5 Reasons Your Betta’s Not Moving (And What To Do)

There are a number of reasons why your betta fish might not be moving, including stress, poor water quality, and illness. It can be disconcerting to find that your betta is not moving, especially because they are typically lively fish. However, it is not necessarily a cause for concern unless you know your fish is ill. 

In this article, we look at some of the reasons your betta fish might not be moving, as well as what you can do to help it move again, whether it is normal for your betta to stay in one place, and why it might be at the bottom of the tank.

Why Is Your Betta Not Moving?

1. It Might Be Resting or Sleeping

Betta fish are naturally very lively fish, but just like us, they need a period of rest to allow themselves to recharge. Some fish hover in the water while they sleep, so an unmoving betta may simply be resting or sleeping. If you are unsure, try gently disturbing the water or turning on a light and see if your betta reacts.

2. Water Quality Might Be Low

Water quality can affect a fish’s health and mobility to the point that they may not be able to move. To make sure your fish has the best chance of remaining healthy and mobile, ensure the water your fish lives in is the right temperature for betta fish (aim for around 78°F) and has the correct levels of pH, nitrate, and ammonia.

3. It Could Be Suffering From an Illness

Bettas that are ill are likely to be unmoving, even if you see that they are alive. Betta fish are particularly susceptible to swim bladder problems caused by overfeeding or constipation. Look for a swollen midsection, as this can be a sign that your betta is suffering from swim bladder issues.

4. There Could Be Issues With Food

The wrong food can cause betta fish to become very lethargic, meaning they don’t move around as much as you might expect them to. Bettas need sustenance the same as other fish, and without it can suffer from a lack of energy that makes moving around very unappealing. Try upping the amount of food your betta is receiving and see if it improves.

5. It Might Have Passed Away

It is likely that your fish is moving for one of the reasons listed below. However, death is a possible reason why your betta might not be moving. Bettas typically live for an average of around three years, so a fish around this age that is not moving or responding to attempts to awaken should be gently checked for signs of life.

Is It Normal For a Betta to Stay In One Spot?

It is normal for a betta fish to stay in one place, although there are situations you should be aware of. You know your fish better than anyone, and so you are probably aware of its habits and routines.

If you know your fish is prone to being lazy, then you probably have nothing to worry about. However, if your fish is suddenly staying in one spot where it would usually be swimming around, then you will want to begin checking for what is causing your fish to stay still. It’s vital to ensure that your fish is not staying in a single spot for the wrong reasons. 

Siamese fighting fish with green plants

How To Help Your Betta Fish Move Again

1. Change the Water

As we discussed earlier, water quality is vital for ensuring your betta is able to stay mobile and healthy. Be sure to keep on top of cleaning out dirty water and replacing it with fresh as often as is necessary; it might be worth keeping a routine to ensure that water never gets dirty enough to affect mobility.

2. Improve Feeding Routine

Protein is a vital inclusion in a bettas diet, so ensure your fish is getting enough protein in its diet. Try including a betta-specific food and supplement with worms, brine shrimp, and insect larvae to ensure protein levels remain high. A sufficient diet will help bettas gain enough energy to stay active and healthy.

3. Check for Illness and Treat as Necessary

Bettas are prone to many illnesses, including dropsy, worms, infections, and constipation. It’s important for the health of your betta that you are on top of checking for such illnesses and giving appropriate treatment when necessary. A fish that is stationary due to illness is likely to be much improved following adequate treatment.

4. Introduce New Objects

A bored fish is unlikely to move around a lot and may spend much of its time floating in the water, resting, or sleeping. You can increase your fish’s activity by introducing new objects like plants and hiding places for your betta to interact with. Try to mimic the natural Southeast Asian habitat of betta fish with a large tank and lots of interesting objects.

5. Switch up the Location

Betta fish are very active, personable fish, and yours will likely be happy to see you. For this reason, you might want to consider moving the tank to somewhere you spend a lot of time, so your fish can watch you. The fish may be more inclined to move about if it feels there is something entertaining going on around it. 

Why Is My Betta Fish Lying on the Bottom of the Tank?

1. Your Fish is Resting

Although they are typically lively fish, betta fish enjoy resting in between spurts of activity. They particularly enjoy resting on anything that may lie along the bottom of the tank, like gravel or plants. If your fish is not demonstrating any signs of illness, stress, or injury, it’s most likely fine to leave it to rest.

2. It Wants Somewhere to Hide

Another behavior that comes alongside a need to rest is the desire to hide. Many bettas enjoy having somewhere dark that they can go to whenever they wish, whether to rest or sleep. If your fish doesn’t have anywhere to go to hide, it might resort to lying on the bottom of the tank, where many fish enjoy hiding among plants or ornaments.

3. It Could be Struggling With an Illness or Injury

Just like humans, the desire to retreat somewhere familiar and comfortable is strong in a fish suffering from an illness or injury. Alternatively, the fish may be struggling to swim if they are in pain or feeling discomfort from an illness. It might be worth checking your fish over for any signs of anything amiss.

4. The Tank Could Be Too Small

Bettas need a lot of room; you should typically be looking for at least a three-gallon tank at an absolute minimum; preferably, the tank should be between five- and ten-gallons. If your fish is kept in too small of a tank, your betta can feel confined to the bottom and become stressed. Try upgrading to a bigger tank with more room for exploration and activity. 

5. The Water is Too Hot or Cold

Bettas need water temperatures of around 78°F; a few degrees on either side of this is fine, but anything over or under is likely too extreme for your betta. Water that is too hot or too cold can cause your betta to become slow and lethargic, meaning they are likely to retreat to the bottom of the tank.

6. Your Fish’s Age

An older betta fish may have little to no energy compared with when it was younger. A fish over the age of three is unlikely to have the energy to explore and move around; you might see your older betta fish spending more time at the bottom of the tank. This isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, as it is likely a sign of lethargy and decreased activity.

Why Is My Fish Not Moving But Still Alive?

1. Your Betta Could Be Stressed

Bettas experiencing stress may not feel like moving around and exploring their tanks. Instead, they may wish to stay in one spot where they do not have to move much. Bettas can become stressed for a number of reasons, including new environments, a change in water, or illness.

2. The Filter Might Not Be Appropriate

The wrong filter can make all the difference to your fish’s motivation and ability to move and explore. A betta fish living with an inappropriate filter is more likely to stay stationary. This is often the case when a filter is too strong for your betta fish to contend with, making movement difficult and much less appealing.

3. It Might Be Having Trouble With Other Fish

Bettas who are struggling to adapt to the presence of other fish may experience stress or discomfort, which can cause them to become immobile. Bettas typically thrive when living alone. The addition of other fish to your betta’s tank may create a stressful atmosphere that has the potential to become aggressive.

4. The Tank Might Have Issues

Your betta’s tank might have issues that make it difficult for your fish to move around freely and comfortably. Things like too much nitrite and ammonia can create an atmosphere that can stress out bettas and cause them to become immobile.

5. Disease Could Be Making Your Betta Lethargic

Your betta could be facing an illness that you cannot see, such as constipation or swim bladder issues. These are common diseases for bettas to face but can result in your fish becoming lethargic and immobile. They aren’t necessarily signs of death and are treatable but can leave your fish feeling less than energetic.

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How Do I Know My Betta Is Dying?

Tip 1: Look for Symptoms of Lethargy

A betta that is dying is likely to be extremely lethargic and may appear to be very tired and slow. Lethargy is a natural sign of illness or approaching death, so it’s important to keep watch for signs of lethargy that you cannot attribute to another cause. In this case, it might be that your betta is very sick and is needing to rest more.

Tip 2: Keep an Eye Out for Loss of Appetite

Very sick bettas can experience a lack of appetite that can ultimately make them more ill. A sharp or sudden decrease in appetite could indicate that your betta is dying and should be monitored carefully. As your fish ages, it may need less food and can have a natural decrease in appetite. Any sudden change in appetite needs to be watched.

Tip 3: Check for Changes in Appearance

Sick bettas can begin to experience a change of color as a result of infections and illnesses specific to bettas. Many bacterial and fungal infections can cause betta’s colorings to fade or change. Some illnesses also cause white spots to appear on the fish. It’s important to be on the lookout for changes to appearance, as it is one indication that your fish is very sick.  

Tip 4: Watch Out for Rapid or Heavy Breathing

Bettas that are very sick or dying may breathe more heavily and quickly; this is usually due to low oxygen. It may happen very quickly, and for some fish, it only lasts a few hours before death. Make sure you check your betta regularly for signs that their breathing has changed or become more rapid.

Tip 5: Be Aware of Any Lack of Movement

As we saw earlier, it’s possible that a fish that is immobile could be dying or very sick. If you have followed the tips above on how to get your fish moving again and nothing is working, it might be time to consider whether your fish could be dying. Be sure to keep an eye out for signs of immobility and track possible reasons.

Summary

There are many reasons betta fish might experience a lack of movement, and these are not necessarily causes for concern. The need for concern will come from how well you know your fish and are capable of looking for signs of distress, disease, or illness. Ensure you stay on top of your betta’s habits and routine, and you should have no cause for concern.