If you’re wondering what betta fish food, or how much and how often, you’re not alone. Surprisingly this is one of the most frequent questions when it comes to first time husbandry, and overfeeding is very common! What can make it even more confusing is that it’s not always wise to rely on the information from pet stores or on the food products themselves.
Bettas can be downright picky eaters too, and tend to prefer eating food on the surface of the water instead of on the substrate of a tank.Bettas do require a well-balanced diet that is rich in protein because they are primarily carnivores. It is a myth that bettas can survive simply by feeding on the roots of plants.
To keep your betta happy and healthy please follow each food and feeding guideline below as these tips could literally save your fish’s life:
Betta Fish Food: Dietary Requirements
Make sure your betta food is natural and contains protein as the first ingredient. A word of advice too, do not purchase any flakes that are made for goldfish or other tropical fish. Betta fish food comes live, frozen (more prone to parasites), freeze dried, or in specially designed pellets. Betta-specific pellets are cheap, easy to find at pet stores or online, and will have all of the dietary needs that a pet betta fish requires.
These primary dietary needs include: protein, fat, fiber, phosphorous, carbohydrates, calcium, and vitamins (A, D3, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, H, M). Below are some foods that bettas love, love, love:
- Betta fish food pellets (2-3 pellets,1-2 times daily)
- Live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms (1-2 bloodworms, 1-2 times daily)
- Live, frozen, or freeze dried baby brine shrimp (1-2 brine shrimp, 1-2 times daily)
Most betta owners decide to get pellets (recommendations are Hikari or Aqueon) because they are simple and effective. They create less mess and you can easily portion out how much to feed them. Bloodworms and brine shrimp can be used as treats or implemented into their daily feeding routine. Just be careful because sometimes they start to prefer one over the other, and if you introduce live food they may never go back to pellets at all.
Owners who breed their betta fish and compete in shows will opt for more natural environmental and live foods like mosquito larvae (very common in rice paddies) and certain types of worms. This is tedious and not recommended for regular pet owners.
How Much to Feed a Betta Fish
Pay no attention to the amount and instructions on the side of the betta fish food can. These directions are very misleading and can cause problems with your betta and the water quality in your tank. Typical feeding instructions say to feed as much as your fish will consume in 5 minutes, or to feed several times daily in amounts that can be consumed in 3 minutes. This is not recommended and will lead to overfeeding and excess waste. Betta’s should be fed once or twice daily, with 2-3 pellets per feeding.
Adult bettas can be fed once per day, and babies (fry) can be fed twice per day. It might not seem like enough, but the pellets expand to more than 2X their size once they get wet. To put this into further perspective, a betta fish’s stomach is roughly the size of their eye!
Their appetites are literally bigger than their eyes, and they will overeat if you let them. You can also introduce a freeze dried bloodworm once per week to add variety and to keep your betta healthy. Overfeeding and overeating can lead to constipation, bloating, obesity (that’s right betta fish can get fat), swim bladder disorder, contracting diseases because of the bacteria feeding on the excess food breaking down, and even death.
If you feed your betta live food be extra cautious because they will eat live food until they die. Clean up any excess food that falls to the bottom of the tank with a turkey baster. This will prevent ammonia buildup and the potential for harmful diseases being present from food decay.
It’s also a good idea to not feed your betta one day per week, this gives their digestive tract time to fully process food and it limits problems associated with overeating. If you’re going to be gone for a day or two, or on vacation, don’t pour extra betta food in either.
Extra feeding will lead to overeating or they may not eat the excess at all. If you want to know how long betta fish can go without food too, it’s actually 14 days! Therefore, it’s always better not to feed your betta over the weekend or for a day or two than it is to feed them extra.
What If Your Betta Fish Won’t Eat?
If your betta fish won’t eat or seems completely uninterested in food don’t worry. A lack of appetite may mean that they are not hungry or have recently undergone some type of stress (e.g. tank cleaning, new home, abrupt water temperature changes). Again don’t worry because they can survive days or even weeks without food.
Cold water that is outside of the recommended range of 74-80 degrees fahrenheit may also cause your betta to act lethargic and will slow their metabolism. A lower metabolism means that they will need fewer feedings. As betta fish get older they will also be less active and may eat less frequently, this is normal.
If your betta isn’t eating it may also be a sign of illness. Just like when we are sick, betta fish also won’t have big appetites while they are ill. Make sure to monitor for signs of illness and disease, and initiate the proper treatments as soon as possible.
Once a betta recovers, their appetite will also begin to come back too. As mentioned above bettas can be picky too. If you notice that your betta fish spits out his or her food, or turns away from it, you may need to try a different kind or brand.
Let’s take a moment to recap all of this information. If you’re a beginner it’s best to get betta fish food pellets, and freeze dried bloodworms for a once a week treat. Do not overfeed your betta because it can lead to adverse health consequences and even death.
How much to feed your betta fish can depend on their individual activity level, but 2-3 pellets 1-2 times daily is a safe amount. Get in the habit of sticking to a regular feeding schedule so that you don’t forget whether or not you fed them. Please ask any questions you may still have about specific betta fish food and feeding procedures in the comments below.