Betta Fish Laying On Side: Why And What To Do?

Bettas are beautiful, magnificent fish which spend most of their time showing off, swimming at the top and the middle of the aquarium. In rare cases, you can see your Betta fish laying on side near the bottom of the tank. The reasons can vary but you should check your pet to see if there is something really wrong or you needn’t worry at all. 

Why Is My Betta Fish Laying On Side?

betta laying on bottom

We are going to provide you with a list of possible reasons why your Betta pet is lying on the side. 

Your Betta Is Sleeping

Bettas are very intelligent fish and, in many cases, they refuse to behave as fish do. One of the features that is common is that they tend to sleep on the side just like people do. You can find your Betta fish laying on side on the top, or at the bottom but also in weird places like on leaves or decorations on the tank.  Maybe your pet is just taking a nap because it is tired. This is a signal to observe the pet and see if this isn’t a sign for something more serious. 

Your Betta Is Stressed

Bettas can be easily stressed so you need to check if they have all they need. Provide a lot of hiding places but also an open space for your Betta to swim freely. Sudden changes in water temperature can also cause stress and temperature shock symptoms and make your Betta fish laying on side. Some other diseases can be caused by stress so observe your pet and check for signs. 

Your Betta Is Cold

Another reason why your Betta is laying on the side is cold water. It is true that they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but they do not enjoy it and surely show signs of it. Low temperature can cause more serious damage to your Betta if it lasts long. Their metabolism becomes slower as does the digestion of food. They become stressed which causes damage to the immune system and eventually they become exposed to diseases. It is like a chain reaction so you should check the temperature at the first signal your Betta shows. The best is to provide a temperature between 78 and 82 degrees and your Betta will thrive. 

Your Betta Is Old

In some cases, you will start noticing the Betta fish laying on side and at the bottom. This can happen due to a lack of energy and old age. Simply, your Betta is old and can swim all the time around the tank. It often needs naps and pauses to regain the energy. Their life span is three to five years and if your pet is around these numbers the reason could be just getting old. In this case, you could provide more resting places like broad-leaf plants for your pet to feel more comfortable. 

Your Betta Is Constipated

Bettas are no exception to this problem that can be seen in most tropical fish. In most cases constipation is connected to water temperature and cold water is the main cause. In cold water Bettas digestion slows down as and if fed properly with a slow metabolism, not all the food can find its way out. The Betta becomes swollen and can’t regulate swimming so it starts laying on the side. Constipation is not a huge problem and can be treated easily in an early phase but if left untreated it can cause serious issues. Treatment at an early phase is easy, just let your Betta fast for two or three days and then give it Daphnia. The other thing you can use is blanched pea which can be very helpful too. 

Swim Bladder Disease

When it comes to serious diseases connected to Betta fish laying on side, the swim bladder is number one. It is an air-filled organ that regulates Bettas swimming.  With this disease fish start floating aside, struggling to remain near the top of the tank or just sink at the bottom. It starts as a consequence of overfeeding, constipation, low temperature, shock, parasites or bacteria.  It is a common disease in Bettas but it requires treatment. The treatment isn’t too complicated. After isolating the fish, you can use Epsom salt to reduce swelling and improve the immune system. In some cases, if it is caused by bacteria or parasites there are medications that you should include. 

Ammonia Poisoning 

Ammonia is something that is very poisonous for your Betta pet and can happen if you do not take proper care of your tank. If you see your Betta laying on the side and gasping for air you should check the water first. Use the aquarium kit and test the ammonia levels. Ideally they should be zero or close to zero. If that is not the case you should do a partial water change about a quarter and then again repeat the action in a few days.

Nitrate Poisoning 

This is also a very harmful matter that arises from chemical spikes in the tank. The symptoms apart from Betta fish laying on side are heavy breathing and pale color. You should perform the test on nitrate level which should be around zero but goes to 20ppm. If it is not within the limit, instantly change part of the water and keep repeating it until you reach acceptable numbers. 


There are cases when your Betta suffers bacterial infection so look closely to check the signs. If your pet is lying on the side but you notice other symptoms like bloating or skin changes and fin rot you may be dealing with a bacterial infection. Melafix is a bacterial agent that does a great job if this problem occurs. and if this is the case. If you are not sure, you could always look for expert advice.  

Too Strong Current

If you use a filter keep in mind that Bettas do not like a strong current. Like in their natural habitat, they need still and slow-moving water. Adjust the water flow at low speed if you do not want to stress your Betta pet. If you haven’t done it, maybe the current has exhausted your Betta because it has been swimming constantly. Adjust the speed of a filter and you will solve the problem. 

What To Do If Your Betta Is Laying On Its Side?

If you notice your Betta fish laying on side, the first thing is to inspect the fish. Check for signals and see if there are other things apart from laying aside like lethargy, loss of appetite, if your pet is suffering discoloration, bloating, heavy breathing. You may notice other changes on the body such as white spots or changes on the fins

If you notice any of these things then your Betta isn’t just sleeping or resting and there are other problems you need to solve. Then you should react and do more: 

  • First, provide a clean tank
  • Check the water temperature   
  • Check for water parameters for nitrates, nitrites and ammonia levels
  • Check if something else is stressing your pet
  • Check for further signs of illness and treat your Betta properly. Use the medications depending on the disease

Final Thoughts

There are a number of reasons for your Betta fish laying on side. We have mentioned the most common ones to help you reveal the cause of your pet`s behaviors. In most cases, there is nothing to worry about because your Betta may be taking a nap or sleeping but there are things that should alarm you. After observing your pet if you notice other symptoms, you may be dealing with more serious issues which we mentioned in the text. Most of the problems that can occur can be easily treated and you can perform the treatment on your own just following the steps.  

It may look scary at first if you notice your Betta laying on the side but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a bigger problem. And it doesn’t hurt that periodically you check your tank water parameters. We hope we have provided you with enough useful information about Betta fish laying on side so if something like this happens to you, you will know what to do next. 

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