Hey Pet Parents & Pet Lovers,
Being a fish owner can be hard, and sometimes I’ve found it even more difficult than being a cat owner. While it’s true that you have to do a lot less for fish, sometimes you just don’t know if something is wrong with your fish because they can’t tell you how they’re feeling. You may remember almost a year ago I did a 100% water change that put Blub in a stressed shock. From then on, I refused to do a 100% water change, making sure that even if I changed the majority of his water I would still put in some of his old water to make sure there was enough nitrates to start his cycle.
One of the most common “symptoms” a Betta fish will show is staying at the bottom of the tank. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of reasons your fish lays on the bottom of their tank or acts lethargic.
Just like every other animal, Bettas can get constipated. Betta fish have very tiny stomachs and so a lot of times new fish owners will overfeed their Bettas. I’ve found that the perfect number of pellets is 6 a day and starve him one day a week. This makes sure that he gets all the nutrients he needs, as well as keeps his bladder/digestive tract in check. If your Betta is showing signs of constipation you can actually feed them a defrosted pea, just make sure you cut it up into tiny, tiny pieces and make sure you still don’t overfeed them. The pea should help your Betta poop!
This was the cause of Blub’s scare a year ago. Betta fish are actually pretty sensitive fish, even though they are quite hardy as well. Make sure you are cycling the water in your fish tank, especially if you’re going to do a full water change. Simply put, your Betta is going to like water that is a bit dirty with their own waste because of the nitrates, and will not be able to survive in an unconditioned fish tank as it will make them feel sick. Water condition directly can cause a Betta to not want to eat, or worse… not want to move at all. You should always be using water conditioner. It’s not expensive, and it will save you and your fish a lot of stress that could ultimately lead you to a sick, or worse, dead fish. Another great addition to your fish tank would be a moss ball / Marimo plant. This little bugger will help keep your nitrates low and make sure your tank doesn’t grow algae.
Too much Ammonia in the water
Something I didn’t understand as a new fish owner was the importance of filters. For example, we change Beau’s water every day in his drinking fountains so spending money on filters seems pretty unnecessary. As a new fish owner, I thought the concept would be about the same, but this is definitely not true. Without a filter, your tank will be building up quite a bit of ammonia which can cause your fish to get sick or act lethargic. You want to make sure your fish tank has a maximum of 0.25 ppm in regards to ammonia and about 20 ppm of nitrate. But a little something to calm your nerves. There can be about 40 ppm of nitrates before it starts getting toxic, but it still would be best to keep nitrate level down by changing the water once a week and making sure you have clean filters.
The temperature of the Water
Please make sure that your tank is the right temperature. Your water should be between 78°F and 80°F (25.5°C and 26.5°C) if your water is below 74°F(23.5°C) your water is much too cold for your Betta and may be causing a lot of shock to them. If you have a tank that is 3 or more gallons, it would be best for you to buy a water heater. I wouldn’t suggest using it on a smaller tank, because some heaters have been known to fry the fish. (Note: this does not usually happen with larger tanks or with better heaters, but usually with heaters that you cannot change the temperature of.) As a general precaution, always keep your tank far from windows or out of rooms that experience drastic temperature changes.
Too Little Oxygen
Remember your little ones still need to breathe, and if your tank doesn’t have a pump the only oxygen they are going to get is through you pouring new water in. This can become a huge problem, especially if you’re not someone who changes water frequently enough. If your tank doesn’t support a pump at the top, there are plenty of ones you can put at the bottom of your tank! I highly suggest getting one of these for your Betta.
Sometimes your fish is sick at the end of the day. Unfortunately, this can be difficult to diagnose to the untrained eye, and actually, this happened to our poor Flub a few weeks ago. Although we don’t know how old Flub was since he was a surrender, his fins clamped very quickly and he passed away shortly after. Make sure you’re taking a close look at your fish every time you feed them to make sure they’re still in good condition. Another common issue is bladder disease from ammonia. Luckily, we’ve never had this issue, but as mentioned a good way to promote bladder health is fasting your Betta one day a week. Interested in how often you should feed a Betta, check out our guide here.
If there’s a lot going on in your home, or your Betta is stressed from its water condition, it may stay at the bottom of the tank. This can also lead to bladder disease.
Your Betta is Fine, it’s just sleeping
Sometimes it’s none of the above and your fish is just tired and needs to take a quick nap. Some Bettas like to sleep at the bottom of tanks, that’s why we got ours a little place to hide and sleep. If your Betta is only at the bottom of the tank for a short while, you’re probably in the clear!