Betta fish have a lot of unique behaviors.
These beautiful fish are known for their acrobatics, unique mating rituals, and aggressive behavior towards each other.
They are usually found swimming happily around the middle levels of the tank. So what happens when you find your Betta laying at the bottom of the tank?
You might fear that they are very sick or even about to die.
However, there are many different reasons for this. Keep reading to learn why they do this and how to care for them when they are laying on the bottom of the tank.
Table of Contents
Why Is Your Betta Fish Laying On The Bottom Of The Tank?
Sometimes a Betta fish will stay at the bottom of the tank because it has nothing else to do.
An empty tank with no plants or decorations is a recipe for boredom.
When designing your tank you should re-create your fish’s natural habitat. Make sure to include caves, crevices, shelves, and other hiding spots, as well as plenty of plants to play in.
Hollow logs, marimo moss balls, and plants are some of the best decorations. You can even include a few toys, statues, and miniature houses.
In a well decorated tank your fish should never be bored.
Small fish like Bettas are more prone to stress and anxiety than larger ones. The world can be a scary place for a tiny fish that is used to being hunted as prey.
When under stress their first instinct is to hide.
They will make their way to the bottom of the tank and tuck into a corner or a crevice.
Poor water quality is a common cause of stress. So too is a tank overcrowded with tank mates and decorations.
Your fish will also be distressed if its water parameters are off. This includes the water hardness, temperature, or pH range of the water. Your water hardness should remain at around 5 dGH, and the pH should range from 6.0 to 8.0. The best water temperature is 75-80°F.
3. Breathing Heavily
Sometimes you might notice your Betta on the bottom of the tank breathing heavily.
This is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
Your Betta may be showing these symptoms for any number of reasons.
- Ammonia or nitrate poisoning is one of the most common.
- If the water temperature is too high, your fish will have difficulty breathing and may be spotted gulping at the bottom of the tank.
- They might also be choking on a plant or another object.
The first thing to do is to remove them from the tank and isolate them in a quarantine tank full of clean, cycled water.
Check your fish’s airway for anything that may be lodged in their throat. If they are choking then use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to carefully remove the object.
If choking is not a problem then you will need to test the water parameters in the main tank. Make sure that you test for ammonia, nitrates, temperature and dissolved oxygen.
The sight of a hyperventilating Betta is a startling one, but if you act quickly then you will be able to save them.
4. Ammonia or Nitrate Poisoning
The presence of ammonia in water makes it difficult for Bettas to breathe. This in turn affects their activity level and coordination in the water.
Because of this they often swim and hide at the bottom of the tank. In addition to remaining at the bottom of the tank, a fish with ammonia poisoning may hyperventilate and gulp for air, and their movements will be sluggish and uncoordinated.
Nitrate poisoning has the same effects.
Performing a water change and cycle will provide instant relief.
To prevent a harmful accumulation of ammonia and nitrates, perform a 30% water change every 2 weeks, and make sure that your filter is working.
5. Incompatible Tank Mates
If there is a particularly aggressive or hyperactive fish in the community then your Betta will want to spend most of their time hiding.
They may seek out the bottom of the tank for shelter.
You need to pick tank mates that are peaceful and do not grow much larger than 3 inches in size. Keep fin nippers like Tiger Barbs and Siamese Algae Eaters away. Never keep Bettas with similar looking fish such as other Gourami fish. They will end up on the receiving end of some brutal attacks.
6. Laziness and Lethargy
Just like people, sometimes Bettas are just plain lazy.
Swimming takes a lot of energy and your Betta needs to rest just like any other animal.
Bettas will look for large rocks, logs, or leaves at the bottom of the tank to rest on. When resting, their pelvic and caudal fins will remain in motion.
Bouts of laziness or afternoon naps do not last very long so your fish should be back up and swimming within about an hour.
A nap at the bottom every so often is nothing to worry about and it is fine to let them rest. However, frequent lethargy or decreased activity is usually a sign that something is wrong.
Fish need to sleep just like any other animal.
The bottom of the tank is often their favorite place to tuck in for the night.
Bettas are active during the day and sleep at night, so one that is laying at the bottom during the night is almost certainly asleep.
Once your aquarium lights turn on in the morning your fish should be up and ready to greet the day.
Although there are lots of benign reasons for your Betta to lie at the bottom of the tank, sometimes they are in fact dead.
A live fish laying at the bottom of the tank will usually have some part of their body in motion, such as their caudal and pelvic fins. You should check their gills to see if they are still breathing. If your fish is laying stiff and still, then your fish has unfortunately passed away.
9. Small Tank
Tiny novelty tanks may look cute but they are not the best for your Betta.
A tiny tank is also very boring for them and they will not have enough space to swim. There is not much they can do except lounge at the bottom of the tank.
Your Betta fish will need at least a ten gallon tank.
10. Swim Bladder Malfunction
Swim bladder disease is another illness that can cause your Betta to remain at the bottom.
The swim bladder is the organ responsible for buoyancy in the water.
When something is wrong with the swim bladder the fish will be unable to stay afloat and will sink to the bottom of the tank. A fish with a swim bladder problem will usually have a distended abdomen and may be spotted laying upside-down at the bottom of the tank.
This disease can be caused by any number of issues, including constipation, bacterial infections, and injuries from a fight.
To treat it, you will need to identify the root cause.
11. Hot Water
Extreme heat affects a fish’s ability to breathe.
If your water is too hot then your Betta may gulp and gasp for air at the bottom of the tank.
Bettas should be kept in a temperature range of 75-80°F.
Your tank’s temperature should never climb above 82°F and you should not expose the tank to direct sunlight. If your room temperature is high then adjust the heater so that your tank temperature is at the lower end of its range.
12. Sickness and Disease
Most of the reasons why Bettas lay at the bottom of the tank are benign.
However if they are staying there for long periods of time then they may be sick.
Ammonia or nitrate poisoning are some of the most common illnesses that may cause your fish to remain at the bottom. Swim bladder disease is another common illness.
Your Betta might also be sick with Ich or another bacterial infection.
If your Betta is staying at the bottom of the tank for several hours at a time then you need to check your water parameters.
You should investigate and fix the problem.
These fish are called Fighting Fish for a reason!
Betta fish will often fight and they can get injured.
When they get injured they will make their way to the bottom of the tank where other fish are less likely to disturb them.
Check your fish for signs of injury, including blood, lacerations, scrapes, torn fins, and bruises. An injured fish should be isolated in a clean quarantine tank.
Healing ointments can be purchased from aquarium suppliers or prescribed by a vet, but clean water is the best medicine for an injured fish. You will want to perform a water change every 3 to 5 days while your fish is healing.
Once your Betta’s wounds have healed, you can return them to the community tank.
14. Strong Currents
Bettas are slow swimming fish that cannot keep up with fast currents.
They prefer as little flow as possible in their tank.
If the current is too strong then your Betta will not be able to swim. They will huddle at the bottom of the tank to shield themselves from the strong currents.
They will do just fine with a low flow hang-on-back or sponge filter. Others are likely to generate a current that is too strong for them. Adding an air pump will also increase the currents in your tank, so only use a single air stone if you want to oxygenate your water.
You can also use large rocks, bits of driftwood, or tall plants as current buffers. The currents will slow down as they hit these objects.
15. Wrong pH
Bettas can dive to the bottom of the tank when the pH is wrong.
They prefer a more alkaline pH between 6.0 and 8.0.
Lots of things can alter the pH in a tank. Tank cleaning and cycling, decaying plants and algae, and detrital buildup will all affect the acidity in the water. The pH of the water must be checked before and after tank cleaning, after removing or trimming plants, and if you have a lot of plant-based decorations such as logs and driftwood.
Placing air stones or an air pump in your tank will also slightly raise the pH, along with adding extra oxygen to the water.
Typical Betta Fish Behavior Explained
Betta fish are very active fish that can be found at all levels of the aquarium. However, they are usually spotted swimming around the middle and upper areas.
They are known as Siamese Fighting Fish because of their aggression towards each other.
These fish are also aggressive to other fish that look similar in size and shape, including Gouramis and some livebearing fish. This must be considered when choosing their tank mates.
When at peace, they are playful, curious, and surprisingly intelligent. They are known to jump, dart, and turn other amusing tricks in the water.
If you spot your fish at the bottom of the tank, they are most likely just taking a little nap. A tired fish may choose to relax at the bottom of the tank where they are less likely to be disturbed by their tank mates. A resting or sleeping Betta will keep their tail or pelvic fins in motion, to keep water flowing over their gills.
These fish are active during the day and will sleep at night when the aquarium lights are turned off.
The nighttime hours are when you are most likely to spot them resting at the bottom of the tank. However, if they are spending a lot of daylight hours at the bottom of the tank then something may be wrong.
It is understandable to panic when you find your Betta at the bottom of the tank.
However, this is a perfectly normal behavior for the most part.
Most likely they are just taking a nap. But even some of the scarier reasons, such as ammonia poisoning and injury, are easily fixed if you know just what to do.
Make sure to check your Betta’s water parameters and make sure that there is nothing in the tank that may scare them or stress them out. You should also make sure that they are getting enough sleep.
Sometimes a fish is just lazy and needs a few moments to rest and relax. You should only be concerned if your Betta spends more time at the bottom than it spends swimming around.
When was the last time you saw your Betta at the bottom of the tank?
Let us know in the comments section below…