So, is your betta fish not eating? As a pet owner, it is only natural to be concerned when your betta fish isn’t eating or if you don’t see them eating the same quantity as they did prior. While it isn’t an immediate cause for panic, there are several reasons as to why your fish may be avoiding their food.
Bettas are incredibly intelligent animals that are very in tune with their environment. Increased stress, unhealthy water conditions, disinterest in food, and potential illness are all possible explanations for your betta fish’s recent hunger strike. Read on to learn more about why your betta fish isn’t eating.
There’s been a change in their environment
Like many aquatic animals, betta fish are very sensitive to their surroundings. A change in tank temperature or a change in their water can be a simple, yet significant change that has caused your betta to not eat.
Sluggishness and slowed metabolism are direct causes of a tank temperature that is too low, resulting in slower digestion and less interest in their food.
If your tank temperature is too low for your cold-blooded betta fish, they may be eating in much smaller quantities than usual. A cold tank creates lethargic bettas with slower metabolisms, which not only causes them to digest more slowly but also requires them to consume less food.
Expert Tip: To keep your betta safe from temperature shock and metabolic changes. Ensure that their water is kept warm at 7.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Purchasing a heater for your betta is a necessary step to regulate water temperature, even if you live in a warm climate.
They’re unhappy with their water
A change in water is also a possible answer as to why your betta isn’t eating. A spike in ammonia levels is a frequent, common issue with betta tanks. Any other chemicals that made their way into the water can also cause your betta fish to lose interest in their food.
Leftover tank cleaning chemicals, soap, or accidental spraying of home cleaning products in close proximity to your betta tank can throw off the PH of your water and create an unpleasant environment for your betta fish.
For optimal health, the parameters of your betta’s water should be as follows:
- pH between 6.5-7.5
- KH: 3-5 dKH
- GH: 3-4 dGH
- Nitrate: 10-20ppm
- Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm
Many tank testing kits are available at popular pet retailers and online. Checking the parameters of your tank is the first important thing to check if you think chemicals may be what is causing your betta’s lack of appetite. If parameters are out of whack perform a water change and try feeding again when your water is safe and healthy.
If there is no issue with the parameters of your water, simply try feeding the fish again later in the day. Giving them time to become hungrier. If neither of these solutions helps, your betta’s issue may not be their environment, but an issue with their food.
Your betta is unhappy with their food
Food change inconsistencies or changed quality of fish food are all common issues when it comes to betta’s appetites. Most commonly, switching food brands or food types is enough to cause a picky betta to go on a hunger strike.
Thankfully, the solution to this problem is quite simple. Try switching back to the old brand of fish food, or finding a fish food that is similar in smell, texture, and ingredients.
If you are adjusting your betta’s diet, consider slowly incorporating the new food with the old food until you are fully transitioned to the new food. This will allow your betta to grow accustomed to their new food without being fussy about the transition.
If you haven’t switched foods recently, or ever, that may also be the problem for your betta fish. Eating the same thing every day is boring, especially if your betta feels they are not getting all of the nutrients they need from the food you provide for them.
Try changing to a different brand or ingredient combination to see if your betta is more interested in eating. Betta fish can eat a small amount of human food in tiny quantities. You can offer boiled vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce, or zucchini as an enticing treat to get them eating. Make sure these veggies are very soft and pliable.
Expert Tip: It is important that you do not regularly give your betta human food, and incredibly important that you never feed them fibrous foods such as beans, lentils, carrots, or celery, as these can be difficult for your betta fish to swallow and can lead to choking.
Never feed your betta any fruit, preservatives, or spices. These ingredients are not indigenous to their freshwater habitats and can cause digestive issues for your beautiful betta.
The importance of food quality
The quality of fish food you are feeding your betta is an integral part of their overall health. Cheap pet store fish food is well cheap and does not provide your fish with a balanced diet that meets their dietary needs.
Feeding your betta a diet of inexpensive pellets/flakes alone is not enough variety and quality to keep your betta happy and healthy. Try mixing up their diet with a combination of freeze-dried, life, and high-quality pellet/flake food to entice your betta into eating.
Betta fish are carnivores and need a diet that consists of fat, fiber, protein, phosphorus, carbs, calcium, and an array of vitamins. Most fish food does not include an adequate amount of protein, especially if the food is not specially designed for betta fish, but for goldfish or other tropical pet fish.
Bettas have small digestive tracts, and cannot digest the large percentage of ’filler’ that most pet store fish foods contain such as wheat, corn, or other types of meal or starch. The less amount of filler in fish food, the better it is for your betta.
The best fish food for bettas is one full of crude protein, a decent amount of fat (5-15%) fiber, and moisture. The best food to feed your betta is live food such as fly larvae, Artemia Brine shrimp, and bloodworms. This is what a betta would consume in the wild, and provides them with the nutritional value that they require for optimal functioning.
The next best option for your betta’s consumption is frozen and freeze-dried food. While more expensive than commonly purchased fish flakes and pellets, frozen and freeze-dried food provides almost identical nutritional value as live feeding, but is more accessible and practical for most betta owners.
Unlike live feeding, this food option can be kept in the freezer, and thawed when necessary. Do not forget to thaw the entirety of the betta’s meal before trying to feed it to them. Bettas can be fussy fish and may turn down any unthawed or improperly thawed food.
If you plan on feeding your betta dry flakes and pellets, it is salient that you research the highest quality dry food. Look for dry food that has a healthy protein as the first ingredient rather than a filler like cornstarch or grain.
Your betta fish just isn’t hungry
Lack of hunger is perhaps an unsuspecting yet ordinary reason your betta fish is not interested in their food. Although betta fish may eat on a routine schedule, they will only eat if they need the sustenance and energy the food has to offer. Overfeeding your fish may also be why your betta is not eating.
Expert Tip: Overfeeding can cause an array of health problems for bettas, as well as other pet fish. Digestive blockages, metabolic issues, and high weight are all negative side effects of overfeeding your betta.
Feeding your betta an appropriate amount is an easy solution to this. We will expand on this topic more later in the post where we will discuss the importance of a healthy feeding schedule.
It’s an emotional thing!
Have you ever been so mad you can’t eat? Much like humans, betta fish are capable of experiencing distressing emotions. There are various things that can lead to your betta feeling angry, shy, and subsequently losing their appetite. As long as you take proper care of your betta and provide them with good habitat, these emotions are only temporary.
If you recently purchased your betta fish from a pet store or a shelter, it is likely that your betta fish is feeling overstimulated. During the process of coming to your home, your betta fish doubtlessly experienced a great amount of stress along the way.
Between human handling, changing living containers, car rides, and eventually being placed in their new home, your betta fish has been through a lot. Imagine going through all of that in one day stressful would be an understatement. Like all creatures, becoming familiar with their new habitat is essential before they feel comfortable enough to eat.
Eating is a very vulnerable activity for animals, especially small, aquatic animals that are often prey to larger fish. Be patient with your betta. and do not become concerned for their appetite until they have been with you over 3-4 days and are comfortable in their new tank.
If you have any other pets or young children, consider keeping your betta in a quiet, calm zone of your home until they become comfortable, only allowing interaction with the betta that is calm quiet, and not overstimulating.
Being placed in a hectic environment before they are comfortable is very stressful for fish, especially bettas because they are so smart and aware of their surroundings.
If your betta refuses to eat for the first few days in your care, do not panic, but continue to remove uneaten food from the tank so that it does not clog your filters and cause issues.
Your betta fish is sick
An unfortunate, yet possible explanation as to why your betta fish refuses to eat is that your fish is struggling with an illness. When animals are sick, their decreased appetite is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong.
Swim bladder disease is the most common illness that plagues pet fish but is accompanied by other symptoms such as nose-down floating, floating to the top of the tank, or sinking to the bottom of the tank.
The average lifespan of a betta fish is between two and four years, but they can live up to six years if meticulously cared for with an excellent diet, adequate space for physical activity, and a low-stress environment.
Expert Tip: If you think your betta fish may be battling a serious illness, you can find a veterinarian that specializes in aquatic animals or seek more information about fish illnesses online.
How long can your betta fish go without eating?
To maintain a healthy, beautiful betta fish, you must feed them a balanced diet with high-quality ingredients. If you have a particularly gluttonous betta fish, they may eat every time you feed them regardless of need, but how often do betta fish NEED to eat?
Whether you are going away on vacation and curious if your betta fish will last a week without food, or simply wondering how long a fish can healthfully fast, we have the answer for you. Most fish can survive over a week without being fed.
Unlike humans, fish are wild animals and evolutionarily accustomed to fasting for longer periods of time as the environment forces them to. It would not be unusual for a fish to go a week without food in the wild during the winter months.
Although betta fish can go 10 days without eating, it is not recommended. Fish become stressed if their needs are not met. After 3-4 days, your betta will begin to feel the negative effects of hunger and can experience organ failure or even death if they are in fragile health.
If your vacation is going to last more than 4 days, consider hiring a neighbor or asking a friend to stop by and feed your fish while you are gone. Bettas are very intelligent fish and have the ability to enjoy the company of humans.
An unfortunate side effect of their intelligence is that they have the ability to become depressed if neglected or stressed, so even if you plan to leave your betta alone for a few days while you are out of town. It is a good idea to have a friend check in on your fish and provide some stimulation and company as well as feed them.
How often should a betta fish be fed?
Overfeeding your fish can lead to the aforementioned health problems such as swim bladder disease, obesity, digestive issues, and even damage to the filtration system in your tank leading to bacterial buildup and disease.
Expert Tip: Feeding your betta once a day and up to twice a day, seven days a week is adequate for most bettas to remain healthy and active. Feeding in 12-hour increments is recommended, which works out to twice per day.
For context, a betta fish’s stomach Is similar to the size of a human pupil and requires a very small amount of food to become full. Keep in mind, common pet store fish food expands when introduced to water, and expands even more once inside of their body.
Bettas do not understand this concept and may gorge themselves on an unsafe level if provided with too much dry food. More precise measuring is required for high-quality live or freeze-dried betta food.
Using the measurement of a human pupil is a good guideline when measuring out their food. Every betta is different and a betta with a particularly fast metabolism could require more food than others.
Keeping an eye on the amount of time elapsed between eating, and passing waste through their digestive tract is a good way to decipher the speed of your betta’s metabolism. If you notice your fish is not defecating between meals, you might be feeding them too often.
If the fish has a chance to have several bowel movements between feedings and appears hungry and desperate for food, you may be feeding them too infrequently. If food is accumulating at the bottom of your betta’s tank despite them eating, you are overfeeding them. Be sure to remove uneaten food.
How to tell if your betta fish is dying
Betta fish – betta splendens, also known as siamese fighting fish, both males, and females, are perfect companions, a little fish with a ton of personality!
Unfortunately, their lifespan is pretty short when compared to other fish, as they tend to live about 3 years. Most pet stores will sell betta’s who have already matured so they would be between 6 months to 1 year old already. There are a few signs that indicate that your pet’s last moments are coming soon.
Visible wounds are easy to tell, but lethargy is also a very good indicator that something is definitely wrong.
Expert Tip: As your Betta ages, discoloration is a sign of old age and thus nearing the end of life. If you notice that your betta is refusing food, laying low and still on the bottom of its tank, or staying bent at the surface may be the time to say goodbye has come.
Your betta is a sensitive creature with needs just like us! Providing a safe, clean environment, as well as high-quality food on a proper schedule, are all essential ways to keep your betta’s healthy appetite up and running. Before panicking and rushing your betta to the vet.
Consider checking the water parameters of their tank, examining the quality of the food you feed them or changing the time of day you do their feeding. Keeping an eye on your betta’s stress level as well as their physical and emotional health will clue you into any potential concerns regarding your betta fish’s appetite and overall health.
Have questions about your betta? Feel free to leave any questions or comments below!