A motionless betta fish can be a worrying sign that should not be ignored. In most cases, it means something is wrong with the fish and that you may need a vet to look at it as soon as possible depending on the reason behind it. So, why isn’t your betta fish moving and what should you do?
If your betta fish is not moving, it might be sleeping or is just unable to keep up with the water content if the quality is poor. The fish may also remain still in the tank if sick, hungry, or dead. Change the water, provide fresh food, and fix the water’s pH to make the fish active again.
If you suspect that the betta fish is sick or stressed, call a veterinarian as soon as possible to help diagnose and treat the lack of movement in your betta fish.
Why is my betta fish not moving?
Before making any conclusions, you want to find out the cause of your betta’s stillness and understand how serious the situation is. An important step is to confirm the fish is alive before making any changes or trying other diagnoses.
Here are 8 reasons why your betta fish is not moving:
1. The betta fish is sleeping
If you are a new owner of your betta fish, it is common to be alarmed when you see it laying still at the bottom of the tank, but it could only be sleeping. Betta fish fall asleep when the room is dark, so, when you turn on the lights or stir the water, your betta is likely to wake up and make some movements.
Betta fish like to sleep sideways, but you may notice some lying in different positions. You can rule out other severe causes of motionlessness of your fish if it jumps awake when the tank water is swirled or after the lights go on. If this does not wake up your betta fish, you should consider the other reasons I’ve explained below.
2. Poor water quality
When the tank water has extreme pH, salinity, ammonia, chemical, or temperature levels, your betta fish’s movement will be limited to one point.
The most suitable water temperature for betta fish survival in the tank is between 78° F to 80° F. If it goes lower or higher than this range, the normal behavior of your betta will change.
Besides the inability to move, you’ll also notice that your betta cannot eat or proceed with other regular activities. Extreme temperatures make your betta lethargic, and if they are too low, it can enter into a shock and stop moving altogether.
3. Incorrect water pH
The recommended pH levels for betta fish range between 6.5 to 8 and should be maintained steadily.
A sudden change in the alkalinity or acidity of the water in the aquarium makes the fish lethargic because it can’t adjust quickly enough. In such a scenario, your fish will not be able to move, opting to remain at the bottom of the tank.
4. High concentration of chemicals and metals in the water
Nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, chlorine, chloramine, and other dissolved materials inside the tank water will make your fish stop swimming in the tank.
If your tank is not yet fully cycled, your fish might be suffering from new tank syndrome due to a lack of biofilters.
A high concentration of chemicals, metals, and salts is toxic to your fish as they poison it to the point of immobility.
To understand the severity of the situation, get aquarium test kits and measure the level of concentration for each material. Correcting the balance of these chemicals should make your fish start to swim again.
5. Lack of a proper diet
Betta fish require different nutrients to build up energy and function properly. If your betta fish is not eating, it will be too weak to move around, and the most comfortable place to settle will be at the bottom of the tank.
Proteins, in particular, are vital for a betta’s health, so, its lack of movement could mean that it’s not getting enough of that.
6. Infection and illness
The common illnesses that can make your betta fish stay in one spot include constipation, worms, fungal infections, dropsy, parasitic infections, popeye disease, among others. Investigate your betta for any swellings, patches, worms on their fins, or scale abnormalities.
If you notice any of these signs, it can mean that the lack of movement is a sign of sickness. I’d recommend that you take the fish to a vet for further examination and treatment as soon as possible.
7. Problems with the swim bladder
A betta fish’s swim bladder is prone to problems that easily make your fish stop moving. If its belly is swollen, lying on its side, and remains immobile, your betta has swim bladder problems.
The swim bladder facilitates the buoyancy of a fish. When this part is damaged, your fish stops floating in the tank or making any upside down or sideways movement. Overfeeding a betta fish can interfere with its swim bladder and cause these issues.
8. The betta could be dead
If you notice that your betta at the bottom of the tank stays still, not puffing and flaring, and not moving or breathing, it is likely to have passed on. Observe the gill movement of your fish to know if it is breathing. If there’s no motion despite swirling the water or scooping it with a fishnet, it’s possibly not alive.
Betta fish have an average lifespan of 4 years. If you have kept yours for more than four years, it’s likely that the fish is dead if you see signs of no movement and breathing.
However, before making a final declaration of your betta’s death, ensure that all signs of life are not there and that the fish is completely unresponsive.
What to Do if Betta Fish is Not Moving
Before trying any fixes, you want to first make sure you identify the problem. You might change the water yet the problem is an illness that requires immediate vet care. However, apart from infections, there are quite a few things you can do by yourself to help your fish swim again.
Here’s what to do if your betta fish is not moving in the tank:
1. Change the tank water
The quality of the aquarium water diminishes over time. It’s good to replace it often to keep the betta healthy and active. The rule of thumb is to change 10 to 15 percent of the water every week to minimize the chances of algae build-up and the occurrence of harmful substances that can inhibit the activity of your fish.
2. Treat aquarium water with a conditioner
Water conditioner treats the water inside your betta’s tank, breaking down harmful chemicals like ammonia, chloramine, chlorine, nitrites, and nitrates into harmless substances.
Start by testing the water for harmful chemicals then follow up by conditioning it to help your fish remain safe from chemical poisoning, which initially made it stop moving.
3. Maintain aquarium temperature at 75-80°F
Correct the water temperature using an aquarium water heater to 75-80°F if your betta isn’t moving because of low or high water temperatures. Heating the water fixes the issue of low temperature that could have put your betta fish in a state of shock, preventing its movement.
Before connecting the heater to your aquarium, inspect its compatibility and set the correct temperature to avoid harming the fish further. Keep in mind that colder water slows down the immune system of your betta fish, making it susceptible to infections. On the other hand, when the water is too warm, your fish may age too fast due to increased metabolism.
An alternative to using a heater is shifting your fish tank to a warm room.
4. Adjust the tank’s pH and salinity levels
After realizing your betta fish’s immobility, test the pH and salinity levels to determine if they are too high or low. You want to treat the water to balance the composition of the water and maintain an optimum pH level between 6.5 and 8.
Pet stores or other online outlets have different brands to help you fix these conditions and prevent body shock that renders your betta fish immobile.
5. Feed your betta a balanced diet
You can restore the movement of your betta fish by giving it a balanced diet to ensure it has enough energy to swim around. A diet rich in proteins is recommended for such situations because it restores your betta’s energy at a fast rate.
Some of the best foods for betta fish include daphnia, varying species of worms, insect larvae, and brine shrimp.
6. Stop overfeeding your betta fish
Feeding your betta fish a lot of food can result in swim bladder problems and prevent it from moving in the tank. The easiest way to avoid this is to give enough food for energy and survival. Constipation is a major cause of swim bladder issues, and it can be controlled using proper foodstuff in regulated quantities.
7. Take the fish to the veterinarian
Observe your betta fish and see if it’s exhibiting symptoms of any illnesses. Note them down and alert an aquatic veterinarian to get the necessary medication to restore the health of your fish.
A healthy fish can be identified as it actively swims all over the tank instead of sulking and sitting at the bottom of the tank.
When your betta fish is not moving, it is likely to be experiencing health problems, swim bladder issues, trouble adjusting to the tank water conditions, or lack of energy due to poor feeding habits. Some bettas sleep longer than others, and yours could be a heavy sleeper, hence the lack of movement. However, it’s important to wake it up if it exceeds the sleeping period by a large margin so that you can contemplate other issues if the betta doesn’t move.
An unfortunate situation causing your betta fish to stop moving is lifelessness. This could be due to old age, diseases, or other natural causes that may be inevitable.
- Adelphi University, New York: Betta Fish Care
- Assiut University: Ammonia poisoning (New tank syndrome)