Why Is My Betta Fish Not Moving?

Betta fish have strong and lively personalities and more vibrant colors compared to other fishes. Commonly referred to as the Siamese fighting fish, they react well to engagement with their keepers in various ways, including swimming sideways enthusiastically to see them or by flaring around. 

Since they are really energetic in general, not moving is quite unusual with Betta fish. It is odd for the Betta fish to not move as you approach the aquarium and it could be concerning. However, you should refrain from jumping to conclusions. 

It does not necessarily imply that your Betta fish is dying or that anything is wrong. There are a variety of not-so-severe reasons why your Betta might stop moving that much or at all. Keep reading to find out possible causes.

Why is my betta fish not moving: common reasons

Your betta fish is sleeping

Close up of a red, blue, and pink candy koi betta in a tank

Your betta will sleep and slumber at various times during the day and night. The most likely cause of betta’s inactivity is sleep. Usually, this will only be a light sleep, and they will awaken when you approach; however, this is not always the case. 

Bettas can—and will—sleep through the presence of a quiet or silent person near their aquarium, and you’ll find them sleeping for a long time. These fish also like to sleep on their sides, typically lying on the bottom of the tank on the leaves of plants. 

Many fish keepers may be alarmed if they discover their betta fish sleeping in such positions. If you switch on the light or swirl the water, they will most likely wake up. In case they don’t start moving right away, there could be another explanation for why it’s not moving.

As a fish keeper, you may want to touch the glass or even poke the betta fish at this time to ensure that they are still alive. It would be best not to do this because you might startle them by waking them up like this. 

Instead, search for your betta’s gills and mouth and see if they are moving. The betta might be at the bottom of the tank breathing heavily, which indicates that they are simply resting. If this is the case, the movement will be noticeably slower compared to when they are awake.

Swim Bladder Issues

Betta Fish Or Fighting Fish (Half Moon Double Tail) On White Background
Double tail betta fish

Betta fish have a flexible organ that helps with bodily functions of controlling buoyancy by filling it with gas. The Betta may float unevenly or sink to the tank’s bottom whenever this organ is disrupted, like when a fish gets constipated. 

If it does not appear to be moving, then your betta could suffer from swim bladder disease, making swimming to the water’s top a demanding and challenging task.

In the case of swim bladder problems, try fasting them for a few days to check if the obstruction dissolves, or feed your fish shelled or blanched peas. 

There are chances that it could be a few diseases other than swim bladder issue, which are causing difficulties to your Betta and not allowing it to move much. These may include ailments like pop-eye, Ich, dropsy, velvet, fin rot, or other fungal infections, worms, and parasitic infections.

Poor water quality or living conditions

Water conditions that are less than perfect could be one of the main reasons your betta fish is sluggish and not swimming around. Some causes leading to poor living conditions are:

Water temperature and lighting

The temperature of the water is the essential consideration here. According to fish keepers, the optimum temperature for a betta is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your fish will not be lethargic if the water is too warm, but this will not be the case if it is too cold as it might cause a temperature shock. 

In case of cold water, particularly when the temperature falls below 75 degrees, it causes the fish’s metabolism to collapse, body systems to shut down, the fish to stop eating, and cease moving.

You must double-check the water temperature and your heater to make sure everything is in working condition to maintain the aquarium temperature if your betta stops moving. 

A lack of lighting could also be a possible reason for the lack of movement. You should also check the lighting in your tank. Although this is unusual, if the tank is frequently dark, your betta may be passive or sleeping because it believes it is nighttime.

pH level

An ideal pH level is also crucial to maintain the optimum health of the fish. Betta fish require a pH level of 6.8 to 7.5 in their water. A greater or lower value than that will jeopardize its health, causing it to slow down, become unwell, and eventually die. 

You may fix the pH of the water for a reasonable price by purchasing several pH treatment alternatives from your local pet store.

High levels of ammonia, nitrate, And nitrite

Check the water for ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels, perform some tests, and make sure the biological filter in the tank is working correctly. High levels of these compounds are toxic for fish, causing the fish to become unwell and cease moving. 

Ensure you employ a sound filtering system to prevent high ammonia levels and other toxins from collecting in the water. If the levels of these compounds are already too high, the simplest solution is to perform a water change as soon as possible to ensure high quality water and prevent ammonia poisoning.

Your betta is stressed

A blue iridescent green fish from the betta family

Betta is a hardy fish and relatively easy to care for when you take the right steps, but they still require the right environment for proper growth. If a betta fish is unhappy and stressed by its surroundings, it will be hesitant to move around. 

Apart from water quality, some parameters like the aquarium size and your betta fish’s tank mates could be the main environmental concerns.

Size of the aquarium

Bettas require plenty of room for swimming as well as dark, shady, or odd places to rest.

For a single betta fish, you need to get a minimum five gallon tank, complete with plenty of hiding spaces for your betta to swim around and hide in.

Tank companions

Although you might be able to house multiple female betta fish in the same tank, you cannot have more than one male betta fish. There are, however, plenty of betta tank mates—like the cory catfish—you can add to your aquarium.

However, this is not true for all betta fish, and some might have an adverse reaction to tank mates. When a betta does not want to share an aquarium, the most usual reaction is for it to attack and perhaps fight.

But there could be instances where some fishes might instead hide and remain in the aquarium motionless.

Checking for gill and mouth movement, like with sleeping Betta fish, should rapidly reveal if they are healthy or not. If they are unhappy with their mates, consider moving them to their own aquarium.

Your betta fish has died

Betta fish have an average lifespan of three to five years, although some may live longer. You can see Betta fish laying on the bottom or floating on the top once they die. If you discover your Betta in any of these postures, they may have passed away.

If you think your betta has died, try to see whether they have any gill or mouth movement. Rather than catching and disposing of what could be merely a potentially very sick fish, tap on the aquarium glass if movement is not visible.

To be alert that your fish might be dying, look for the following other signs:

  • Lethargy
  • Pale color
  • Not eating properly
  • Odd movements like twitching and darting
  • Hiding

Tips for keeping your betta fish happy and healthy

A happy betta will swim through their tank, hide when they feel like hiding, and if they are a male, create bubble nests.

However, if you observe that your betta fish is acting unusual, you can help it in several ways.

Feed your betta correctly

Bettas, like other species, will be less energetic and stop moving if they don’t acquire enough food or nourishment. They need a high-protein diet to thrive. You should feed your betta fish food developed specifically for them.

If you believe they are still not getting enough protein, you could consider these protein-rich foods:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Insect larvae
  • Worms of several kinds
  • Daphnia

Feeding your Betta more than required can make it more vulnerable to different betta diseases, particularly disorders affecting the digestive tract or the swim bladder organ.

Create the ideal habitat

Wild betta fish are usually found in shallow bodies of water or rice fields, where they can easily reach the water’s surface. A domestic betta, on the other hand, will prefer a much greater living place than that where they can be as lively as they like. 

You can simulate your betta’s natural Southeast Asian habitat to keep it happy. A tank with an overall capacity of no less than five gallons is ideal. Plastic/real plants and other tiny tank decorations in betta’s tank will serve as resting spots for your fish. 

If you want to add other fish into your tank, make sure you choose the right tank mates and and keep an eye on your betta fish. Your betta fish might reject their new tank mates, in which case they’ll act aggressive or stressed out. If this happens, remove the tank mates and let your betta remain alone.

Maintain proper water conditions

Hand pumping out water from a fish tank for cleaning purposes.

Bettas thrive in neutral water with medium hardness. A water test kit can help you keep track of things like ammonia and nitrate levels. Bettas, which are native to warm climates, require water that is at least 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

A Betta will be healthy and happy if you meet these water parameters. Betta flourish in clean water, so for a five gallon or larger tank, make at least a 30-50% water change every week if you have no filter. If you have a filter, change 20%.

If you replace 100% tank water, it will be a sudden shock for the fish and might have a huge effect on their health and bodily functions. Simply raise the water temperature to provide them with an ideal environment.

Choose a suitable location

Bettas are an energetic type of fish. A cheerful betta can be seen swimming around its tank, taking in all that is going on around him. It is best to keep the tank out of direct sunlight and away from winds to avoid the water temperature from becoming too hot or cold, which could be stressful for the fish.

Final thoughts

Since it is pretty odd for a betta fish to have a lack of movement, you can check for the possible causes to find out what’s wrong. Consider making immediate changes if you discover that your betta is sick.

By providing an ideal and healthy environment to the betta, you can keep all the worries at bay!

Is my betta fish stressed?

If a betta fish is unhappy and stressed by its surroundings, it will be hesitant to move around. 

Is my betta fish sleeping?

Betta fish also like to sleep on their sides, typically lying on the bottom of the tank on the leaves of plants. 
Many fish keepers may be alarmed if they discover their betta fish sleeping in such positions, but it is completely normal.

Richard Parker

Richard is an avid aquarist and has been keeping betta fish and other freshwater fish since he was a young boy. Through Aquatic Buddy, he hopes to help others learn how to care for their betta fish so they thrive in their home environments.

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