The difference between a bony, colorless betta and a healthy, bright-colored betta with beautiful fins is the difference in diet. If you want your betta fish to not only survive but thrive, you need to feed them the right food.
To know what makes up a balanced, healthy diet for bettas, read the following article – a complete betta fish feeding guide for beginners. It includes Betta’s nutritional requirements, the healthiest food options available, the right amount of food to feed, and some proven ways to make your picky betta eat.
What Should You Feed To Betta Fish?
As a staple food, you can feed your betta high-quality pellets or flakes high in crude protein. Live, frozen or freeze-dried food such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia should be offered as a treat (1-2 times a week) or used in daily feeding routine.
Offering a varied diet or rotating between at least two to three food items will keep your fish happy.
Betta Fish Dietary Requirement
Also known as, Siamese fighting fish, bettas are carnivores (technically insectivores) and should be fed a high-protein meaty diet.
In the wild, betta fish mainly eat insects and small invertebrates. In captivity, you can feed them a variety of commercially available betta food, such as pellets, flakes, and frozen or freeze-dried foods.
If you have access to live food, there is nothing better than that because this is what fish eats in nature and is tremendously beneficial.
A Varied Diet Is The Key
Although high-quality staple pellets provide complete and balanced nutrition, food variety can improve your betta’s health, coloration, and well-being.
Being a notoriously picky eater, betta prefers a varied diet. It keeps them happy, stimulated, and satisfied.
For example, pellet feeding can be substituted with live or frozen food such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, or other insects for 1-2 days per week.
Healthiest Food Options For Betta Fish
As you may know, there are different types of betta food available in the market. What you choose for your fish should depend on your budget, accessibility, and your betta’s preference.
Betta Pellets Or Flakes
Betta pellets and flakes are the most common and easily available food.
To be nutritionally complete and balanced, you need high-quality pellets/flakes specifically formulated for betta fish with at least 30% crude protein.
NOTE: Avoid cheap brands because they are high in fillers and contain artificial ingredients, which can cause excess bloat and digestive issues.
Pellets are usually larger and heavier and tend to sink to the bottom, while flakes float at the surface.
But do you know most fish keepers prefer pellets over flake food? Here is why:
- Pellets contain fewer fillers and are more nutritious than flakes.
- Pellets don’t dissolve in water as rapidly as flakes do, which creates a mess causing water quality issues.
- Pellets have a longer shelf life enabling you to buy in bulk and save some money.
- Pellets are easier to easy to portion. You can count how many of them your fish eat per meal.
How to feed?
Some betta fish pellets expand when exposed to the water. So if a fish eats them instantly, they’ll expand in the fish’s stomach and cause bloating or indigestion. Therefore, such pellets must be presoaked before feeding.
Best betta fish pellets to buy:
- Omega One Betta Buffet
- Hikari Betta Bio-Gold Baby Pellets
- NorthFin Betta Bits
- New Life Spectrum Small Pellets
Best betta fish flakes to buy:
Live Betta Food
Live insects are the most nutritionally rich food you can feed your betta. Your fish can live purely on a live food diet. However, as beneficial as this food source is, it comes with some limitations.
Firstly, live food has a certain time limit before it must be used, or the insect may die or spoil. Secondly, if you are not farming your own supply, it can get quite expensive to outsource live food as your betta’s main diet.
Lastly, live insects may carry parasites or other pathogens, which can cause disease and even risk your fish’s life. To prevent any mishappening, always source your live food from reputable suppliers. Also, never feed your betta anything you have caught outdoors.
Following are the best live food options for betta fish. Some of these can be hand fed, while others are best left in the aquarium for your betta to chase and hunt down.
- Live worms – black worms, grindal worms, and white worms
- Mosquito Larvae
- Brine Shrimp
- Daphnia Fruit Flies
- Wingless Fruit Flies
- Vinegar eels
- Fairy Shrimp
- Mysis Shrimp
Frozen Betta Food
After live foods, frozen foods are the next closest thing to what fish would typically eat in the wild. Most live food varieties are often available in the form of frozen food, making it a great alternative food source for bettas.
Frozen foods can be stored for an extended time, which gives them an advantage over live foods.
Never leave frozen food at room temperature for more than 30 minutes, or it may start to spoil and stink. Once it’s been thawed, you should not try to refreeze it because, by this time, the food might have triggered bacteria growth or got contaminated.
To avoid frozen food wastage, always portion out the required amount during routine feeding and put the rest back into the refrigerator.
How to feed frozen food to betta fish?
- The most convenient way is to throw a cube (or a piece from it) directly into the tank. The frozen cube will start thawing, allowing the fish to nibble.
- For mess-free feeding, you can put the cube into a worm feeder cone. It provides a slow food release, preventing the fastest eaters from gobbling on the whole thing, and also helps you monitor the food intake.
- Some people prefer to defrost the cubes in a small jar of tank water, let it thaw for a few minutes, and then feed the liquid from a pipette or turkey baster.
Here are different types of frozen foods you can include in your betta fish diet:
- Frozen bloodworms (Hikari brand makes the highest quality bloodworms)
- Frozen brine shrimp
- Frozen mysis shrimp
- Frozen black mosquito larvae
Contrary to the popular claim, freeze-dried foods offer more or less similar nutritional value as frozen foods.
Freeze-dried foods are lightweight and tend to float on the surface. Unlike frozen foods, they are free of bacteria and parasites, relatively inexpensive, don’t require freezing, are easy to portion for right-sized feedings, and can be easily removed from the tank.
Although relatively inexpensive and readily available, freeze-dried foods should not be used as the main food in your betta fish diet, mainly due to indigestible fillers and lack of moisture.
How to feed?
Freeze-dried foods are made by removing 98% of the water content. Therefore, the food must be presoaked in the tank water before feeding.
Rehydrating the freeze-dried food before it reaches your betta’s mouth keeps it from expanding in the fish’s stomach, reducing the chances of bloating and constipation.
Here are some popular freeze-dried foods for betta fish:
- Tetra Freeze-Dried Bloodworms
- Omega One Freeze-Dried Brine Shrimp
- San Franciso Bay Brands Freeze-Dried Mysis Shrimp
- Hikari Freeze-Dried Daphnia
- Hikari Freeze-Dried Tubifex Worms
How Much To Feed Your Betta Fish (And How Often)?
If you came here expecting us to give you exact numbers for the pellets you should feed your bettas, then we have to disappoint you.
Betta pellets come in different sizes with varied nutritional values; some swell more than others. Therefore, suggesting “a fixed number” of pellets to feed makes no sense.
Another piece of advice you might have heard is to feed your betta whatever food it can eat in 3-5 minutes, which is not useful. Every betta fish is different. Some are fast eaters, while some like to take their time.
Moreover, you will be surprised if you witness how much food a hungry betta can chow down in 2 minutes.
So now, as we have busted the common myths and got them out of our way, here’s the answer you’ve been waiting for:
As a rule of thumb, a betta fish can be fed an amount of food equal to the size of its eyeball, twice a day.
This rule originates from the belief that a betta’s stomach is roughly the size of its eyeball. Now, whether this is scientifically correct is debatable.
Trial and Error With Food Portions
The above rule should serve as a guideline for beginners rather than as the definitive rule which cannot be altered.
You are allowed to test with different food portion sizes and use your judgment to determine your betta’s appetite. You don’t want your fish to be overfed, but you’d also not like to have an underfed and malnourished betta.
The only way you will ever find out the amount of food it actually takes for your betta fish to be completely satiated is by trial and error.
Ideally, betta fish have slightly rounded abdomens. After a meal, if your fish’s stomach looks too swollen and remains the same until the next meal, consider decreasing the portion size. On the other hand, if your betta looks weak and has a sunken belly, you should increase the food quantity.
What To Feed Picky Betta Fish When It’s Not Eating?
Bettas are well-known to be fussy eaters. It’s not uncommon to see a betta swallowing the food and spitting it out or blatantly ignoring it.
There can be various reasons for this behavior, and some of the common ones are given below, alongside the remedies:
- Are the pellets small enough for your betta to eat? Spitting out food is usually seen when it’s too big for the fish to eat. Betta’s little mouth can’t snap through the full-size pellets. Try chopping the food into small pieces and then drop it into the aquarium.
- You have a spoiled betta. Betta fish can get addicted to a certain type of food (such as bloodworms) and may start rejecting other foods they typically eat. Try mixing the food your betta is eating with the food he’s not, and once he starts showing interest, gradually increase the food portion you want the fish to eat. If that doesn’t work, fast your betta for a day or two (or more if required). Eventually, he will get hungry and start eating whatever you feed.
- Try soaking your betta pellets in garlic water or Seachem Garlic Guard to make them more appealing for your fish.
- Betta prefers variety in their diet. If you’re feeding your fish the same food for every meal, then it’s probably why he’s not eating. Try offering different food or get Fluval Bug Bites – betta loves it.
- Your betta might want a moving target. Possibly, your fish is tired of being fed and wants the fun of chasing and hunting down its prey. Get your pet some brine shrimp.
What To Feed Betta Fry?
Betta fry will feed on anything that is moving and smaller than them.
Infusoria and tiny free-living nematodes such as Vinegar Eels, Microworms, Banana Worms, Walter Worms, baby Brine Shrimp, Daphnia, Fairy Shrimp, and Grindal Worms are all great fry food.
Baby fries should be fed several small meals rather than a few big servings. Feeding the betta fry 4 to 5 times a day will result in optimal growth.
Can betta fish eat tropical fish food?
Unlike most tropical fish that are omnivores, bettas are carnivores and require more meaty protein content in their food. Therefore, feeding tropical fish food to bettas may not be the best choice.
Can betta fish eat vegetables?
Plant-based food isn’t a natural diet of bettas, so it’s not mandatory. However, occasionally you can treat your bettas with fibrous vegetables such as blanched peas, corn, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, etc.
How to know if you are overfeeding your betta fish?
Common signs of overfeeding include a distended belly, digestive issues, or fish having problems staying buoyant after meals (turns vertically in the water or head drops down or turns up out of control).
What time should I feed my betta fish?
Ideally, fish should be fed in the morning and evening. At what time, it’s up to you, whatever suits you best. However, make sure there is not much time lag in the feeding schedule. Feeding fish at random times acts as a stressor and may disrupt their interrenal clock.
Although extremely finicky, bettas have an appetite for just about anything, making it easy to feed these small freshwater fish.
With the different food options shared above, you should know what to feed your betta fish to assist optimal growth and well-being.