Why Is My Betta Not Moving? (With 7 Practical Solutions)

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Shortly after I got my first betta, I noticed that it doesn’t swim. I saw that its gills moved normally, but the fish insisted on staying in one spot. As time passed, I learned what causes this phenomenon and how to overcome it.

Bettas usually stop moving due to environmental factors, such as inappropriate water parameters and a lack of food. These tend to cause stress in bettas, forcing them to stop swimming. However, in some cases, it is merely the fish’s personal preferences or old age.

As we move forward, I will show you how to put life back in bettas that stopped moving. For those of you who hurry, that includes testing the water pH, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites, using the API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT (link to Amazon).

Why Is My Betta Not Moving Or Swimming?

People buy fish because they want to see the creatures swim energetically in an aquarium. As such, if your bettas have stopped swimming, you should take a moment to find out why. Some common causes include:

1. Your Betta Is Dying

Betta fish die all the time. They may perish as a result of:[1]

  • Poor water conditions
  • Drastic water changes
  • Overfeeding
  • Disease
  • Stress
  • Injuries

A dying betta fish will manifest signs such as:

  • Discoloration
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sluggish swimming

If your fish isn’t swimming, it is either dying or already dead. Dead bettas tend to sink to the bottom. This is also true for dying bettas. They will lie still at the bottom. Dying fish may respond to stimuli such as the addition of food, but dead bettas won’t.

This is one way of differentiating between the two. If your betta hasn’t moved in days despite all the prodding you have done, it is probably dead. If you still have doubts, look at the gills, which stop moving once a fish dies.[2]

2. Your Betta Has Aged

Bettas have an average lifespan of 3 to 4 years. The older they get, the more sluggish they become. In their final months, they do not have as much energy to expend on swimming. They spend a lot more time resting. You can’t do anything for them besides making them comfortable.

3. The Betta Is Sleeping

Betta fish sleep.[3] This is true for most of the fish you find in an aquarium. They are most active during the day. Once the lights go out, they will enter a relaxed state before drifting off. However, do not expect your fish to stop moving entirely during sleep.

While some of them do, most fish remain in some motion, though their movements are lethargic. Therefore, a betta that is lying on its side in the dark is most likely sleeping. You can test this theory by turning the lights on and disturbing the water. 

A sleeping betta will start moving once introduced to such stimuli. On the other hand, a betta that is always sleeping, even in the daytime, should concern you. Unless the betta is old, it should remain relatively active during the day.

4. Your Fish Is Resting

Betta fish swim with their pectoral fins. They have colorful tails, but the appendages are useless where swimming is concerned. Instead, the creatures have to rely on their pectoral fins to swim properly across the tank.

For that reason, swimming tends to exhaust them, which is why they need rest every so often.[4] If your bettas occasionally rest on their favorite leaf or pot, don’t assume they are sick. You should only worry if their rest periods are long and very frequent. F

Some betta fish are lazy. They prefer to spend their days floating in place or leaning against objects such as logs. They may also spend a lot more time sleeping. But again, don’t be so quick to conclude that they are sick. Unless you have seen concerning signs like loss of appetite and lethargy, you don’t have to worry. Some bettas don’t want to swim.

5. Swim Bladder Disease

Fish have a sac called a swim bladder filled with gas that allows them to control their movement in the water, buoyancy in particular.[5] If a disease or an injury harms the swim bladder, the betta’s ability to swim will suffer. The disease can cause some fish to sink to the bottom. 

Once they reach the substrate, it may prevent them from rising again. Others will struggle with lethargy. The disease is associated with poor feeding habits, particularly overfeeding, as well as constipation. Swim bladder disease is unlikely to kill your fish. But it may prevent the bettas from moving altogether.

Additional signs of a swim bladder disease include a bloated abdomen, a loss in appetite, lethargy, and a reduced swimming frequency. Like other fish diseases, this condition is not necessarily fatal. It may prevent your fish from swimming correctly, but it won’t kill it outright.

6. Inappropriate Water Conditions

Poor water conditions will make your bettas sick or cause other problems afflicting the creatures much worse. This is what you should keep in mind:

  • Ammonia – Bettas hate ammonia, which is also true for most fish. The toxin hurts them. You may see them gasping for breath, swimming erratically, or lying still at the bottom of the tank.
  • Nitrates – Nitrates are not as harmful as ammonia, but they are still dangerous. They will produce similar symptoms, including lethargy and labored breathing.
  • Temperature – Bettas do not appreciate excessively hot water. However, they won’t respond to hot water by becoming less active. Instead, that happens when the water becomes too cold. Their metabolism crashes, killing their appetite in the process and making them less active.
  • Water pH – The wrong pH, higher or lower, will make the betta sick, forcing the creature to slow down. It may die as a result.

Inadequate water conditions will stress your betta, and stress is as dangerous to fish as any illness. It can be attributed to poor water conditions, aggressive neighbors, toxins, poor feeding habits, and more. Stressed bettas may spend a lot of time hiding. They will also become lethargic and possibly stop swimming altogether.

7. Your Betta Is Sick

Some bettas stop swimming because they are carrying a disease. The creatures are susceptible to ailments like tail and fin rot, swim bladder disease, white spot disease, popeye, dropsy, and so much more. Like humans, bettas are not quite as interested in moving when a severe illness has stricken them.

You can tell that your betta is sick by observing its behavior. If it stops swimming, if it appears bloated or lethargic, and if its activity is not as lively as usual, it may be sick. These symptoms might also indicate a case of constipation. This is a common issue for bettas.

8. The Betta Isn’t Eating Properly

Do your bettas get enough food? Bettas turn the food you give them into energy. Therefore, if you have accidentally starved them, they won’t have the energy they need to swim. You may produce similar results by overfeeding the creatures.

Giving bettas too much food can cause them to become bloated, which, in turn, can limit their movements. If your bettas are getting plenty of food, but they have stopped swimming, all the same, their diet probably lacks the ingredients they need.

What Should I Do If My Betta Fish Stopped Swimming?

If your betta stopped swimming, you have several options at your disposal, including:

1. Performing Proper Water Changes

If the fish is so sick that it has stopped moving, a significant water change may cause more harm. That is why I recommend making weekly water changes of 15-30 percent. If the tank is filthy, perform more minor water changes of 5-10 percent every day.[6] Because the fish is accustomed to the dirty conditions, a sudden change will induce shock. You don’t want that.

2. Focusing On Maintenance

Please try to carry out basic maintenance. That means:[7]

  • Removing some of the fish if your tank is overcrowded.
  • Removing dead organisms, including fish and decaying plants.
  • Removing waste and leftovers.
  • Cleaning the tank. That includes vacuuming the substrate and scrubbing the walls as well as any other objects in the aquarium.
  • Sick fish should be moved to a hospital tank to prevent them from infecting their neighbors.
  • Make sure the tank is cycled. This can take up to 6 weeks.

I also suggest testing the pH, temperature, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels routinely. Aquarists are encouraged to keep a test kit on hand for this very reason. Ammonia levels should be zero.

For that purpose, I highly recommend getting the API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT (link to Amazon). That bundle will accurately measure your pH, nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia levels. Then, within five minutes, you’ll know if something went wrong.

3. Adjusting The Water Parameters

The conditions in the tank should be conducive for bettas. Keep the following in mind:[8]

  • Temperature – 76 degrees F to 84 degrees F. It is also important that the temperature remains stable and features no fluctuations. To achieve that, feel free to check my review on the aquarium heater that I use.
  • Water pH – 6.5 to 7.5.
  • Current – Slow.
  • Hardness – Soft to medium. You can easily test it using the 7 in 1 Aquarium Test Strips (link to Amazon).
  • Toxins – Use conditioners to remove chlorine, chloramine, copper, ammonia, and other harmful elements. I personally use the Seachem Prime Fresh and Saltwater Conditioner (link to Amazon).
  • Size – At least 2.5 gallons.
  • Plants – A healthy betta aquarium needs plants. Their presence will alleviate anxiety and stress.
  • Lighting – Bettas don’t have any specific lighting requirements. But the lights shouldn’t stay on for more than 12 hours.

4. Feeding Your Bettas Properly

Bettas require a balanced diet that includes brine shrimp, daphnia, various worms, and insect larvae, to mention but a few. Make sure the bettas get enough protein but try not to overfeed them. Give them what they can finish in two minutes, no more. Do not feed them more than three times a day.

5. Dealing With Swim Bladder Disease

If you suspect that your betta has swim bladder disease, you can use the following steps to treat it:[9]

  • Fast – Don’t feed the betta for three days. If it is constipated, fasting will allow the fish’s digestive system to eliminate any blockages that might have occurred.
  • Peas– Peas are a great answer to constipation. They act as a laxative, which is why people use them to fight constipation in fish. Remove the outer skin before you add the peas to the tank.
  • Salt– A pinch of salt will enhance the healing process while also preventing infections.

6. Treating General Diseases

If the fish is sick, you should treat it. First, try matching the treatment to the disease. Some standard methods that people use to combat diseases include:

  • Quarantine – Place the fish in quarantine until you know what it has. Otherwise, it might infect the other fish.
  • Vet – Consult a vet. Some people make the mistake of experimenting with multiple medications in the hopes of accidentally discovering the one that works. But the wrong drug may hurt your betta. Talk to a vet. They will recommend an effective treatment.
  • Water Changes – You can use water changes to remove the parasites responsible for some of the diseases ailing your fish. This is one reason why many aquarists respond to diseases in the aquarium by performing a water change.
  • Infections – Depending on the situation, bettas with infections may respond positively to products like Maracyn II, API Fungal Cure, Malachite Green, and Copper Sulfate, to mention but a few. But again, you have to match the drug to the disease.

7. Creating A Stress-Free Environment

The easiest way to combat stress is to maintain the appropriate conditions in the tank. I also suggest keeping the tank clean by performing regular water changes and installing an efficient filter.

Tankmates are very important. Avoid fast-moving fish that have a reputation for nipping the fins of other fish. You are also discouraged from keeping multiple male bettas in the same tank. They are too aggressive and will probably fight one another.

Is It Normal For A Betta Fish To Stay Still?

It is somewhat typical for bettas to stay still. Bettas are lively fish, but they are not active swimmers. However, they shouldn’t stay still for long periods. They shouldn’t be lethargic and sluggish either. If they are, something is wrong, and you should take the appropriate measures.

If your betta hovers in place most of the day, or if it refuses to swim even after stimuli, I recommend taking the appropriate measures listed above. Start with testing the water for ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites. Then, move on to pH and temperature.

If you found this article helpful, these may also interest you:

Conclusions

Bettas often stop swimming for a variety of reasons. The first thing you should do is take the appropriate measures to ensure they have the correct water conditions. If that doesn’t work, try one of the other methods listed in this guide.

If everything checks out and your betta doesn’t seem sick or sluggish, its refusal to swim may be secondary to old age or personal preferences. In those cases, there is nothing you should do. However, it is essential to rule out environmental factors first.

References

  1. https://japanesefightingfish.org/do-betta-fish-die-easily/
  2. https://animals.mom.com/what-does-it-mean-if-a-betta-fish-is-not-moving-12625705.html
  3. https://fishlab.com/do-betta-fish-sleep/
  4. https://cafishvet.com/betta/give-your-betta-a-break/
  5. https://www.bettacarefishguide.com/swim-bladder-disease-in-bettas/
  6. https://web.mit.edu/lxs/www/cichlids/medication.html
  7. https://www.wikihow.com/Save-a-Dying-Betta-Fish
  8. https://www.vivofish.com/betta/
  9. https://www.cuteness.com/article/treat-fish-swim-bladder-disease

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