Betta fish are great for amateur aquarists. These little swimming jewels make for beautiful fish– if taken care of properly. One of the first things you should figure out (aside from the set up) is how much to feed betta fish.
So if you’re on the market for your first betta (or just looking to make yours happier), you’re in the right place! In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about feeding these feisty, charismatic fish. So stay tuned to help ensure that your new, fishy friend thrives!
Why it Matters
One of the most common causes of ill-health and mortality in captive bettas is incorrect feeding. Feeding your betta too much food can lead to bloating, which could be fatal.
Also, putting too much food into your betta’s tank will leave the excess uneaten, and it will sink to the bottom where it disappears into the substrate. Bettas are surface feeders and will not eat food from the bottom of their tank. Uneaten food will, therefore, be left to decompose, dirtying the water and creating an unhealthy environment for your betta.
What do betta fish eat?
Wild bettas are omnivorous, enjoying a varied diet that comprises mainly insects, insect larvae, and vegetation. That said, bettas are primarily meat-eaters, meaning that they need a high-protein diet.
That’s important to know because it means that, although standard tropical fish flakes may be fine for your betta’s tank mates in a community tank, flakes do not fulfill all the nutritional requirements of your betta fish’s diet.
So, when buying any form of a pellet or flake food for your betta, always check the list of ingredients and make sure that the first few ingredients are meat-based, and the overall protein percentage is 40% or greater.
As we mentioned previously, bettas are surface feeders. So, always check to see that any pellet food you buy is not designed exclusively for mid-water or bottom feeders. Although bettas will catch a few stray sinking pellets, they won’t eat any that land on the bottom of the tank. For that reason, always choose floating pellets or flakes that are formulated specifically for bettas.
What constituents should your betta’s food contain?
Betta fish have a short digestive tract, and they can’t process filler products, such as wheat and corn. Unfortunately, these fillers are contained in many flake and pellet foods, leading to bloat and other digestive issues, including constipation.
Fillers have no nutritional value for your betta, and fish foods that are high in these padding products should be avoided.
The Ideal nutritional content of your betta’s diet
A balanced diet that will ensure your betta is healthy and thrives should include:
- Vitamins A, D3, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, H, M.
The ideal food for your betta should contain no filler products and must have meat-based protein as the first ingredient that’s shown in the list of ingredients on the container.
Do not feed your betta fish goldfish food or tropical fish flakes that are not betta-specific. These foods do not contain the nutrients that your betta needs and could make him sick.
Types of betta food
In this section of our comprehensive guide, we take a look at what kinds of food you can give to your betta.
To help you make the best choice, we’ve included handy in-text links to suitable products that you can buy online. Simply click on the link to check out more product information and to place your order.
Betta fish can be picky eaters, so providing your pet with a varied diet is important to keep him satisfied and ensure that he eats enough to help him thrive.
Freeze-dried betta food
Freeze-dried food is a brilliant addition to your betta fish’s diet, enabling you to introduce some of your betta’s natural food into his captive diet. However, freeze-dried foods have been stripped of their moisture, and fillers are added to keep the products stable.
We recommend that you soak freeze-dried food in tank water to rehydrate it before you feed it to your betta. That increases the moisture content in the food, helping to prevent bloating. Always use tank water to pre-soak freeze-dried food, rather than tap water, which contains harmful chemicals.
However, you should know that feeding your betta a diet that consists exclusively of freeze-dried food is not good for your fish, as that can lead to constipation and bloating issues. That said, one major benefit of freeze-dried foods is that they are free-from the parasites and bacteria that can sometimes be found in live food. Also, freeze-dried foods are easily available from your local fish store and online, and are relatively inexpensive to buy. Freeze-dried food keeps well and usually comes in a typical fish food container for convenience.
Here are some of the best freeze-dried foods that are suitable for betta fish:
- San Francisco Bay Brand Freeze-dried Brine Shrimp
- San Francisco Bay Brand Freeze-dried Bloodworms
- Tetra Bloodworms Freeze-dried Treats
Betta fish flakes
You can buy flakes that are specifically formulated for betta fish. Never feed your betta ordinary tropical fish flakes, as they do not contain the protein requirements that betta fish need.
Also, if you choose to feed flakes to your betta, remember to remove excess or sunken flakes right after feeding your fish. You may also find that some betta fish will not eat flaked food.
One of the best flake foods that you can give to your betta fish is:
Live and Frozen Betta Food
Wild betta fish eat a varied diet that consists primarily of live food. You can replicate that to some extent by adding some live or frozen foods to your betta’s diet.
However, we have a word of warning for you. Be very careful from where you source your live foods, as they could be contaminated with diseases or parasites that could harm your fish. Never feed anything to your betta that you caught yourself either.
Frozen foods provide a great alternative to live food without the risk of introducing parasites or disease to your betta’s habitat. Also, frozen food can be kept in your home freezer until you are ready to feed it to your fish.
Take only as much food as you need out of your freezer for each feed, and never refreeze any food that has been thawed, as that could allow contamination by bacteria. Before feeding frozen food to your betta, allow it to thaw out completely first.
If you have the time and facilities, you can raise your own live betta food.
The following live/frozen foods make great additions to your betta’s diet and are sure to be well-received:
Mosquito larvae are a staple food in the wild betta’s diet and make an excellent option for your captive betta. You can purchase a starter culture and breed mosquito larvae yourself, or find a reputable online or local store that sells them.
Brine shrimp are a betta favorite. These tiny, aquatic crustaceans are packed with everything that your betta fish needs to thrive, including proteins, vitamins, and amino acids. Brine shrimp are super-easy to breed and raise too. You can find brine shrimp at most local fish stores.
Bloodworms, or glycera to give them their scientific name, are the larvae of the midge fly. They are found in ponds and pools of water and form a major part of the wild betta’s diet. Although captive betta fish love bloodworms and they do contain a lot of iron, hence their bright red color, bloodworms shouldn’t form your pet’s entire diet because they lack amino acids.
Wingless fruit flies
Fruit flies are also known as vinegar flies. If you’ve ever left fruit out on your kitchen counter, and discovered swarms of tiny flies buzzing around, those are fruit flies. Bettas love fruit flies!
However, you shouldn’t catch wild fruit flies and feed them to your fish, as you don’t know what diseases the insects may have picked up during their flight that could affect your fish’s health. Instead, you can feed your bettas a wingless variety of fruit flies, which you can breed and harvest relatively inexpensively in a small container.
Mysis shrimp, or opossum shrimp as they’re also known, is another really good food source for your betta fish. These shrimp have a hard exoskeleton that’s packed with fiber. The fiber helps the betta’s digestion of the protein-rich foods in his diet. Many bettas prefer Mysis shrimp over brine shrimp, and these little guys also contain plenty of moisture and amino acids, both of which are essential for a healthy betta fish.
Betta fish pellets
Pellets are a popular form of betta fish food that you’ll find in all aquarium supplies stores.
Remember to look for pellets that contain plenty of high-quality protein and not much filler. Also, check to see how much the pellets will expand when exposed to water.
If you feed your betta pellets that expand too much when wet, you risk causing bloating and other digestive issues as the pellets will swell in your fish’s stomach. When you feed your betta, soak the pellets in tank water first to hydrate them, especially if you have a greedy fish that attacks food the instant you put it into his tank.
Baby pellets are formulated specifically for feeding betta fish. The pellets contain all the vitamins and nutrients that your fish will need to stay healthy, and they contain a natural color-enhancing additive to make your betta even more stunning.
Also, these pellets are designed to float, minimizing the amount of waste, and reducing the amount of uneaten food that collects at the bottom of the tank.
Daily feeding amounts for betta fish
Although fish food containers all show recommended feeding amounts, it’s usually best to disregard these, as they can be very misleading. If you overfeed your betta fish, you could cause health problems and issues with the water quality in your tank. For that reason, you should ignore typical feeding instructions that tell you to give your fish as much as he will eat in five minutes or feed him a few times a day in amounts that he will consume within three minutes.
Bettas can be quite greedy, and it’s therefore easy to overfeed them. However, overfeeding can cause serious health problems, including obesity, bloating, swim bladder problems, and constipation. Also, uneaten food sinks into the substrate where it decomposes, damaging the water quality and potentially harboring bacteria that could cause disease.
We recommend that you feed adult bettas once daily. Betta fry (babies) can be fed twice per day. Although that doesn’t seem like much, many betta pellets expand to over twice their size when exposed to water. To put that into perspective, a betta fish’s stomach is roughly the same size as their eye! In other words, it’s tiny!
Suggested betta fish feeding schedule
For a beginner, it can be confusing when deciding how much and what to feed your betta fish. To help you, we’ve devised a simple feeding schedule that you can use to keep your betta fish in tip-top health!
- Monday: 2 – 4 betta fish pellets 1 to 2 times daily
- Tuesday: 2 – 3 pieces of live, frozen, or freeze-dried food 1 to 2 times daily
- Wednesday: 2 – 4 betta fish pellets 1 to 2 times daily
- Thursday: 2 – 4 betta fish pellets 1 to 2 times daily
- Friday: 2 – 3 pieces of live, frozen, or freeze-dried food 1 to 2 times daily
- Saturday: 2 – 4 betta fish pellets 1 to 2 times daily
On Sunday, don’t feed your betta.
One fast day per week allows your betta’s digestive system to process food fully and can limit issues associated with overeating such as bloating, swim bladder problems, and constipation.
If you’re likely to be away for a day or two, don’t worry about your betta; he won’t starve, and the fast will be good for his system. Don’t give you betta extra food to try to make up for those days you missed feeding him. In fact, a wild betta can survive without food for up to 14 days, so a day or two missed won’t harm your fish.
Be sure to remove any uneaten food from the bottom of the tank with a special tank vacuum or designated turkey baster. That will prevent the build-up of ammonia, which would damage your tank’s water quality.
What to do if your betta fish won’t eat
Bettas are notoriously fussy eaters. So, if your betta fish doesn’t eat or seems uninterested in food, don’t be concerned. A poor appetite is often caused by stress. For example, if you’ve recently cleaned your betta’s tank, moved him to a new home, or introduced new tankmates.
Temperature fluctuations within your betta fish’s environment can also cause a loss of appetite. The recommended temperature range for your betta’s tank is between 76- and 81-degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is cooler than this, your betta’s metabolism will slow down, and he may become lethargic. A slower metabolism means that your fish will need less food over fewer feedings.
Also, as your betta fish becomes older, he will be less active, and consequently, he may need less food.
However, poor appetite can be a sign that your fish is sick. Keep an eye on your betta for signs of disease and sickness, and be sure to give your fish appropriate treatment right away.
Wild betta fish enjoy a staple diet that mainly consists of insects and insect larvae. By feeding your captive betta a similar diet, you’ll keep him happy and healthy.
Feed your betta foods that are specifically formulated for betta fish, such as those we’ve provided links to in this guide, including a mixture of freeze-dried, frozen, pellet, and live food.
Be sure to feed your betta once or twice a day, for five or six days per week, and include one fasting day when you don’t feed him. That will help to prevent bloating and other health problems that are associated with overfeeding.
Remove uneaten food from the bottom of your betta’s tank before it has a chance to break down and cause water quality problems in your tank.
Follow these guidelines, and your betta fish will enjoy a happy, healthy life.