Why Is My Betta Fish Laying On Its Side? Learn the Possible Reasons and Solutions

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If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re a pet parent to a Betta fish and have noticed it lying on its side. While it may seem concerning or even alarming at first, there could be several reasons why your Betta is behaving this way.

Depending on the circumstances, laying on its side could either indicate a harmless sleeping position, or a serious underlying health condition that requires immediate attention. As a responsible owner, it’s important to understand what might be causing this behavior and how you can help your beloved Betta.

“A good owner not only takes care of their pet’s needs but also tries to understand their behavior.”

In this article, we will explore some possible reasons why your Betta fish could be laying on its side and offer solutions for each scenario. From water quality issues to swim bladder disease, we’ll cover everything you need to know to keep your Betta happy and healthy.

But before we begin, let’s learn a little more about our finned friends and what normal Betta fish behavior looks like. Understanding what is considered “normal” can give us a better idea of when something might be wrong.

Water Quality

Chlorine Levels

Betta fish are known for their delicate nature and need for clean water to thrive. The chlorine levels in your betta’s tank can greatly impact its overall health. Chlorine is a common chemical that is added to tap water to make it safe for humans to drink, but even small amounts of chlorine can be toxic to fish.

The recommended range for chlorine in a betta fish tank is between 0 and 0.5 parts per million (ppm). If the chlorine levels exceed this range, your betta may experience lethargy, loss of appetite, and respiratory distress. It can also lead to bacterial infections and parasites, which can be fatal if left untreated.

To keep your betta healthy, always use a quality dechlorinator when adding tap water to your tank. This will neutralize any harmful chemicals and prevent them from causing harm to your fish.

pH Balance

The pH level of your betta’s water is another important factor in maintaining its health. The pH balance refers to the acidity or alkalinity of the water, and bettas prefer a slightly acidic environment with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5.

If the pH level becomes too high or too low, your betta may become stressed and susceptible to illness. High pH levels can cause damage to the gills and skin, while low levels can disrupt the immune system and affect the absorption of nutrients.

To maintain the proper pH level, regularly monitor the water using a testing kit, and adjust accordingly by adding pH-balancing products as necessary. However, sudden changes in the pH level can also stress your betta, so take care not to overcorrect if you notice a deviation from the ideal range.

Ammonia and Nitrate Levels

Ammonia and nitrate are byproducts of biological waste in your betta’s tank. High levels of these chemicals can be deadly for your fish, as they can cause damage to the gills and other organs over time.

The recommended range for ammonia is zero, while the ideal level for nitrate is less than 20 ppm. If readings exceed these ranges, it may be an indication that the tank water is not being regularly cleaned or filtered correctly.

To reduce ammonia and nitrate levels, perform regular partial water changes (25-30% every two weeks) and ensure that you have proper filtration in place to remove excess waste from the tank. You should also avoid overcrowding your tank with too many fish, as this can lead to an abundance of waste and a chemical imbalance in the water.

“Water quality is essential to the health of your betta fish, and monitoring pH balance, chlorine levels, and ammonia/nitrate levels is crucial to maintaining the cleanliness and safety of your pet’s habitat.” -AquariumCareBasics.com

Swim Bladder Disease

If you’ve noticed your betta fish laying on its side or floating at the top of the tank, there’s a chance it could be suffering from swim bladder disease. This condition affects the organ responsible for helping fish regulate their buoyancy in water, which can cause swimming difficulties and even lead to death if left untreated.


Aside from laying on its side or floating at the surface, other signs that your betta may be experiencing swim bladder disease include:

  • Inability to swim properly, such as swimming diagonally or erratically
  • Lack of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Bloated or distended abdomen
  • Discoloration or lesions on fins or body


The exact causes of swim bladder disease are not fully understood but some factors that may contribute to this condition include:

  • Overfeeding – especially foods high in protein which can be difficult for bettas to digest
  • Poor water quality- infrequent water changes can lead to an excess buildup of harmful toxins in the aquarium’s water contributing to various health problems including swim bladder disease.
  • Fighting – a physically traumatic fight with another fish can cause internal injury leading to swim bladder disease
  • Birth Defects – Genetics plays a role too, occasionally, some fish are born with defective swim bladders, making them more vulnerable to the disease.


If you suspect your Betta may have swim bladder disease it’s important to take prompt action through treatment as soon as possible after confirming the diagnosis.

Aquarists should isolate infected fish in a separate tank with shallow water and perform frequent checks to ensure proper temperature, pH levels, along with properly cleaning the water. Adding aquarium salts or Epsom salt can often help reduce swelling and restore buoyancy but it is important to consult with an aquatic veterinarian first.

If daily flushing of system doses does not seem to work well then the use of antibiotics may be recommended by veterinarians for the treatment of bacterial infections. Finally, keep in mind that in worst-case scenarios where all other treatments have failed humane euthanasia must be considered.


One of the best ways to prevent swim bladder disease is to provide your Betta with optimal care from before purchase onwards:

  • Feed smaller amounts 2-3 times a day instead of one big meal to avoid overfeeding, ensuring dietary variety suitable for Betta including dry pellets, frozen foods, live foods (such as mosquito larvae), vegetables, etc.
  • Clean the aquarium regularly with regular partial-water changes.
  • Avoid overcrowding or aggressive mates which will result in high-stress environments within the tank.
“If you can create conditions above what the Betta needs regarding diet, lighting, space, clean water parameters, etc., they will almost certainly be fine.” – Dr. Roberts Munschauer, DVM.

Detecting small signs early on, taking quick action to isolate infected fish and providing prompt medical care under the supervision of a veterinarian are essential steps in order to save a Bettas life suffering from swim bladder disease. Investing time into optimal Betta health maintenance will help prevent many diseases within the aquarium and protect against further harm from unexpected encounters with pathogens that try to sneak their way into our beloved bettas lives.

Temperature Fluctuations

Betta fish are sensitive creatures that need the right water temperature to survive. When the temperature of their tank changes, it can greatly affect their health and behavior. One common symptom of temperature fluctuations is a betta fish laying on its side.

Effects on Fish

When a betta fish is exposed to water that is too cold or too warm, it can cause stress and harm to their body. Being in water that is too cold can slow down their metabolism and immune system, making them more vulnerable to diseases such as fin rot and fungal infections. On the other hand, being in water that is too warm can reduce the amount of oxygen in the water, leading to lethargy, disorientation, and even death.

The most obvious sign of temperature shock is when they lay on their side at the bottom of the tank, gasping for air. This can also be accompanied by clamped fins, loss of appetite, and discoloration of the gills. If not corrected quickly, this condition can become fatal within 24-48 hours.


There are several causes of temperature fluctuations in a betta fish’s environment:

  • Inadequate Heater: The most common reason for temperature shocks is an inadequate heater or no heater at all. Bettas need a consistent temperature of around 78°F – 82°F (22°C – 28°C) to thrive. However, during winter or unexpected power outages, it could cause their tank temperature to drop drastically.
  • Malfunctioning Equipment: Even if you do have a heater in your aquarium, there’s a chance it might malfunction. It’s important to conduct regular checks to ensure that the gear is working properly. Additionally, filters can also affect water temperature if they’re not functioning correctly.
  • Hot Environment: Bettas should never be placed in direct sunlight or any area where temperatures are high. Keeping them close to heating vents, radiators, or hot lamps could lead to overheated water and health issues.
  • Incorrect Use of Fans: Some aquarium owners use fans to lower the temperature when it’s warm outside. However, this isn’t advisable for bettas as it can cause temperature fluctuations rapidly. It’s better to invest in a good heater with an adjustable thermostat instead so you can regulate the temperature according to seasons or room temperature changes.
  • Improper Acclimatization: When introducing a new fish to your tank, acclimatizing them to their new environment removes biological shock which usually occurs when they’re put straight into unfamiliar water. Ensure the water temperature in both tanks (old and new) are similar so they don’t have such a jolt in transferring/relocating to another tank.


The best way to prevent temperature shocks in your betta fish is to maintain consistent water parameters within their preferred range:

  • Get a quality heater: Invest in a reliable and efficient heater that suits the size of your aquarium. A heater with an adjustable thermostat is effective in keeping the aquarium at precisely regulate temperatures needed compared to fixed heaters which don’t allow wiggle room. Do some research to find out what brand would work best for your aquarium size because strong ones might fry the fish while weaker ones may fail to heat the water adequately
  • Avoid sudden change in temperature: Water changes must be done at a gradual pace over several hours, instead of all at once. Similarly, water conditioning chemicals such as “tap safe” should always be added to new or change tanks before adding the fish.
  • Regular Equipment Maintenance: Properly maintain your equipment, including filters and heaters, so you can notice any issues when they arise. Clean them on a schedule basis and check their function regularly to prevent malfunctions that could harm your fish.
  • Keep tanks away from direct heat sources & sunlight: Bettas are tropical fish; however, placing their tank in areas where there’s low temperature (near open doors/windows OR cool, dark corners) is not advisable either. When positioning aquariums, ensure it’s far enough from windows, HVAC vents, heating appliances exactly exposing them too much heat and cold weather conditions.
  • Quarantine New Fish: It’s essential to introduce new fish to your existing ecosystem with caution. An unquarantined fish carries diseases harmful to other fishes living in the same tank. Place them into a separate holding area for a few days and after inspecting that they show no signs of health issues like parasites or infections then put them into the community tank system.
“Temperature shock caused by fluctuating water temperatures can seriously affect a betta fish’s survival rate. The sudden changes cause stress that affects their immune systems resulting in lethargy, disorientation, laying at the bottom of the tank, gasping for air, loss of appetite, clamped fins, or discoloration of the gills.”


Betta fish are known for their vibrant colors, graceful movements, and interesting personalities. However, these popular aquarium pets require specific care and maintenance to stay healthy and thrive. One of the most common mistakes that betta owners make is overfeeding their fish, which can lead to several negative consequences.

Effects on Water Quality

When you overfeed your betta fish, it can have a significant impact on the water quality in its aquarium. As excess food accumulates at the bottom of the tank, it begins to decompose, leading to a buildup of harmful toxins such as ammonia and nitrite. These substances can cause serious health problems and even death in fish if left unchecked, so it’s essential to maintain good water quality in your betta’s environment.

To prevent water quality issues from overfeeding, it’s crucial to feed your betta appropriate amounts of food and clean the tank regularly. Removing uneaten food promptly also helps keep the water fresh and safe for your fish.

Effects on Fish Health

In addition to affecting water quality, overfeeding can directly harm your betta’s physical health. Too much food can cause bloating, constipation, and swim bladder disease, all of which can be painful or life-threatening for fish.

Swim bladder disease is particularly concerning because it causes difficulty swimming or floating, often leaving the fish laying on its side at the bottom of the tank unable to move correctly. Symptoms of this condition include loss of appetite, lethargy, and difficulty balancing while swimming.

“Feeding too much can definitely kill your Betta fish. Overeating leads to obesity, swim bladder disease and many other diseases.”


Fortunately, overfeeding is preventable by following a few simple steps:

  • Feed your betta the right amount. Betta fish have small stomachs and only require a tiny amount of food to stay healthy. Give them no more than two or three pellets per feeding, one to two times per day.
  • Don’t feed your fish too often. Overfeeding can be as detrimental to your betta’s health as giving them too much food at once. Space out feedings throughout the day, ideally in the morning and evening, to avoid overfeeding while still ensuring they get adequate nutrition.
  • Clean the tank regularly. Removing excess food and debris from the aquarium helps maintain clean water, reducing the risk of toxins accumulating and affecting your fish.

A well-fed and properly cared for betta will show its appreciation through its vivid colors, playful behavior, and overall good health. By feeding your fish the appropriate amounts and paying attention to their other needs, you’ll enjoy their companionship for years to come.

Stress and Lack of Enrichment

If you have a Betta fish lying on its side, it could indicate they are experiencing stress or boredom. Stress is one of the most common problems that most Betta fish owners deal with, and it can lead to many different health issues in your fish if left untreated.

Causes of Stress

Betta fishes are beautiful creatures, but their unique personalities require attention to detail when creating their living environment. A few reasons why Bettas get stressed include:

  • Poor water quality: Water temperature and pH levels are crucial factors for maintaining a healthy environment for your fish. Any change in these conditions may trigger stress in your finned friend.
  • Small aquariums: Bettas are vibrant swimmers and come from freshwater habitats, which means that they need space to move around. In small aquariums, Bettas become bored, anxious, and lonely, which causes stress.
  • Inadequate nutrition: For proper growth and body functioning, your Betta needs ample high-quality food containing essential nutrients and vitamins. The wrong kind of diet will result in nutritional deficiency leading to decreased immunity and lethargy.
  • Incompatible tank mates: You must consider that some fish species don’t go well together. Keeping unsuitable tankmates with your Betta fish puts them at enormous risk and contributes significantly to stress.

Effects of Stress on Fish Health

It’s surprising how stress can affect even us as human beings- now think about what effects it has on our aquatic pets. Here are a few adverse effects of stress on Betta fish health:

  • Sluggish behavior and lack of activity
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Reduced immune functionality
  • Fins clamped or frayed and dull coloration
  • Disease susceptibility which can further lead to various health issues like fungal infections, swim bladder disease, bacterial infections, etc.

Enrichment Activities for Fish

The best way to keep your Betta healthy and happy is by providing entertainment- yes, they get bored! Here are a few enrichments you could implement in their aquarium:

  • A heater: Ensure that the water temperature always stays between 78 – 80 °F. Bettas come from tropical freshwater habitats; therefore, consider using an adjustable heater with a thermometer to regulate the water’s warmth.
  • Lively decorative plants: Living plants act as excellent hiding spots for your fish while also boosting oxygen levels and removing toxins from tank water.
  • Toys and mirrors: Since Bettas are interactive creatures, toys and mirrors serve as quality companionship for them. Floating logs and toy castles help replicate natural surroundings where they live.
  • Vanishing food: Another great way of stimulating your Betta is by hiding food in different parts of their bowl or tank. This practice imitates how they would seek out food in their natural environment.

Prevention of Stress and Boredom

Now that you know what causes stress in Betta fish, here are a few tips on how you can prevent this from occurring:

  • Clean water regularly: You’ll want to ensure your betta has clean water every three days to maintain their wellbeing.
  • Add hiding places: Imagine having no spot to go when the lights turn off-these fishes face the same problem. Consider adding rocks, plants, or various other shelter options so they can have safe, designated hiding spots.
  • Feed them an appropriate amount of fish food: Please avoid overfeeding your Betta and provide the proper type and amount of food to ensure they’re healthy and their appetite stays intact.
“Ensuring that a Betta’s habitat is correctly established can help reduce stress in the long run.” – Dr. Jesse M. Sanders from PetMD.com

You love your Betta fish like family, so you should aim to keep them entertained always while ensuring their environment maintains long-term stability. By following these tips, you’ll be on the right track towards keeping your Betta happy and free from stress!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my betta fish laying on its side?

Betta fish may lay on their side due to various reasons such as swim bladder disease, poor water quality, stress, or injury. It could also be a sign of old age or genetic issues. It is essential to identify the root cause and take immediate action to prevent further harm to your fish.

What are the possible reasons for my betta fish lying on its side?

The possible reasons for your betta fish lying on its side include swim bladder disease, poor water quality, stress, injury, old age, and genetic issues. It is crucial to observe your fish’s behavior to identify the root cause and take necessary action to prevent further harm.

How can I tell if my betta fish is sick or just resting on its side?

If your betta fish is resting, it will occasionally move around, breathe, and respond to stimuli. However, if your fish is sick, it may show other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, discoloration, or abnormal behavior. It is best to monitor your fish’s behavior and consult a veterinarian if needed.

What should I do if my betta fish is laying on its side and not moving?

If your betta fish is lying on its side and not moving, it may be suffering from swim bladder disease or another serious condition. You should immediately isolate your fish and consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Can a betta fish recover from laying on its side?

If your betta fish is suffering from swim bladder disease, it can recover with proper treatment and care. However, if the root cause is an injury or genetic issue, recovery may not be possible. It is essential to identify the root cause and take necessary action to prevent further harm to your fish.

What steps can I take to prevent my betta fish from laying on its side in the future?

You can prevent your betta fish from laying on its side by maintaining good water quality, providing a balanced diet, avoiding overfeeding, providing adequate space, and reducing stress. It is crucial to observe your fish’s behavior and take necessary action if you notice any abnormal behavior.

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