Why is my betta fish not eating – 5 Reasons Why (And What To Look For)

Fish owners would strongly agree that betta fish are finicky eaters, posing a real challenge to their owners at the time of feeding. So, if you’re concerned if your betta is not eating. Hang on!

In this article, I’m going to point out all the answers to the question – “why is my betta fish not eating,” even if you’re offering your betta everything fancy and interesting.

Possible Reasons Your Betta Fish Is Not Eating

Even though betta fish is an easy-going aquarium fish, perfect for beginners, it is known to pose a serious challenge to its owners at the time of feeding.

Betta fish won’t eat everything or anything you’ll throw in its tank. Besides, being finicky, a sick betta may not accept food. Here are some other reasons for food refusal in betta fish.

1. Overfeeding

Some owners misconceived betta’s highly expressive nature so much that they are tempted to feed them more than usual. And this is the foremost reason why is your betta not eating food. Always feed a small amount of food they can consume quickly (don’t follow the two-minute rule – it will be too much food!) and remove the uneaten food to avoid any ammonia spikes.

As far as I’ve studied Betta fish, they are good with just one high-quality feeding full of high-quality food a day. Because they attack food like they are starving, doesn’t mean they are actually starving. 

To check, if you’re feeding too much food to your Bettas, look out for the belly shape. If it is too round and bulging, reduce the amount of food you feed and feed them just once a day. 

I suggest fasting your bettas one day every week. This will allow for their digestive system to cleanout.

Overfeeding Bettas while Mating

However not recommended, there is one exception when you can feed whatever you want and whenever you want to your Bettas; when they are mating.

When it’s breeding or mating season or you’re expecting your bettas to mate, you’re allowed to feed a variety of food to your bettas as many times as you want, including blackworms, Grindal worms, fruit flies, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae. 

However, newborn bettas should be given food five days after they are hatched. After five days, you can feed food into tiny pieces, such as baby shrimp several times a day.

2. Boring Food

Betta fish loves variety in its tank and in food as well. Therefore, feeding your betta fish should be done very carefully to prolong their lifespan and keep them happy in your home aquariums. 

In their natural habitat, Bettas feed on zooplankton, mainly crustaceans, bloodworms, and other small insects, including flies, grasshoppers, and mosquito larvae.

Also, trying a varied diet will allow you to know your Betta fish’s preferences and ensures your fish is getting a healthy range of nutrition. I recommend trying cultured live food as well as commercial foods to raise the healthiest betta fish possible.

3. Change in Diet

Despite being voracious eaters, bettas are picky eaters. So, a slight change in their diet might disturb their feeding routines. For example, most betta breeders, feed their young fish a combo of live and frozen food that provide maximum nutrition to your fish. However, when the fish is then offered commercial pellet or flake food, it simply refuses the food and ends up spitting it out their mouths.

Betta commercial food looks and tastes very different from the live and frozen food. So, if your fish doesn’t eat the new food, remove it from the betta’s tank after 10 minutes to avoid water contamination.

4. Water Temperature

Betta fish is very sensitive to water temperatures because they are tropical freshwater fish that prefer the temperature around 76°F – 80°F. And temperature fluctuations might result in temperature shock which may cause loss of appetite and reduced metabolism.

Also, I’ve noticed bettas kept in heated tanks eat more than bettas kept in unheated tanks.

5. Health Problems and Fish Diseases

One of the major and the most overlooked reasons for appetite loss in Betta fish are certain fish diseases

Look out for these signs in your Betta fish to rule out any health problems.

  1. Color loss
  2. Lethargy
  3. Clamped fins
  4. Bloating and swelling
  5. Open soars
  6. Bloody fins or ripped fins

On a side note, I suggest testing the water parameters and then observing the symptoms. Prevention is always better than treating the ailment.

Common Betta Fish Diseases

Here are some common fish diseases. If your fish is exhibiting these symptoms, diagnose them and start treatment as soon as you can before you lose your beautiful, lively, freshwater fish.

Fungal Infection

If your bettas appear too pale with white patches on the head or overall body with a decreased appetite for food, it has caught a fungal infection that needs to be treated immediately.

Tail / Fin Rot

If you notice a rotting or deteriorating tail or fin, but it’s still active, playing, and acting normally, it’s most likely that your fish has developed a tail or fin rot

There are many cases of this health condition. Sometimes, your bettas will act normal while other times, they may exhibit behavioral changes with a loss of appetite. Whatever it is, look out for the fins and tails. The video above by Palmer Aquatics gives a detailed look.

Ich

Ich happens in most tropical fish aquarium fishes, and betta is no exception. The common signs and symptoms of ich diseases include the presence of white dots all over the head, eyes, and body. Your fish might be lethargic, scraping its body against the hard rocky surface of the aquarium, showing little to no interest in food, and abnormally hiding in the corners of the betta’s tank.

Ich can be spread through live foods. This is why I only recommend culturing your own food versus buying it if you want to feed live foods.

Popeye 

Popeye Fish

Popeye disease is caused by bacteria due to poor water quality. In the popeye disease, the eyes of your betta fish become abnormally enlarged. 

Dropsy 

Dropsy is also a bacterial transmitted disease due to eating live worms. In this disease, the scales of our fish elevate, making the fish look like a pine cone. The bellies of the betta may be bloated.

Swim Bladder Disease

In the swim bladder disease, the bettas have difficulty maintaining balance and swimming properly because the swim bladder is bloated enough. This can be caused by overfeeding and poor quality foods.

Tips To Feed Your Betta Properly

One thing that you should always remember about betta fish is it’s a carnivorous fish that mainly feeds on the tank surface. You can treat them with vegetable matter occasionally. However, the display of vibrant colors in Betta is solely due to a varied diet, rich in nutrients. A Betta fish that feeds on a multitude of foods exhibits more vibrant colors, lives longer and heals fin damage faster than those who don’t.

Here are some tips to feed your betta fish properly:

  1. Besides giving them high-quality commercial pellets, I recommended adding daphnia, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and frozen or live bloodworms to provide your Betta with the best variety of foods.
  2. Ensure the water quality of your tank is top-notch to avoid deadly diseases
  3. Always drop the food in front of your betta so they know it’s their feeding time and settle on the surface for their food
  4. Stick to a daily feeding schedule, but set one day as a fast day for your bettas. This practice always helps avoid overfeeding and helps with their digestive system.

Should I Be Worried If My Betta Fish Is Not Eating Food?

Well, the answer is, no!

If your fish has just started ignoring the food, then it’s highly possible that it’s not hungry. However, if the Betta fish is not eating at all after a few hours or days or is spitting up the betta food after chewing, there might be any of the above-mentioned causes.

But there are times when your fish ignores the food a couple of times and start eating it after a few refused feedings. If this happens, let it go and closely monitor the health and other symptoms of your fish.

But if your fish is completely ignoring the food, not looking at it, even if it is known that its there, then you may have an issue. If it is spending most of its time docile and lethargic that is more of a cause for concern. These symptoms could mean that there’s something seriously wrong with your fish. 

First of all, before rushing to the vet, I suggest you take the following immediate actions:

  1. Test your water to see where your parameters stand
  2. Do a water change
  3. Remove the dead and decaying plant matter
  4. Observe your fish and try to determine what aliment they might have

Betta Fish Care: Food Guide

As mentioned above, Betta fish appreciates the variety in its food and when it comes to food, Betta fish can get a bit self-centered. 

Therefore, feeding the bettas can get a daunting task not only for the beginners but for seasoned aquarists as well. There are so many foods you can purchase.

I’m listing down the best Betta food you can feed your fish to keep them full, happy, and healthy.

Here we go!

Live Foods

This is the best option you can serve on the Betta table. Feeding them with food that’s live provides a lot of benefits. You can see the color improve from your bettas when they’re fed shrimps, and you’ll understand how important it is to include them in betta’s diet. Brine shrimp is the most common shrimp to feed. They can be enhanced by culturing with supplements in the water column.

You can also choose live worms for your Betta. Make sure to clean that they are cleaned completely before feeding them, as live worms can be very messy and dirty, contaminating the whole ecosystem of your aquarium. Live worms are best cultured. California black worms are amazing live foods to feed.

I also suggest avoiding feeding your fish the insects that you caught in your garden because any trace amount of insecticide can be disastrous for your fish.  

Pellet Food

Pellets are clean and convenient and are one of the most effective sources of food for bettas. They are also the best option for busy fish owners that are always on the go. While buying pellets, I suggest looking for options that have shrimp, insects, and/or probiotics in them. 

Even though bettas love pellets, if you’re introducing them to the pellets the first time, it might take a couple of feedings to get accustomed to it.

Best Betta Pellet Food
Northfin Betta Bits

A pellet fish specially formulated for Betta Fish. This is a great staple pellet food to add to your Betta's diet!

Buy On Amazon Buy On Chewy

Pellets are also the best available alternative to feeding brine shrimp and live worms daily. They are widely available in your pet store and mainly contain mashed vitamins, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, etc. 

Freeze-Dried food

Freeze-dried food is the same as live food with zero moisture. Though freeze-dried food is not nutritious as live foods, they provide a higher nutritional value than pellet or flake food. Freeze-dried food makes delicious delicacies for your adorable betta fish and is appropriate for daily feeding. They can be supplemented with vitamins like Vita-Chem or enhanced with garlic, which makes food for enticing for your Betta.

My Pick
Vita Chem

One of the best nutritional supplements you can use for freshwater fish. Works great with pellet and fried dried foods.

Buy On Amazon Buy On Chewy

Frozen food

Frozen foods are more expensive and hard to find than pellet food. This category of Betta food is the same as a live one, just frozen. This is usually as good as it gets nutrition-wise for most fish owners as live food is too involved and risky for most.

Flakes

Flake food is value-packed with the economy. It is a very popular betta fish food because:

A: It’s extremely cheap (around $5 or $6 at most stores)

B: It is super convenient

Despite being easy to feed, the vast majority of flake food lacks some nutrients required to raise a healthy betta. Therefore, it should not be the primary source of food. Cobalt foods make a great flake food with probiotics.

Best Tropical Fish Flake Food
Cobalt Aquatics Tropical Flake

Best Tropical Fish Flake Food

Cobalt offers a premium level flake food with probiotics. A color enhancing formula that works great for all tropical fish

Buy On Amazon Buy On Chewy

How often should I feed my Betta fish?

You should feed your betta fish in moderation. It is advised to feed them a maximum of two to four pellets twice a day. Frozen or freeze-dried food can be given one to two days per week.

At any cost, avoid overfeeding as it is one of the common causes of poor water quality.

FAQs

How Long Can A Betta Go Without Eating?

Betta fish can survive for up to ten days without eating food. However, unless necessary, it is not recommended to starve your fish for so long.

How Do You Know If Your Betta Fish Is Dying?

There are some unfortunate obvious signs to know if your betta fish is dying:

Discoloration over the body with white or brown spots
Erratic swimming behavior
Fin rot
Lethargy and hiding away
Resting at the bottom of the tank
Loss of appetite

Should I Be Worried If My Betta Fish Is Not Eating?

No, you shouldn’t worry if your betta fish is not eating as long as it is moving happily and responding well to its environment. It’s common for betta fish to live without food for a few hours and days. However, if your fish is not eating at all or completely avoiding food after a few days, it could be a matter of concern that requires immediate diagnosis.

Why Is My Betta Fish Not Eating And Hiding?

When your betta fish is not eating and hiding away, look out for symptoms of stress or illness. Also, ensure water quality and check out the tank water to rule out the traces of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels to avoid ammonia poisoning or nitrate poisoning.

What Do I Do If My Betta Fish Won’t Eat?

Add a varied diet to the betta tank to entice your fish for regular feeding. Try adding treats such as shrimp brine and freeze-dried bloodworms, and mosquito larvae to tickle their tastebuds.

How Long Does It Take A Betta To Get Used To Its New Tank?

The minimum required tank size for a betta is around 5 gallons. Betta fish in its new tank takes at least a week to get back to its normal behavior.

Can Betta Fish Survive Without Food For 2 Weeks?

Yes, it does. However, it’s not recommended. If your fish is not eating after a few days, check this post for various reasons and look for signs of ill health. A healthy fish should be eaten.

Final Thoughts

Betta fish are beautiful creatures to adorn your home aquariums and is best known as fish for beginners. However, little do people know they are finicky eaters with disturbed eating habits that pose a real challenge to their owners. 

Before getting a betta fish, make sure you’re ready to invest your time dealing with their tantrums and food refusal. Also, add diversity to the betta’s diet and look out for the signs of overfeeding such as a betta’s bloated stomach to avoid illness and delay diseases in your fish.

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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