Sick Betta fish lying & breathing heavily at the bottom of the tank

Cats and dogs are very expressive animals. If your dog is sick, it’ll stop running around and cuddle next to you. But what about betta fish? You can’t cuddle with these pets, so understanding them can be challenging. Sometimes, these active fish slow down and struggle even to breathe. 


The most common reasons a Betta fish seems lethargic or sick and is lying at the bottom of the tank breathing heavily are disease, old age, and bad water temperatures. A loss of appetite and faded colors are signs that your Betta fish might be dying.

Here, we’ll tell you the best ways to deal with a lethargic Betta fish.

In this article, we cover the following topics:

Table of Contents

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Seeing your fish lie down at the bottom of the tank can be very stressful, but the reason isn’t always bad. A plethora of reasons can explain their behavior. To understand more about the peculiar behavior, keep reading!

red betta fish

Is It Normal For Betta Fish To Lay On The Bottom Of The Tank?

A betta fish’s incredibly colorful fins look the best when they are flowing in the water as they playfully swim around. Moreover, they’re day creatures. Therefore, seeing them active might be a regular thing for you. 

Their bubbly personalities are what make them fun. So when they start to act strange by lying at the bottom of the tank, it can be quite problematic. But before you give yourself a headache, make sure to go through all of the possible causes. 

What to do when your betta fish is not eating and lying at the bottom of the tank

Bettas are some of the most common pet fish. So if they’re not eating and laying on the bottom, there’s a tried and tested solution. Each problem has its own solution, so you need to do some detective work and find out the issue first. 

everything for your betta fish

1. Cold shock

If you’ve got a hungry and slothful fish on your hands, the tank’s temperature might not be right. The perfect temperature for any betta is 75 to 80 Fahrenheit. These cold-blooded creatures absorb heat from the water. With a decrease in the temperature, they might be unable to move or even eat. 

All you need to do is fix your water heater and regulate the temperature by keeping a close eye on it. 

2. Swim bladder disease

Swim bladder disease occurs when your Betta isn’t able to swim around, which is caused by either indigestion or constipation. You might have overfed them without annoying them, causing them to get bloated. To keep their digestion in tip-top shape, feed them pieces of green peas since they are high in fiber. After a while, they should be fine on their own. 

3. Poor Water quality 

A bad environment can stress anyone out, so it’s not surprising that bettas get stressed when the water quality is poor. Unclean water can put their immune systems into stress overload, causing reduced appetite and less energy. 

Luckily, fixing your water quality is quite easy. A few water quality tests on your aquarium can help you determine exactly what to do.  

Signs it’s dying

 It’s not easy to tell how your friend is doing like it is with other pets. Sometimes, the issue can be fixed, but if they’re too old, it might mean they’re about to die. Old bettas will start to behave a certain way which can hint that they are at the end of their life. Here are some of those hints: 

betta fish
  • Loss of appetite
  • Physical weakness and slowness
  • Trouble breathing despite good water quality 
  • Faded colors and transparent skin
  • Eye swelling 
  • Isolation and hiding away interaction 
  • Weight loss and a hunched back 
  • Longer sleeping hours than usual 

Possible causes

Here are the possible causes for a Betta fish to lay on the bottom of the tank.


If you’re a beginner, you might not know that many fish sleep as humans do. Of course, they don’t have beds, so they make do with what they have. Sometimes you might see your Betta catching some z’s on a leaf or even at the bottom of the tank. These fish are diurnal, which means they’re up in daylight. 

Betta fish often sleep while lying on their side, which is nothing to worry about! If your pet fish seems fine in all other aspects, then it’s probably just napping. 

If you want to treat them like royalty, you could get a leaf hammock bed from amazon for better sleep. Check out the product underneath.

BrandZoo Med Laboratories
Item Weight0.32 ounces


  • It’ll greatly enhance the look of your tank.
  • It’s very affordable.
  • It even comes with one-day prime delivery.
  • Our Betta loves it.


  • It’s weird how you can get two of them cheaper individually than in their 2-pack.
  • Some fish don’t immediately figure out what it’s for, while others do.
  • It was a bit cumbersome getting the suction to work.
Bed Leaf Hammock
Pamper your friend.


Stress is a factor in fish too! Like humans, betta fish like to sleep at night. They’ll get confused and stressed if you put them in a well-lit room for longer than hours. To make sure your fish is getting enough sleep, switch off the lights after a while.

pink betta  fish

Another factor for stress can be a confined space. Betta fish like to swim around, and an aquarium that can only hold 3 gallons is not suitable for them. The detail tank should be about 5 gallons and have enough space for your fish to explore. A few aquarium plants will do the job if you want to keep them engaged. 

Other than that, betta fish are loners and don’t like being with others. But they enjoy the company of particular snails and shrimps. 

Water too cold

For a tropical fish, 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature, which is exactly what Betta like. If the temperature goes too low, their metabolism slows down. It can make them lethargic and also absorb less oxygen.  

If you want to raise the temperature of the tank, use a water heater to warm it up gradually. Any sudden change will stress out the fish, and it might even kill any good bacteria. 

BrandAdvanced Electronic Heater
Product Dimensions1.8″D x 3.3″W x 15.3″H
Wattage‎100 watts


  • It’s a very reasonably-priced water heater.
  • Your fish will thank you.
  • Adjusting the temperature is a breeze.


  • The suction cup was giving me some trouble.
  • It’s probably too long for a 20-gallon tank.
  • Make sure to follow the instructions to get it working right.
Advanced Electronic Heater
Get the right temperature in the tank.

Water too hot

Bettas might like warmer waters, but the oxygen level gets wonky if the water gets too hot. That’s because warm water releases oxygen much faster than cold water. The temperature doesn’t bother them. It’s the lack of oxygenation that leaves them panting and gasping. You can cool down the tank with a fan or an AC. You could also use an air pump to oxygenate the water quickly. 

green blue betta fish


By looking at a betta fish, you might assume they’re fast swimmers due to their gorgeous fins. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Their fins are purely for decorative purposes. To accommodate their slow swimming, you’ll need to ensure your aquarium filter isn’t producing a strong current. 

If the currents are too fast or strong, your friend will stay idly at the bottom of the tank. 

Old age

Even with proper care and the perfect diet, bettas can only live up to 5 years. As they grow older, they become less active, and they might even swim less. If your betta fish is old, you might notice that it sleeps more or spends more time on the tank floor. Don’t worry. All of that is completely natural.

Swim bladder disease

One of the most common diseases bettas are susceptible to is swim bladder disease. This illness causes the stomach to swell up, which stops the bladder from functioning properly. The swelling in their body makes it difficult for them to swim around as they would normally. As a result, the fish just lay down in the tank or sometimes even float to the top. 

Excessive ammonia

Your fish might be a victim of a silent killer – nitrates. Nitrate poisoning also brings out other symptoms, such as fading colors, lack of appetite, and rapid breathing. A mix of these symptoms probably means your water is too saturated with nitrates. 

If your fish are exposed to 20 ppm of nitrate, it’s enough to put their health in danger. You’ll need a liquid test kit to fix this issue, or it might kill your aquatic friends. Once you’ve confirmed that the high amount of nitrate is the issue, you’ll need to switch out some of the water to regulate the concentration. Be careful because if you change too much water at once, you’ll stress out the fish! 

Healthy vs. Unhealthy

You might think that fish don’t do much other than swim around. But, even they have specific behaviors they exhibit when they’re happy. You just need to know how to look for the signs. 

Generally, a young and healthy betta fish will be active as ever. They’ll be willing to learn tricks and swim where you’re closest to them. They might even greet you when you come home – almost like a dog! Other than that, your fish will be more colorful than a rainbow. Their fins will be full of blues, reds, and purples. Even their gills should look reddish. 

Another telltale sign of their health is their tail. To be more specific, we’re talking about their fins. When a young and healthy betta moves, it spreads its fins and almost glides through the water. And when you feed them, you’ll see them rush over to their food since they’re very aggressive eaters. If there’s a change in their appetite, something bad is going on. 

Bettas can breathe oxygen right from the air and their gills. However, they only resort to breathing outside of the water if they’re not getting enough oxygen from the water. If they’re gasping for air on the surface, then you’ll want to check your oxygen levels

Now that you know how a healthy betta acts, it’ll be easier to determine which behaviors are strange. 

The biggest indicator of sickness is a loss of appetite. As we mentioned before, bettas are hungry little creatures. So any sort of change in their appetite can mean they might not be doing well, especially if they start eating less. If your Betta is young and looks pale, you must take action immediately. Sometimes, stress stripes or spots start to appear, which means your little fishy is not doing well.

Any sort of neglect in tank hygiene might cause fin tail rot. If the tank is dirty, the bacteria can eat up their tails which causes a lot of pain and irreversible damage. Other than that, a sick betta will try to scratch itself by rubbing against the side of the betta tank. It is your sign to examine your fish and clean the tank too. 

Creating the best environment

Every fish owner wants to ensure their pets are happy in their homes. Like you would buy a cat a scratch post, you need to replicate a betta’s natural habitat. Here’s everything you’ll need for a wonderland for your betta.

  • Temperature: Bettas like it warm, 75 to 82 Fahrenheit degrees Fahrenheit to be precise. 
  • Ph: Make sure the currents are calm and have a ph of 6.8 to 7.5.
  • Decor: Add rock statues, caves, fish castles, and driftwood to your aquarium 
  • Plants: Live plants such as java moss, Java fern, and duckweed. Anubias nana, Amazon frogbit, and Marimo moss balls. 
  • Lighting: A simple LED lighting system that you can switch off at night will do the job. We recommend the one below.
Brand24/7 CRV Aquarium LED Light
ColorSleek Black
Light Source TypeLED
Product Dimensions4″D x 24″W x 1″H


  • It can simulate natural light patterns.
  • We feel the light provides great value for the money.
  • It’s fairly bright as we had hoped.


  • The programming took a minute to figure out.
  • Some other fixtures are sleeker.
  • Make sure it fits your tank.
Aquarium LED Light
Improve the tank with these lights.
  • Substrate: Fine gravel or dark aquarium soil will make your Betta’s colors pop. 
  • Tankmates: You could keep your betta fish by itself or pair it with a corydora catfish, snails, shrimp, or even African dwarf frogs. 
  • Tank size: Your tank should be able to contain a minimum of 5 gallons
betta fish tank

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