Betta Fish Laying on Side, Bottom of Tank, or Not Swimming: Is It Normal?

Betta fish behavior can sometimes be somewhat strange, so is it normal for betta fish to lay on the bottom of the tank?

There are several reasons bettas might lay on the bottom of a tank, some of which are common and harmless and some of which can be signs of stress or illness. Learning to recognize which is which can help you solve any issues your betta might be having.

Sleeping Betta Fish

One of the most common reasons for a betta laying on the bottom of the tank is that it’s sleeping. Betta fish often enjoy laying on their sides while resting. It’s comfortable for them, even though it looks like very strange behavior to most aquarium keepers.

A betta with a good appetite, plenty of energy, and hasn’t been seen gasping for air but is on the bottom of the tank is often just taking a nap. If you’re not sure whether your betta is simply tired, observe the fish closely for a few days and watch for any signs of stress or illness.

Bettas like a place to rest their (usually) large fins. You can also add a resting place above the tank’s bottom to check if your betta fish is just laying on its side to sleep.

When offered a broad-leafed plant or a betta hammock, many fish will switch from lying on their side to the bottom of the tank to laying on their side in the new resting place. This is usually a sign that your fish is fine.

Older Bettas Like Resting at the Bottom

Another common (and harmless) answer to the question, “Why is my betta laying on the bottom of the tank?” is that the fish is old and is lacking in energy. Older betta fish may not have the stamina to swim around the tank as much, and they may take a brief break by laying on their side at the bottom of the tank.

Betta fish usually live for about three to five years, and as they age, you may want to provide more resting places. Bettas also prefer a slow, gentle water flow, and this is particularly important for older fish.

Ammonia Poisoning

A betta laying on the bottom of the tank can be nothing to worry about however, if your fish is not eating and also laying at the bottom, there could be a problem.

Changes in the water temperature or chemistry can often cause this behavior, and the most common issue is ammonia poisoning.

It’s relatively easy to check for ammonia poisoning. First, observe your fish and look for gasping or any sign that your fish is breathing heavy. Next, use an aquarium test kit to check the ammonia levels in the water. The ammonia level should be at or near zero.

If the ammonia level in the tank is too high, you can perform a partial water change. You can change about half of the water in the tank, but it may be best to remove about 25 percent and then repeat the process over the next few days. Continue to monitor the chemical levels until they’re once again balanced.

You can also reduce ammonia levels by cycling your aquarium before you add any fish. Keeping the tank clean, avoiding overfeeding, and investing in a good filter that will perform chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration can also help. A water conditioner can also be added as a temporary fix.

Nitrate Poisoning

Like ammonia poisoning, nitrate poisoning is an issue caused by a chemical spike in the aquarium water. Fish with nitrate poisoning may be breathing heavily and look pale or discolored. They may also seem lethargic and may be on their side but not dead.

Test the water to check for nitrate spikes. This number should also be close to zero, but should absolutely be under 20 ppm. If the nitrates are too high, perform a partial water change and add a cycled filter to the aquarium.

Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease is a common fish illness and it’s often the reason why your betta fish is laying on its side.

Swim bladder disease refers to a condition which means the swim bladder can no longer function correctly. This makes it hard or impossible for your betta to swim around the tank. Some fish with a swim bladder issue might float near the top, but others will lay at the bottom.

Swim bladder disease is often caused by overfeeding or a fish’s inability to digest its food properly. To help a fish with swim bladder disease, offer it small pieces of thawed green peas or daphnia fish food, both of which are high in fiber. You can also refrain from feeding your fish for a few days. Once it feels better and has passed whatever was bloating it, a betta that was laying on its side should soon return to swimming normally.

To avoid swim bladder and constipation issues, avoid overfeeding your fish. Only feed once or twice each day, and only offer four to six pellets per feeding.

Other Stress-Related Issues

A betta laying on the bottom of the tank might be feeling stressed for several reasons. If you notice your betta fish laying on its side, observe the fish carefully. Is its tank too small, or is it being harassed by another tank mate like goldfish? Try offering the fish a larger swimming area, or move it to a private aquarium.

Bettas also love to have plenty of hiding spots, and a betta laying on the bottom of the tank may be stressed if there aren’t enough places to shelter in.

Add more plants to the aquarium or place a small cave or house structure in the tank. Making your betta feel safe and secure can help it remain healthy and usually stop a betta fish from lying on the tank’s bottom.

Betta fish may also suffer from another, less common illness, such as ich or fin rot. If you think your fish is sick or Betta is dying, observe it closely and look for discolorations along the body or damage to the fins. If the fish has a fungal or bacterial infection, you may need to treat it with medication.

It’s also important to keep the water temperature in the correct range. Bettas like warm water and do best in an aquarium that’s between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature between 78 and 80 is ideal. If the water is too cold, the fish can become lethargic, and this can lead to a betta laying on the bottom of the tank. You should have a heater to regulate tank temperature.

If your betta fish is laying on the bottom of the tank, you may be concerned, but often, this is nothing more than normal betta behavior.

It’s best to double-check, though, so look for any signs of illness or stress and test the aquarium water to make sure it’s within the proper chemical range and temperature. Working quickly to resolve any issues will ensure that your betta remains healthy and energetic.

Let us know if you have any questions about bettas laying on their sides by commenting below.

  • Observe the fish and check for signs of illness, such as lethargy or lack of appetite
  • Use medication or other remedies to clear up any conditions, such as swim bladder disease
  • Offer the betta a resting place
  • Check for chemical spikes and ensure that the water chemistry is balanced
  • Add more hiding places or move the betta fish to a larger tank to help reduce stress
  • Keep the aquarium water between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit

Last Updated: October 18, 2021

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Comment 1

  1. Emily Wilemon August 18, 2021

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