Betta Fish Not Moving: How To Diagnose 15 Common Reasons

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Last Updated on 2023-09-12

If you’re wondering why your betta fish isn’t moving, then you’ve found the right article! In this article, not only will you find out all the reasons they’ve stopped moving, but you’ll also learn what to do, and how to keep them healthy in the future!

So keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

Why Is Your Betta Fish Not Moving?

There are a number of reasons why your betta fish might not be moving, including stress, poor water quality, and illness.

1. They 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 Temperature Is Too Low

Water temperature can affect a fish’s health and mobility especially when it drops too low. Test the water and see where it’s at. Anything below 74°F is a serious cause for concern. The ideal temperature for bettas is around 76-80°F.

3. It Could Be Suffering From an Illness

If your betta is sick, then they may not have the energy to keep moving. Betta fish are particularly susceptible to swim bladder problems caused by overfeeding or constipation.

the biggest sign of swim bladder disease in your betta is the inability to regulate how they swim, and floating upside down or on their side.

However, if you notice that your betta is also just staying on the bottom of the tank this could be a sign of swim bladder issues, buoyancy issues, as well as other illnesses.

4. There Could Be Issues With Food

The wrong food can cause your betta fish to become very lethargic, meaning they won’t move around as much as you might expect them to. Bettas are carnivores, so you need to make sure they’re getting enough protein.

This can either come from high quality betta pellets or live food like daphnia and mosquito larvae.

5. A Problem With The pH

Ideally the pH in your bettas tank should be at 7.0. If it’s a lot higher than this or a lot lower than this, then it could be burning your betta’s skin. On top of this if the pH has fluctuated in a short amount of time, then your betta may be suffering from the result.

Try to bring the pH back to normal as quickly as possible using pH Up or pH Down for fish tanks to get the pH to where it should be again.

6. The Lighting Is Too Dim

If the lighting in your tank is always too dim, then it may be causing your betta to want to sleep more. Bettas have a circadian rhythm just like we do which can be affected by the light in the tank.

7. Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate Poisoning

If your betta is laying at the bottom of the tank not moving then it could be ammonia poisoning as well as nitrite or nitrate poisoning. In any of these cases, you may also notice them gasping for air, or breathing a lot more slowly. However, in the case of nitrite poisoning, you may also notice their gills starting to turn brown.

8. Stress

Your betta may not be moving because their body is going through a lot of stress at the moment. If they’re going through an illness, they’ve recently moved tanks, or there are aggressive fish in the tank, this will stress your betta.

9. Aggressive Tank Mates Or An Overcrowded Tank

If you’ve put your betta in a tank with aggressive tank mates, or a tank with too many fish, then they may stop moving as well. They’ll do this because they won’t feel safe and by staying still it’s less likely they’ll be seen by other tank mates.

10. It Might Have Passed Away

If your betta hasn’t moved for some time, and you notice that their body seems to be moving slightly with the current, then they may have passed away. Turn the light on to see if this wakes them up. If it doesn’t try to prod them gently with your net. If there’s no sign of life, then remove them from the tank as soon as possible.

11. A Lazy Betta

Sometimes, it’s simply the case that you’re dealing with a lazy betta that just doesn’t like to move. If your betta has always been quite stationary in the tank, then you may have nothing to worry about at all.

12. The Tank Isn’t Big Enough

If your betta is in a tank which is too small, then they’re going to have no motivation to swim around their tank. In fact, in cases when the tank is too small, it can even end up causing your betta to become depressed. Especially when there is nothing to entertain them in the tank either.

13. A Gravid Female

In cases, where it’s your female betta fish not moving, then it could mean that she’s gravid. When your female betta is gravid it means she’s ready to lay her eggs. The reason that she’s not moving is because this can be stressful on her body.

14. The Filter Might Is Too Strong

The wrong filter can make all the difference to your fish’s motivation and ability to move and explore. A betta fish living with a strong filter is more likely to stay stationary. When the current is too strong, your betta will struggle to swim against it and may resort to not moving at all.

15. Not Enough Oxygen

It could also be the case that there’s not enough oxygen in your bettas tank either. This can be harder to spot, but it can occur when the tank is overcrowded, or there’s not enough surface agitation allowing oxygen in and carbon dioxide out.

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

It’s completely normal for 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 when it would usually be swimming around, then you should check to make sure nothing is wrong.

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How To Help Your Betta Fish Move Again

If your betta fish is not moving and staying in one spot, there are a number of things you can do to make sure they get moving again!

If your betta fish isn’t moving you should try checking the water, performing water changes, improving their diet, making sure they’re not sick, and try to stimulate them by adding new decorations to the tank!

1. Checking & Changing the Water

High quality water conditions are vital for ensuring your betta is able to stay mobile and healthy. You should be checking the parameters of the water weekly. The main parameters to check are the ammonia levels, nitrite, nitrate, pH and temperature, as these are the ones where things normally go wrong.

Even when the parameters are all fine be sure to keep on top of performing water changes, at the very least it’s going to replenish the minerals your fish need in their water; It’s easiest to keep a routine to ensure that water never gets dirty enough to affect your betta.

As a rule of thumb you should change your bettas water every 1-2 weeks and change about 10-20% dependent on the tank size.

2. Improve Feeding Routine

If you’ve been feeding your betta tropical flakes for any fish, then you should stop immediately. Instead begin feeding your betta with betta pellets, which are made with bettas in mind.

On top of this supplement their diet with live food like daphnia, brine shrimp and mosquito larvae. While some people recommend bloodworms, you should avoid them because of how fatty they are.

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3. Check for Illness and Treat as Necessary

Bettas are prone to many illnesses, including dropsy, swim bladder disease and constipation. While dropsy is a lot harder to treat, with the right care swim bladder disease and constipation aren’t too difficult.

Constipation: To treat constipation fast your betta for a couple of days. If after fasting, they’re still not moving or the constipation hasn’t cleared up, then feed them daphnia. If this still hasn’t worked, then give them an Epsom salt bath.

Swim Bladder Disease: How you treat swim bladder disease will depend on the cause. If it’s caused by injury, it’s best to add aquarium salt to the tank to help relax your betta until it passes.

If it’s caused by bacterial or parasitical infection then you’ll need to administer the right medication (always ask a vet first). And if it’s caused by constipation, treat the constipation and the swim bladder disorder should sort itself out.

Some people will recommend feeding your betta peas, however, your betta will struggle to digest them, so daphnia is a much better alternative.

Dropsy: If your betta is suffering from dropsy then you should try to treat them with Maracyn 2 for the best results. There are instructions on the package for how to do this, and make sure that your betta is definitely suffering from dropsy before beginning. The most common symptoms are pineconing scales and bloating.

Fin Rot: If your betta is suffering from fin rot, this could also cause them to be more lethargic. If you notice that their fins are torn or look like they’re changing color, then it’s most likely fin rot. So perform frequent water changes and add API Stress Coat to help fix the issue.

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 betta’s activity by introducing new objects like plants and hiding places for your betta to interact with. So try to mimic the natural Southeast Asian habitat of betta fish with a large tank and lots of plants for them to swim through!

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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. 

6. Make Sure The Tank Is Big Enough

You should also that you’re housing your betta in a tank which is a minimum of 5 gallons in size, but ideally 10. Not only will this give your betta enough room to swim, but it will also let you add more decorations to the tank which will entertain them, and reduce the chance of a sudden fluctuation occurring in the water parameters.

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7. Pick The Right Tank Mates

Of course, it is possible for bettas to live with other fish, however, you do need to make sure that you’re choosing the right fish and that you’re not overcrowding the tank. To pick the right tank mates for your betta avoid anything flashy with a long flowing tail, and make sure they have the same water requirements.

8. Make Sure The Filter Is Okay

You should also make sure that the filter in the tank isn’t overpower your betta. It may be necessary to change the way the current is facing, or put something in front of the filter to reduce the current being expelled.

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9. Make Sure You’re Using A Heater

The best way to ensure that water temperature in your tank stays perfect for your betta is by using a heater and thermometer. This way you can set the temperature at 78°F and you won’t have to worry about them getting too cold.

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10. Add An Air Bubbler/Adjust The Filter

It’s also worth adding an air bubbler if you think not enough oxygen in the tank is causing your betta fish to stop moving. If you don’t want to add an air bubbler, you can also move the filter current so it’s agitating the surface of the water more. This will also cause more oxygen to enter the tank.

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11. Add Live Plants

Lastly, you should add live plants for your betta as well. Live plants have a number of benefits in your tank including, oxygenating the water, keeping the water cleaner, housing beneficial bacteria, and providing sources of entertainment.

If you’re not sure which plants to add I’d recommend anubias, java fern, java moss, and betta bulbs.

(Or you can check out the 33 best plants for beginners here!)

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

If you notice that your betta is laying on the bottom of the tank, this can often be more of a cause for concern. Some of the common reasons for this include:

1. Your Fish is Resting

Although they are typically lively fish, betta fish enjoy resting in between spurts of activity. While they particularly enjoy resting on anything in the tank it’s not uncommon for them to lay bottom of the tank as well, especially if there are plants. If you don’t see 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, especially in a corner, where they can feel safer.

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 five gallon tank at an absolute minimum; preferably, the tank should be even bigger than that though. 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 four 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?

If your betta isn’t moving but he’s still alive, then it could be because there are too many fish in the tank, he’s stressed, there are aggressive fish, he’s sick, tired, or simply old. Making sure you’re keeping the tank conditions good are the key to fixing this.

How Do I Know My Betta Is Dying?

If you think that your betta is dying, here are a few of the tell-tale signs to look for.

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 needs 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 a betta’s coloring to fade or change.

Some illnesses also cause white spots to appear on your betta like ich, or a gold dust to coat them like velvet. 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.

Ultimate Betta Fish Care Guide
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