Betta Fish Swimming Erratically – Is This A Problem?

For aquarists, nothing beats the fun of watching the fish in your tank carry out their daily activities. These may include eating, swimming around, or interacting with one another. However, not all of these behaviors are normal.

For example, betta fish swimming erratically is not something everyone is used to. Thus, it makes sense when they freak out a little bit seeing their bettas reacting in such a way.

So, why do betta fish do this? And should you be worried about the occurrence? Keep reading to find out!

6 Reasons Why Betta Fish Swim Erratically

If you ever ask the question “Why does my betta fish keep swimming erratically?” then the answers are aplenty. Most of them are associated with health problems that require timely treatment.


If bettas are infected with parasites, they will develop itchiness and body irritation. As a result, bettas will ram against nearby objects, especially the tank walls.

Aquarists should be on the outlook for symptoms of parasite infections such as ich, velvet, gill flukes, or anchor worms.

Swim bladder disease

Swim bladder disease can be traced back to digestive issues, constipation, nitrate intake, birth defects, and bacterial infections. When the swim bladder malfunctions, your fish cannot swim properly.

Instead, their swimming positions are turned upside down.


Hypoxia refers to the situation where oxygen concentration is low. If bettas do not have enough to breathe underwater, they will try to swim to the surface for more.

Another direct cause of the lack of water is the temperature. When it is too warm, your bettas are less likely to find oxygen. Hence, you must keep the temperature moderate.

Poor water conditions

Contaminated water with a high level of nitrate and/or ammonia is the leading cause behind betta swimming erratically. Furthermore, waste and algae buildup can also worsen the water quality. When subject to such unfavorable habitats, bettas will not be able to swim normally.

Neurological damage

Tuberculosis, parasites, and birth defects are what induce neurological damage in fish. If their brains are not wired correctly, chances are they stand a higher chance of acting in a weird, uncontrolled way.

Poor vision

Betta fish not seeing their way explains why they swim in odd patterns. Apart from old age, poor vision can be linked to cloudy eyes and popeye as well. If the parasites are not treated, they can also migrate to the eyes and result in affected eyesight.

How Does Swimming Erratically Look Like For Betta Fish?

While swimming erratically is not the norm for betta fish, it is difficult trying to underpin the exact physical illustrations. Below are some of the most obvious signs telling you that your fish are having trouble.

  • They keep ramming against certain things, such as the tank walls or underwater decor.
  • They swim upside down instead of upright.
  • They swim in circles in one particular spot.
  • They float underneath the surface and try to reach it.
  • They twirl around continuously.
  • They cannot swim to the bottom or the top effortlessly.
  • They struggle to swim in one straight line.

How To Treat Betta Fish Swimming Erratically

How To Treat Betta Fish Swimming Erratically

Treating betta fish swimming erratically is relatively simple. All you have to do is to ensure proper living conditions for your fish and offer them medicines to get rid of the diseases.

First off, let’s talk about the water conditions. You should maintain a pH level of roughly 7 with low levels of nitrate and ammonia. Changing the water regularly is also needed to guarantee its freshness.

Clean the filters and get rid of waste buildup every week so that your water does not get contaminated.

Secondly, try to keep your bettas’ food intake moderate. If you overfeed them, chances are swim bladder disease and bloating will become more rampant. Consider fasting your bettas for a day once every two weeks to cleanse their stomach.

Thirdly, once you have confirmed that your bettas are ill, give them antibiotics to relax their organs and eliminate any trace of health issues. If the problem has anything to do with parasites, switch antibiotics to anti-parasitic.


1. How do you calm a stressed betta fish?

There are various ways in which a stressed betta fish can be calmed.

  • Control the water conditions: Anything from the temperature to parameters can affect the stress level of bettas. For example, living in contaminated water where the nitrate level is through the roof sure is concerning.

Or, since bettas are tropical fish, they cannot function well if the water is too cold.

  • Darken your water: Bettas living in the wild are used to slightly muddy water. You can recreate this environment by releasing tannins into your tank. This way, your bettas will feel more at ease with themselves.

That is not to mention how darkening the water reduces the occurrence of overwhelming light, which can be harmful to bettas.

  • Offer playgrounds: If the water is blank, bettas tend to feel exposed. They are also not reflective of bettas’ natural habitat. Adding in plants or driftwood will provide enough shelter and hiding places for your bettas.

2. Is my betta fish unhappy?

unhappy betta

If you want to know whether your betta fish is unhappy or not, check out any unexpected behavioral patterns. These include nipping at other fish’s fins, chasing after them, or even flaring their fins against them.

Moreover, your fish may engage in irregular swimming positions and do not seem to be calm. Looking for these physical signs gives you a solid reason to be concerned about the stress level of your bettas.


Betta fish swimming erratically can be a sign of trouble for aquarists. That said, you can solve the problem if you care enough about your tank. Make sure to stay alert and act promptly for the sake of your bettas!