Feeding a betta fish is usually an afterthought for most novice betta owners. The common misconception is that any fish pellets or flakes in the pet shop will be just fine. This is not the right mind set or solution. Just as proper nutrition is important for our health and wellbeing, the same can be said for bettas. Also, many owners find out that their betta can have feeding “attitudes”. They can either be incredibly picky with what they eat, or devour everything in sight. A variety of high quality foods is key. Just as we wouldn’t enjoy lasagna for every meal, a betta won’t enjoy the same dry pellets every day. While they probably aren’t as taste sensitive as we are, the same daily meal won’t provide them with the nutrients they need to live a long life.
Just as we looked at bettas history and origins to provide optimal housing, we can do the same for their feeding.
What do betta fish eat in the wild?
In the rice paddies and small streams where they reigned supreme, bettas would feast on flying insects that would float on top of the water. This along with eggs (of the insects), larvae, worms, the occasional smaller fish, and some vegetation would be their primary source of food. This makes them primarily carnivores or more specifically, insectivores. Their environment was the most determining factor for their diet. At times, choices would be limited, however, there was usually a steady diet of mosquitos, midges, and larvae available.
This style diet remains appropriate for the fluttery little betta you have at home. I find it best to provide a betta with a varied diet of the highest quality food you can afford. This does not mean the food needs to be expensive, but it should contain the appropriate ingredients. Many fish foods contain fillers, these provide no nutritional value and can cause stomach issues and bloat in your fish. Fillers are necessary in some foods as they help bind the food, however there are differences in quality. I recommend checking the ingredients and trying to keep as few fillers as possible in your bettas diet.
What to Feed Your Betta ?
I recommend replicating a diet similar to the food a betta would eat naturally.
There are plenty of affordable options beyond pellets available at most pet shops or online. Other than pellets alone, frozen foods, gel foods, and live foods are great options.
A simple solution that provides a good amount of variety is 2-3 different food groups. This simply means picking a minimum of 2 or 3 items out of the following options: frozen foods, pellets, gel foods, and live foods.
Frozen Foods & Freeze-Dried Foods
Frozen foods are things like brine shrimp, daphnia, and blood worms that are frozen to preserve them. They are close to what bettas would eat in the wild and are a definite favorite on the menu. Frozen food will remain fresh for a long time, and it provides natural and healthy meals. Any carnivorous frozen foods should be appropriate for your betta. They can be picky however, so experiment and learn what your little guy or gal prefers eating.
Pellets are what most people reach for immediately when they purchase fish food. There are some great pellet options out there but it is important to feed a varied diet, not only pellets. Look for a high quality option that is protein based and contains minimal filler ingredients.
Gel foods are typically quite expensive but they are a high quality food source. There is usually some preparation necessary when making the food, so there will be some extra effort required. The food lasts a long time when frozen and bettas typically love it.
Live foods are a great option for feeding your betta. You can purchase live brine shrimp which bettas love, and I have heard of owners setting up mosquito traps intending to feed those to their fish roommates. While these live food sources are great, they can be expensive and may take a lot of effort to capture.
Bettas vary greatly in their eating habits. How often, and how much they eat, are very situational questions. It all depends on a number of factors including their housing situation, if they have tank mates, their size, and even their personality. You will need to do some experimenting to discover your bettas eating habits. Smaller bettas may only need to eat once a day, although twice a day is common. Some may only need 1 or 2 pellets per meal, larger ones may need more. Observe your fish and try to find the balance between overfeeding and underfeeding. They should only be fed about as much as they can eat in 3 minutes. Make sure to remove all the uneaten food as it will either rot and endanger your tank, or cause your betta to overeat.
I recommend setting up feeding times, once in the morning and once at night, and simply observing their habits. If they leave a lot behind, be sure to feed less. Also, watch and make sure that you do not overfeed. They will start to look bloated and this is very unhealthy.
At times, it is healthy to fast your betta. Every now and then, skip a day, and don’t feed him or her. It allows them to clear their system and assist with their health and proper bodily functions.
After getting to know your betta, their eating habits are normally quite predictable. You will get to understand what they love most on the menu, and it is common for them wait near the top of the tank for you when it is feeding time. Sometimes, however, we can run into some issues. Your betta may not want to eat at all, and this could be a sign that something is wrong.
Why is my betta not eating?
The most common reason a betta stops eating is due to overfeeding. It can really be as simple your fish just being too full from all that eating in the past weeks. Be patient and see if your betta reacts differently to the food the next day. As I mentioned before, it is great to give your fish a day off from eating once in a while. It’s helpful to schedule a fasting day once every week.
It may also be because you are not feeding with enough variety. If you reach for the same frozen brine shrimp every time, your little girl or guy may just not be in the mood or hungry enough. These tropical fish need varying foods to give them all the nutrition they need.
If a betta is still not eating after these steps, observe him or her very closely.
Inspect their body, scales, and fins for any signs of infections, scratches, or patches. It could be that your fish is suffering from an illness and this is causing the lack of appetite. I will cover some of the common diseases bettas can have in chapter 9. Skip ahead for more in-depth information.
It is always good to test water quality. Your betta may just not be feeling comfortable in the water he or she is in. Test the water for nitrates and ammonia and be sure to perform a water change if these elements are strong in the tank. These steps should help fix any eating disorders and have your fish back to feasting again in no time.