What Do Betta Fish Eat?

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Ahhhh…the “What do bettas eat?” question!

Usually followed by the ever popular “What’s the best food for betta fish”

Or the “How much do bettas eat in a day?” query.

Short answer? It’s used to be best if your betta fish ate a varied diet. Prepared foods, freeze dried foods, frozen foods and live foods. Now? Maybe not so much. Better products now means pellets can be the mainstay. As despite the lack of variation your fish can still get a nutritionally complete diet from pellets.

But that may be easier said than done since betta fish are known to be finicky eaters. Food one betta will wolf down voraciously will be spit out summarily by another. Go figure. Maybe the question should be “What SHOULD bettas eat?”

Betta Nutrition 101

Should eat? Actually feeding these fish may be little more than an afterthought for many betta keepers. It seems easy enough. Get some food; feed the fish. What’s there to it?

Turns out more than you might imagine.

It begins with the quality of feed, continues with how often you feed, and ends with how much you feed. And the sad fact is too many feed too much to be honest.

Besides get two betta keepers together and don’t be surprised if they disagree on what to feed their finny charges.

Which shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Any of the types of food you can potentially put on the menu has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Any feeding schedule you might come up with will have its supporters and distractors.

Basically how to feed these fish when can be the subject of intense debate.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some general guidelines that apply when feeding your hungry halfmoon, crowntail, or veiltail. Because everyone agrees that bettas are masters in the art of convincing their keeper that they are dying of starvation. Even if they just ate five minutes ago.

Now when it comes to guidelines some betta keepers will tell you to go easy on the live food.

Others will suggest minimizing the pellets and flakes.

Others still will swear you should use freeze dried blood worms only for a weekly treat.

So much for the general guidelines. Still a better question than “What do bettas eat?” might be “What will MY betta eat?” Not easily answered for every case but let me take a whack at it anyway. Starting with treats. Because treats are always a hit with most of these guys.

Mouthwatering Betta Treats

While I know you want a one-size-fits-all plan, there are going to be pros and cons regardless of what you feed. But you can’t beat anything on this list of betta treats. They provide some variety and often rate high on the protein meter – a good thing. Plus your betta’s eyes will light up when they see any of these on the menu. So let’s quickly look at freeze dried, frozen and a couple of live tasty treats.

Okay so for starters there are your freeze dried foods. Blood and tubifex worms, brine shrimp or daphnia in this form have long been popular. Longer shelf life and less chance of getting parasites from freeze dried grub are two reasons why.

Still these are no longer considered the wonder food they once were. Too easy to induce constipation from a steady freeze dried diet. Plus these alone do not a balanced diet make. So much so, some shun anything freeze dried entirely now. Yet that’s not to say they can’t be a welcomed treat for your beta. Just remember to soften them up sufficiently first with a good presoaking.

Live baby guppies, like Campbells soup, are mmm mmm good. Or an extra special treat. When you can get them. Or you just might want to keep some common guppies on the side. A pair or two or three should keep you well supplied. Plus feeding these tiny tidbits taps into the predatory instincts of your bettas. Nothing like the thrill of the hunt to get a red blooded veiltail male’s blood up.

Frozen bloodworms or brine shrimp that have been thawed in one of those little dixie cups using tank water are next on the list. Think small when it comes to serving size. Like 3-4 bloodworms per betta per feeding is about right for an adult male. Often offered via an eyedropper, your crowntail will quickly learn to associate the sight of the medicine dropper with an extra tasty snack. So much so he won’t be able to contain his excitement as he trashes about in anticipation.

Finally I’ve often “raised” mosquito larvae for my fish as a fun snack. Drop them into the tank. Thrash. Gulp. Where’d the larvae go? Yes, these treats are always popular. And given this is what they live on in the wild these squirming delicacies awaken some primal instincts in your little hunter. Some feel their betta has never been more alive than when on the prowl for mosquito larvae released into their domain.

HINT: Raising mosquito larvae during the summer couldn’t be any easier. Put a bucket out of sight of the neighbors. Add water. Maybe some old leaves or grass clippings. Let nature take its course. Ten to 14 days later, net out a few for now. Put more in a gallon jar for netting later. Dump the bucket and start again. That way, as a considerate neighbor, you’re not adding to the local mosquito population, you know? But you are providing a tempting morsel for your pet.

The mere mention of any of these four treats are certain to bring any self-respecting betta to life, knife and fork in hand.

Still treats are one thing. But the main course is something else altogether. (Guess we did kinda do this backwards.) But as I suggested earlier, pellets might be the best way to provide a balanced, complete, daily diet. So you should really do all you can to get your fish to take to them. Yet if that nutritionally complete diet stuff is for real will any pellets do? If not, what do you look for when buying pellets? Good questions.

Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About Pellets

Okay so as you know, there are special prepared foods formulate just for bettas. Yet before bringing any commercially prepared pellet food home or ordering any online there are a few things you need to know or should at least try to find out. Because not all pellets are created equal.

For example what are the first two or three ingredients listed on the label? Ideally you want to see some kind of marine based protein rather than anything vegetable based. These guys are predominantly meat eaters, you know, although yeah, technically probably omnivores might better describe them. Still you want to see various forms of fish meal or marine life meal of some sort populating the top spots of the list. (Knowing that the ingredients are listed in descending order of concentration means that the higher on the list the more of it is to be found in the pellet.) While a list of ingredients that starts off with something like wheat flour, milt meal (ground millet) or soybean meal might be less desirable.

Second, how much protein do the pellets pack? While it’s safe to say that the higher the protein percentage the better, don’t judge a food solely on that. I say that because some use protein percentage as shorthand for quality. Something circling 40% should be good enough. Especially if it’s a highly digestible form of protein.

Then how big are the pellets would be the next thing to consider. You want to pick the pellet size by the size of your fish’s mouth. This should be obvious I know since if they won’t fit in the betta’s mouth the betta is gonna starve. You’ll likely want to buy pellets sized for the smallest fish you are keeping. The thinking being bigger fish can just eat more.

Finally are they floaters or sinkers? Ideally you want floating rather than sinking pellets what with bettas typically being better surface feeders and all.

Getting a handle on things like that is good to be sure. But there are a few other considerations.

How should you store them? Storing the food properly is important to maintain its potency. Air tight containers or even better kept in the freezer until needed should help preserve the nutritional values.

What shelf life are you working with? In part that depends on the preservatives in the food. A rough rule of thumb to work with is probably 6 to 12 months. Maybe a tad longer if stored in the freezer in an air tight container. But much beyond that is pushing it.

Luckily feeding bettas comes down to offering them what they’ll eat. Whatever that may be, feed very small amounts once or twice a day. And avoid leftovers. Uneaten food will pollute the water and ultimately kill the fish.

Any Specific Brands?

Sure. Just remember that everyone has an opinion as to which is the best brand of betta pellets. Which is why mentioning any brand in a favorable light is always dangerous. What’s a great line today may not be so great tomorrow.

You see, for the longest time Hikari Betta Bio Gold was the gold standard. Then they went and changed their formula. So much so, many serious betta keepers now swear by NLS Betta Formula or Omega One Betta Buffet among others. And there are others.

Yet you’ll know you’ve picked a winner if after a few weeks you note more activity and more vibrant colors due to your beta fish getting better nutrition. The right formulation should produce those kind of results and will allow you to feed less to get better results compared to feeding the bargain basement brand of pellets. So that in the end, better nutrition will produce a healthier, livelier betta fish that is absolutely thriving under your care. For less money than if you chintzed and bought the cheapo product.

Remember too a betta’s stomach is about the size of their eye. (In some cases it’s literally true that their eyes are bigger than their stomach.) This fact is repeated so often it is almost cliché. Still they need you to put limits on what they eat since they can’t help themselves. For some it doesn’t matter what’s on the menu, be it live or frozen food or pellets, they always want more.

But for the super finicky in the crowd, well, they may not take to whatever’s on the menu right away. Give ‘em a couple of days without food. Usually once they have rejected a new type of food, they’ll go for it the next time no problem. Hunger will do that you know.

Luckily feeding bettas comes down to offering them what they’ll eat. At least now you should have a better answer to the “What do betta eat?” question than before you stopped by.

About Lucas
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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20 Responses to “What Do Betta Fish Eat?”

  1. admin says:

    I suppose they could but remember they are carnivores. You may slip them a green pea to relieve constipation but otherwise they eat meat – as was described in this post! :)

  2. Courtney says:

    Can male beta fish be together??

  3. Suzen says:

    Gorgeous hunky healthy fish!

    Thanks for the info, I’ve just been guessing about the amount of food to feed my little guy, he moved in about four months ago, and fortunately I’ve been doing okay. He’s been eating flake, Omega One Betta Buffet, and I tried pellet, Top Fin Color Enhancing Betta Bits, which he’s not crazy about but will eat. I just gave him his first freeze dried blood worm, chomp! I want to try the mosquito larva this summer.

  4. Zen says:

    Can bettas eat other insects? I have a friend who feeds her fish (not bettas) ants.

  5. TAMMY says:

    MY BETTA IS A VEIL TAIL & ALMOST 2 YRS.OLD
    I THOUGHT HE WAS GAINING WEIGHT SI I CUT HIS FOOD IN 1/2, THE HE WAS BLOATED & SPIKEY!
    I HAVE BEEN GIVING HIM EPSOM SALT SOAKS EVERY DAY FOR 30 MINS. & FEEDING PEAS – THEN PUTTING BACK IN HIS BOWL.
    HE HAS STRESS COAT, BETTA FIX & AQUARIUM SALT IN HIS WATER. HE’S ACTING NORMA & STILL EATING HIS BETTA BIO GOLD BUT ONLY 1-2 BITES ADAY.
    ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER TREATMENT? – HE DOES LOOK ALITTLE LESS PINE CONEY BUT STILL ROUNDER THAN I’D LIKE.
    THANKS!

    • Lucas says:

      Sounds like dropsy. An insidious ailment. One I’ve had little experience with and even less success curing. Good luck, but I’ve found dropsy to almost always be fatal. Sorry.

  6. jim says:

    How long can they go without eating? If I go on a weekend trip, is that going to bother them?

    • Lucas says:

      Good question. Answered in two words. No worries. Fasting a day a week is a good idea anyway. And if you leave Friday night, come back Sunday evening and drop some food in the tank, your fish has only gone a day without food. Which is no different than a fasting day. Two or three days without food isn’t going to kill them either for that matter. Hope that helps.

  7. Chad says:

    We got my 7 year old son a betta and have been feeding him pellets and I see him put them in his mouth and then spit the food out. The food proceeds to sink to the bottom of the tank. Is this normal?

    • Lucas says:

      It’s normal if your son’s betta is a finicky eater. It’s also not that unusual. The first thing to try is to stop feeding him for a couple of days. And no he won’t starve. But his appetite for the pellets may improve. If not you may need to experiment a bit, feeding like frozen blood worms or brine shrimp to keep him going while you determine the kind of pellets will be pleasing to his taste buds. Wish there was something better I could suggest. But sometimes finding what your fish will eat is a trial and error kind of thing.

  8. Stacy says:

    Hi! I love your page so informative and helpful! I’ve had one female beta for almost two years and just recently I bought a male and female who were suffering from lack of water and a cracked container at walmart. Three beautiful fish. I have them all in seperate bowls, they seem happy and healthy in their new homes. I am having trouble getting my new female to eat. I tried the fasting for a couple days, but that didn’t help. Can I feed her the freeze dried blood worms that I can get in the pet store in a bag?

    • Lucas says:

      Glad you have found some of what is shared on this site helpful. Thanks! As you’ve found out it can be hard to induce these pets to eat. They can be finicky. You’ve done what I would have suggested. Fast first. Then tempt with a treat like blood worms. Although thawed frozen ones would be more tempting. Just keep in mind these guys can’t live on blood worms alone. Sooner or later you want to get them eating high quality pellets. You might also try mini pellets. Sometimes the larger ones are too big for your fish to handle. The minis in that case work better. Just a few ideas that hopefully you find helpful.

  9. mike says:

    I have been feeding my male betta Hilkari Betta Bio- Gold 3 tiny pellets 2 x per day. Fish eats it with no problem. Healthy in a clear tank. The instructions on the package reads “from 5- 10 pellets up to 3 x per day”. I called Hikari and spoke to a representative who said 5-10 pellets 3 x day was to much, I should feed him 2-3 pellets twice per day. I have yet to find any correct information anywhere on the internet. Please advise, Thank you.

  10. micro jobs says:

    micro jobs…

    Just to let you know your internet page appears a little bit unusual on Firefox on my laptop with Linux ….

  11. Ron says:

    Thanks for your site on bettas; I do know that bettas can be finicky eaters, I had one betta and had him almost a year but when I was changing his water I thought I would scoop him up with a net and put him in a small bowl but when I scooped him up in a net, he died, so will never do that again. I now have a male and a female betta, kept seperate, and I know one feed that they both actually will eat and go after is the goldfish flakes. They absoluetely love it.

  12. Herobrine says:

    Thanks so much! I’m getting a betta soon and this has been so helpful! Ty so much and I’m so excited about getting one! I hope he doesn’t catch any diseases. =D

  13. Kai says:

    First I would like to congratulate you on your page. I find it very informative. This is my first betta I’ve had. I got it as a present from my barber. I bought “BETTA PELLETS” for “BUDDY”, but I’ve noticed he is not eating. Now I was reading about what to feed bettas, where can I find “FROZEN BLOOD WORMS, BRINE SHRIMP OR DAPHNIA? Also,I ordered “MY FUN FISH SELF CLEANING TANK” and a mini heater. How often do I need to change the water?. I will appreciate any information. Thanks in advance

  14. andrea casarrubias says:

    hey I bought a new betta dragon scale male and I gave it pelletes and flakes and he doesn’t want to eat them. what should I do?

  15. Courtney says:

    Hey! I have a question. Is flake food okay? I just tried to feed him some because he doesn’t like the pellets, he just spits them out. He hasn’t eaten for a couple of days and he still won’t eat it! And any idea on how to keep his bowl cleaner? Thanks.

  16. Jane Bartley says:

    I have a 3 gal tank filter and air . what temperature should I keep the tank?

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