8 Reasons Why Your Betta Stays At The Top Of The Tank (+Fix)

Fish typically swim and hang around at various depths in the aquarium. Some fish prefer to spend their days near the bottom of the tank, while others prefer upper levels.

However, a fish that spends a lot of time near the water’s surface is something you don’t want to see. If you have come here, you probably want to know why your betta fish is at the top of the tank. 

If your betta fish is at the top of the tank, it is probably not a good sign. It implies that they are gasping for air due to a lack of oxygen or improper water temperature.

There can be multiple reasons behind this behavior, which I’ve listed out below.

Why Is My Betta Fish Staying At The Top Of The Tank?

The main reason behind Betta fish continuously hanging out at the top of the tank is lack of oxygen. Other reasons also include uncomfortable water temperature, high nitrate levels, and an overcrowded tank.

Betta fish usually hang out in the middle of the tank, just swimming at other parts occasionally. It is not normal if they are continuously floating at the top of the water surface.

betta fish staying at top of tank

Sometimes, you can also notice your betta fish sleeping or bubbling at the top of the tank. Here are the reasons why your betta frequently goes to the top of the tank:

1. Your Tank Water Has Low Oxygen Levels

If your bettas are panting for air, it’s probably because your tank doesn’t provide enough oxygen! Bettas come to the top of the tank due to a lack of oxygen. They may even stick their mouths out of the water to obtain enough oxygen.

There’s quite a few ways to fix low oxygen levels in a tank:

  • Keep the water in your aquarium moving. Why? Because mixing surface water with the tank water helps maintain healthy oxygen supply.
  • You can use an air stone to increase the oxygen levels by creating water currents. These stones are inexpensive and readily available at most stores.
  • Small amounts of oxygen can be added by bubble-producing décor components such as a bubble wand
  • Invest in an aquarium filter system to help maintain water quality.

2. Your Betta Is Breathing From The Surface

Betta fish are built different. They have special organs called the “labyrinth” that allows them to breathe the atmospheric oxygen. In fact, this is what allows Bettas to survive in low oxygen levels.

If the oxygen levels in your tank are too low, the fish will surface to get a better supply.

However, this does not mean you shouldn’t fix your water quality. Remember that other tankmates will breathe through gills, and they might die if the oxygen level falls in the water.

Maintaining healthy oxygen levels is of utmost importance.

3. Your Tank Has Inadequate Water Temperature

The temperature of the water can also affect oxygen levels. Warm water stores less oxygen than cold water, so make sure to monitor the temperature of your tank during hot weather.

At the same time, low temperatures might make your betta fish uncomfortable. She might try to escape to the surface.

Its always best to monitor the temperature using a thermometer. Aim for 75–80-degree Fahrenheit.

If needed, you can also invest in a tank heater or a tank chiller. It will save the lives of your fish, and save you some time.

4. Your Tank Has Improper Water pH Levels

A higher pH level will lower the level of oxygen in the water. Make sure the pH of water is always between 6 to 8. 

5. Your Tank Has High Nitrate Levels

Excessive food, plants, and fish waste can raise nitrate levels in the fish tank’s water. Nitrates are poisonous to fish in large quantities.

In the presence of high nitrates, your betta fish may find it difficult to breathe. As a result, they will open their mouths to raise their oxygen levels when they reach the surface.

6. You Have An Overcrowded Tank

An overcrowded tank leads to higher oxygen consumption. When oxygen levels drop significantly, bettas come to the surface to catch some more oxygen.

Not only that, overpopulation leads to a rise in fish’s stress levels.

You should ensure that the tank contains the appropriate quantity of fish.

7. Your Tank’s Surface Area Is Too Low

Fish tanks need a certain amount of surface area to get enough oxygen. You can also improve water quality and reduce fish stress by making sure the size of your tank is right for the type of fish you have.

Consider selecting an aquarium with a bigger surface area—that is, one with more air contact—rather than one with a smaller volume.

Even though two aquariums have the same volume, if the shape allows for more surface area, the oxygen levels will be higher, which is always a positive thing.

8. Your Tank Lacks Hiding Places

Bettas should not be kept in an empty tank. Bettas should have access to plants, rocks, and other hiding places. 

The absence of hiding places stresses your Betta. And stress makes them nervous. This is when they start hanging out at the top of the tank.

Wrapping Up

Betta is a beautiful creature that mesmerizes us with its looks. If you notice them floating at the surface, you should not panic. Remember that they have special organs to breathe atmospheric oxygen. So, there is a chance that they prefer to be at the upper surface of the tank. 

We hope that you found the answer that you were looking for. You probably should get going to check the oxygen levels and other possible issues if your betta fish is floating at the surface.

Prevention is always better than cure, so be on the safer side. If everything turns out to be fine, your betta is just chilling at the surface, and you should now relax too.

Further Reading