As I saw my betta fish blatantly staying in one spot for several days, I was drawn to research why it would do that. As time passed, I learned what caused that issue. Fortunately, that isn’t always a sign of trouble.
Betta fish tend to stay in one spot due to inappropriate water parameters, including pH, temperature, and ammonia. That could also be a sign of an oxygen deficiency, secondary to stagnant water or excessive heat. However, some bettas merely prefer staying in one spot, without any apparent reason.
As we move forward, I will take you step-by-step in learning more about this betta problem. Then, I will link to an article discussing what signs mean that your betta is actually dying. I will also list some valuable solutions that I highly recommend following.
Why Does My Betta Fish Stay In One Spot?
Some betta fish stay in one place because they want to. Even with everything aquarists know about fish, these creatures are volatile. They do not always behave as predicted.
If your betta fish is healthy and happy, the creature’s decision to remain in one place shouldn’t concern you. Unfortunately, aquariums are vulnerable to internal as well as external factors that can harm fish.
And bettas can respond to some of those factors by becoming inactive and immobile. You have to identify those factors before they do irreversible harm to your bettas. They include:
1. The Water Isn’t Suitable For Bettas
The quality of the water in an aquarium can have significant consequences for a betta’s health. For instance:
- Poor Hygiene – Dirty tanks are a source of stress for fish. Some fish respond to stress by becoming hyperactive. Others will become lethargic, listless, and immobile. They will stay at the bottom of the tank or simply hover in place.
- Cold Water – If the water is too cold, the bettas will frequent the warmest sections of the tank. Depending on the temperature, your bettas may hover around the heater. It should be noted that cold water also makes fish like bettas sluggish and inactive.
- Heat – High temperatures will produce similar consequences to low temperatures. The bettas will stick to the coldest sections of the tank. They will make it a habit to stay as far away from the heater as possible. The stress of living in a tank with extreme temperatures will make them listless.
- Inadequate Parameters – The temperature is not the only significant parameter in an aquarium. The pH and hardness are just as important. If they are wrong or keep changing, depriving the betta of the stability it needs, the creature will respond by becoming less active.
Some bettas will do the opposite. They will become hyperactive and even more aggressive. But eventually, they will slow down until they stop moving altogether. This will force them to find a safe corner of the aquarium where they can rest.
- Oxygen Deficiency – People expect an oxygen deficiency to drive bettas to the surface. And that is partially true. In an oxygen-deficient tank, bettas will spend most of their time at the top because they have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air at the surface.
But if high temperatures cause oxygen deficiency, the bettas may stay at the bottom where the water is still cool. Cool water holds more oxygen than hot water, at least for a time. The bettas will lie still at the bottom.
2. Your Betta Shares A Tank With Bullies
Bettas are called fighting fish because of their aggressive tendencies. However, despite their reputation, bettas are not the strongest creatures in an aquarium. They are vulnerable to cichlids, larger gourami, and tiger barbs, to mention but a few.
In an aquarium, bettas have nowhere to go. In the face of hostile neighbors, if they cannot fight back, they will hide. Every object that is large enough to conceal a betta can act as a hiding place. That includes filters, heaters, rocks, driftwood, pots, etc.
3. The Flows Are Too Strong For Betta Fish
If your aquarium is only inhabited by smaller creatures with peaceful temperaments, but the bettas keep hiding, consider the water flow. Species like bettas with long, flowing fins do not appreciate strong currents.
If your water filter is too strong, the bettas will find a comfortable spot behind an object that can protect them from the current. Strong currents are problematic because the fish in question have to exert more effort than usual to swim.
A particularly powerful filter will throw the betta fish all over the place. Eventually, the resulting exhaustion will lead to stress. A strong current can confine a betta to a single spot or section in the tank.
4. Your Betta Is Merely Sleeping
Betta fish sleep. If the lights are off and the creatures are lying on their sides, you can comfortably conclude that they are sleeping. You can test this theory by turning the lights back on.
If the bettas are unresponsive, prod them gently. If they are still unresponsive, you have to consider the possibility that the fish are dead. Even if your tank is well maintained, your bettas will eventually die. They have an average lifespan of three years.
They cannot live forever. If you’ve had your betta for several years, and the fish is lying at the bottom or floating, it could be dead. Dead fish have sunken eyes. The gills won’t move because the creature has stopped breathing.
5. Your Betta Caught A Swim Bladder Disease
The swim bladder is an organ that fish use to maintain their balance. If the swim bladder’s operations are compromised by physical trauma, disease, or constipation, the betta’s swimming ability will deteriorate. Some bettas will remain at the bottom because they can no longer swim upward.
What Should I Do If My Betta Stays In One Spot?
If your betta is dead, remove it before the creature’s decomposing body corrupts the water. If the betta is merely sleeping, you can leave it alone, but only if you’ve confirmed this theory.
If you went through the trouble of creating a regular day/night cycle in the aquarium, your fish would sleep at night when you switch the lights off.
A betta that is always sleeping, even in the daytime, is either sick or stressed. If you’ve ruled out sleep and death, you can use the following steps to help your bettas:
1. Treat Swim Bladder Disease
To be fair, every severe disease can lead to lethargy and listlessness in bettas. Sick bettas are more likely to spend their time in one location because they don’t have the energy to swim more actively.
They will also spend more time hiding because they are more vulnerable. However, of all the illnesses that can affect a betta’s swimming ability, swim bladder disease is the most common. More often than not, the ailment is usually caused by constipation.
Fortunately, constipation has a simple solution:
- Place the fish on a fast. Don’t feed it for three days. This objective is easier to accomplish when the betta is in a hospital tank.
- Once the fast ends, give the fish cooked and peeled peas. They will act as a laxative.
- Add some aquarium salt to the quarantine tank. It will aid in the fish’s recovery. I personally use the API Aquarium Salt (link to Amazon).
2. Improve The Water Conditions
Keep the bettas in a tank with a temperature of 75 to 80 degrees F and a pH of 7.0. It is also essential that the ammonia and nitrites remain at 0 ppm while nitrates are below 20 ppm.
To test the water, I use the API Freshwater Master Test KIT (link to Amazon). That bundle accurately measures the pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. Within five minutes, you’ll know if something went wrong.
I highly suggest checking the water parameters regularly, especially after a water change. The wrong parameters will cause stress in the bettas. They will also weaken the betta’s immunity, making them vulnerable to diseases.
I also recommend considering installing the Hygger Aquarium Air Stone (link to Amazon). That kit will take care of oxygen in your tank. All you have to do is placing it in the middle of your tank, and the device will take care of the rest.
3. Conduct Regular Water Changes
I suggest changing 30 percent of the water every week. This will not only remove pollutants but also lower the ammonia concentration in the water whilst also increasing oxygen levels.
Without water changes, the ammonia will kill your bettas. And before they die, they will become inactive. You can combat ammonia with water conditioners. These products can neutralize ammonia within minutes.
But water conditioners are an emergency tool. You can use them on occasion to prevent the ammonia from doing lasting harm to your fish, especially if they are too weak to survive a water change.
But once the emergency passes and the ammonia is neutralized, you must find a more effective solution. If you have changed the water but the ammonia keeps spiking, either the tank isn’t cycled, or it wasn’t cycled to completion.
If you cycled the tank to completion, you probably undid all your hard work by either replacing the filter media or washing the filter with tap water, a practice that allows the chlorine in the water to kill the beneficial bacteria.
Either way, you should move the bettas to a separate tank until you cycle their old tank to completion. Another effective solution would be using the Seachem Stability Fish Tank Stabilizer (link to Amazon), which already contains essential bacteria.
4. Adjust The Water Flow
I recommend investing in HOB filters with knobs that you can turn to control the current strength. You can also find canister filters with a similar feature. If you don’t want to buy a new filter, add more rocks, caves, and plants. They will provide additional hiding places for your fish.
5. Pick The Right Tankmates
Keep your bettas with friendly tankmates that are less likely to bully them. That includes Kuhli Loaches, Cory Catfish, Ghost Shrimp, and Ember Tetras.
If you wish to keep multiple bettas in one tank, that is also possible. Feel free to check this article, where I explained how many bettas should be kept together, depending on your tank’s size.
6. Ensure Gradual Acclimatization
If your fish are new to the tank, use the drip method to acclimate them. If the bettas came from a poorly maintained tank in the store, the decent conditions in your tank would harm them if you throw the bettas into the aquarium without acclimating them properly.
This is because you have forced them to endure conditions that differ drastically from what they know. By taking the time to acclimate them, you will protect the bettas from the sort of shock that causes stress.
If the fish live in a poorly maintained tank in your home, acclimating them isn’t an option. Do what you can to improve the conditions in the tank. But the improvements should be gradual.
7. Make Sure Your Betta Isn’t Dying
As I mentioned earlier, a betta that stays in one spot could be a sign of illness. In some cases, the underlying condition may kill your betta fish. Fortunately, a betta fish that is dying presents additional signs, as I discussed here.
In short, bettas that are in distress will lose weight, breathe heavily, and become sluggish. The article above will take you step-by-step to save your betta fish, especially if it caught a severe illness.
Is It Normal For Betta Fish To Not Move?
It is not normal for betta fish to stop moving. Bettas are not energetic, but they are active fish that spend a decent amount of time swimming. A betta fish that is not moving requires attention and possibly a readjustment in the water parameters.
As I mentioned earlier, a sleeping betta will not move, and this is perfectly normal. In this case, the fish will respond to external stimuli, such as lighting changes or movements outside the aquarium. But if the fish refuses to move, follow the steps above.
If you found this article helpful, these may also interest you:
- Why Is My Betta Gasping For Air? (With 4 Practical Solutions)
- Betta Fish Hiding Behind the Heater: All Reasons & Solutions
- Betta Fish Rubbing Against Rocks, Plants, Glass & Filter
- Do Bettas Prefer Long Or Tall Tanks? (With Recommendations)
- Can You Have Multiple Female Bettas Together? (Complete Guide)
Bettas usually stay in one spot for a few minutes or hours. If they do not, you must check the parameters in your tank and the water flow. You should also check how well the filter has been performing.
And maybe consider adding more rocks and plants to make it more enticing for your betta fish to move around. Hopefully, this article has helped you identify the underlying problem and offered some solutions.