FEEDING

In the wild, bettas are strictly carnivores, having adapted their upturned mouth to feed from the surface on zooplankton and insects that they are able to catch (they are quite excellent jumpers!). Bettas do not naturally eat plant matter.

  • A betta’s stomach is roughly the size of its eye - they should be fed a portion of food the size of one eye twice a day – no more than this. Bettas are notorious for begging for food and will eat far more than they need, or is even good for them if they are allowed to. Overfeeding is very unhealthy, leads to a number of problems, and should be avoided by feeding no more than the portion listed above. In some circumstances where the fish is expending extra energy, such as a female who is preparing to breed, more food can be given. Generally, instructions to feed what the betta will eat in 3-5 minutes will lead to gross overfeeding.

In the home aquarium, bettas can be fed a variety of foods, with a greater variety providing the best nutrition. Fish fed a large variety of foods live longer lives, show brighter colors, and heal damaged fins more quickly, as nutritional deficiencies are minimized/eliminated:

Live foods

Live foods are as close to what a betta would eat naturally as possible.

  • Black worms, wingless fruit flies, grindal worms, daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, white worms and mysis shrimp are all good choices.
  • When choosing live foods, you must be very careful of the source that they come from, as they can easily carry diseases/parasites. Insects caught outside are not acceptable – only those which you have cultured yourself or purchased from a pet/aquarium store should be used.
  • Several different varieties should be fed to ensure nutritional completeness (in the same way that humans must eat a variety of foods)

Frozen foods

These are also very close to what the fish would eat in nature, being frozen versions of the live foods above.

  • Tubifex worms, brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, bloodworms, glass worms, and daphnia are all good choices.
  • Should be thawed prior to feeding
  • Frozen foods should not be thawed and then refrozen. Once thawed initially, they should be fed or discarded to avoid developing bacteria.
  • Several different varieties should be fed to ensure nutritional completeness (in the same way that humans must eat a variety of foods)
  • See our EASY FROZEN FEEDING page for tips on how to make handling frozen food simple.

Freeze dried foods

The frozen and live foods listed above can also be fed in freeze dried form.

  • An excellent, convenient alternative to live or frozen foods
  • Potential for slight nutritional loss during freeze drying process
  • Several different varieties should be fed to ensure nutritional completeness (in the same way that humans must eat a variety of foods)
  • Freeze dried foods should be soaked in a small amount of tank water for 1-10 minutes prior to feeding. Trial and error will determine the time that each different brand and type of food should be soaked for - it should be allowed to soak until expanded/rehydrated, but not for so long that it becomes waterlogged and disintegrates. As these foods are dry, they tend to expand a great deal once in water, and if they are fed to the fish dry, they will expand in their digestive tract, encouraging problems such as constipation/impaction. For a further discussion of this, see our CONSTIPATION - A COMMON PROBLEM page.

Pellets

Pellets specifically formulated for bettas can be fed but may not be best as the fish’s sole diet, as they can have some drawbacks.

  • These foods often contain fillers, such as wheat flour, which have no nutritional value for bettas.
  • The “meals” used in pellet food (i.e.: fish meal, shrimp meal) are not necessarily high quality, and thus will not compare nutritionally to live/frozen/freeze dried foods.
  • Pellets may contain additives which have no nutritional purpose for bettas, and may be harmful, such as MSG.
  • As pellets are dry, it's best to soak them in a small amount of tank water for 2-5 minutes prior to feeding. They will expand a great deal in this time, and the portion fed (the size of one betta eye) should be based on the size of the pellets once soaked, not before. Trial and error for soaking time can again be used as different brands of food will vary, and if soaked for long enough, some pellets will sink and be less appetizing to the betta, as bettas feed from the surface naturally.

The Importance of Pre-Soaking Dry Food, Illustrated

Dry betta pellets
Dry betta pellets

Above are two images of dry betta pellets, fresh from the package, as seen from two different angles. For comparison/scale purposes, we have included a Canadian nickel.

 

The pellets being used are Zoo Med Micro Floating Betta Pellets, which is a pellet that we would recommend, due to an excellent ingredient profile featuring varied sources of protien.

  • If you follow the link, above, to the manufacturer's website and information about these pellets, you will not that their maximum moisture content (as sold) is 10%
Dry pellets immediately after water is added
Dry pellets immediately after water is added

Above is the same group of pellets, again seen from two different angles. The above pictures was taken immediately after adding a few drops of tank water to help the pellets rehydrate.

Pellets after soaking in water for 5 minutes
Pellets after soaking in water for 5 minutes

Finally, from the same two angles, above are the pellets after soaking in the water for just 5 minutes. You can see that they have more than doubled in size!

 

It is this rehydrated size that betta keepers should use to judge how much to feed their fish, and dry food should NOT be fed to your fish until it has been allowed to rehydrate, as above.

Feeding Tips

Many betta owners find it beneficial to fast their bettas for one day per week. Fish can survive for several days without food, and this fasting day gives the fish’s digestive system a chance to rest and try to clear out any blockages that might be forming. In addition, some owners feed their bettas a portion of blanched pea once week as a preventative for constipation. Please visit our page titled CONSTIPATION - A COMMON PROBLEM for more information.

 

When initially brought home and placed in their new tanks, the stress of this move and of their new environment may prompt a betta not to eat for several days. This is normal, and if no signs of disease are present, should not be an immediate cause for concern. You should continue to offer food regularly (twice daily) and remove any and all uneaten food within a few minutes if the betta does not seem interested. The period of abstinence from food can last for up to 4-5 days and still be part of the bettas adjustment to their new home, though any longer than this may be a concern and a sign of something else, such as illness. See the "Acclimation" section of our BRINGING HOME BETTA page for more tips on helping a new betta relax.