why is my betta not moving

Why is my Betta Fish Not Moving?

We cover 4 Possible Reasons why your Betta Fish Is Not Moving in this article

Betta fish are gorgeous little guys that are full of vibrant color and personality. They are very responsive to interaction with their keepers, be it swimming excitedly to see you, or flaring their little hearts out. They are overall, a pretty active fish.

Not moving when you approach their aquarium, however, would be an odd occurrence with the Betta Fish. And also one that could prove to be worrisome. This does not necessarily mean though that your Betta fish is on the brink of death, or even that anything is wrong!

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the four most possible answers to the question, ‘why is my Betta fish not moving?’

1. Your Betta Is Better At Sleeping  Than You Think!

Believe it or not, your Betta will sleep and take naps at various times throughout the day and night. Now usually, this will only be a light sleep and the chances are they will awaken at your approach; but this won’t always be the case. Betta can and will sleep through a quiet or silent person appearing by their aquarium, and you’ll catch them taking forty winks.

It needs to be said however, that Betta fish do not sleep in the same manner that we do. For one, they have no eyelids – so they can’t close their eyes. However, researchers believe that they still partake in a state that closely resembles our sleep and that they do this on a regular basis.

Many first-time Betta fishkeepers may panic when they find their Bettas asleep. After all, they do this in some unusual positions like floating, on the filter or heater, on top of plants and ornaments, and even with their heads buried in the gravel. There are all manner of weird and wonderful Betta fish sleeping positions that they may be in.

At this point, keepers are tempted to tap the glass or even poke their Betta fish in order to check that they are alive. Please don’t do this, as you could shock them waking them up in such a manner. Rather, you should look closely for signs of gill and mouth movement proving that they are just resting. Note, however, that this movement will be distinctly slower than when they are awake. Read more on the topic ‘ Do fish sleep?

2. Your Betta Is Unhappy Or, Stressed By His Living Conditions!

Although Betta fish are fairly hardy and easy to care for, they still need the right conditions to thrive. A Betta fish which is unhappy with its environment, is one that will be reluctant to move. The main environmental concerns would be water quality, aquarium size, and tank mates.

Water Quality

Water quality is fish keeping 101 for any species of fish if we’re honest, but in the case of a Betta, it can really have an effect on how much they swim around. For example, and most often the culprit in this case, the temperature has a huge effect on your Betta fish’s movement.

Not really the point of this discussion but worth mentioning however, is that keeping your Betta fish at a temperature that is too high will cause their metabolism to speed up and make them hyper. This means they will swim around their aquarium like lunatics which, just as no movement at all, really isn’t healthy.

Colder temperatures than recommended – getting back to the original point – are the problem with water quality and your Betta fish’s movement. This is because being too cold slows their metabolism down and makes them sluggish and sleepy.  The ideal temperatures for a Betta fish to avoid this problem are between 78-80℉ or 25.5-26.5℃. However, as long as they are between 77-86℉ or 25-30℃, they will be OK. Read our Complete Guide To Keeping Bettas for more information on all their care needs.

Aquarium Size

As well as requiring dark, shady spots to sleep, Betta also need plenty of swimming space. This, yes, is an opinion contrary to popular belief but believe me when I say that a Betta with little space to move in, will move very little.
This doesn’t, however, mean that a Betta fish needs a gigantic aquarium, rather that they require something around 5-10 gallons which has plenty of space left without decor to swim. However, as in many things in life, bigger is better. Read our review of the Best Aquariums Reviewed.

Betta Fish

Tank Mates

It’s pretty well known that male Betta fish, which are the most commonly kept, cannot be kept with other Bettas. However, they can sometimes – with care – be kept with other community species. This is not the case for all Betta though, and some will not respond well.

The most common reaction when not wanting to share an aquarium would be for a Betta to go on the attack and possibly fight. However, this is not always the case and some may go into hiding and remain motionless.

As with sleeping Betta, checking for gill and mouth movement should quickly clarify if they are OK or not. The best advice to get your Betta moving again in this situation? Move them to their own aquarium.

If you’re still unsure as to which fish can live with betta’s, read our complete guide to Betta Tank Mates.

3. Your Betta Isn’t Moving Because He Needs Making Better

Whilst there are a few diseases that are common to the Betta Fish such as fin rot, Betta tumors and dropsy, there is one in particular that will make them incapable of movement: This is swim bladder disease, which is commonly referred to as SBD.

Swim bladder disease is a horrible ailment that is commonly caused by constipation, poor water conditions, parasite or bacterial infections and enlarged organs. Symptoms include swimming sideways or upside down, or more commonly laying at the bottom of their aquarium motionless.

SBD can be controlled by maintaining high water quality, not overstocking your aquarium, and feeding a high-quality diet. Should you need to treat your Betta fish for SBD, you should simply raise the aquarium temperature by a couple of degrees, and fast them for a day or two. When you do start re-feeding your Betta fish, you should give them Daphnia which will aid them in pooping.

Read, ‘ Why is my Betta ( Siamese Fighting Fish ) Not Eating?’ for advice on what you should feed your Betta and why.

4. Your Betta Fish Has Sadly Passed Away

The average lifespan of a Betta fish is around three to five years though some may exceed this. When they do die, they are commonly found either floating on the surface or laying on the bottom. Should you find your Betta in either of these positions, the chances they have died are real.

Again, you should check to see if there is any gill or mouth movement before pronouncing them dead. You may also want to tap on the aquarium glass, if movement cannot be seen, before netting and disposing of what may be just a potentially very sick fish. Learn how to dispose of a fish respectfully.

Conclusion: Why is my Betta not moving?

Whilst the above are not the only reasons that your Betta fish may not be moving, they are certainly the most common. Betta fish can however, be awkward little fellas that seem to enjoy making our hearts go in our mouths with their occasional inactivity.

This is not a problem though so long as you keep calm. Remember that checking for gill and mouth movement is the best way to ensure they are still alive, and you won’t go far wrong.

About the Author

Joanne Burn

Joanne has been keeping fish for many years both freshwater and saltwater and has been writing for fish keeping websites and magazines for even longer. Her fishkeeping knowledge, research and writing skill makes her an essential member of the fishkeeping forever team.

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