Leaving your betta fish alone while you go on vacation can be scary, especially the first time.
You’ll likely have a million and one questions about your betta’s wellbeing before you go – Will the tank need cleaning? What if the filter breaks? How long can a betta go without eating? What if my fish runs out of food while I’m away?
Not to worry, they’re all valid concerns! But, the biggest problem is usually with feeding – particularly how long you can leave your betta fish without food.
Don’t worry. It might be longer than you think!
This article will address planned periods of not being able to feed your fish. If your betta is simply not eating when food is provided, see the last paragraph of this article for further advice on what could be wrong and the best course of action.
Can I Leave My Betta While on Vacation?
Many pet fish owners usually leave their fish unattended while they go on vacation, as they don’t need the constant attention that a dog or cat might.
If you’re planning on being away for an extended period, it may be best to get a friend, family member, or even a pet sitter (or fish sitter?) to check on them occasionally.
This helps ensure that if your pet gets sick while you’re not there to take care of it, it can be seen by a professional. And, if your betta isn’t eating, an alternative food can be given to ensure your pet’s safety until you get back.
If you’re only going away for a few days, leaving your betta alone should be perfectly fine. The average betta fish can survive up to 10 days without food.
However, leaving your fish fasting for that length of time isn’t recommended. If you’re going to be away for more than two or three nights, get a vacation feeder for your pet.
What Vacation Feeder Should I Get for My Betta?
There are various types of vacation feeders on the market, so I appreciate that deciding which feeding option is best for your pet might be confusing.
Mechanical automatic fish feeders can be stocked with food before you leave your fish and are set to dispense food at intervals to ensure a regular feeding routine for your betta.
I thoroughly recommend doing your research before buying one of these, though! Low-quality automatic feeders can be harmful to your pet!
If you get a low-quality mechanical feeder, it may not work very well. Instead, it might dispense all the food at once, leading to rotting leftover food and a buildup of ammonia in your tank, which can make your betta extremely unwell.
Other low-quality automatic feeders have been known to break and not dispense any of the food at all! So make sure to read the reviews!
Essentially, these are solid blocks of food placed in your betta’s tank, slowly releasing food over time.
It’s important to note that these can sometimes be unreliable and are also prone to releasing too much or too little food.
They’re also not very nutritional and not guaranteed to be enjoyed by picky eaters. Feeding blocks should be used as a last resort and not as a standard or long-term solution, as you can’t monitor how well they work for your tank while you’re away.
Many people assume they’re a larger version of betta fish pellets, but frequently they don’t have the same nutritional density.
Feeder fish are a good choice for when you have to leave your betta alone for a few days.
As betta are carnivorous fish, introducing small foods such as brine shrimp to your tank will enable your pet to snack at its leisure. If you choose this option, make sure not to add too many at once. The ones that don’t get eaten will grow, leading to a heavy bioload within your tank, polluting it and making your pet sick.
Feeder fish can be highly nutritious and are a great way to keep your betta fish healthy while you’re away.
Whatever you decide, if you’re going to be away for more than three days, any of these options are better than letting your fish starve!
What Will Happen if I Don’t Feed My Betta for a Few Days?
What exactly are we calling a few days here? If it’s three days, he will be fine. If it’s 12, he will probably be dead.
In all seriousness, not feeding your betta for a couple of days (2 – 3) won’t hurt and could actually be beneficial to your pet.
In the wild, bettas don’t regularly eat every day as they do in captivity, and occasionally fasting your betta can help prevent or combat constipation in your fish.
Leaving a betta for three days without food is usually deemed okay, but anything over that and the fish will go into starvation mode.
This can lead to increased stress levels, which could cause increased aggression towards other pets within the tank and make your fish more prone to illness.
Will the Tank Get Very Dirty When I Leave My Betta?
If you intend to leave your betta alone for an extended period, you may be worried that the tank will get dirty.
If this happens and it’s filled with rotting food, poop, and a buildup of algae, the water pollution levels and ammonia buildup in the tank could seriously harm your pet – your concerns in this department are all extremely valid!
Whether or not the tank will get dirty depends on a whole host of factors, such as tank size, bioload, and food supply, to name a few. But there’s so much to consider here that you’d need a whole other article to explain what makes a tank dirty and how to avoid this happening over extended periods.
In short – it totally depends on your setup and how long you’ll be leaving the fish.
For example, if you’ll be gone for two weeks and drop a feeding block into an unfiltered tank, then you’ll likely come back to it in a bit of a state!
However, if you’ll be away for five days, put in a high-quality mechanical feeder and have a good filtration system to maintain good water quality, with perhaps an in-house maid for your betta (yes, I’m talking about algae eaters, such as Cherry shrimp or a Corydoras catfish!), your tank conditions probably won’t be much worse than when you left, and you’ll likely return to a happy and healthy betta fish.
How Can I Maintain Day and Night Cycles for My Betta While I’m on Vacation?
Maintaining good day and night cycles for your fish is crucial to their wellbeing. Bettas like to play and explore during the day and sleep at night.
To maintain a good cycle for your fish, avoid placing them in direct sunlight or a dark room. If the room is too light or too dark, your betta will not be able to keep to his regular sleep schedule and may become stressed.
Placing the tank in an area with indirect light where the sun will eventually set is the best way to maintain normalcy for your fish.
In addition, many tank setups, particularly those for tropical fish, have an overhead light, which can be beneficial in also maintaining the water temperature.
Do not leave this light on while you are away.
If there’s no way to reposition your tank so that your fish can benefit from natural daylight while you are on vacation, you might want to invest in a timer. Use it with the tank light to switch the light on in the morning and off at night.
If you’re using a high-quality mechanical-auto feeder (as recommended previously), this is also a good way to ensure your fish feed during the day and help them to maintain their regular day/night cycle without disruption. Despite the appeal to us humans, bettas generally don’t want a midnight feast.
My Betta Hasn’t Been Eating. Will He Be Okay?
If you’ve come across this article because you left your betta without food for a few days, he will likely be fine.
Check for signs of ill health, and if anything seems out of the ordinary (e.g., dull skin/eyes, lethargic, inactive, etc.), then consult a professional.
If not, and your betta has started eating again when you feed him, then don’t worry; he’s likely just going to be a little hungry.
However, if your betta hasn’t been eating of his own accord, take it seriously should the problem persist.
There’s always the chance you’re overfeeding your pet, but if your betta has been consistently refusing food seemingly out of nowhere, you should consult a professional.
Not eating can be a sign of increased stress levels or illness.
If you just bought your betta and introduced him to a new tank, give him a couple of days to settle into his new environment before you panic. He will likely want to adjust to his new surroundings. After all, you wouldn’t particularly want to sit down for a nice big meal had you just been kidnapped and thrown into a beautiful new house, potentially with a bunch of strangers. Who can blame him?
If after a couple of days he still isn’t eating, then it’s time to consult a professional as it could be harmful to his health.
On the other hand, if you’ve had your betta and he suddenly stops eating – seemingly out of nowhere – consult a professional immediately. A stressor you’re unaware of may be affecting him, or he could potentially be sick!
In short, your betta should not go long periods without eating. If you’re going on vacation, try to keep it to a maximum of two to three days.
Make sure your pet is safe, clean, and has plenty of food before you leave, and most importantly – Happy travels!