Betta Laying At The Bottom Of The Tank: 20 Causes & Solutions

Are you staring into your tank and wondering “why is my betta at the bottom of the tank?” When you see this behavior, you instantly start worrying. Keep reading to find out all the reasons your Siamese fighting fish might be staying at the bottom of the tank and whether you should be concerned.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways:

The main reason your betta will be laying at the bottom of their tank is due to poor water quality, This poor water quality can be caused by a number of reasons such as:

  • Inadequate filtration, temperature shock, ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate poisoning, among others.
  • The lack of a filter or heater in the tank might lead to the betta staying at the bottom, as it can cause ammonia buildup or temperature fluctuations, affecting the fish’s health.
  • Addressing water quality issues through regular water changes and testing parameters like ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels is crucial to identify and fix potential problems.
  • Providing solutions like adding ammonia neutralizer, aquarium salt, adjusting the tank temperature gradually, and using water conditioners can help alleviate stress on the fish caused by water parameter imbalances.
  • Factors like aggressive tank mates, poor quality food, swim bladder disease, constipation, or even depression and old age could also contribute to a betta fish staying at the bottom of the tank.

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Before Anything, Ask Yourself This…

When you see your betta at the bottom of the tank the good news is you don’t need to panic just yet. There are many reasons that your betta exhibits this behavior and while some of them are a cause for concern, some aren’t.

Before panicking there are a few things you need to ask yourself. First of all…

Do You Have A Filter?

One reason your betta might be lying at the bottom of the tank is if you don’t have a filter in your tank. If you don’t have a filter then there could be a build up of chemicals as well as ammonia.  When ammonia builds up too much your betta could begin suffering from ammonia poisoning, which can quickly become fatal.

Also if another chemical has accidentally been introduced into your tank then it could also be damaging your betta. And without a filter to remove them, they’ll just keep poisoning him.

On the other hand, if you have a filter you may notice your betta stays at the bottom of his tank as well. And it may be because the current coming from your filter is too strong. If this is the case, then your betta may stay at the bottom of the tank to avoid it.

Do You Have A Heater?

Secondly, if you don’t have a heater your betta might also sink to the bottom of the tank. Temperature shock is very common in betta tanks that don’t have heaters. If you don’t know what temperature shock is, it’s when the water temperature drops too low or goes too high.

If the water becomes too cold then your betta is more likely to become lethargic and just lay on the bottom of his tank.

Why Is Your Betta At The Bottom Of The Tank?

There are a whole bunch of reasons your betta could be laying at the bottom of his tank. So go through the list and check them off one by one until figure out what’s causing it, and then act to fix the issue ASAP!

Poor water conditions caused by poor filtration and a lack of heating are the main reason your betta is laying the bottom of the tank. When combined with other issues in the tank, this can cause your betta to sink to the bottom (possible with swim bladder disease).

Ammonia, Nitrite, Or Nitrate Poisoning

If you think your betta is laying at the bottom of his tank because of ammonia poisoning then check the water parameters of your tank with a test kit (I’d recommend the API Master Test Kit).

Not only will you be able to test the ammonia, but you can test the nitrite, nitrate and pH as well! After testing, make sure the ammonia and nitrite are at 0ppm, and the nitrate is below 20ppm

Solution

If you’ve noticed that any of the above are off, then you know that this is one of the problems you’re dealing with and you can work to fix it. Fortunately, if you act fast, this is still treatable and you can save your betta!

Perform A Water Change

First of all, you should perform a 20-30% water change. This way you’re going to remove a large amount of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate from your tank, and further dilute the remaining amount with fresh water!

Add Ammonia Neutralizer

Secondly, if the ammonia levels are too high add ammonia neutralizer to your tank. Doing this is going to make the ammonia in your tank harmless, whilst still allowing the beneficial bacteria to consume it and continue growing! Reducing the chance of ammonia poisoning happening in the future.

Add Aquarium Salt

By adding aquarium salt you’re going to prevent nitrite poisoning from being so harmful. Aquarium salt essentially blocks nitrogen absorption through your bettas gills, so they’ll be able to breath easier.

Example of 0ppm ammoia

Find out more about:

Temperature Shock

Another reason that your betta may be at the bottom of their tank is due to temperature shock. When the temperature in your tank either rises or falls too quickly, it can shock your betta and cause them to go into temperature shock, which can become fatal incredibly fast.

This is one of the many reasons it’s so important to use a heater in your bettas tank! When heaters are being used it’s almost impossible for the temperature to change rapidly unless your heater may has stopped working. If you think this may be the case then check out some of the ways you can heat your tank without a heater!

The main symptoms you’ll see when temperature shock has occurred asides from staying at the bottom of the tank are:

  • Breathing rapidly or reduced breathing
  • Erratic swimming
  • Slipping into a coma
  • Staying at the surface of the tank

Solution

To check whether your betta is suffering from temperature shock, then of course you’ll need to find out the temperature of the water with a thermometer. Ideally the temperature should be 78°F, however, anything between 76-80°F is fine too.

However, ideally, you should know what the temperature of your tank is, so you can slowly bring the temperature to that level if you notice it has changed suddenly. Some great ways to do this include:

  • Performing a water change, and adding water that is slightly warmer or colder (depending on the needs of your betta).
  • Turning the heater up incrementally if the tank is too cold.
  • Letting a fan blow across the top of the tank if it’s too hot.
a fish tank heater

The Temperature Is Too Low

Sometimes, even if the temperature hasn’t dropped suddenly, it might still be too low. When the temperature is too low, your betta will become lethargic, and try to move to the warmest part of the tank (which is normally by the heater or at the bottom).

Solution

Of course, the best solution here is to simply make sure that your tank has a heater and that it’s being heated adequately. Generally a heater for your fish tank should be about 5 watts per gallon.

The Wrong pH

If the pH swings to far above or below this, or swings rapidly, it’s going to be extremely dangerous for your betta.

The wrong pH levels can also be harmful to your betta and could be the reason he’s laying at the bottom of his tank. Your bettas aquarium should be as close to 7.0 as possible, however, a slightly acidic environment of 6.5 is also great for bettas.

Solutions

If you’ve tested the water and you know the pH in your tank is wrong, then there are a few things you can do.

Raise The pH

First of all, if the pH is below 6.5, then you’ll need to raise it. The easiest way to do this is with pH Up, however, you can also use crushed coral or anything with calcium in it to slowly make the water more alkaline.

Lower The pH

If you need to lower the pH, then again the easiest method is to use pH Down. If you want a more natural method, however, you can also use Driftwood or Indian Almond Leaves to lower the pH levels.

(Just remember, if you’re keeping snails in your betta’s tank, then an acidic environment will damage their shells.)

A Sudden Change In Water Parameters

Any sudden change in water parameters can also cause your betta to lay at the bottom of the tank. This most often happens when too much water in the tank gets changed at once (which is why it’s recommended to only change about 10-20% of the water in your tank once or twice per week.

However, as you know there are other things that can cause a change in water parameters as well. A sudden crash in the nitrogen cycle can cause the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to crash, or if your heater breaks then the temperature in the tank could drop rapidly.

Solutions

If you think that a sudden change in water parameters has caused your betta to lay at the bottom of the tank, and you’ve already performed a water change, fixed ammonia, nitrite and nitrate issues, and the water in the tank is the correct temperature, then try the following:

Adding API Stress Coat

API Stress Coat is going to help reduce your bettas stress as well as improve their slime coat. This will help reduce the risk of a disease or illness affecting them when they’re already more susceptible.

Turn The Lights Off

And also, turning the light off will allow your betta to rest easier without feeling stressed, which in turn will help them recover quicker!

Chemicals Got Into The Tank

Sometimes, it could be the case that chemicals of some sort have gotten into the tank. This could be something as simple as deodorant or fly killer being sprayed to close to the tank.

Solution

If you think chemicals of some sort have gotten into the tank then you should try to remove as much as you can in a water change. Normally, it’s not recommended to perform a 50% water change, however, if the chemicals are causing your betta to lay at the bottom of his tank, then this is the best thing to do.

As well as this, you should also add extra chemical media into your filter, to help remove excess chemicals that may be left over.

betta care facebook group

Chlorine/Chloramine Poisoning

Another reason that your betta may be at the bottom of their tank is chlorine/chloramine poisoning. If you’ve added tap water to your tank without treating it first, then the chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals in the tank are going to poison your betta straight away.

Solution

If you know that you haven’t added a water conditioner, then add some to your tank as soon as possible and stir it in. It works incredibly fast and this should be enough to bring your betta back to full health.

Swim Bladder Disease

Another reason your betta may be laying at the bottom of the tank is if there is something wrong with their swim bladder. Some of the most common reasons that your betta is suffering from swim bladder disease or swim bladder disorder is overeating, injury, poor water quality, and infection.

Some common symptoms of swim bladder disease include:

  • Trouble swimming
  • Lopsided swimming
  • Floating on their side
  • Buoyancy problems
  • Struggling to maintain a normal position
  • A distended belly or curved back
  • Lethargy

Solutions

Fortunately, in a lot of cases, swim bladder disease is extremely treatable, and it’s still more than possible to save your betta! So if you’re sure you’re dealing with swim bladder disease, try the following:

  • Give them an Epsom Salt Bath.
  • Fast your betta for a couple of days, and if there is no improvement feed them some daphnia.
  • Add API Stress Coat to the tank and turn the lights off to help reduce stress.

(Click here to find out more about swim bladder disease and everything you can do to treat it.)

Constipation

Constipation is another possible reason your betta fish may lay at the bottom of the tank. Constipation happens when your betta is finding it hard to pass stool (just like in people). Some of the most common reasons for constipation in betta fish include overeating, a low-fibre diet, and feeding them food that is difficult to digest.

Some other symptoms of constipation you may notice include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Lethargy
  • Inactivity

Solutions

Constipation can be a serious issue for your betta fish, so it’s important to address it as soon as possible. Here are some steps you can take to treat constipation in your betta:

Fast Them For 1-2 Days

If you suspect that your betta fish is constipated, stop feeding them for one to two days. In a lot of cases this can be enough to clear their digestive system and alleviate the blockage.

Feed Them Daphnia

If fasting them isn’t working, then they’re going to be hungry. The best thing you can feed them now is daphnia as it’s incredibly high in fiber, whilst still being digestible to bettas.

Epsom Salt Bath

You can also give your betta fish an Epsom salt bath to help alleviate their constipation. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt into a gallon of old tank water (in a seperate container) and leave your betta in it for 5-8 minutes. This can help to stimulate their digestive system’s muscles and encourage bowel movements.

my betta fish

Dropsy

Another reason your betta may be laying at the bottom of the tank is dropsy. This is a bacterial infection that affects your bettas organs, leading to fluid accumulation in their body. The cause of dropsy is often attributed to poor water quality, inadequate filtration, or feeding them low-quality food.

Unfortunately, if your betta is suffering from dropsy the prognosis is never good, and euthanasia may need to be considered..

Symptoms of dropsy in betta fish include:

  • A swollen or bloated belly
  • Pinecone-like scales that protrude from the body
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty swimming

Solutions

Dropsy is a a severe condition, and immediate action is required to save your betta fish (if this is the route you plan to take). Here are some steps you can take to treat dropsy:

Move Them To A Quarantine Tank

The first thing you’ll want to do is move your betta to a quarantine tank filled with your bettas old tank water. This way you don’t have to worry about medicating fish that don’t need it, or aggressive tank mates stressing your betta.

Use Medication

Next you’ll need to use a strong medication to try and fight the bacterial infection. Recommended medicine to use include:

  • Kanamycin Sulfate
  • Amoxicillin
  • Erythromycin
  • Maracyn II

Keep The Water Quality High

During treatment, you’ll need to keep the quality of the aquarium water incredibly high! You should check the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates daily as well as ensuring that the temperature and pH stay stable.

While there’s no guarantee this will save your betta, it’s still the best step you can take.

Betta splendens of blue color

The Current Is Too Strong

Your betta may be at the bottom of the tank because they’re trying to get away from a current in the tank which is too strong. Bettas aren’t the strongest swimmers and they can often get pushed around the tank by a strong filter current.

Solutions

Of course, the best solution here is to fix the filter current. You can do this by either moving the filter current to another area of the tank, or by putting something in front of the filter to diffuse the flow. Plants are a great way of doing this, and they’ll also help add more oxygen to your tank, but you can also use decorations.

When my betta was struggling with the filter current, I just aimed it into one corner of the tank at the surface of the water. Not only did it help my betta swim happily again, but it also increased surface agitation which improved the oxygenation in the tank.

Aggressive Tank Mates

Sometimes your betta may be laying at the bottom of their tank due to aggressive tank mates. While bettas are known for being territorial, there are just some fish that can out compete them.

Oscars and most cichlids are a lot larger than bettas and can bully them. Likewise fish that like to nip fins such as barbs may constantly pester your betta until they go wherever they can to avoid it.

Solutions

The best solution is to move your betta or the bully fish to another tank. Fish are unlikely to stop bullying one they’ve started, and if it continues, they may end up killing your betta. If you don’t have another tank, then you can use a tank divider to split the tank in two, and keep your betta safe on their own.

Poor Quality Food

Are you feeding your betta the right food? If you’re not feeding them the right food, then it could be stressing them out, weakening their immune system, and end up causing them to sit at the bottom of the tank.

Solutions

If you think that your betta is not getting the right food, then you need to improve the food you’re giving them ASAP. Start by using a high-quality betta pellet, and then also try to supplement their diet with live food. Daphnia is a great choice, but you can also use mosquito larvae or brine shrimp.

Your Betta Is Depressed

Sometimes bettas can become depressed if their needs aren’t being met. While they don’t need to be kept with other fish, they do need to be adequately entertained, and feel like they have enough space to roam. Without this may give up and lay at the bottom of their tank

Solutions

If your betta is depressed, there are plenty of things you can do to make them happy again!

Upgrade Their Tank

First of all, make sure that you’re tank is big enough. A betta should be kept in tanks that are a minimum of 5 gallon in size, however, ideally bigger is better. This is one of the best ways to quickly give your betta a lot of happiness.

Add Live Plants

If your tank is already big enough, you should make sure that you’ve got plenty of plants in the tank as well. Live plants are the best, however, if they’re too much maintenance then you can also try adding silk plants to the tank.

Decorations

And lastly, add decorations to the tank. Driftwood, and Indian almond leaves are great for bettas, however, you can also add any standard aquarium decoration you want as well!

fish tank plants

Injury

If your betta has been injured, then they may find it hard to swim and end up laying at the bottom of the tank. Try looking for any damage on your betta, especially on his body and tail to spot if this is the issue.

Solutions

There are a few solutions that you can do to help an injured betta get back to full health again.

Add API Stress Coat

I talk about API Stress Coat a lot but it’s because it’s so great for your betta! It contains aloe vera as well as ingredients that help improve your bettas immune system and slime coat, which are vital for getting him back to full health!

Remove Sharp Objects

If your betta has been injured, then something in your tank has hurt it. Remove any rocks and sharp objects from the tank to make sure that your betta doesn’t end up being damaged again!

Other Reasons Your Betta May Be Laying At The Bottom Of His Tank

Resting/Sleeping

And lastly, he may just be resting or sleeping. If there’s nothing wrong with the water in your tank and he definitely hasn’t gotten sick then he could just be resting.

If this is the case, some external stimulus should start getting him to move! A sure-fire way to check is to turn the lights on. The sudden change in brightness should get him to start moving.

If your betta isn’t showing any of the other symptoms, then here’s a couple of reasons he may be at the bottom.

A Lazy Betta

Bettas are lazy fish so if he is at the bottom of his tank then he could be being lazy. If you notice after a while he starts to move around normally and is okay with feeding then it’s probably nothing to worry about.

Old Age

Older betta fish don’t tend to move around as much simply because of their age. If you’ve had your betta a while and you find he’s more likely to be laying at the bottom of the tank then this could be why.

However, if he is getting older then he is more susceptible to diseases. So make sure you’ve checked the water conditions are perfect and he’s not suffering from any diseases.

Female Betta May Be Egg Bound

If you have a female betta and you notice she’s staying at the bottom of her tank then she may be eggbound. To be sure check to see if her belly is swollen. If it is, then, unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do except wait it out.

A Dead Betta

Unfortunately, if your betta has gotten very old then he may have died. If you place something in the tank, swish it around him and he doesn’t move then this is probably the case.

If so, then you’re going to need to move him quickly out of the tank before he starts to contaminate the water.

How To Prevent Your Betta From Laying At The Bottom Of The Tank

Fortunately, once you have fix whatever is wrong with your betta, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from undergoing the same stress! Such as:

Health IssueSymptomsSolutions
Swim Bladder DiseaseLopsided swimming, buoyancy problems– Epsom salt bath
Trouble swimming, lethargy– Fasting, then feed daphnia
DropsySwollen belly, pinecone-like scales– Move to quarantine tank, medication
Lethargy, loss of appetite– Maintain high water quality
ConstipationLack of appetite, bloating– Fasting, feed daphnia, Epsom salt bath
Chlorine/ChloramineRapid breathing, lethargy– Add water conditioner
InjuryVisible damage on body or fins– Add API Stress Coat, remove sharp objects from the tank

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes are vital for maintaining a healthy and clean environment for your betta fish. Perform a 10-20% water changes weekly or biweekly to remove any accumulated waste, debris, or harmful chemicals that could be affecting your betta’s health.

Keep An Eye On Your Water Quality

Monitoring your water quality is essential for the well-being of your betta fish. Poor water quality is one of the things that will damage your betta so fast, so test the water parameters regularly to ensure that the pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels are within the recommended range. Maintain a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5, ammonia and nitrite levels at 0ppm, and nitrate levels below 20 ppm.

Adjust The Temperature

Betta fish are tropical fish that require a warm water temperature of 76-80°F, but ideally at 78°F to thrive. And remember a sudden drop or rise in temperature can stress your betta fish massively and cause temperature shock. Use a reliable heater and thermometer to maintain a consistent water temperature in the tank.

Don’t Overcrowd Your Tank Or Add Aggressive Tank Mates

Overcrowding your betta fish tank can lead to stress, aggression, and disease. Bettas are territorial fish and need adequate space to swim and explore. As a rule of thumb, provide at least five gallons of water for your betta fish and an additional 1 gallon of water per inch of fish for every additional fish.

And of course, make sure you’re not adding any bullies or fin nippers to the tank either.

Ensure That Their Tank Is Safe

Make sure you’re not adding anything to your fish tank that is going to damage them. Anything with sharp objects such as plastic plants or rocks can damage them and cause them injury.

Keep Them Stress-Free

Stress can weaken your betta’s immune system and make them susceptible to diseases. Keep your betta fish stress-free by providing hiding spots, maintaining a consistent feeding schedule, and minimizing sudden changes to their environment.

Provide A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is crucial for the overall health and well-being of your betta fish. Feed them a variety of high-quality pellets, and frozen or live food to provide the necessary nutrients and vitamins. Avoid overfeeding as it can lead to constipation, swim bladder disease and bloating.

Keep The Tank Entertaining

Remember, you wan the tank to be as close to their natural habitat as possible to keep them as happy as possible! This not only will keep them entertained but will make them feel safer as well.

FAQ

Here are frequently asked questions people have about their betta laying at the bottom of the tank!

Why Is Your Betta Fish Laying On The Bottom Of The Tank Breathing Heavily?

If your betta is laying at the bottom of their tank breathing heavily, then the most likely causes are ammonia poisoning or temperature shock. You should try to get the water parameters back to what they were before to fix the issue.

Why Is Your Betta Fish At The Bottom Of The Tank Not Moving?

If your betta is at the bottom of their tank not moving, then it could be due to temperature shock, ammonia poisoning, old age, laziness, dropsy, or injury. Perform water changes, keep the tank at the right temperature and try to destress your betta if this is the case.

Why Is Your Betta Fish At The Bottom Of The Tank Upside Down?

If you notice your betta is just at the bottom of his tank floating upside down, then it’s most likely that he’s suffering from swim bladder disease, you can give him an Epsom salt bath to try and fix it when the SBD is severe.

Why Is Your Betta Fish At The Bottom Of His Tank On His Side?

If your betta is on his side at the bottom of the tank, then best case scenario he is just sleeping. However, in some cases, it can also be caused by constipation, swim bladder disease, dropsy, temperature shock, and ammonia poisoning.

Betta Fish At The Bottom Of His Tank After Water Change

If your betta is at the bottom of their tank after a water change it’s most likely because the water change has stressed him out a little bit and he’s looking for somewhere close to the ground he can hide.

However, if this isn’t the case then it’s likely that he’s suffering from temperature shock, or pH shock. If you didn’t check the water before you added it to the tank then it could be too cold, the pH might be too high.

It could also be chlorine poisoning. If you forgot to add water conditioner to the new water, then the chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals in your tank are going to poison your betta, so add water conditioner ASAP.

You’ll need to warm it up a bit to keep your betta alive. However, make sure you’re warming it up gradually.

Is It Normal For Betta Fish To Stay At The Bottom Of Their Tank?

Betta’s tend to stay at the top of the tank, so it’s not normal for them to be near the bottom. If this is new behavior, then it’s a sign something is wrong with the tank. However, if this is normal for your betta, and they’ve been like this since you’ve had them, then you have no need to worry.

Betta At The Bottom Of The Tank_ 20 Causes & Solutions

Why Is Your Betta Hiding At The Bottom Of The Tank?

If your betta is hiding at the bottom of the tank, then it may be because of stress or bullies in the tank. Ensure you’re giving him lots more hiding places, so he can feel more relaxed, as well as removing aggressive tank mates.

Recap

Now you know all the reasons your betta will lay at the bottom of his tank and what the symptoms of each reason are going to look like! Here are the main points that you need to remember:

  • If they’re on the bottom and they’re breathing heavily then it’s most likely ammonia poisoning.
  • If they’re on the bottom and they’re not moving then it could be temperature shock, swim bladder disease, they’ve passed away, or they’re sleeping.
  • When you notice them at the bottom of their tank and their upside down then it’s swim bladder disease.
  • If it’s happened after a water change then it could be temperature shock.
  • And lastly, if he’s on his side then there are a couple of causes. He could just be sleeping or it could be constipation/swim bladder disease.
  • There are also other things that make the betta lay on the bottom of his tank such as if he’s lazy (his fins are going to get heavy over time), old age, and if it’s a female then she may be egg bound!
  • And of course, a sick betta fish can be nursed back to no health! So don’t give up on them!

Do all of the following, and you’ll always have a healthy betta! If you have any more questions you can leave them below, otherwise, be sure to check out the rest of the website and have a great day.

About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio!

Betta fish keeper for over 6 years now! Since owning a betta I've also housed all kinds of tropical fish, and have seen all manner of problems and how to look after them!

If you need any advice you can always message me or better yet join the Facebook group where a community can answer your questions!

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