How To Feed Betta Fish: The Complete Guide

Betta fish are tricky little guys (and gals) when it comes to keeping them happy and healthy. First, there’s their desire to fight each other to the death. And they also can be easily overfed or suffer from malnutrition. The difficulty is finding the sweet spot when it comes to feeding.

So how do you feed a betta fish? The general rule of thumb is to feed them two meals per day, small in size and high in protein.

bettas are hardy fish when it comes to the overall health, but are still susceptible to parasitic, bacterial, and fungal diseases. Therefore, you should pay close attention to their nutrition and feeding habits to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to keep them in good health.

How To Feed A Betta Fish

The act of feeding a betta fish is not difficult, but you need to watch your portions. bettas do best with two meals per day that consist of smaller portions of food.

  • Overfeeding can lead to severe health problems as well as leftovers in the tank, which causes bacteria to grow in the water. Heavily polluted water, when not cleaned properly, can cause serious health issues for bettas as well.
  • Underfeeding can cause them to suffer from malnutrition and lead to odd behavior changes, like increased aggression and decreased activity.

Overfeeding is more likely to happen than underfeeding, mainly if the betta is contained in an aquarium with other fish. You should carefully watch the fish eat at mealtime to determine the proper amount of food.

Feeding Your Betta

bettas are not able to be fed using the same portions as most other tropical fish; you should ignore the instructions found on most tropical fish food packages. These packages suggest feeding your fish what they can eat in 2-5 minutes, which is too much for a betta.

Instead, you should feed your betta according to their stomach size. In general, a betta’s stomach size is just about as big as one of his eyeballs.

They should receive enough food to fill (but not overfill) their stomach twice per day with enough time to digest in between. In most situations, the amount is equal to 2-3 pellets or 3-4 bloodworms per serving.

Types Of Fish Food

Picking what kind of food to feed your betta fish is confusing, and it might help to know that you’re not alone. Choosing the right food is difficult, especially if the stores around you carry minimal selections.

bettas are classified as carnivores and feed on insects in the wild, so they should be fed similar food without a lot of extra fillers. For the most part, live food is best for betta fish to eat, but if live food is not available, you can feed them:

  • Pellets
  • Flakes
  • Freeze-dried foods
  • Frozen foods

Pellets

Pellets are one of the most accessible food sources for betta fish as they can be easily portioned out to prevent overfeeding. You need to buy betta fish-specific pellets and feed them 2-4 pellets, two times daily.

With pellets, you should be careful to choose a pellet that does not expand when exposed to water or that you at least prepare them before feeding them to your betta. To make the pellets, you need to soak them in water before feeding them to allow the pellets to expand.

Fish Flakes

It is essential to feed your betta flakes made specifically for betta fish. You should never feed your betta regular tropical fish flakes because they do not have the amount of protein that a betta needs.

The downside of feeding your betta fish flakes is that the flakes sink quickly as they become soaked easily. bettas are not particularly quick eaters, and this can cause excess debris if the flakes are not removed immediately.

While there is no fatal risk involved when feeding a betta, the proper type of flakes with the right portions, bettas are sometimes picky and may not eat the flakes you give them.

Freeze-Dried Food

Freeze-dried betta food is a perfect way to maintain some of betta’s natural food into their diet, except it does not entirely replace feeding them live or frozen food. Freeze-dried food has the added benefit of being free of bacteria and deadly parasites.

This type of food has been removed of their moisture and have more added fillers than pellets and flakes. Like some pellets, you should soak freeze-dried foods in tank water before feeding them to your betta.

Live or Frozen Betta Food

bettas are carnivores and should not be limited to eating only pellets or flakes; if they are – then they’re missing out. Feeding them live or frozen food that allows them to experience their natural (as close as possible) habitat and feeding experience will keep them healthy and happy.

Most live or frozen food can be found at pet stores, but certain types may be harder to find depending on the season. You should also be wary of where you buy them from and make sure that it is a reputable store as live and frozen food is more likely to carry parasites and diseases.

Frozen food is an excellent alternative if you cannot find live food. You can defrost it and feed it to your betta whenever you are ready. Also, you should never refreeze any food you have thawed as it may have been exposed to bacteria.

Live or Frozen Food for Your Betta

There is an abundance of live or frozen foods that you can feed your betta with some being better than others. Most are readily available, but some change with the seasons. There are:

1. Wingless Fruit Flies

Wingless fruit flies, or vinegar fly, is an everyday meal for your betta. These are the flies that surround fruit once it has been left out for too long.

All you have to do is drop them into the aquarium for feeding, but you don’t know what diseases they may or may not be carrying. That is where the wingless version comes in.

The wingless fruit fly can be bred in a small container and harvested for food relatively inexpensively. This prevents them from contracting and carrying diseases or parasites that could harm your betta if eaten.

2. Mosquito Larvae

Mosquito larvae are some of the best choices for betta food and are quite popular in their natural habitat. They are not easily found during the winter months, but they are incredibly active and populated during the spring and summer, especially in warmer areas.

The larvae do not usually carry harmful bacteria or parasites, as the easiest way to provide them for your betta is by harvesting them yourself. You could also try and find a high-quality online store or a local store that carries them.

3. Mysis Shrimp

Opossum shrimp or Mysis shrimp are excellent sources of fiber for betta fish and help with the digestion of their protein-rich foods. Their hard exoskeleton provides the little boost bettas need to help out their digestive system.

If your betta is a picky eater, Mysis shrimp might be the solution. The shrimp are delicious to them and are filled with necessary nutrients, even more than brine shrimp, but are also filled with amino acids and moisture. Find them at any pet shop or order them online.

4. Brine Shrimp

betta fish love brine shrimp; they are packed with all the nutrition that a betta fish needs even in such a small body. They have protein, vitamins, and amino acids that keep betta’s healthy.

Brine shrimp are easy to raise and can be found at almost all pet stores or local fish stores. The fact that they are easily accessible means that they are a great addition to your betta’s feeding routine.

5. Bloodworms

Bloodworms, also known as Glycera, are midge fly larvae that can often be found in pools or ponds of water. betta fish eat these frequently in the wild, making them a nice variation in your betta’s diet. They’re easy to find, as most of the foods mentioned above.

bettas will go after these worms if served live and will embrace their predatory, greedy nature. Even so, bloodworms should not be the betta’s primary source or only source of food as they lack amino acids.

Choosing The Right Food for a Betta Fish

Picking the right food to feed you betta means that it includes all the nutritional value that a betta needs as well as being a natural and high-quality substance.

When choosing the right betta Fish food, you should check the food’s ingredients. It should meet the betta’s need for:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Fiber
  • Phosphorus
  • Carbohydrates
  • Calcium
  • Vitamins A, D3, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, H, M

A good rule of thumb is to check if the protein is the first ingredient listed on the betta food. You should also check the container to make sure that the food is okay for bettas or is specifically meant for betta fish.

You should not purchase food that is meant for goldfish or most foods that are meant for generic tropical fish. Feeding a betta standard food without the right nutrition mess with their digestive system and cause them to suffer from malnutrition.

Feeding Schedule for a Betta Fish

betta fish like to stick to a regular schedule, at least when they are receiving the proper food portions. Feeding them in the morning and at night around the same time each day will set up a good routine.

You should also change the food that they get each day to make sure they get the right  nutrients and receive a treat every now and again.

Having a regular routine will benefit both you and your betta in the long run. And having consistency in your feeding regimen also helps you determine what other habits and behaviors are regular to your betta, when food is consistent. And helps you know when something seems “off.”

Typically, you’ll want to follow a routine similar to this:

  • Monday: betta fish pellets or flakes, feed 1-2 times per day
  • Tuesday: Live or frozen food, feed them 2-3 pieces 1-2 times per day
  • Wednesday: betta fish pellets or flakes, feed 1-2 times per day
  • Thursday: betta fish pellets or flakes, feed 1-2 times per day
  • Friday: Live or frozen food, feed them 2-3 pieces 1-2 times per day
  • Saturday: betta fish pellets or flakes, feed 1-2 time per day
  • Sunday: Do not feed or feed them less than average to ensure that their digestive track runs smoothly.

What To Expect when Feeding Your Betta

bettas will usually only eat food if it is sitting on top of the water; once it begins to sink, they lose interest. Make sure to clean up any leftover food sitting on the bottom of the tank to prevent ammonia buildup and food decay.

Skipping one day of food will not harm your betta but will help them. bettas become bloated and constipated quickly and skipping a day can help them even themselves back out.

Never feed them extra if you are planning on being absent for a few days. This will cause them to become constipated and will do more harm than good.

Overfeeding A Betta Fish

Unlike most other fish, bettas are very sensitive to eating and is the leading cause of dietary health issues. Typically, when betta fish are overfed, they suffer from digestive blockage or constipation.

Constipation is common in bettas and for the most part, can be fixed dietary changes, whether it is a mild or severe case.

Signs Of Constipation

The most apparent symptom of constipation is a bloated stomach; it should only be swollen in the digestive area. This is easily seen by looking at the side and not from the top. Another sign will be if your betta is not passing food through their system.

In severe cases, your betta may suffer from SBD or “Swim Bladder Disorder.” It is a condition that causes your betta to be unable to right itself in the water, making it swim sideways and possibly upside down.

Constipation Causes

While constipation is most likely cause by overfeeding your betta, it could also be caused by:

  • Feeding dry foods
  • Lack of fiber
  • Low-quality foods

When a betta is not receiving the proper nutrients, they are more likely to overeat when they are overfed. This leads to an increased number of bettas with constipation and can create a situation where you are uncertain what the underlying cause is.

Dealing With Constipation

When your betta is suffering from constipation, they can typically recover by not eating for a day or two. It gives them the chance to clean out their system naturally without adding more blockage.

If your betta is still dealing with constipation, try feeding them the inside of a pea. Remove the skin and give your betta a portion equal to the size of one of their eyeballs.

For severe constipation, you may need to use daphnia. Daphnia are small water fleas that work like a mild laxative for your betta. Their skeletons give your betta just the fibrous boost it needs to get digestion moving. It needs to be given in a tiny dose.

What If My Betta Won’t Eat?

Do not freak out if your betta fish is refusing to eat everything that you’re feeding them. Their lack of appetite could be from stress or because they are not hungry. You shouldn’t worry unless they have not eaten for a few days.

If you are sure that the food is still good, check the water temperature as cold water can prevent your betta from eating. It can slow their metabolism and cause them to become lethargic.

Not-eating is also a sign of illness. If you have checked to make sure there are no external causes, you should keep an eye out for any signs of illness and disease so that treatment can be administered right away.

Your betta may also be picky. It is not uncommon for bettas to be very particular in regard to what they eat. They may even change their minds about their usual diet, creating confusion for their owners.

What To Do if Your Betta Fish Isn’t Eating

Mostly, it will be a waiting game. If your betta has not eaten for 1-2 days, there is not much to be concerned about. Once you are on day 3, then you can take action and attempt to discover the underlying problem.

If your fish is overstuffed, you will need to continue to wait them out until they seem overly lethargic or become discolored. At that point, you should feed them a pea-like you would do it; they were constipated.

If it is due to disease or a parasite, you should first attempt to identify their ailment and work from there. Medicines and treatment can be found at a local pet store or online.

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Adam Edwards
Hi, my name is Adam and I'm an aquarium enthusiast! I didn't discover the joys of being an 'aquarium fanatic' (as some of my friends call me!) until I was in my 20's. When I first started out I found it difficult to find all the information I needed so I started this website to compile all the useful information I can think of. Enjoy!