Betta Fish has a beautiful appearance. You can often see them swimming in water or hiding behind crevices and hydrophytes. However, sometimes they don’t swim and stay at the bottom of the aquarium.

What if they spend most of the day in the bottom of its tank? There’s no need to panic if you find a Betta sitting on the bottom of the tank. However, this behavior of Betta Fish is a huge health concern if there are other alarming symptoms.

When you witness this behavior, you immediately become concerned. Are you starting to think something is amiss?

Read on to discover why your bettas might be behaving that way and what you can do about it.

Is Laying at Tank Floor Considered Normal?

It is normal to find your betta fish lying on the aquarium’s side or bottom as they like hiding behind the rocks and decorations. Though if they stay in the same position longer than usual, it is not normal behavior.

Usually, Betta Fish love to roam around the tank, and it is unusual for many aquarists to see them sitting at the base. But in bare setups with minimal hiding spots, betta fish find it the safest to relax.

Tip for beginners: Bettas, for instance, spend a good deal of time lying on their tanks’ bottoms. So, it is not alarming until they develop other concerning symptoms.

Possible Reasons and Treatment

When a freshwater aquarium owner approaches the tank and sees the Fish they love laying on the bottom, regardless of how experienced they are, they get that familiar feeling of panic.

However, your finned friend may be lying on the aquarium floor for many reasons, most of which can be rectified. Let’s look into it.

1. Water Temperature Shock

Though bettas have a reputation for being hardy Fish, they have a problem with temperature changes. Temperature shock can cause a litany of issues if the tank does not stay between 75 and 80 degrees.

In a tank that’s too cold, the immune system is damaged, and in one that’s too warm, your Betta won’t get enough oxygen to live. Maintaining a consistent temperature will help your Fish thrive.

How to Treat: It’s natural for the temperature to fluctuate outside, but you shouldn’t allow it to happen inside your fish tank. Add a fish tank heater to keep it warm when it’s cold outside. Keep the tank away from windows to prevent the sun from magnifying and heating it.

These heaters are inexpensive and will keep your Betta happy and healthy. They are worth the investment.

2. Stress

If Betta Fish are stressed, they may sit at the bottom of the tank and perhaps fade from their original color. External and internal stress factors can both affect Betta Fish.

Loud Noises

It is strongly recommended that freshwater aquarium owners don’t place their tanks near loud sounds, such as a TV or sound system. Water amplifies noises, so reverberations can distract your Fish even if the volume is turned down. You can also stress your Fish by tapping on the aquarium’s glass. Sound travels nearly four times faster through water than through the air, amplifying the sound.

How to Treat: Keep the aquarium away from sound systems. Also, it is best to use a filter that runs quietly to prevent any disturbances to your Fish, as some filters can be very noisy to them.

Lighting

Too bright or too dim light can scare betta fish and result in staying all day at the bottom of the tank. You need the right balance of light and darkness for your aquarium. Betta fish are usually active at night in the wild, while others are active during the day.

How to Treat: Install lighting mindfully. A good balance of light and darkness is essential for both types of Fish to sleep and function as they should.

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Non-compatible Tankmates

Stress results from Fish that are not peacefully coexisting in the tank. Check them out if you find ripped fins, fish hiding, or Fish aggressively chasing other Fish away.

How to Treat: Moving the offending finned fiend to a new tank may be necessary.

Tank Overcrowding

Maintaining a quality fish tank has very strict parameters, and overcrowding can lead to imbalances that cause stress to the Fish. It’s not possible to put five betta fish in a five-gallon aquarium in the wild; your Fish would swim in a much wider environment there. However, you should also consider the number of decorations and plants in the tank and the fact that live plants require oxygen.

Likewise, the shape of your aquarium can have an impact; an aquarium that is taller than it is long will not give most Fish the space that they need to swim back and forth but could be perfect for a fish that likes to jump and dive.

How to Treat: One betta fish per 5 gallons is the standard rule when determining the right fish population for your aquarium.

3. Fish are Getting Older

Betta Fish live up to 5 years, though we’d all like it if they could live forever. Like humans lose some energy as they age, so will your betta fish.

As a result, it is more efficient to lay on the bottom of the tank than to swim in the middle or at the top. The bottom of a tank is where an older betta spends more time relaxing. It is a typical betta fish behavior before death.

How to Treat: Despite our wish to turn back the clock, we are powerless against it. Let your betta fish spend their golden years in whatever place feels right to them.

betta fish lying on aquarium floor

4. Sleeping

The fact that you sometimes see Betta lying at the bottom of the aquarium does not necessarily mean it is time for worry. You may be able to catch Betta Fish napping every once in a while because they sleep for 12 hours daily.

While they sleep most of the time at night, they may take naps during the day if they sleep more than 12 hours a day. There’s no need to worry as long as they aren’t spending excessive time at the tank’s bottom or show no other concerning symptoms.

How to Treat: Your betta fish needs a good night’s sleep as well! The only thing you can do here is allow your betta fish to sleep.

5. Poisoning

Another concerning reason that can cause your Betta to sit at the bottom of the tank is poisoning. It can be ammonia or nitrate poisoning that can be extremely harmful to your Fish.

Ammonia Poisoning

The presence of ammonia in the aquarium is normal because beneficial bacteria transform it into nitrite. It doesn’t mean that ammonia can’t kill your Betta just because it’s a natural byproduct. In fact, ammonia is one of the most dangerous poisons for Fish. It’s simple to detect and exclude this condition with a test kit. Ammonia levels more than 0.2 mg/L are toxic to your Betta.

How to Treat: Currently, there is no cure for ammonia poisoning in bettas. Nevertheless, you can take some measures to control ammonia levels. You should start by changing half of the water.

Put some neutralizer in the tank before adding water. Test for ammonia levels again, and add an ammonia neutralizer if they are still too high to allow time for the bacteria to catch up.

Ammonia neutralizers do not remove ammonia but temporarily make your Fish safe from it. If the bacterial colonies don’t catch up, you will find your Betta dead when the neutralizer no longer works.

Nitrate Poisoning

Ammonia converts into nitrites which turn into nitrates. Like ammonia, nitrates can also kill your Fish. The only thing you have to do to get your fish tank back under control is to cycle the water if you have too many nitrates.

When the water level is back to normal, even if your Betta was poisoned with ammonia, it will be able to recover completely. You should test the water to determine if you are poisoned by nitrates.

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How to Treat: Nitrate poisoning is relatively easy to treat. If nitrates continue to rise, change 1/3 of the water. During this time, do not feed your Betta if the nitrate levels are still high. If necessary, feed your Betta sparingly from there.

The Fish will produce less ammonia, which will reduce nitrites and nitrates. If you want to continue normal feeding after the nitrates have been brought back under control, you will need to change the water more frequently to prevent them from increasing again.

Author’s Note: Maintain your aquarium weekly by cleaning and testing it. It is an essential part of maintaining your tank. Or, you can also opt for one of the self-cleaning aquaponics tanks.

6. Sickness & Diseases

When your Betta fish looks lethargic or sits at the bottom of their tank, they could be feeling unwell. There are several causes behind their illness. Let’s discuss:

Ich

ICH is a parasite infection of betta fish, and these organisms are present in almost every betta fish and wait for their opportunity to latch onto a host. A parasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which stretches itself inside white patches on the Fish’s scales and skin, is the cause. In most cases, it kills the host if therapy is not given.

A betta’s scales will develop white spots, which resemble tiny cotton balls. A cyst is an immature stage of a parasitic disease called tomites. When they are trying to dislodge the parasites, the Fish clamp their fins and rub against the tank’s surface.

How to Treat: You must remove your carbon filter during the free-swimming stage before treating the ich. Add an ich treatment, such as malachite green, to the water while raising the tank temperature to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This promotes cyst rupture, releasing the tomites, which can then be killed by medication in the water.

Swim Bladder Disorder

Bettas with swim bladder disease have a hard time swimming normally. They may struggle to maintain their balance and swim on one side, upside down, or have difficulty reaching the top or bottom of the tank. Typically, this infection is caused by bacteria brought on by poor water quality. However, other causes may be transportation injuries, breeding problems, or fighting.

How to treat: Bettas with this disease are moved into shallow tanks where the water will only be a few inches above their top fins for treatment. Until the fish are fully recovered, administer an antibiotic to the water and replace it daily.

swim bladder disease betta laying on bottom of tank

Dropsy

Dropsy is a rare disease that your bettas can catch, but it is deadly. Betta Fish with bulging eyes, pallid feces, protruding scales appear as pinecones, swollen bodies, and a lack of interest in food cause the Fish to become inactive. These are symptoms of dropsy in bettas.

How to Treat: Once this disease has spread, your Betta Fish cannot be treated with any known, effective method. To avoid further suffering from this disease, it is recommended that you euthanize your Fish.

Velvet

When your Betta suffers from Velvet, you’ll notice that it starts acting differently. They will often rub and twitch their bodies against anything in the tank. Also, they become lethargic and lose their appetite. Parasites cause these behaviors.

How to Treat: During treatment for Velvet, raise the temperature of your Betta’s tank to 82-85°F to kill the parasite.

· Other Diseases

Popeye and tail and fin rot are other common diseases that can be why your Betta stays at the tank’s bottom area. You may spot blood on your fish fin or swollen eye if suffering from any of these.

How to Treat: The best way to treat these diseases is to repeatedly change the water for a few days in a row and add aquarium salt.

7 Small Aquarium Size

There’s no such thing as a too big or too small aquarium for betta fish, even though they can live in smaller tanks. If you do not have a large aquarium, your betta fish might get bored and stressed out.

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Do not use a fishbowl or aquarium with rounded edges. When you have one of these tanks, they feel like being trapped inside a funhouse mirror, which can cause your Betta to become stressed since they will see distorted images.

How to Treat: Moving your betta fish to a bigger tank is an obvious solution, but remember that this takes time. If you add your Betta right away, you are just creating new problems. You have to let the aquarium cycle before adding your Fish.

Add some aquarium water, or transfer some gravel from your old tank to your new tank. Don’t forget to give your new aquarium a chance to cycle and level out before adding your Betta.

8. Current Too High

Betta Fish like smooth currents that don’t stress them out. As soon as you realize that betta fish breathe at the top of the tank, it makes sense. You may find it exhausting to fight against a current that pushes them down into the tank all day long.

Although a younger betta can handle it, they certainly are not eager to do so. When bettas grow old, their ability to fight against the current and get some air diminishes.

How to Treat: The cause of too much current in a betta tank needs to be removed or reduced. If your filter is too powerful, you may need to get a less powerful one or simply get a new tank. A Betta needs a slow-moving current to thrive, so a strong current will leave them unhappily unhappy, even if they can manage it.

FAQs

Why is my betta fish not moving at the tank bottom?

You should not be surprised that your betta fish will spend some time lying at the bottom of the tank. It may be because they are tired, sleeping, or simply getting older. It is okay if they are occasionally found at the bottom of the tank, but they shouldn’t spend their entire lives there.

What does it mean when a betta fish is lying on its side?

The betta fish could be simply resting on the bottom of your aquarium or some vegetation if it’s lying sideways. However, a swim bladder disorder might also be the reason behind it.

Is my betta fish near death, if not eating and staying at the bottom?

No, death is not the only reason behind betta fish not eating and staying at the bottom of the tank. The reason can be ammonia poisoning, changes in water temperature, or chemistry.

Why is the betta fish not swimming and sinking in the tank upside down?

It can be concerning if your betta fish is not moving and sinking upside down. They might be dead or suffering from swim bladder disease. You should keep an eye on your Fish and treat them as soon as they develop any symptoms.

Should I be worried if my betta fish is lethargic and sleeping more than usual?

The Betta usually explores all day and sleeps soundly at night. It is unhealthy to have a Betta lying on a plant all day or at the bottom of the tank. If they are lethargic, it could be a sign of any illness or indicate the water is not optimal for health.

Betta Fish breathing heavily, gasping for air – What to do?

The betas, like other animals, require oxygen to survive, so if there is no gas in the tank, they can’t breathe well. It is essential to ensure that you put the new water at an optimal temperature for this problem, approximately 24–28°C or 75–82°F.

Takeaways

Even though betta fish do not require much effort, it does not mean that you are not required to care for them. Fortunately, if you are dedicated to learning everything there is to know about fish keeping, you will have no problems.

Keeping water parameters in check is simply a matter of getting everything you need. You don’t need to worry about much else as long as you do.

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to FishParenting.com. Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

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