your best bet for treating the problem is a tritherapy of metronidazole, praziquantel, and levamisole. If your fish is suffering from an internal bacterial or parasitic infection you can also add octozin (Available on Amazon) to the aquarium water.

Cichlid Have a Sunken Belly

How Do You Treat a Cichlid with a Sunken Belly?

There are several ways you can treat a cichlid with a sunken belly, but you have to make sure these ways are suitable for your fish. There are three major ways you can treat the problem:

  1. Water Change
  2. Diet
  3. Medication

1. Water Change

Poor water is one of the major causes of sunken belly in cichlids. You have to maintain perfect water quality to treat your fish and get it back to its standard shape. Ensure you make a regular 50% change in water to help keep the water clean and healthy for your cichlids.

2. Diet

Another cause of the sunken belly in cichlids is an inadequate diet. To treat the fish of this problem, you will have to improve its diet. Feed it high-quality food that will provide it with the needed nutrients.

3. Medication

Another way to treat your cichlid of the sunken stomach is to use adequate drugs. You can add octozin (Available on Amazon) to the water to help the fish recover quickly. You can also add antibiotics to the tank or feed it with broad-spectrum antibiotics food.

What Causes Sunken Stomach in Cichlids?

Sunken stomach occurs due to internal infection; it is the outward appearance or symptom of some internal diseases. These infections can be deadly or terminal, but they play an essential role in developing the fish’s sunken stomach.

Here are some of the conditions that can cause a sunken stomach:

1. Internal Parasites

Internal parasites are one of the significant causes of illness in cichlids. They affect internal organs, causing the fish to fall sick and develop a sunken belly. Internal parasites can be deadly, so you have to treat your fish as soon as possible.

2. Vitamin or Nutritional Deficiency

When your cichlid is deficient in nutritional values, they will start to exhibit changes in their physical appearance. To avoid this, you would have to maintain a proper and adequate nutritional diet for your fish. You would have to feed them with highly nutritional food to keep them up and ready.

3. Fish Tuberculosis

Fish tuberculosis is one of the problems cichlids come across, and a reason fish can have a sunken belly. Like in humans, tuberculosis can be a deadly disease and requires immediate action. A prolonged case of tuberculosis can result in the death of the fish.

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How Do You Treat a Sick Cichlid with a Sunken Belly?

You can treat your cichlid of sunken belly if you know the underlying cause. It can be difficult to cure a disease if you do not know what caused it. Checking the reason, you would know how to fight it off.

  1. In case the sunken belly is a result of internal parasites, you would need to take fast action before the parasites eat deep into the fish.
  2. You can feed the cichlid with a broad-spectrum antibiotic while you maintain clean and healthy water. You can also put aquarium salt in the tank to quicken their recovery.
  3. If the sunken belly results from malnutrition or an inadequate diet, you will have to increase the nutritional value of the food you feed to them.
  4. You will also have to make sure you feed the fish with the food regularly. You can also make use of a broad-spectrum antibiotic food to treat the cichlid.
  5. In the case of tuberculosis, you can make use of certain medications or remedies to cure it. You can provide the fish with adequate treatment to treat it from tuberculosis.

If the symptoms persist after providing fair treatment, you should visit a veterinarian.

Can a Sunken Belly Kill My Cichlid?

Yes. Having a sunken belly can cause the death of your cichlid if you do not take care of it. It is not the sunken belly that causes death but the disease that caused the sunken belly.

The sunken belly is a symptom of the disease, and the disease affects the fish. When treating the cichlid, you treat the disease, and not the symptom of a sunken belly.

How To Prevent Sunken Belly

Sunken belly and Malawi bloat are two disorders that are much better to avoid in the first place since they can be challenging to cure and ineffective unless discovered early.

  • Until the fish has finished the quarantine period, refrain from introducing any additional fish to the tank.
  • Don’t feed live animals like tubifex worms or feeder fish since these are recognized vectors of illness.
  • Follow the timetable for tank maintenance and periodic water changes.
  • Keep an eye out for sickness symptoms in your fish, including as color loss, food spitting up, and laborious breathing


The sunken belly is a symptom of several diseases and infections that affect cichlids.

Your cichlid can have a sunken belly if it has a parasitic or bacterial infection, malnutrition, or other conditions. If you notice a sunken belly in your cichlid, you should treat it as soon as you can.


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Hello, I'm Jason. I'm the guy behind HelpUsFish.com. I volunteer at my local fish shop and I created this site to offer tips and advice on the fish I care for.