It is natural for many new pet owners to worry about the health of their fish. This is especially true if the fish seems to move around strangely or show any erratic behavior. Most of these fish behaviors are pretty standard, but it is easy to misunderstand them for something worse – and vice versa.
Bettas are a fish species that are a common household pet. They take up a tiny space due to their tiny size and are easy to care for. They can fit into bowls and small tanks. Not only this, but they also come in attractive colors. Watching them flit around with their bright hues is a pleasure. As with most fish, Bettas are active and playful. To know more about Bettas and their types, check out this detailed guide.
Since they are usually responsive and aggressive, it may come as a shock to you if you spot your Betta lying at the bottom of the tank without moving a lot. Instead of immediately panicking, take some time to learn their behavior and assess the situation.
All Possible Causes
1. Old Age
Bettas only live for a short period. Even if you provide the best conditions for your Betta to live in, it will only live for three to five years. If your Bettas are in this age group, this may signify that they are getting old. Bettas will move slower when they are aging. This is because they do not have enough energy to swim about constantly. Laying on the bottom of the tank may indicate that your Betta is currently resting or sleeping. Just like older people, old Bettas need more rest than young ones.
If you haven’t raised them, it may be difficult for you to figure out how old your Bettas are. One way of estimating their age is the brightness of their colors and their energy level.
2. Fast Flowing Water or Filter Current
Bettas do not like strong currents or fast-moving waters because they cannot swim freely enough. Their feathery and large fins are primarily decorative. It is why they might get exhausted trying to swim through the tank if the water movement or the filter current is too fast. So, Bettas laying on the bottom of the tank can also be because of fatigue.
Bettas enjoy sleeping in strange places and positions. Sometimes when your Betta is lying on the bottom, it could just be asleep. To check if they are sleeping, look at their gills and notice their breathing.
4. Nitrate Poisoning
Nitrate is a substance created in the tank when the fish produce waste. If your tank is clean enough, the good bacteria in the tank work to convert the nitrates.
For the sake of your fish’s health, it is a bad idea to let nitrate levels build up in your tank. Excess nitrates will work overtime to weaken your fish. The Bettas will show signs such as no eating, slow movement, fatigue, etc.
Even the color on their bodies will dull. To prevent your Bettas from suffering, keep a testing kit handy and perform tests now and then.
5. Ammonia Poisoning
Ammonia levels in the fish tank, just like nitrate, rise when Bettas produce waste, just like nitrate. This chemical is harmful to fish and causes many problems such as difficulty breathing, burning in the gills, etc.
Ammonia poisoning occurs when the water in the tank is not changed regularly or if there is no proper filtration system. Eventually, your fish will not have a strong immune system and die early. To prevent your fish from dying of high ammonia levels, use a testing kit every few days and make regular water changes.
6. Water is Too Hot or Too Cold
Temperature shock is when the fish suddenly experience a drastic change in the water around them. This shock in a way paralyzes them momentarily and may even do more harm. For Bettas, a tropical fish species, having the right amount of warmth in the water is important. They cannot stand too cold or too hot temperatures.
If the water temperature is too hot, try cooling down the tank a little to prevent the effects of the shock. Remember to use an air conditioner or place a small fan over the water surface to cool it gradually. If you perform any sudden temperature changes by putting ice cubes or cold water into the tank, your fish will not be able to adjust to it. In doing so, you might also kill good bacteria in your tank.
If your Betta gets too cold, then it is because the tank temperature has dropped below 74 or 70 degrees. This drop is the reason why Bettas sometimes hover in a warmer corner of the tank. Sometimes, they might even lay down because they are feeling too cold and need to conserve energy. If it is too cold in the tank, use a good heater to raise the temperature of the tank gradually. Once again, remember not to do it too suddenly!
7. Cramped Space
Just like every living creature, Bettas need enough space to live in. Bettas live in small bowls or tiny tanks with barely enough space to explore or move around.
If there is no space for your Betta to look around, then it might just lay at the bottom to pass the time. Even though Bettas can live in a small space, that does not mean they will live well. When it comes to tanks, the bigger, the better.
Take a look at this detailed guide to help you choose the perfect tank for your fish.
8. Diseases and Ailments
Bettas are prone to many diseases such as Bacterial or Fungal Infections, Fin or Tail Rot, Ich (White Spots), Swim Bladder Disease, Velvet, Pop Eye, and Dropsy. All these diseases are pretty serious and will leave your fish weakened and tired. Most of these diseases happen due to unclean water, high or low temperature, increasing levels of ammonia or nitrate, in-fighting, and many internal and external factors. If your Betta lays on the bottom of the tank for a long time, get help and look for immediate treatment from a professional.
One of the simplest reasons why Bettas lay down is because they are lazy. While most Bettas are pretty active and will not laze around if they have enough to keep them interested, some are different. If your fish regularly lies down on the bottom but eats well and swims fine, then it might be because it has become lazy.
10. Pregnant Bettas
If you spot a Betta laying at the bottom, check if it is a male or a female. Female Bettas, when pregnant, have a sack full of eggs and sometimes lie down. There is nothing you can do in the case except wait for the female to regain energy and get up. Keep monitoring the fish for other signs of ill health while it stays at the bottom.
To understand male and female Betta behavior clearly, take a look at this guide.
Is It Normal For Betta Fish To Lay On The Bottom Of The Tank?
Bettas are tropical species and live in warm climates. Like all fish species, Bettas also have their quirks and habits.
Sometimes when Bettas lay on the bottom, it is a completely normal sign. Other times, it is a definite cause of worry. To differentiate between the two, you must understand the causes mentioned above well. If you are a newbie, you might have to make extra effort to understand your Betta’s behavior as Bettas sometimes also enjoy laying down in the tank for fun!
Most of the time, you can tell if your Betta laying on the ground is a cause for worry or not by observing the way it is laying. While some of these signs may be the usual behavior of your Betta, learning about their movement will help you distinguish between the normal habits and the irregular ones.
Here are some frequently asked questions by Betta owners and their answers.
If you find your Betta at the bottom of the tank, you will need to observe the fish for a couple of minutes to ensure two things.
Firstly, is the Betta sleeping? Bettas cannot close their eyes at all, so it might look like they are awake and lying motionless at the bottom. If the fish is sleeping, then you will find that their gills indicate their breathing pattern. If the breathing pattern is fine, then so is your fish.
Secondly, is the Betta attempting to move but cannot? If the fish is trying to swim or move its fins but struggling, then act immediately. This is a sign that your fish is suffering from an ailment. Your fish might be going through a temperature shock, which can be fatal to fishes not used to living in a wide range of temperatures. Bettas cannot tolerate too warm or too cold temperatures.
Another reason for the struggle of your Betta could be swim bladder disease. This is a sign of alarm, and you should immediately take countermeasures to comfort your Betta. To help your fish in case of temperature shock, slowly adjust the temperature of the tank. If it is swim bladder disease, then there is little you can do immediately. You will have to wait till your fish can eat foods with high fiber to regain their strength.
There is a chance where if your fish has not moved for a long time, it has already died. But, if you have a keen observer, you will notice warning signs much before your fish dies. Such as lethargy or refusal to eat. You can take preventive measures in advance to save your Betta.
Bettas usually lay on their side. This habit is quite common amongst the fish, especially when they are sleeping. A Betta will prefer sleeping on its side, unlike some fishes who sleep upright.
Still, looking at your Betta laying on its side might be alarming for you. To ease your worry, you can make sure you give the fish other sleeping areas away from the substrate. You can do this by planting your aquarium and setting up decorative pieces like rocks, small caves, etc.
To ensure that your Betta is indeed sleeping well, monitor their gills and breathing pattern. A healthy Betta fish is pretty active and will start moving around as soon as it wakes up.
Betta fish never lay at the bottom of the tank, facing upside down. It is a sure sign that something is wrong. Nine out of ten times, it is because your Betta has swim bladder disease.
Once again, observe the Betta for a couple of minutes to check if they are attempting to move. If they are trying on their own, this is a good sign. To help your fish in the case of swim bladder disease, you can only wait. You can reduce the water flow movement in the tank and even add a tiny pinch of salt to help the fish with their bladder problems.
Apart from this, you will have to wait until the fish can move a little on its own and then feed it fiber-rich foods.
If your Betta is breathing heavily while laying at the bottom of the tank, that means they are not sleeping. Heavy breathing is a sign of many ailments, including nitrate poisoning, ammonia poisoning, and even temperatures that are too hot for your fish to live in.
To identify which of these problems is causing difficulties to your fish, you will need to check your water with a testing kit. If you find high levels of nitrate or ammonia, then you must immediately change more than half of your tank water so your fish can breathe better.
Keep in mind that this is for instant relief. To keep the fish from further harm, you will have to check your water levels.
If poisoning is not the case, then take a thermometer and check your water temperature. If it is over the limit, then immediately try to cool the tank.
If your Betta is acting up or behaving differently, your first step must be to check its living conditions. Check the water temperature to make sure that the tank gets the best amount of heat. I recommend setting up a good heating system to ensure equal distribution of heat across your tank. Lack of proper warmth is the main reason for Bettas to be stressed. It may also lead to illnesses and infections among your fish at a later stage. This helpful guide will be useful in selecting the right heater for your needs.
Taking precautions and creating a safe living environment for your Betta will save you a lot of trouble. Bettas are small, gentle creatures and will live longer if cared for well.