7 min read

Goldfish Gets Cutest Little Backpack To Help Her Swim Right

She even made a friend who's JUST like her 🐠🐠

Lemon began her life as one of many oranda goldfish, swimming around an overcrowded, dirty pet store tank. One day, a kind person spotted her, and decided to take her home.  

In her new tank, Lemon grew bigger and stronger, but her lopsided jaw, a facial deformity which had gone unnoticed in the store, continued to cause issues, until the right side of her mouth collapsed completely. Her owner knew the little fish was determined to survive, so brought Lemon to the vet.

Oranda goldfish goes to vet
Aquatic Veterinary Services

Lemon received corrective surgery at Aquatic Veterinary Services in California, and after four days of recovery in the hospital, she could finally eat normally and close her mouth for the first time.

Goldfish surgery
Aquatic Veterinary Services

However, a few months later, Lemon was back in the hospital with something much more distressing: She could no longer swim, and her owner was not equipped to handle her care.

“They got her through the oral surgery fine, but the added stress and financial burden of managing her buoyancy disorder was too much for them,” Dr. Jessie Sanders, a veterinarian at Aquatic Veterinary Services, told The Dodo. “They decided to surrender her to our hospital before the buoyancy surgery was attempted.”

Goldfish who can't swim due to swim bladder
Aquatic Veterinary Services

Fancy goldfish, who are often bred for their looks, are commonly plagued with buoyancy disorders, Sanders noted. An irregular swim bladder, the organ that fills with air and determines a fish’s buoyancy and balance, can cause fish to float to the surface, float upside down or sink to the bottom of a tank.

Things looked bleak for Lemon, who was stuck on her side in a strange place, but there at the veterinary offices, she met her new tank-mate named Rusty — another fancy goldfish who also had issues swimming.

Sinking goldfish
Aquatic Veterinary Services

Lemon had never met anyone as accident-prone as herself before, and the two fish seemed to bond immediately.

“They were both very content as two fish who had about the same mobility,” Sanders said. “They liked to sit together on the bottom.”

Fancy goldfish friends in tank
Aquatic Veterinary Services

Lemon’s too-small swim bladder was confirmed by an X-ray, and Sanders set to work trying to find a solution that could help Lemon swim and feed comfortably — but each approach seemed to have drawbacks.

“There are many pictures of home-remedy slings made for goldfish,” Sanders explained. “However, if they rub up against the sides and erode the slime coat, they are prone to infection.”

Lemon lay on her side for two months as Sanders attempted to fix her buoyancy issue.

Fish surgery x-ray
Aquatic Veterinary Services

Living laterally wasn’t an issue for Lemon, until her friend Rusty underwent a procedure to help him learn to float. “A small strip of plastic was threaded through Rusty’s dorsal fin and tied behind his pectoral fins,” Sanders wrote. “Several attempts had to be made in order to find a place where the strap would stay on and not interfere with his swimming. Then, a small styrofoam peanut, donated by UPS Store #6455 in the same plaza as Aquatic Veterinary Services, was tied onto the strap.”

In essence, Rusty got a tiny, floating backpack.

Rusty the goldfish gets tiny float backpack
Aquatic Veterinary Services

After a few weeks, it was clear that the procedure had been a success. “He was at the point where he was able to sit upright on the bottom without any assistance,” Sanders said.

With no dorsal fin, Lemon’s sinking problem proved to be more challenging — but with Rusty swimming with relative ease, it seemed only fair to try. Sanders sedated the little fish, numbed her back and attached a float with two sutures. When Lemon awoke, she was like a whole new fish.

Aquatic Veterinary Services

“As soon as they realize they can swim effortlessly — especially a fish who's been on the bottom for this long — they have a very excited response,” Sanders said. “[They] are usually swimming around as happy as can be, and trying to test out the limits of their new mobility.”

Lemon could finally swim upright, just like her friend, and the joy and freedom the two fish finally felt was clear to everyone.