Betta Fish Head Down Tail Up: 4 Common Causes

Due to their vibrant finnage and energetic personality, Betta fish have long been well-liked pets for new and experienced aquarists.

While these aquatic creatures are hardy and easy to care for, they may suffer specific health problems. 

If you have recently seen your Betta fish head down, tail up, it’s advisable to figure out the potential causes for prompt treatments.  

Check out this post to learn more!

Causes Of Betta Fish Head Down Tail Up

Your Bettas may suffer illness when they swim with their head down and tail up. Below are the most common reasons for this phenomenon. Let’s see!


The main contributors to constipation in Bettas include an unhealthy diet, insufficient exercise, and overeating.

The condition may not seem dangerous, but it carries the potential to impair Betta’s swimming abilities and cause aberrant behavior like vertical swimming.

Constipated Bettas generate stringy wastes that dangle from them rather than sink to the tank bottom.

Only in cases of extreme constipation does a Betta’s capacity for swimming suffer. These fish may also start to sluggish down.

Intestinal swelling in constipated Bettas may put more pressure on their swim bladder and cause them to change their natural shape.

Swim bladder illness needs to be the first thing you look at if your fish is swimming abnormally.

That’s because the disease is related to gas-filled sacs, which impact the fish’s aquatic equilibrium.

The Bettas’ capacity to swim decreases if their swim bladder gets damaged or they are under attack by an illness.

Thus, any irregular swimming movement and behavior on Bettas should raise concerns about the swim bladder.

Look for stomach bloat, fatigue, and an unbalanced stance, if your fish swim with their head down and tail up.


A Small Tank 

Like other species, Bettas don’t prefer living in a small tank. Instead, the suggested tank size for these fish is at least 5 gallons for correct swimming. 

Small bowls and tanks will cause stress. Stressed fish frequently engage in unusual behaviors, including swimming with their head down and tail up. 

Some fish try to escape from this cramped space but can’t find a way. It would be best to relocate them to another large tank to swim freely.

The Betta may show more severe symptoms, like appetite loss, if you don’t take action to fix the problem.

Betta in small tank

The Poor Condition Of The Water

Betta fish can’t survive in unclean, untreated aquariums. They require pH levels of 7.0 and temperatures between 75 and 80°F.

These creatures can’t stand too cold or too hot water. An abrupt temperature shift might scare the fish to death.

You must maintain a nitrite and ammonia level of 0. Nitrate levels should also be below 20 ppm.

You can’t let the ammonia build up. Otherwise, your Bettas will suffer, their gills may burn, they will become unwell, and eventually, they will die.

However, before these fish die, they may show their discomfort by doing strange behaviors like swimming vertically.

For this reason, keeping Bettas in small aquariums is not reasonable. Toxic elements such as nitrate and ammonia will accumulate quickly. 

If you provide these creatures with too much food, the leftovers also cause waste, increasing the ammonia level in the tank water. 

Poor water conditions


Another potential reason for ammonia accumulation is overpopulation. With more fish, they use more food and generate more waste.

It would be best if you also thought about oxygen deficit in addition to ammonia.

When there are too many Bettas in an aquarium, the oxygen won’t be enough to fulfill the demands of the residents.

Besides limiting the Betta’s movement and promoting pest snail problems and algae, the stress brought on by these things can induce your fish to swim vertically.


Does The Swim Bladder Go Away?

Swim bladder diseases can either be permanent or temporary, depending on the underlying cause.

The creatures with a persistent swim bladder issue can still have a happy and fulfilling life with simple lifestyle changes.

Why Is My Betta Laying Head Down? 

Swim bladder illness appears when your Bettas are laying their head down at the tank bottom.

If this circumstance occurs after you change the water in your tank, it may be due to a temperature shock. 

Moreover, these creatures suffer other issues such as constipation and swim bladder disease. Or they are just relaxing and sleeping. 

What To Do If A Betta Has Its Head Down And Tail Up?

You can apply many methods to prevent your Bettas from swimming vertically. Here are some recommendations:

  • If constipation is the leading cause, don’t feed your Bettas for a few days till constipation disappears.
  • Provide them with a diet rich in chitin to aid in bowel movements. If you are unsure what to feed them, you can watch this video:

  • Meals rich in fiber, such as brine shrimp and peas, help relieve constipation and bloat.
  • Keeping these creatures in a suitable-sized tank provides enough space for them to swim freely. 
  • Maintain a pH of 6.5 to 8 and ensure the temperature is stable, ranging from 75 to 80°F. 
  • Keep the concentration of nitrite and ammonia at safe levels. 
  • If the situation worsens, it’s best to consult an aquatic veterinarian.

Do Betta Fish Die Easily?

The good news is no! Bettas are hardy. They can live up to three to five years if kept in suitable tank conditions and with correct care. 

These creatures also need specific food and water parameters to live a happy and healthy life. 

How Do You Know If Something Is Wrong With Your Betta Fish?

Below are some signs to know whether your Bettas are sick:

  • Faded coloring
  • Fin rot
  • Lethargy
  • White spots
  • Breathing problems
  • Scratching or rubbing
  • Bulging or cloudy eyes
  • Strange eating habits and swimming behaviors

Final Thoughts

Betta fish head down and tail up can happen for reasons, including constipation, a tank with the wrong size, poor water conditions, or overpopulation. 

Before you apply treatments, ensure you determine precisely the root causes. If the situation is out of control, it’s best to visit an aquatic veterinarian. 

Hopefully, this post will be helpful for you. Thanks for reading!