Betta fish are one of the most popular pet fish in the world, each with their own unique look and personality. Betta fish have so many unusual behaviors, and sometimes it’s hard to know if they are sick or just being different. One common question is, “Why is my Betta Fish not moving?“.
The most common reason your betta may not be moving is that it’s taking a nap, having a rest, or just being lazy. However, a worst-case scenario is that your betta fish is sick, dying, or already dead, and as a responsible pet owner, you need to investigate.
Unless it’s part of your betta’s personality, it can be concerning to see your beloved betta fish floating in the aquarium, motionless for extended periods.
If you are concerned about why your betta has stopped moving, this article explains the 11 most common reasons and what steps you can take to ensure its well-being or even save its life!
Why Is My Betta Fish Not Moving?
If you’re wondering why your Betta fish is not moving, there could be several reasons.
- Your Betta may be sleeping or resting.
- Your Betta Is suffering from stress.
- You’re not feeding your betta a healthy diet.
- Your betta is suffering from old age.
- Poor tank maintenance causes water parameters to increase or decrease from their ideal range.
- Your betta fish is lazy!
- You have picked unsuitable tankmates to live with your betta.
- Your betta’s tank is too small.
- You have a sick betta fish that needs attention.
- Swim bladder disease is affecting your betta’s buoyancy.
- It’s possible that your betta fish has died.
Many of the reasons why your betta fish may suddenly stop moving around its tank are easily fixed or can be ignored altogether, but never get complacent. Sudden changes in a bettas behavior can be a sign of illness, which in most cases are treatable if caught early.
The next sections look at each of the reasons above in a little more detail, which should help you more easily understand why your betta fish is not moving.
Your Betta Fish Is Sleeping
Betta fish get the majority of their sleep at night, and apart from the occasional nap during the day, betta fish are usually pretty active, exploring their tank and feeding.
If your betta fish is sleeping more often than usual during the day, it’s possible that something is keeping them awake during the night, so you should investigate the possible causes. Loud noises and bright lights are often to blame for a sleepless night.
It can be difficult to tell if your betta is sleeping as they don’t have eyelids to close, and they often hide somewhere quiet where they won’t be disturbed.
If your betta is not moving, you can often tell they are asleep when:
- Your betta is staying in one spot, not moving.
- Fins are moving to keep your betta in place.
- Gills are moving, which is a good sign they are breathing.
- Your betta’s color may fade, which makes other fish think they are sick or dying, so they stay away.
- On waking, if your betta’s color returns and they are behaving normally, it’s likely they were asleep.
Ensure your betta fish is getting enough sleep by providing a comfortable environment at night. Betta fish need 8-10 hours of sleep per day, and an improper sleeping pattern can lead to tiredness and inactivity throughout the day.
To create a conducive sleeping environment, switch off the tank light at night and minimize any noise or sudden flashes of light that may startle your betta awake.
I prefer to use automated timers to switch off the tank lights at night, but dimming lights can also help regulate sleep patterns by emulating natural lighting conditions. Ensuring that your betta fish gets enough sleep is crucial in maintaining its overall health and well-being.
By creating a comfortable environment at night, you’ll be able to guarantee that your betta remains more active and happy during the day, but remember, sometimes betta fish sleep more when they are unwell or getting old.
Your Betta Is Stressed
Stress is common in betta fish and can be a reason why they are not moving. Betta fish can become stressed for a number of reasons, such as poor water quality, illness, bullying from other fish, and an uncomfortable tank environment, as documented through research.
If your betta is stressed, there are often accompanying symptoms such as:
- Stress stripes – The sudden appearance of dark horizontal lines on your betta’s body.
- Clamped fins – Stressed betta fish of display fins that are tightly clamped together when they should be soft and flowing.
- Your betta stops eating – While it’s also a sign of illness and other issues, betta fish often go off their food when stressed.
- Your betta fish is hiding more often – Depending on the cause of stress, a betta fish that is anxious will often hide away for prolonged periods.
- Flaring fins and gills – Betta fish flare out their fins and gills when feeling angry, threatened, or stressed.
If your betta fish is not moving and showing several of the symptoms above, it’s likely they are stressed, and you need to identify the cause.
Betta fish can be temperamental creatures that get stressed over the tiniest of things, and once rectified, they will quickly return to their happy self!
Betta fish need a high-quality, protein-rich diet twice a day to ensure good health. A poor diet can lead to various health issues, which may prevent your betta from moving around freely.
The most common health issues caused by a poor diet and overfeeding are:
- Constipation – A build-up of food in the digestive tract causing blockage and discomfort.
- Bloating – A build-up of gas from slowly digesting food.
- Swim bladder problems – Can be triggered by bloating, constipation, and other health issues. Swim bladder problems affect buoyancy, preventing your betta from moving or causing them to swim uncontrollably, upside down, or on their side.
If you feed your betta fish every day, I advise you to withhold food for one or two days which is a method called fasting. Removing food allows your betta’s digestive system to clear and rest, keeping it healthy. I fast all my fish over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday).
Your Betta’s Age
Betta fish typically live for 3-5 years, although there are exceptions to the rule. Find out your betta’s age when you purchase them so that you know when they are getting old and are likely to die.
As your betta fish matures, they become less active due to the natural aging process. You may notice that your once energetic fish spends more time resting on the bottom of the tank, not moving, or staying in their favorite hiding spot.
To help you better understand what is considered normal behavior for an older betta fish, I have provided a table below outlining some common changes you may see as your fish ages.
|Betta Fish Age
|Normal Day/Night Cycle
|Expected Level Of Activity
|Young (0-1 year)
|Active during the day / Sleeps at night.
|Rarely stops moving
|Adult (2-3 years)
|Short daytime naps / Sleeps at night.
|Rests more frequently during the day
|Senior (4+ years)
|Sleeps more during the day / Sleeps at night.
|Spend most of the time resing and conserving energy.
It is important to note that changes due to aging are gradual and should not happen overnight. If you notice sudden immobility or other concerning symptoms, it may be a sign of illness, and you should seek professional advice immediately.
Poor Water Quality
Maintaining proper water quality is crucial for the health and longevity of your betta. Poor water quality can lead to bacterial and fungal infections, often causing your fish to become lethargic and inactive.
If you notice that your betta fish is not moving, check your betta tank’s water parameters. If necessary, perform an emergency tank cycle, however, a 50% water change is often enough to bring some immediate relief.
Water Ph Level
Having the correct water pH for your betta is vital to ensure they’re healthy and happy in their home. Water pH is a measure of how acidic the water is, and betta fish require a neutral pH level between 6.5 – 7, although they can adapt outside of this range if the change is gradual.
Sudden pH spikes and dips can cause a betta fish to suffer shock symptoms such as staying in one place and not moving around.
Regular monitoring using a water testing kit is essential to help identify sudden changes in the pH levels and take corrective measures before it becomes a severe problem.
High Ammonia Level
If you neglect to keep your tank clean, it can become a toxic environment for your betta fish, quickly leading to illness or death.
High levels of ammonia in the water can lead to ammonia poisoning, which can cause your betta fish to become lethargic and stop moving.
Ammonia is produced by the breakdown of fish waste and uneaten food, and if left unchecked, it can build up quickly in the water.
The table below provides some guidelines on recommended actions to take based on different levels of ammonia present in your aquarium.
|0 ppm – 0.25 ppm
|No action required but continue monitoring levels
|0.25 ppm – 1 ppm
|Do a partial water change (25-50%) immediately; check the filter system
|1 ppm – 2 ppm
|Do a large water change (50-75%); check the filter system and consider adding a beneficial bacteria supplement. Consider removing fish to a temporary tank.
|“Emergency” large water change (75-100%); check the filter system and add beneficial bacteria supplement. Consider removing fish to a temporary tank.
To prevent high ammonia levels in your betta fish tank, it’s important to regularly change the water and properly maintain the filter system, which also helps to increase the level of biological filtration.
Incorrect Water Temperature
Bettas are tropical fish that thrive in warm water temperatures ranging from 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, so if the water is too cold, it could be causing them to slow down and become less active.
Sudden temperature changes can cause temperature shock, which may present with a lack of movement, often leading to stress and further health issues if not fixed.
Rapid changes in water temperature can be caused by exposure to strong sunlight, extreme draughts, or equipment malfunction.
You Have A Lazy Betta
Sometimes, even the most active betta fish can have lazy days where they prefer to lounge around their tank and watch the world go by, and it’s even more likely as they get older.
Individual betta fish also have different personalities, and while some can be hyperactive, others can be overly lazy.
If your betta has suddenly become very lazy, keep a close eye on them for symptoms of illness. Also, check the water parameters are correct and that they are eating healthily.
Unsuitable Tank Mates
Unsuitable tank mates can have a significant impact on the behavior and overall well-being of your betta fish. Bettas are known to be solitary creatures in the wild, and while they can coexist with certain species in captivity, aggressive fish will only cause stress for your betta.
When betta fish feel threatened by other fish, they will either fight or hide. When faced with a lack of hiding spots, a betta may stop moving altogether, staying in a corner of the tank, or hiding behind the filter, simply trying to avoid confrontations with aggressive tank mates.
Your Betta Tank Is Too Small
You need to make sure your betta has plenty of swimming space by providing a tank that is at least 3 gallons in size. Bettas are active fish and require ample room to move around, play, and exercise their fins.
If your betta’s tank is too small, it can lead to stress and lethargy, ultimately affecting their overall health. Without sufficient room to move around, a betta’s bodily functions can suffer, and boredom can set in, both affecting energy levels.
Although 3 gallons is the recommended minimum, I recommend a betta tank size of 5 gallons or even 10 gallons if you can afford it and have the space.
Your Betta Is Sick
Betta fish are susceptible to various bacterial diseases and illnesses, which can weaken their immune system, sometimes leading to organ failure and even death if left untreated.
Lethargy and tiredness are common symptoms of illness, usually presenting with a lack of movement from your betta fish. An active betta fish that sits in one place may also be suffering from some discomfort.
Some of the most common illnesses affecting betta fish which may result in a lack of movement are:
While there are many reasons why a betta fish may stop moving around, sickness should never be overlooked, as quick diagnosis and treatment can often bring a betta fish back from the brink of death.
If you are unsure if your betta fish is sick or just being lazy, look out for other symptoms of illness, such as:
- Loss of appetite.
- Signs of infection to scales and gills (redness, fungus).
- Signs of parasitic worms protruding from gills, scales, and anus.
- Loss of color.
- Buoyancy issues.
If you feel that you have a sick fish, make sure you seek advice from an experienced aquarist or other specialist to help make an accurate diagnosis and to administer the most suitable treatment.
Most treatments are available over the counter and are stocked by online or local pet stores.
Swim Bladder Issues
One common ailment that can cause immobility in bettas is swim bladder issues. The swim bladder is an inflatable organ that allows fish to ascend, descend, or remain stable in one place.
There are many symptoms of a malfunctioning swim bladder, such as:
- A betta stays at the surface, unable to descend.
- A betta sitting on the bottom, unable to ascend.
- Your betta may be floating on its side or upside down.
- A betta fish may stop moving completely, staying in one place.
- You may notice your betta getting dragged around the tank by the current.
- Your betta may keep bumping into objects in the tank which can result in injuries.
Swim bladder disease is often caused by underlying health issues such as constipation, bacterial infections, or parasitic infections.
Intestinal blockages and swelling can press against the swim bladder preventing it from inflating, which leads to buoyancy issues.
While swim bladder issues are rarely fatal by themselves, the underlying problem may be more serious, and the lack of buoyance can prevent your betta from feeding properly.
If you suspect your betta has a swim bladder issue, it’s important to investigate the underlying cause and treat it promptly before complications arise.
Your Betta Died
Sadly, when a betta fish isn’t moving and there are no signs of life, such as breathing or gill movement, then it’s probable that your betta fish has died.
It’s important to remember that bettas have an average lifespan of 3-5 years which is relatively short. These popular fish can quickly succumb to various illnesses that can result in death, or your betta may simply die from old age.
If your betta has died, it won’t take long before its skin and eyes turn completely white. If infection or disease is the cause of death, it’s best to remove them from a community tank as quickly as possible to prevent them from spreading to other fish.
If you believe your betta has died from illness, you should treat or replace the tank water before adding other fish and consider a quarantine period of several weeks.
Is It Normal For Betta Fish Not To Move?
Betta fish are typically very active, but even for lazy betta fish, it’s not normal for them not to move at all, especially over long periods. When a betta fish isn’t moving, it’s often a sign that something is wrong and needs to be investigated to rule out serious issues.
If there are no other signs of illness present, it’s always best to check water quality and parameters first, as poor water conditions are the most common reason for health issues or abnormal behaviors.
Once you have checked the water, you need to systematically rule out any changes that have occurred, such as a new diet, changes to the environment, or new tank mates.
If you’re concerned about your betta’s lack of movement and unable to find the cause, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian or aquatic specialist to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.
How To Prevent A Betta Fish From Staying In One Place
While it’s ok for a healthy betta fish to stay in one place from time to time, you should try and prevent it from becoming a permanent behavior as it can lead to boredom and depression setting in.
There are several ways to prevent your betta fish from staying in one place, which keeps them active and it’s good for their overall health and digestion.
The next sections provide a short overview of the best ways to keep a betta fish active and healthy and less likely to stay in one place for long periods.
Regular Tank Maintenance
Tank maintenance is key in keeping your betta fish healthy and energetic as it stops a buildup of toxic waste, reducing the chance of ammonia poisoning. Clean water also reduces bacteria from building up, which is a leading cause of illness and infection.
Use a water test kit to check:
- Ammonia Levels
- Nitrite Levels
- Nitrate Levels
- Water pH
Your betta’s aquarium water should be changed on a regular basis. A 25% water change every 1 or 2 weeks should be sufficient, while gravel and filter cleans should be carried out every 3 to 4 weeks. When carrying out water changes, ensure you add a suitable water conditioner to the fresh water beforehand to remove chlorine and other impurities.
Ideal temperatures should be maintained, as cold water causes sluggish behavior. Checking that your aquarium heater is functioning correctly and that temperatures are stable should make up part of your tank maintenance schedule.
Good water quality is necessary for good fish health and is the best place to start when trying to keep your betta fish active.
Increase Tank Size
Increasing your betta’s tank size can have a massive impact, as it makes water parameters more stable, allows you extra space to add ornaments and plants for your betta to explore, and gives your fish more freedom.
Although betta fish don’t need lots of room, a 10 gallon tank can make all the difference to their well-being and would even allow enough space to add a few compatible fish for company.
Providing your betta fish with a comfortable environment reduces the chances of stress and boredom setting in which positively impacts their level of activity and makes them more social.
Provide A Healthy, Varied Diet
You are what you eat! It’s a common phrase and completely true, as a healthy diet leads to a healthy betta fish.
Betta fish need to eat a high-quality diet consisting mainly of proteins with the addition of some plant matter for healthy digestion.
Some of the best foods for betta fish are betta pellets, brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and mysis shrimp, which can all be given live, frozen, or freeze-dried.
Plant-based foods consist of soft or blanched vegetables such as peas, sweetcorn, lettuce, or soft fruits.
Feed your betta twice a day, and avoid overfeeding. Also, consider fasting your betta for 1-2 days per week to help their digestive system rest and clear out.
Add Some Toys
Betta fish are very intelligent and benefit from stimulation either from their owner or from a selection of toys. The video below demonstrates how betta fish can learn tricks that will keep them stimulated and help you create a bond.
There is actually a wide range of betta toys available, or you can make your own. The most popular toys are floating mirrors, colored floating balls, hoops, and floating bells.
Betta fish can play with toys for hours on end, and it helps to make them more friendly and active while providing them with ample exercise.
While a betta fish is not moving can be perfectly normal, usual behavior, it could also indicate a problem that needs to be investigated.
A betta that is staying in one place but is otherwise healthy may just be chilled out and passing time (especially if it’s their normal behavior). Alternatively, a betta fish that is lying still on the bottom, barely breathing and turning white, may be close to death.
While these are extremes, anything unusual should be investigated, from your betta frequently sleeping to signs of constipation or swim bladder issues.
Sudden behavioral changes are an indicator that something is wrong and give you the best opportunity to make a quick diagnosis.
If your betta fish is generally inactive, simply providing a larger environment and adding some stimulation can give them a new lease on life.