Why Is My Betta Fish Not Moving? 5 Reasons

betta fish shimmery
If your Betta fish is not moving then it's probably due to one of these 5 reasons. Here is a rundown of each and what you should do to determine the cause and potentially fix it.

Betta fish are very lively with big personalities and even bigger colors. Has your Betta fish been very inactive, lethargic, and does not eat much?

Well, do not automatically jump to conclusions, because there is more than one reason as to why your Betta might not be moving much or moving at all. Yes, there are the obvious things, but there are also some causes which might not be quite as bad as you think.

So why is my Betta fish not moving? Well, the short answer is it’s probably due to one of these five reasons:

  1. It’s sleep or resting.
  2. Bad water quality.
  3. It has passed away.
  4. It has Swim Bladder, Constipation, or another illness.
  5. Improper feeding.

Why Is My Betta Fish Not Moving or Eating?

There are a few different reasons as to why your Betta fish is inactive, lethargic, does not move, and is not eating right.

Yes, some of these are very bad and might spell the end for your Betta, but there are some not-so-serious causes as well, although even these need to be looked after ASAP if you want your Betta to continue living a happy and healthy life.

1. Sleeping or Resting

Just like humans, Betta fish need to rest. Yes, all things need to sleep at one point or another. This is how bodies regenerate energy and it is how normal bodily functions keep going.

Without sleep there would literally be no life, at least not for more than a couple of days. Betta fish need to sleep. Sometimes they close their eyes, sometimes they do not. Betta fish do like to turn on their sides when sleeping, often laying on the substrate or on the leaves of some plants.

If your Betta fish is not moving much, it could just be asleep. If you flick the tank, swirl the water, or turn the lights on, and the Betta springs into action, chances are huge that it was indeed just catching some rest.

Now, if your Betta fish is sleeping a whole lot, or appears to be sleeping a whole lot, it could be due to another reason. It could be due to improper feeding, illness, or improper tank conditions. It could also be due to the fact that your Betta is getting old and its life is slowly leaving its body.

Just like with humans, old Betta fish will be more lethargic and inactive than young ones.

white betta fish
Image credit: Pixabay

2. Bad Water Quality – Temperature & Other Parameters

One big reason why your Betta fish might be very lethargic and not moving around is because of water conditions that are less than ideal. The most important thing to keep in mind here is the temperature of the water.

Betta fish should be in water that is roughly 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, if the water is too hot, your fish probably will not be lethargic, but the same is not the case if the water is too cold.

Water that is too cold, especially when it drops below 76 or 75 degrees, will cause a collapse of the metabolic system, bodily functions shut down, the fish will not eat anymore, and it will stop moving.

So, if your Betta is not moving, check the water temperature and check your heater to see that all is in order. The lack of movement could also be due to a lack of lighting. Do you have lights in your Betta tank? This is unlikely, but if the tank is dark a lot, your Betta might be inactive or sleeping because it thinks that it is nighttime.

Check the pH Level!

You will also want to check the pH level. Betta fish need the water to have a neutral pH level of 7.0. Any higher or lower than that will endanger its health and cause it to slow down, potentially become ill, and pass away.

High ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels also cause various illnesses, or more exactly, these substances will poison your Betta.

If the temperature and pH is OK, but your Betta is not moving, it could be due to high ammonia and nitrate levels. In this case, check the water and run some tests, plus make sure that you have adequate biological filtration going on in the tank.

3. The Betta Has Passed Away

Ok, so this is obviously the worst-case scenario. Betta fish have an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years, with 4 years being the median. Yes, Betta fish can and do die, just like us and all other creatures out there.

If your Betta fish is older than 3 and it is not moving, especially if it is laying on its side at the bottom of the tank or just floating around, maybe even with its eyes closed, then yes, it could very well be dead.

It is unfortunate, but to say the obvious, with all life there is death. You can always check to see if the Betta is dead by flicking the glass, swirling the water around, and looking closely to see if the Betta’s gills are moving or not.

If your fish is over 3, chances are that it is the end if you see absolutely no signs of life, but there are ways to resuscitate fish, although with advanced age, chances of any resuscitation efforts working are slim to none.

betta fish
Image Credit: nicefishes, Pixabay

4. Swim Bladder Problems, Constipation, & Other Illnesses

Betta fish tend to suffer from swim bladder problems on occasion. The swim bladder is a pocket that fills up with gas, or empties, depending on what the Betta fish is doing. It is a buoyancy tool that helps it float or sink, and it helps with direction too.

If you notice that your Betta fish is still alive, but not moving, and probably tilted to one side, it probably has a swim bladder issue. Swim bladder issues with Betta fish are most often caused by overfeeding and constipation.

If this is the case, your Betta fish will probably have a swollen or larger-than-normal abdomen. To solve this issue, try to not feed the fish for 3 days, then give it a shelled pea or two, a boiled shelled pea, as this should help clear out the blockage.

There are other diseases that might cause your Betta to stop moving much. These include things like pop eye, dropsy, Ich, velvet, some fungal infections, parasitic infections, worms, and some others as well.

5. Improper Feeding & Food

Constipation aside, if you are not feeding your Betta fish the right foods, it could also be causing it to become slow and lethargic. Betta fish need a whole lot of protein in their diets. In fact, they are pretty much 100% carnivorous.

You need to feed them good foods like Betta fish flakes and pellets, high quality ones, not that cheap stuff.

Also, insect larvae, daphnia, brine shrimp, and various types of worms are good too. If your Betta is not getting enough protein, or enough food in general, it could be the cause of its lethargy.

If you have been very conservative in terms of the amount of food you give it, try giving it just a little more, but no more food than the Betta can eat in about 2 minutes, twice per day.


The unfortunate reality is of course that Betta fish do die. However, if your Betta is lethargic, not moving, or not eating, the causes are varied. It could be due to feeding, water conditions, or illness too.

In many cases, there are easy solutions to the problems you and your Betta are faced with. Whatever the cause, do not give up right away because there is always a chance of reviving your Betta and getting it back to full health.

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