Why Betta Fish Laying on the Bottom of the Tank [13 Reasons]

Betta fish are known for their beauty. They’re often seen swimming in the water or hiding out of sight among plants and other decorations in tanks. 

But what happens when they refuse to swim? What if your betta fish laying on the bottom of the tank all day long? Read this blog post to find out!

This guide is here to help. It will teach you why betta fish might be at the bottom of your tank, how you can address each issue, and use positional and behavioral signs to diagnose any problems accurately. 

What are All Possible Causes for Betta Fish Laying on the Bottom of the Tank? 

Bettas are one of the most popular fish in the world. They are also one of the most effortless to keep alive, as long as you have a tank with enough room for them to swim along with plants, and decors that they can hide behind. 

We all know that betta fish like to swim around in their tanks. However, there are some common problems that betta owners often face. Among them, most disheartening and concerning is their fish laying on the bottom of tanks.

So what could be causing this behavior? Is it normal? Is your betta sick, or is something wrong with the tank? 

There are actually several reasons why the Betta might do this, and some of them can be innocent. However, other times it is a sign that something isn’t right with your fish’s health or environment setup!

Let’s look at some possible causes for betta fish laying on the bottom of tanks.

Nitrate Poisoning

Nitrate is the end product of fish waste after bacteria break it down in a well-cycled fish tank. 

Waste products decompose and form toxic ammonia. Bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite and then break the nitrite into less toxic nitrate. 

Comparatively, nitrate is not as deadly as ammonia. However, nitrate is a silent killer. Prolonged exposure to high nitrate levels can do a lot of damage to your betta fish. 

Nitrate poisoning is the culprit that weakens and makes betta fish sluggish and might cause your betta to lie on the bottom of the tank. 

Nitrate poisoning
Nitrate Poisoning

Fish may lose appetite and have breathing difficulty (rapid gills movement). In addition, you may observe betta fish gradually losing their vibrant coloration and looking pale or discolored. 

If you notice a combination of all of those, it’s nothing but nitrate poisoning. Grab a reliable aquarium water test kit and measure the nitrate levels. Ideally, the tank water should not exceed 5 to 10 ppm.  

Although you might have heard anything between 20 to 40 ppm is safe for freshwater aquariums. However, exposure to a 20 ppm nitrate level for an extended period may be stressful for your fish. Today to tomorrow, they will show signs of discomfort and illness. 

Related Read: How to Lower Nitrate levels in Aquariums

The Water is Too Hot

Water may get really hot during the summer. As the water warms, dissolved oxygen starts to decrease. So, an increase in temperature is not the problem, but the lack of oxygen associated with that may leave your betta fish gasping on the bottom of the tank. 

Although betta fish has a unique labyrinth organ to breathe air from the atmosphere, a poorly oxygenated aquarium may pose a threat to their survival. 

Water is too hot
Water is too hot for betta fish

Therefore, you need to maintain water temperature to a safe range for betta fish. Slowly cool your tank down; sudden temperature may stress the fish. I recommend using cooling fans, and room air conditioners, or you can also use aquarium chillers

Moreover, using an air pump with sufficient capacity will be handy to provide a continuous supply of enough oxygen for your fish in the high-temperature event.

The Betta is Getting Older

The lifespan of a Betta fish is short-lived and depends on suitable conditions. They can live up to five years in the wild and in captivity! If you’ve had your betta for some time now, he may be suffering from old age effects like any other animal would. 

However, don’t worry because it doesn’t mean anything wrong with their health. They’ll just slow down as all these creatures do when their energy levels decline over the years.

Old Betta Fish
Old Betta Fish

As betta fish gets older, keeping up with the younger ones becomes a struggle. As a result, most older fish prefer sleeping on leaves or resting on the bottom of their tanks!

Although, it’s not easy to determine the age of betta fish unless you raise them from a fry stage or you breed yourself. If your betta fish seems healthy and without any disease getting slower, that’s probably due to their old age. 

Excessive Current

Betta fish don’t like strong currents; they prefer gentle water movement. Although betta fish have long fins, they are not good swimmers. Fins are purely ornamental and don’t help much to swim. 

Therefore, if the tank’s filter current is too strong, your fish may become exhausted. It may force your betta fish to take shelter on the bottom of the tank to get some respite from the filter’s current. 

Although, some may argue that betta fish tanks don’t require filters at all. However, I do suggest keeping a filter for your betta tank. All fish, including betta, produce waste, needing an aquarium filter. 

The trick is to buy a filter with adjustable flow settings. If you have small fish tanks lower than 5 gallons, I recommend you to go for a cheap but effective sponge filter. Fortunately, the sponge filter current is generally not strong. 

A HOB filter is more suitable for tanks between 10 to 50 gallons. You can easily buy one with an adjustable flow feature from my list of the best HOB filters if you don’t already have one. 

Although canister filters hold the reputation as most effective to keep the tank parameter healthy for more extended periods, those are recommended for larger tanks (more than 75 gallons). 

Excessive Current
Excessive current is not preferred by betta

If that’s the case for you having a large tank, try to incorporate a spray bar at the canister filter outlet. Canister filters generate a strong current that needs to be spread out; the spray bar helps to do that. 

However, if you already have a filter with a strong current, in that case, you can take some DIY approach to reduce the filter current. 

Limit the water intake: Reducing the water intake will eventually subdue the outlet flow. You can do that by using a piece of foam or clothing in the inlet to restrict the water intake.  

Make a baffle: You can make a baffle arrangement at the filter outlet. Baffles help to disperse the flow. Anything but strong, including mesh screens, plastic cups, or even water bottles, can be used to make baffle arrangements. Cut that to the proper size and fit over the outflow. 

Include Decorations: A well-planted tank with decor, rocks, and driftwoods provide plenty of hiding places (sometimes even a comfy bed for sleeping) for betta fish to get away from the strong current. Decorations also help betta fish to provide amusement and get out of boredom. 

The Water is Too Cold

Too cold water is also harmful to betta fish and is one reason for betta fish to lay on the bottom of the tank. However, betta fish can survive in cold water, but not for long. They are tropical fish, and the ideal temperature for betta fish tanks is 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Exposure to cold temperature slows down metabolism, oxygen absorbs slower, and they become lethargic. In addition, fish immunity becomes less effective in exposure to cold temperatures, making them susceptible to various diseases. 

Water is too cold
Water is too cold for your betta fish

Betta fish may survive six months if the tank temperature is below the ideal range. However, below 72 degrees Fahrenheit, they may not last more than a month. 

Maintaining the tank temperature is crucial for betta fish to live happily and enjoy the entire life cycle. In that case, I will recommend a reliable heater for your betta tank

Ammonia Poisoning

The worst thing that can happen in your aquarium is the rising ammonia level. It’s dangerous for fish, and ammonia poisoning severely impacts the fish. 

The single most significant cause of fish death in aquariums is ammonia. Therefore, you should have proper maintenance and monitoring (ammonia alert in your tank and regular testing) in place to keep the ammonia level at bay. 

Ammonia Poisoning
Ammonia Poisoning

The safe ammonia level for fish is nothing but zero (0). Anything above will make your fish suffer and will show symptoms. They become less active, feel low in appetite, and gasp for breath. In addition, gill inflammation and swollen fins, eyes, or anus are widespread. 

Overcrowded, improperly cycled, and poorly maintained tanks are most vulnerable to high ammonia levels. Using an aquarium filter and regular water changes and tank cleaning can keep ammonia levels safe. 

Check my detailed guide on how to lower ammonia in your fish tank

They’re Sleeping

Betta fish sleep is an exciting topic. The sleep schedule of betta fish is just like that of humans. At night, they Like to rest and stay active during the day! Also, taking short catnaps in the daytime is expected for betta fish. 

They are famous for finding weird and strange places to take naps! So it’s not unusual if you notice your betta fish sleeping on the bottom of the tank, especially if it’s a sandy bottom. 

If your betta fish is healthy and active, sleeping on the bottom is perfectly ok. However, suppose you observe he is sleeping a lot (more than 12-14 hours including naps). In that case, you probably have to adjust the lighting duration and intensity in the tank. 

Betta is sleeping
Betta is just sleeping

Turn the light off at night before bedtime. The ideal amount of darkness for betta fish is 12-16 hours. However, if you’re forgetful like me, try using an aquarium light with a built-in timer to set the light on and off on autopilot. The other option is to use an aquarium timer and integrate it with the light. 

During the day, make sure the light intensity is adequate and it’s not too dim. Too dim a light may make your betta fish sleepy and may force them to sleep more. 

The Aquarium is Way too Small.

The most essential for betta fish is a good size tank to live happily and comfortably. It’s not suitable to confine them in a tiny cup or something like that. At least a three-gallon tank is a bare minimum for a single betta. 

However, bigger is always better, and a five-gallon tank serves as a better minimum than a three-gallon tank. If you want to take really good care of your pet fish, I suggest buying a fish tank between 5-20 gallons. 

Related readBest betta fish tanks for a healthy betta

Too Small Aquarium
The aquarium is too small for betta fish

Betta fish want spacious surroundings where they can swim around freely. They will lose interest in a tiny space with nothing to explore and prefer to do nothing but lay on the bottom. 

You should provide enrichment for your betta in the form of decors, caves, plants, etc., along with ample space to roam around. 

Your Betta is Lazy!

A lack of motivation or laziness of your betta fish can be one of the reasons for laying on the bottom. But, unfortunately, being lazy is not uncommon for ornamental betta fish. 

When a fish has fins too big for its body, it becomes difficult to swim around and do fun activities. Eventually, the unwanted side effect is that they end up sitting at random places in their aquarium or even on the bottom!

Lazy Betta
Your betta is a lazy one!

Have a close eye on your fish! If he moves around and normally eats in between rests, then there’s nothing to worry about. However, you can make your betta more active by including tank mates, toys, hiding spots, etc. In addition, betta fish are interactive and can recognize their owner; you can also train them to play with you. 

Swim Bladder Disease

There are many types of fish illnesses, but one that happens more often than not is swim bladder disease. The swim bladder is a crucial organ that helps control buoyancy. 

When it’s damaged or diseased, betta will suffer from strange patterns in their swimming behavior and difficulty moving around. Sometimes they can even lay flat on the bottom of the tank!

Betta fish are voracious eaters, and consequently, they often eat more. Overeating leads to constipation and develops swim bladder disease. Never overfeed your betta fish, always provide them as much food that they can finish within 2-3 minutes. 

If your betta suffers from swim bladder disease, stop feeding them for one or two days. After that, try to provide them with fiber-rich food like Daphnia and blanched peas. 

However, sometimes treatment doesn’t help to cure the swim bladder disease. In that case, there are no other means but to euthanize your betta fish. 

Sickness & Disease

Bettas can be a lot of fun, but they do suffer from a few common ailments. If you notice your betta looks lethargic or spends more time laying on the bottom than swimming around, he may be suffering from diseases! 

Several diseases afflict these beautiful fish, including Ich, Velvet, Dropsy, Fin/Tail rot, and bacterial infections such as Columnaris disease, which often cause sores on their bodies.

Sickness & Diseases
Sickness & Diseases of betta fish

If you notice any changes in your fish’s behavior or health, it is best to take action immediately. Many different diseases can be caused by stress, and a poorly maintained environment, so stay on top of water conditions at all times!

Female Betta May Be Egg Bound

If you notice your female betta staying at the bottom of her tank, she might be egg-bound. But, first, check if there are any swelling or bumps on their belly! If it is, in that case, nothing, you can do but wait. 

Female betta is egg bound
Your betta is egg bound

However, constipation can also cause these symptoms, so don’t forget about that either (although less likely)!

Lack of entertainment

Lack of amusement in the tank may cause boredom to your betta fish. With nothing to explore and play around with, betta fish may feel depressed, which may cause them to lay on the bottom. 

Betta fish love to explore their surroundings, so provide plenty of hiding spots and toys for them. Also, add some decorations like caves, driftwood, floating logs, etc., in order to make the environment more interesting!

Lack of Entertainment
Lack of Entertainment

Some people use mirrors as a betta toy. The concept behind the mirror is to flare up your betta fish by making him think that another one could invade his territory! 

I don’t recommend using them because that sounds pretty stressful for these little guys isn’t it? So instead of angering them (which might stress them out even more), try something else like floating plants or getting creative with decor pieces in general. 

Why Position is so important!

Do you want to know what your betta fish’s different positions and movements mean? Well, I’ve got you covered! The way they sit on their bottom in the tank can give great insight. Here are just a few signs that may help point towards illness or another issue. 

Betta fish laying on the bottom of tank breathing heavily? 

You should be concerned about Betta fish lying on the bottom of the tank, breathing heavily. In other words, you have to take the necessary actions to alleviate the symptoms. 

Rapid gill movement can occur for several reasons. This could be due to exposure to high nitrate levels for extended periods, ammonia poisoning, or high temperatures. All of these could affect betta fish seriously and make breathing difficult. 

Test the water immediately, and if it’s ammonia or nitrate poisoning, perform a 50-percent change to provide immediate relief. After that, you need to be more careful about water parameters so that levels don’t spike again! A good aquarium filter and routine water change will keep water parameters in a healthy range. 

In case of a hot temperature, you need to lower the heat. Turn on an air conditioner in your room and point one or more fans towards the water surface. However, don’t use ice cubes because you need to do this slowly to not kill off beneficial bacteria. 

What If Betta fish laying on the bottom of the tank and not moving?

If you notice your betta is laying on the bottom but not moving, take a closer look at their gill movement. There is a likelihood that he may be sleeping. 

Betta fish sucks water through their mouths and remove the water from their gills when they are awake. You’ll notice the same breathing pattern but much slower while asleep. 

There are some other reasons as well. For example, it could be due to temperature shock or swim bladder diseases. When the temperature of your fish tank is not consistent, they may move around to find a more comfortable place. 

You should check for dropped temperatures, although it’s pretty uncommon in a tank with a heater. However, the heater may have stopped working. If the heater is ok, place your heater near the filter outlet. That will help to dissipate the heat evenly throughout the tank. 

Unfortunately, you can’t do much for swim bladder disease for immediate relief. The best course of action is to reduce water flow and give your fish high-fiber foods when they’re ready. 

At the very last and unfortunate, your betta may be dead. But you should see the early signs and symptoms before death comes. If your fish is not breathing, probably he has passed away already. 

Betta fish laying on the bottom of the tank on their side? 

Don’t be alarmed when you notice your betta fish laying on his side on the bottom! This is actually an expected behavior for them, and they will often sleep like this. Check to make sure that everything’s healthy with their gills. 

Like many other animals, betta fish also sleep on their sides. But you can keep them off the substrate by providing an elevated shelter for them instead!

You can add live plants and other decorations, including caves, and artificial leaves (betta hammocks), to provide a suitable place for betta fish to sleep. 

However, suppose your betta is not sleeping. In that case, it could result from an imbalance in water parameters or constipation/swim bladder disease.

Betta fish laying on the bottom of the tank and not eating? 

A betta laying on the bottom of their tank can be nothing to worry about. But if your fish isn’t eating and also stays near or at the bottom for long periods–there might be a problem. 

Changes in water temperature or chemistry often cause this type of behavior. Common causes include ammonia poisoning from too many waste products building up. It happens due to stagnant filters that don’t circulate properly (or not being able to clean them quickly enough) or inadequate tank maintenance. 

Temperature shock slows down your fish metabolism, and as a result, they can suffer from a lack of appetite. Adjust the water temperature if it’s way too cold or not in the ideal range for betta fish to stay warm.  

Betta fish laying on the bottom of the tank after water change

If you notice betta fish laying on the bottom of the tank after the water changes, there are one or two reasons for that. First, probably, water change has stressed your betta fish a little.

A significant water change (more than 50%) is stressful for fish. Therefore, it’s recommended to do only a 25% change at a time. 

In addition, if you didn’t adjust the temperature of the new water before adding it to the aquarium, your fish may suffer temperature shock. In that case, slowly raise the tank temperature to the desired level. 

What causes them To Lay on The Bottom of The Tank Upside Down?

The betta fish is a pleasure to have around, and they often sleep in various positions. You may find your little friend upside down with its head pointing towards the bottom of your aquarium! It’s strange and maybe panicking for the new betta owners. However, your betta is probably just taking a nap!

While it’s normal to see them turned upside down, this should be looked into if you notice other signs of illness. The most common disease that causes bettas to turn upside down is swim bladder disease.

It would help if you found remedies for swim bladder disease to recover your betta fish. Although it’s mostly a waiting game, you can add salt to the tank known for easing constipation. 

Wrapping Up

I have been a fishkeeper for over ten years, and it’s never too often that I see my bettas laying on the bottom of their tanks. It is important to note that there are a lot of reasons why this may happen. 

Nutrition, water quality, and overcrowding in the aquarium can all lead to your betta being unhappy or stressed out, which could ultimately result in them needing time off from swimming around. 

Suppose you notice your betta doing something unusual like laying at the bottom of their tank instead of living life as usual. In that case, take some time to evaluate what might be going on with them, so you don’t have any other problems!

Sujit Modak

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