Why Betta Fish Laying at Bottom of Tank (9 Causes & Recovery)

Betta fish are among the most popular fish in the country for a reason. They’re relatively hardy, easy to care for, and don’t take up much space. But what does it mean when Betta fish laying at bottom of tank and spending too much time there?

More importantly though, what might be causing it, and how can you fix it? We’ve highlighted nine potential causes for you here – but you don’t necessarily need to worry about all of them.

Why Betta Fish Laying at Bottom of Tank

1. Sleeping

Just because your Betta Fish is sometimes lying at the bottom of the tank doesn’t mean it’s time to worry. Betta fish spend 12 to 14 hours a day sleeping, which means you’re going to catch them taking a nap every now and then.

Most of their sleep occurs at night, but when they sleep up to 14 hours a day, they’re bound to take a few naps throughout the day. Unless they’re spending an abnormal amount of time at the bottom of the tank, or they’re displaying some of the more concerning symptoms, this is nothing to worry about.

Recovery

You need your sleep to function properly, and so does your betta fish! There’s nothing to do here except leave your betta fish alone and let them catch up on their sleep.

2. Older Fish

While we’d all love it if our betta fish could keep swimming forever, the truth is that betta fish only live for about 2 to 5 years. And just like how we don’t have as much energy when we get older, your betta fish is bound to slow down a bit too.

Simply put, laying at the bottom of the tank requires less work than swimming around the middle or the top. Your older betta needs more time to relax, so they spend more time at the bottom of the tank.

Recovery

We all wish we could turn back father time, but there’s nothing we can do. Keep the currents low and let your betta fish enjoy their golden year wherever they’re comfortable.

3. Ammonia Poisoning

Alright, not every reason your betta fish is laying near the bottom of the tank is harmless. Ammonia is a natural byproduct of fish, and until beneficial bacteria convert the ammonia to nitrite, it’s completely normal to have it in the tank.

But just because ammonia is a natural byproduct doesn’t mean it can’t kill your betta. Ammonia poisoning is extremely deadly to fish. The good news is that with a test kit, it’s easy to test for and rule out. Any level of ammonia over 0.2 mg/L is toxic for your betta.

Recovery

If your betta is suffering from ammonia poisoning, we have some bad news for you, currently there’s no cure. However, there are some things you can do to get the ammonia levels under control. Start by completing a partial water change.

Ensure you add some SafeStart to the water before adding to the tank. Retest for ammonia and if the levels are still too high, add an ammonia neutralizer to give the bacterial colonies some time to catch up and cycle the tank.

Keep in mind that the ammonia neutralizer isn’t getting rid of the ammonia, it’s temporarily making it safe for your betta. If the bacterial colonies don’t catch up, then you’ll end up with a dead betta when the neutralizer loses its effectiveness.

4. Nitrate Poisoning

Ammonia turns to nitrites, and nitrites turn to nitrates. And just as ammonia can kill your fish, nitrates can take them out too. The good news is that if your fish tank has too many nitrates, all you need to do is cycle the water to get everything back under control.

And while ammonia poisoning is a permanent condition for your betta, if you get the water levels back under control, your betta should make a full recovery. If you suspect nitrate poisoning, test the water to get accurate results and see what you need to do.

Recovery

Treating nitrate poisoning is a pretty straightforward process. Start with a 1/3 water change and retest for nitrates. If nitrate levels are still high, refrain from feeding your betta for 24 hours. From there, only feed sparingly for the next few days.

This will reduce the amount of ammonia your fish produces, which will lower the nitrites, and that will lower the nitrates. Once the nitrate levels are back under control, you can resume normal feeding, just perform more frequent water changes to keep the levels from spiking again.

5. Stress

When we look at our fish, their stress levels aren’t usually something that comes to mind. But if you want to keep a betta happy, then stress levels should be one of your top concerns.

There are plenty of things that can stress your betta out, and they’re not all things that come to mind immediately when you look at the tank. Stress could be caused by a bully tank mate, or not enough hiding spaces.

If your betta is feeling stressed, they might spend a ton of time hiding at the bottom of the tank.

Recovery

Just like too much stress isn’t good for you, it’s not good for your betta fish either. Too much stress can kill them, so you need to ensure they’re happy if you want them to stay healthy.

This means they need plenty of hiding spaces, and you might need to give them their own private aquarium. Keep in mind that if you’re adding more decorations and hiding spaces, then you’re also taking away swimming space, so they might need a bigger tank.

6. Too Much Current

Betta fish prefer a slow current that doesn’t exert too much stress on them. It makes sense once you consider that betta fish breathe at the top of the tank. A current that’s pushing them towards the bottom of the tank can be exhausting for you betta to fight against all day.

While a younger betta can handle it, they certainly don’t want to. And when they get older, they might not have the energy to fight against the current and get the air they need.

Recovery

If your betta tank has too much current, you need to remove or reduce the cause of that current. This may mean getting a less powerful filter, or simply getting a new tank for your betta. Bettas need slow-moving currents to thrive, and they won’t be happy in a tank with a strong current, even if they can handle it.

7. Temperature Shock

While bettas are known as a hardy fish, one area they can’t handle temperature changes. The tank needs to stay between 75 and 80 degrees, otherwise temperature shock can lead to a litany of problems.

A tank that’s too cold can damage their immune system, and one that’s too warm won’t have enough oxygen for your betta to live. Keeping a consistent temperature is key for your betta to thrive.

Recovery

While temperatures are bound to fluctuate outside, there’s no reason to allow it to happen inside your fish tank. Keep the tank away from windows so the sun won’t magnify and heat up the tank, and add a fish tank heater to keep it warm enough when it’s cold outside.

These heaters are far from expensive, and they’ll keep your betta alive and happy. It’s a small investment that’s worth every penny.

8. Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease is among the most prevalent ailments to affect fish, and it’s especially common among betta fish. There are tons of potential causes for it, including a low water temperature, overeating, bacterial infections, parasites, fighting, or egg binding.

Swim bladder disease displays itself by a fish swimming erratically, floating to the surface, and having difficulty swimming at the bottom of the tank.

Recovery

While swim bladder disease is a serious ailment for your fish, there are some things you can do to treat them and get them healthy again. Start by cutting off their diet for three days to allow their stomach some time to recover.

After those three days are up, get a frozen pea, microwave it a few seconds to thaw it, remove the skin and feed it to your betta. Do this for three to four days before moving to a non-floating fish food.

This is contrary to what most bettas eat, since they spend a lot of time at the surface. But since your betta is recovering, you should stick with bloodworms, live blackworms, and insect-based pellets.

Once your betta fish has fully recovered, you can add in some of their typical foods, but try to keep floating foods that expand to a minimum.

9. Aquarium is too Small

While it’s true that betta fish can live in smaller aquariums, that doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as too small. Strive for at least a 3-gallon aquarium, otherwise your betta fish can grow bored and will get stressed out.

Also, avoid aquariums with rounded edges, and never use a fishbowl. These tanks will distort the world your betta sees, and this can stress them out – it’s like if you spent your entire life inside a fun-house mirror room!

Aquarium is too Small

Recovery

The obvious answer here is to move your betta fish to a larger tank, but keep in mind that this takes time. You need to give the new tank time to cycle before adding your betta, otherwise you’re just asking for new problems.

Transporting some gravel from the old tank to the new tank can help, as can adding some of the aquarium water. Just ensure that you give everything in the new tank time to complete one cycle and level out before moving in your betta.


When to Be Concerned

While occasionally seeing your betta hanging out at the bottom of your tank isn’t a concern, there are some tell-tale symptoms you need to be aware of so you can keep them healthy. Below we’ve highlighted three common symptoms that let you know something more serious is going on.

Positioning Matters

If your betta fish spends all their time at the bottom of the tank swimming right side up, there’s likely not a cause for concern. However, if your fish is swimming on their side, or even worse, upside down, that’s a big red flag.

You need to immediately start checking water parameters and figure out what’s going on. While there’s no guarantee you can save your betta at this point, if you take quick action, you can give your betta a fighting chance.

Movement

Swimming at the bottom of the tank is one thing, struggling to swim at the bottom of the tank is another. If you drop in food and your typically ravenous betta isn’t coming up to eat, or your betta can’t move around well, that’s generally a sign something else is going on.

Nitrate poisoning, ammonia poisoning, and swim bladder disease are all potential causes. Of course, your betta might just be nearing the end of their natural lifespan, and if that’s the case, there’s unfortunately nothing you can do.

Breathing Heavy

If you take a look at your betta and they’re gulping for oxygen at the bottom of the tank, that’s a really big red flag. The water might be too warm, or there might be too many chemicals in the water. Nitrates, ammonia, and chlorine are common culprits.

Test the water, ensure it’s not too warm, and hope for the best. Complete a water change if needed, but keep in mind that it might be too late for your betta. The best you can do if this happens is to try and get the conditions back to normal and hope your betta gets better.

Signs Everything is Just Fine

While the absence of red flags is an excellent sign everything is fine with your betta, sometimes you need just a little more reassurance. That’s why we highlighted three things to look for to let you know your betta is doing just fine.

Betta fish Signs

Swimming Normally

If your betta fish has no problem swimming around the bottom of the tank, there’s a good chance that’s just where they want to be. While betta fish typically prefer to spend most of their time near the top of the tank, that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a swim at the bottom from time to time!

Coming Up for Feedings

If you drop some food in the tank and your betta comes straight to the top to eat, that’s an excellent sign there’s nothing wrong with your betta. This shows they can come to the surface when they want to, which means they’re just choosing to spend a good amount of time near the bottom of the tank.

If that’s where they prefer to hang out, there’s nothing wrong with that! If they change their mind, they can always move to a different part of the tank.

Water Conditions are Fine

If the only thing wrong is that your betta is swimming at the bottom of the tank, there’s a good chance the problem isn’t with the tank. Perhaps your betta is just getting older, or maybe they just need a break.

Either way, if everything with the tank checks out, there’s not too much else that you can do.


FAQ

If you have a few questions about caring for your betta and why they might be swimming at the bottom of the tank, you’re not alone. That’s why we answered some of the most frequently asked questions here.

Is It Normal for Betta Fish To Lay on the Bottom of the Tank?

It’s completely normal for your betta fish to spend some time lying down at the bottom of the tank. They could be tired, sleeping, or just getting old. While they shouldn’t spend all their time at the bottom of the tank, just because they’re down there occasionally is no cause for concern.

What To Do if Your Betta Fish Is at the Bottom of the Tank?

If your betta fish is spending an abnormal amount of time at the bottom of the tank, you need to check for other concerning symptoms. Check if they’re swimming right side up, that they’re moving normally, and that they’re not breathing heavily. If all these things check out, you likely don’t need to do anything!

However, if any of those red flags are present, then you need to figure out what’s going on and treat the tank accordingly.

How Do You Tell If Your Betta Has Swim Bladder?

There are three tell-tale signs of swim bladder disease. Your fish will swim erratically, float to the surface, or struggle to swim at the bottom of the tank. If you suspect your fish has swim bladder disease, it’s best to treat the tank even if you’re not completely sure.

How Do You Save a Dying Betta Fish?

It depends on what’s ailing your betta. If it’s old age, there’s nothing you can do. Meanwhile, if it’s a specific disease or ailment, you can treat the tank accordingly.

If you suspect your betta fish is dying, check the water parameters for nitrates, ammonia, chlorine, and other chemicals. If they all check out, then it sadly might just be your bettas time.

How Long Can a Betta Fish Go Without Food?

Most betta fish can go anywhere from 10 to 14 days without food. While this is good to know if you’re treating them for swim bladder disease, if you’re planning to go on a trip, there are weekend feeders, two-week feeders, and auto feeders you can use.

These are much better choices instead of starving your fish for a few days.


Final Thoughts

While betta fish might not be the most labor-intensive pet, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to care for them or that they don’t need any work. The good news is that with fish keeping, knowledge is the most important factor, and you’re well on your way to learning everything you need to know.

So, just keep at it and get everything you need to keep the water parameters in check. If you do, there’s not much else you need to worry about!