Betta Fish Laying On Bottom of Tank – 15 Potential Reasons Why

Are you looking at your fish tank, wondering why your betta is laying at the bottom of the tank and not moving?

If you’re like most fish owners, you’ll start to panic. But you shouldn’t lose your cool. There are many reasons why your betta could be behaving this way. While some causes are emergency-level severe, others are just part of their normal behavior. 

I’ve panicked numerous times when I could not figure out what was happening with my fish. Were they okay? Is the water in the tank too hot? Did I feed them properly? The questions didn’t help my fish nor me. My only solution was observing their behavior and trying to find the problem from the visible symptoms. 

While my fish was just sleeping at the bottom of the tank, that may not be the same case for your betta. 

If you’re worried about your betta and think something is wrong, there are some reasons we know that could explain their behavior. 

Read on to see which reason is causing your betta to lay at the bottom of the tank.

15 Reasons Why Your Betta Fish Is Laying On The Bottom of The Tank

Watching their behavior is the best way to know what’s wrong with your betta. Of course you can’t monitor them 24/7, but noting the changes from their normal behavior can help you understand the problem. 

Here are some of the common reasons that could explain why your betta fish is laying on the bottom of the tank.

1. High Stress Levels

Stress is much more common in fish than most people think. 

dark red betta fish

It’s a significant problem for fish like bettas because it affects their health. They might seem tough, but many factors can cause them stress, from small tanks, to overcrowding or poor water quality.

High stress levels can also be caused by placing your betta’s fish tank in a high-traffic area. While they love performing for people, betta fish can quickly feel overwhelmed by different people always passing by their tank.

Here are other causes of stress you should know:

  • Fish disease
  • Aggressive tank mates
  • Lack of hiding places
  • Sudden changes to the water parameters

You can either move their tank to a more private location or offer them plenty of hiding places in the fish tank. 

Constant observation of their behavior after any change can also help you determine what’s causing them to feel stressed. Or, at the very least, eliminate some factors as to what’s causing them to lay at the bottom of the tank. 

Here are some signs of stress in betta fish that you should look out for: 

  • Refusal to eat
  • White patches on their body
  • Laying at the bottom of the tank
  • White stripes on their body
  • Excessive hiding

If your betta is stressed, you should immediately change the water and check the temperature. In a stress-free environment, you will have your healthy betta back.

2. Excessive Current in the Tank

As much as bettas have large and beautiful fins, it’s mostly for show. They love swimming left and right, but excessive currents can be too much for their colorful fins, leading to injuries and fatigue. 

betta fish at bottom of tank

They aren’t the best swimmers, so swimming against strong currents can be too much for your betta. That’s why you will find bettas in the shallow waters like ponds and slow-moving streams that don’t have strong currents in their natural habitat.

Is there a water filter in the tank? If there is, it shouldn’t be too powerful because strong currents can tire your betta. They may end up laying ot the bottom of the tank due to exhaustion. 

You should consider choosing filters with an adjustable flow feature to adjust the water flow for your betta’s sake.

If this is the problem, the best solution is to reduce the water current from your filter. You can do this by redirecting the current to other tank features like the live plants to give your betta some rest.

Using a sponge filter also helps adjust the current, so swimming is easier for your betta.

3. The Water In The Tank is Too Hot or Too Cold

Bettas are tropical fish that need warm water in their tanks to survive. Because they are native to the tropical climate of Thailand, you should never let the temperatures of their tank drop below 65 degrees.

bright red finned betta fish

Temperature shock also happens when your betta is exposed to too high or too low temperatures. This can be one of the reasons you’ll find them at the bottom of the tank.  

Do you have a water heater? For tropical fish like bettas, you need to maintain the tank’s water temperature in the range of 76-81 degrees Fahrenheit. Installing adjustable heaters in the betta’s tank can help keep the tank water at the right temperature.

Putting them in a tank with water that’s too cold will affect their health and cause a cold temperature shock. 

Low temperatures from cold water slow down your betta’s metabolism. This makes them absorb oxygen from the water much slower. The lower oxygen intake will make your fish weak. 

That’s why you should ensure tank conditions are appropriate for your betta and other fish in your tank. 

4. Your Betta has Swim Bladder Disease

The swim bladder is an essential organ in any fish. It helps fish with buoyancy, respiration, and producing and hearing sound in water.

If you’ve been monitoring your betta’s behavior, and they’ve been swimming sideways and going nowhere, the problem could be swim bladder disease

While the exact cause of this disease is unknown, some theorize it could be due to poor water quality or overfeeding. If your betta is overeating, they can get constipation. When their stomach swells, it affects the functioning of their swim bladder.

An effective way to get rid of this disease is by feeding your betta foods rich in fiber or fasting them for a couple of days. Unfortunately, if your betta has chronic swim bladder disease, the only option may be to euthanize your betta. 

5. Old Age

Like every animal, freshwater fish like bettas age and get old. With such a short lifespan, older betta fish will be less active as the years go by.  

blue and white betta fish

Some effects of bettas suffering from old age include less energy to swim around their tank, frequent napping at the bottom of the tank, sliming down, and a lack of appetite.

If you’ve noticed your older fish is spending more time relaxing on the leaves and sleeping, old age might just be catching up to them. 

You can’t be sure how old your betta is when you get them from the store. So they might just be getting older, which will explain their behavior change. 

6. Your Betta is Suffering from other Fish Diseases

It’s possible your betta is sick. If they seem pale and spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank, they could be suffering from an illness. 

Due to their weak immune system, sick betta fish are more prone to illnesses than other species. You’ll have to be attentive to their appearance and appetite to determine if they are unwell. 

Some of the most common fish diseases in bettas are: 

Common Betta DiseasesSymptoms
Fish TuberculosisInactivity, lack of appetite, skin problems, loss of color, and weight loss. 
External ParasiteScratching against objects and irritated skin.
Gold dust DiseaseWeight loss, difficulty breathing, loss of color, and small gold and white spots on their scales. 
Pop-eye (Exophthalmia)One or both eyes bulging. 
Costia (Slime Disease)Folded fins, white mucus on the body, and abnormal swimming patterns.

Bacteria found in the tank can cause diseases like fin rot in betta fish.

Most fish diseases are caused by poor water quality and stress. So frequent water changes can help reduce the chances of having a sick betta. 

7. Your Betta Could Be Sleeping

Yes, these little creatures sleep too; they just don’t do it with their eyes closed. Like other animals, bettas have a sleep pattern. You’ll find them actively swimming during the day and sleeping at night.

Your betta could just be taking a nap at the bottom of the tank after a long day of swimming and playing. 

How can you tell they’re sleeping? They’re probably just taking a snooze if you see their gills moving. You will find a sleeping betta fish on the live plants or in a nook or cave.

They like to sleep in an area with dim lights, so you can consider some ambient fish tank lights to set the mood. 

Or else you might see your betta sleeping on their side at the bottom of the tank during the day. 

8. Ammonia poisoning

Fish are constantly excreting waste in their tank. They eat so its normal for them to remove the waste.

This is all part of the nitrogen cycle where their feces and urine are broken down into ammonia. Ammonia is a natural by-product of fish waste but is toxic to fish at high levels.

While bettas are hardy creatures, they can only survive high levels of ammonia for a short while before it starts affecting their health. 

To rule out high ammonia levels, you need to use a test kit to check the tank water.  Excess ammonia in your betta’s tank can be fatal, and you’ll find your dead betta at the bottom of the tank. 

Constant maintenance and a good quality filtration system will help reduce the high ammonia levels because you can’t see it.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ammonia poisoning in fish.

9. Nitrate Poisoning

Like ammonia, nitrate is also released from fish waste. The beneficial bacteria found in a water tank will convert the ammonia into nitrites. 

These nitrites are further broken down into nitrates. While nitrates are less toxic to the betta’s environment than ammonia, they can still cause harm. 

Over time, excess exposure to nitrates causes nitrate poisoning, which slowly kills your betta. They become weak and lose their appetite. This negatively affects their immune system, and you can find them laying on the bottom of the tank. 

Nitrate poisoning can also increase in an overstocked tank or if you overfeed your betta. If you suspect nitrate poisoning, the best thing to do is change the water.

10. Death

One of the saddest reasons why your betta could be exhibiting this behavior is that they are dead. The last thing any aquarist wants to imagine is their fish dead.

white betta fish

If you’ve had your betta for a while, do you know how long these fish live? Bettas have a very short lifespan and only live between 3-5 years. 

You should also remember that your betta was alive for a while before you took them home. Unless you got them from when they were born, it’s impossible to pinpoint their exact age. 

If your betta is struggling to breathe and you notice discoloration on their body, they could be dying.

A dying betta fish should be moved from the tank as soon as possible. A dead betta can contaminate the tank water and harm other fish in the tank.

11. Your Betta is Resting

You shouldn’t always worry when you find your betta laying at the bottom of the tank. Your betta could just be taking a break. 

Breaks are a great way for fish to relax and avoid stress. To know they are just relaxing, you need to observe their behavior. If your betta’s pelvic fins are moving like usual, they are okay. 

As beautiful as those large fins are, they’re sometimes a burden to carry. So don’t be mad at your betta if they want to take some time off of their busy swimming program and rest. 

12. The Betta’s Aquarium is Too Small

A common mistake most beginner fish keepers make when choosing the best betta tank size is going for smaller tanks. You may have found them in small containers at the pet store but they need more space in their fish tank. 

blue and red betta fish

In a small tank with no decorations, your betta will be bored and depressed. 

A bigger tank will give them more room to explore and swim freely. A betta tank should also be able to accommodate their growing size too.

If you want to bring joy back to their lives, get a larger tank and fill it with caves to hide in, plants and the right equipment like heaters without crowding the tank. 

13. Your Betta Isn’t Getting Along With Its Tank Mates

With a nickname like the Siamese fighting fish, you know that bettas aren’t the most friendly marine creatures. They are known to be aggressive to other fish when kept in small spaces together. 

Some bettas can coexist with other less intimidating fish species, so you must be picky about who you add to their tank. 

betta fish tank mates

Good tank mates for betta fish include:

  • Guppies 
  • Cory catfish
  • Neon Tetra
  • Common Molly
  • Feeder
  • Ghost Shrimp

As long as you don’t have two male betta fish in the same tank, the chances of a fight are much less. A female betta is more friendly to other fish and gets along in groups.

If your betta doesn’t like their new roommates, you might find them trying to avoid the other fish by laying at the bottom of the tank. They don’t always fight the other fish. Sometimes they get scared and decide to stay away.

14. Lack of Habitat Features in the Fish Tank

Your betta tank needs more than a couple of decorations here and there. The fish tank is their home and where they eat, sleep, and play. So you need to create an ideal environment for them to thrive. 

Betta fish love to play and hide in their tank. You might find them sleeping in the caves and on top of the live plants. They need excitement so if you have a tank with only equipment and nothing to keep your betta happy, they could be bored. 

Adding more plants and decorations like little caves will give them places to hide and feel safe. Without any of these, your betta can get stressed and lie at the bottom of the tank because they have nothing else to do.

15. Improper Eating Habits

How many times a day do you feed your betta? If it’s more than twice, you could be overfeeding your fish. Bettas are omnivorous, so a mix of plant roots and insects is healthy for their diet.

Like humans, overfeeding a betta fish can lead to bloating. Just like you need some time to recover, they do too. You’ll find them laying at the bottom of the tank and not moving for a while because they’re too full. 

But you shouldn’t cut their diet too much. They still need nutrients from their diet to remain healthy. Without the proper nutrients, your betta won’t have the strength to swim anywhere. 

They will conserve the little energy they have by laying at the bottom of the tank. 

The Position of Your Betta

The position in which you find your betta laying will tell you a lot about what’s wrong with them. 

Different positions can help you determine what is wrong with your betta. Are they laying on their side or only at the bottom and not moving?

Here is what you need to know about the bettas positioning :

Betta Fish Laying On bottom of tank and breathing heavily:

Something is wrong if your betta is breathing heavily when laying at the bottom of the tank. One of the reasons could be ammonia poisoning that affects their respiratory system. 

Laying at the bottom of the tank and not moving:

There are a couple of reasons why you’re better could be laying immobile at the bottom of the tank. It could be swim bladder disease or temperature shock after a sudden water change. Sadly, if your betta isn’t moving at all, they could be dead. 

Laying at the bottom of the tank upside down:

If you notice this behavior, your betta will likely suffer from swim bladder disease. Luckily, this disease is often treatable, and your betta can return to being themselves. 

Laying at the bottom of the tank on its side:

This behavior isn’t necessarily a cause for concern because there could be many explanations. Bettas are known to sleep on their sides, so your betta could just be napping. If they aren’t asleep, the water quality could make them lay on their side at the bottom of the tank. 

Betta Fish Laying On Bottom of Tank – Final Reasons

It’s sometimes hard for a beginner aquarist to notice specific symptoms and determine what is wrong with their betta. Bettas usually stay still and sleep with their eyes open, so it can be hard to tell if they’re okay or not. 

If you maintain the right tank conditions, your betta could just be sleeping, but it’s essential to ensure they’re okay.

Monitoring their behavior is a great way to understand why your betta is laying at the bottom of the tank. If it’s one of the reasons above, like an illness, you should use medication or see a fish vet for help.

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