New Betta Fish Not Moving Around

Katrina Guevarra

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Hi there,

I bought my betta fish yesterday after cycling and testing my tank every other day for a month. I was adding a pinch of fish flakes every other day to maintain the ammonia level for the bacteria. I bought him a few days after I watched ammonia and nitrites drop to 0 and a little bit of nitrates. I did around a 50% water change to get rid of any left over food and added the nitrifying bacteria in again like it says on the bottle. I tested it right before I bought him and put him in. Everything was fine, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 0. Tank is around 5 gallons with live plants, a heater and filter. He was swimming around fine and exploring yesterday and he ate. He has no visible signs of disease as far as I know Just a little bit of tears in his top fins, but nothing major. I just thought it was from stress so I bought him to get the little guy out of there, hoping his fins would heal over time (which I probably shouldn't have done because of my inexperience). But I know its definitely not fin rot because his fins are a bright purple, no dark edges. His tank is in the corner of our home office, so noise shouldn't be an issue.

This morning I found him hiding in a gap between a log and a rock. He stayed there almost the whole day. I decided to check his water and saw a nitrite spike, so I assumed my tank hasn't cycled properly. I immediately did a water change, about 50% with water conditioner. He was floating at the top slightly on his side afterwards, but he swam around for a bit after I gave him 2 pellets to eat. He is eating which is a good sign. He just hung around in the plants for a bit so I thought he was fine. But I checked on him throughout the day and he stayed hiding in the spot in between the rock and log the whole time. So i tested the water again, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 0. I know it takes even a couple of weeks for betta fish to acclimate to their new tank, so I'm hoping he'll start swimming around when he gets used to it. I'm just worried because he only hid in this spot for a short time yesterday, but now he hasn't been swimming around. I understand that the water needs to be perfect for the tears in his fins to get better and for him to start getting used to the tank, so I plan on testing the water every day from now on and doing a water change if I see anything spike, I'm worried that a lot of water changes would stress him out, but I don't know what else I can do for him. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
 

BReefer97

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If everything is reading 0, then unfortunately you’re not cycled. I think doing a water change after you saw nitrates start to show up was what damaged the cycle, but I’m not entirely sure. It could have been a false cycle as well. You should have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and some nitrates. With that being said, your water isn’t dangerous to the betta fish right now because everything reads 0, it’s just not cycled. Whenever I added my betta to his tank for the first time he stayed at the bottom behind the driftwood for a good few days, and then he finally started to explore and realize it was all there for him and solely him. What concerns me is you said he was floating on his side after you did a water change, it may be some sort of swim bladder issue but I can’t say that for sure either.
 
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Katrina Guevarra

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BReefer97 said:
If everything is reading 0, then unfortunately you’re not cycled. I think doing a water change after you saw nitrates start to show up was what damaged the cycle, but I’m not entirely sure. It could have been a false cycle as well. You should have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and some nitrates. With that being said, your water isn’t dangerous to the betta fish right now because everything reads 0, it’s just not cycled. Whenever I added my betta to his tank for the first time he stayed at the bottom behind the driftwood for a good few days, and then he finally started to explore and realize it was all there for him and solely him. What concerns me is you said he was floating on his side after you did a water change, it may be some sort of swim bladder issue but I can’t say that for sure either.
Sorry, I realised I didn't write it clearly, but there were some nitrates. I just thought that before buying him I should do a water change so everything would be 0 before I put him in, which is what I did. But yes there were some nitrates, sorry for the confusion. He was floating slightly on his side for only a short time, near or on the plants reaching the surface. He doesn't stay like this for long at all, so he could have just been kind of laying in the leaves? He got up right when he saw food, so I hope everything is alright. Just really concerned that he's hiding all the time and not moving from that spot. Thank you so much for your reply, it really put my mind at ease.
 

California L33

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Bettas are not active fish. It's not unusual for them to lay on the bottom or float at the top. Sometimes they even lay on their sides or in a nose down attitude in a plant. In nature they come from areas where territory and food are both scarce, so lots of movement doesn't really help them get more food and only makes them more vulnerable to predation, so the behavior you describe doesn't sound unusual, though it will be a good idea to monitor his water to make sure that his tank is cycled. If you've seen ammonia and nitrite rise and fall and nitrates form it's a good sign.

Eventually yours will come to associate you with food and start begging when he sees you- so swimming around.

Mine will patrol his territory maybe twice a day. It doesn't take long. He just makes sure there's nobody else there and that he hasn't missed any food that's sunk. He then floats near the surface at the front waiting for food. When he sees me he begs. After he eats he floats at the back of the tank. When the sun goes down he goes to the bottom of the tank and sleeps between a rock and a plant, or, rarely, between a plant and the tank wall.

Bettas have good vision and can see a fair distance into a room, further than most people think. Since he's new he may respond to lots of activity outside the tank by hiding, especially if that activity is rapid or in some other way 'predatory' in his eyes. The good news is you can get him to be more interactive by signaling him that food is coming. I started by passing my hand between his light and the surface of the tank exactly three times. Now he knows me and will react if I point at the tank, and do so when I'm up to ten feet away, pressing his nose against the glass and wagging a bit. When he sees his feeding cup placed next to the tank (I pre-soak his food to prevent constipation issues) he goes into his full 'feed me' dance, but after eating he quickly quiets down again.
 

Adrian Burke

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This isn’t the most unusual behavior for a betta. They can be quite bashful, especially when they are new.
 
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Katrina Guevarra

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California L33 said:
Bettas are not active fish. It's not unusual for them to lay on the bottom or float at the top. Sometimes they even lay on their sides or in a nose down attitude in a plant. In nature they come from areas where territory and food are both scarce, so lots of movement doesn't really help them get more food and only makes them more vulnerable to predation, so the behavior you describe doesn't sound unusual, though it will be a good idea to monitor his water to make sure that his tank is cycled. If you've seen ammonia and nitrite rise and fall and nitrates form it's a good sign.

Eventually yours will come to associate you with food and start begging when he sees you- so swimming around.

Mine will patrol his territory maybe twice a day. It doesn't take long. He just makes sure there's nobody else there and that he hasn't missed any food that's sunk. He then floats near the surface at the front waiting for food. When he sees me he begs. After he eats he floats at the back of the tank. When the sun goes down he goes to the bottom of the tank and sleeps between a rock and a plant, or, rarely, between a plant and the tank wall.

Bettas have good vision and can see a fair distance into a room, further than most people think. Since he's new he may respond to lots of activity outside the tank by hiding, especially if that activity is rapid or in some other way 'predatory' in his eyes. The good news is you can get him to be more interactive by signaling him that food is coming. I started by passing my hand between his light and the surface of the tank exactly three times. Now he knows me and will react if I point at the tank, and do so when I'm up to ten feet away, pressing his nose against the glass and wagging a bit. When he sees his feeding cup placed next to the tank (I pre-soak his food to prevent constipation issues) he goes into his full 'feed me' dance, but after eating he quickly quiets down again.
Thanks so much for the information. Its hard to know what's normal behaviour for betta fish if its your first time. From the research I've done, most say that bettas swim around all the time, so thats why I got worried. Its also hard to check on him to see if he's breathing or if he's all good since he keeps himself wedged in-between the rock and driftwood the whole day. Hopefully he warms up to his tank and to me soon!
 
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