6 Causes of the Betta Fish Vertical Death Hang & What to Do


Betta fish, like most other sea creatures, swim horizontally. When something is wrong, however, there’s a chance it starts swimming vertically with its head facing up. Even though this doesn’t last too long and it can go back to swimming horizontally after a few hours, you should still be concerned. 

The vertical death hang has varying durations of vertical swimming and you should monitor it. The more you ignore it, the longer your betta fish will swim vertically, and the condition will worsen. In this article, you’ll learn the various reasons why your betta fish could be hanging vertically, how to identify the problem, and solve it to get your betta fish back to top form.

What Is the Vertical Death Hang?

A betta fish hanging vertically is an abnormal phenomenon that happens when your betta fish is ill, and it starts swimming facing upwards. Betta fish are a reactive species of fish and are very picky about where they live. If you cut corners instead of taking care of them properly, your betta fish will start exhibiting dangerous behaviors such as hanging vertically, which could be detrimental to their health. If you ever see your betta fish swimming vertically, there’s a problem, and you should take this symptom very seriously as it can cause death. Find out why it’s swimming upward and fix the situation immediately, so it doesn’t lead to the worst possible outcome.

Causes of the Vertical Death Hang in Betta Fish

Various things can cause a betta fish to hang vertically. These include:

1.   Hygiene in the Tank (Quality of the Water)

The level of purity of the water in the tank is a significant factor that can make your betta fish do a vertical death hang. You shouldn’t ignore the level of cleanliness and water quality if you own a betta, primarily because of how sensitive these fish are. Keep checking and measuring your water conditions at intervals as part of regular maintenance. The water in a betta fish’s tank should be 70-82 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to maintain this temperature throughout its lifespan to reduce the chances of your betta fish hanging vertically. It would help if you took measures such as getting a reliable water heater and ensuring there’s always a power supply to maintain the required temperature for the betta fish.

2.    Size of the tank

The minimum size of tank one betta fish requires is 5 gallons. Betta fish are very territorial by nature, meaning they don’t like sharing their living space. The tank size in which your bettas live is just as important as the other water conditions. Bettas also don’t like feeling restricted or confined. Instead, they want to have ample space to move around and be “free.” If you keep bettas in a small aquarium, the betta fish will get stressed, and this will kill the fish slowly. If you have multiple fish, it might be better to get separate tanks or use a divider for the tank they share, especially if they start fighting.

3.    Health of the Betta Fish

A betta fish hanging vertically can occur due to it contracting an infection or a disease. The one usually responsible for this is swim bladder disease. In the case of swim bladder disease, a betta’s swim bladder or air bladder, (an internal gas-filled organ that helps bony fish float without spending a lot of energy swimming), would be affected or tampered with. This greatly hinders the fish’s ability to swim, and you will find them either struggling to float or hanging vertically. If you notice this, you should clean the tank so your fish can go back to normal.

4.    Filtration

The water conditions of your tank are a crucial part of taking care of your betta fish. At the minimum, you should clean your tank once a week. But cleaning up the fish tank isn’t enough to keep your betta fish from assuming a vertical hanging position.

It’s vital to also have an appropriate filter for your fish tank. It helps clean the water, keep the nitrate level low, and reduce the amount of toxicity in the water. A sponge filter is the best filter to use for a betta fish. Your fish tank having high toxicity levels makes your betta fish liable to it having a vertical death hang in the fish tank.

5.    Acidic Levels of the Water in the Tank

Your water tank’s pH/acidity level dramatically affects the betta fish and shouldn’t be something you compromise on or overlook. The water in your betta fish’s tank should always have the recommended pH level for a betta fish in the range of 6.5-8. Too high a pH will affect your fish’s fins and alter its regular swimming patterns. Too low a pH can cause a betta fish vertical death hang because the water would be too acidic for the fish’s body to withstand.

6.    Feeding

Betta fishes need to feed at just the right amount and frequency; however, they’re predatory animals so they eat all they see. Overfeeding your betta fish starts a chain of events that may lead to bloating. When your fish gets bloated, its swim bladder gets blocked and usually leads to an injury, making them float vertically. To know if your betta fish overeats, include dry pellets, bloodworms, or brine shrimp because they don’t contain a lot of moisture and would make the betta fish swell up a bit if they do overeat.

What to Do If Your Betta Fish is Hanging Vertically?

If you see your betta fish hanging vertically, you should take a series of steps to ease it and return it to its typical swimming pattern. These include:

  • Changing the water in the fish tank for better, purer, and better-quality water. The new batch of water for the fish tank should meet all of the requirements needed for a healthy betta fish. This means the water shouldn’t have ammonia, toxicity, and no nitrite content in it. Also, ensure it isn’t less than 5 gallons of water because these fish need their space. It would be best if you also cleaned the tank every week.
  • Feed your betta fish appropriately. Give your betta fish meals that satisfy its nutritional needs and avoid overfeeding them. Keep in mind a betta fish can go up to 10 days without food. This can help you avoid overfeeding them, but try not to underfeed them either.
  • If you are going to give your betta a tank partner, make sure to use a bigger tank, and choose a calm fish so the betta fish doesn’t feel intimidated. Ensure to keep an eye out for any fights as well. Having said this, it’s best to have the betta fish live alone in its tank because of its predatory and aggressive nature.

Include decorations, plants, and other customizations that would enable the fish tank to make the betta fish feel like its natural habitat to remove any chances of fear or uneasiness as this stress can slowly kill the betta fish.

Why Is My Betta Hanging Vertically?

Your betta fish is hanging vertically because there has been some change or adjustment that is unwelcome. In some cases, these changes affect the swim bladder of the fish, making it difficult for it to swim or float properly, which can lead to death. Any of the other causes listed, such as small tank, lack of hygiene in the tank, high toxicity of the water, poor health, overfeeding, etc., can be why your betta fish is hanging vertically

What Does It Look Like When a Betta Fish Dies?

When a betta fish is about to die it typically exhibits some tell-tale behaviors; it displays difficulty swimming and refuses to eat, and there will be discoloration on its body. White or brown spots will also appear all over its skin. When the betta dies, it becomes pale and its stomach will face upwards. If you also check the eyes, they’ll usually appear cloudy and opaque. If you leave the betta dead in the water, your water gets slimy over time.

Why Do Betta Fish Hang at the Top of the Tank?

A betta fish hangs at the top of the tank because it has difficulty breathing and is trying to find oxygen to make breathing easier. They do this because the dissolved oxygen that it needs is usually higher near the water’s surface.

Treat Vertical Hang Before It’s Too Late

If you want your betta fish to reach or even surpass its expected lifespan, you should never take the vertical hang lightly. You know now all you need to ensure your fish doesn’t do a vertical death hang and what to do if your betta already has the vertical death hang. To prevent the vertical death hang from ever happening in the first place, be sure to follow our betta fish care guide.

I hope you learned helpful info from the article. Be sure to write down what your experiences with vertical death hang in the comment section.

Logan Price

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