Betta Fish Not Eating – Reasons, Solutions, And Tips

Betta fish are the second most popular pet fish species after the traditional goldfish. So, if your beautiful betta suddenly stops eating, you want to know why. Well, if your fishy friend just got picky about his favorite snack, you’re in the right place to find out why!

What do you do if your betta fish is not eating? Is your betta sick or just fussy? Are all bettas picky eaters?

Keep reading to find out what to do when your betta fish won’t eat.

Some Bettas Are Picky Eaters

In the wild environment, bettas feed on live prey such as small worms, insect larvae, and water-bound insects, as well as a small amount of plant matter. Although all bettas are individuals, a common reason for a fish to stop eating is simply that a diet of pellets is boring!

Even though high-quality betta pellets contain all the nutrients your pet needs to thrive, they may taste bland. In fact, some bettas don’t even recognize pellets as food at all! Check the expiry date on your betta’s tub of pellets. Perhaps you need to open a fresh packet of food for your pet!

Often, making a betta’s diet more interesting and similar to his live diet is the solution to the problem. Try introducing frozen or live bloodworms; that often does the trick.

Food Is Frozen/Freeze-dried

So, although bettas do enjoy frozen or freeze-dried meaty foods, you need to soak or thaw the food completely before you offer it to your pet. Put yourself in your betta’s position. If I offered you a frozen steak, would you eat it? Of course not! And it’s the same principle when it comes to feeding your betta fish.

Also, freeze-dried foods swell once they come into contact with water. That can make your betta feel bloated and can cause constipation. So, put frozen and freeze-dried foods into some tank water to completely rehydrate them before you feed them to your fish.  

The Food Is Poor Quality/Not Giving Him A Balanced Diet

Bettas need a balanced, correct diet that contains lots of meaty protein, as well as fiber and some plant matter. So, if you expect your betta to thrive on cheap, poor-quality food that’s stuffed with padding and contains very little meat from whole sources, that won’t happen!

Always buy the best betta food you can afford. Your pet’s diet is not something you can’t skimp on! It’s helpful to balance the diet by mixing live or frozen food with high-quality pellets. That usually keeps bettas interested and eating well.

He Doesn’t Know It’s Food

Woman feeding beta fish in aquarium at home.

When you first get your betta home, you won’t know what he’s been used to eating in the fish store or in the breeder’s tank. If the betta isn’t used to being fed pellets and flakes, he probably doesn’t realize that what you’re offering him is actually food.

Try switching the diet to a mix of frozen and live food, mixed with pellets until the penny drops and your fish starts eating properly. 

Don’t panic if your betta is still reluctant to eat. It can take up to a week for a fussy fish to take unfamiliar foods. Any food that hasn’t been eaten within five minutes will probably fall to the bottom of the tank. You’ll need to remove it with an aquarium vacuum before the food has a chance to decompose and pollute the water.

Overfeeding

Did you know that your betta’s stomach is just about the size of his eye?

Now, look at the size of a betta pellet or a large bloodworm, and you can see right away how little it takes to fill your betta’s belly. Ideally, you should feed your betta only four to six pellets twice every day, or the same in freeze-dried or frozen food. Any more than that, and you risk overfeeding your fish, which could be why he isn’t hungry.

Overfeeding also causes health problems such as constipation, bloat, and issues with the fish’s swim bladder. Also, excess uneaten food will rot and pollute your tank water.

A Change In Your Betta’s Environment

Bettas are sensitive souls that can get stressed by changes to their environment. Stress will cause your fish to stop eating, so it’s important to keep your pet’s habitat stable.

Temperature Changes

Your betta comes from a warm tropical environment, preferring water between 74°- 82°F or thereabouts. If the temperature is too low, the fish’s digestive system slows down. That means that the betta won’t digest his food properly, potentially leading to constipation. Cold water also causes temperature shock and stress, both of which will kill the betta’s appetite.

Even if you keep your betta tank in a warm room, you still need a heater with a thermostat so that you can maintain the aquarium water at a consistent, stable temperature. If the water is on the cool side, you should find that your fish begins eating again once you’ve warmed the tank to the correct levels for your pet.

Water-Quality Changes

Female betta fish swimming

If the water in your betta’s tank is dirty and polluted, the levels of nitrates will be high. That’s a potentially very dangerous situation that will certainly stop your betta from eating and might even kill him.

In new tanks that haven’t cycled properly, ammonia levels can quickly become dangerously high very quickly if you introduce your new fish too soon. 

So, be sure to perform weekly 15% to 20% water changes, vacuuming the substrate to remove uneaten food, fish waste, and decomposing plant matter. You must also test the water in the tank every week to make sure that the levels of ammonia and nitrite are zero and nitrates are 20ppm or less.

Stress and Illness

Stress is very dangerous to fish. When a fish is stressed, its immune system is weakened, leaving the fish vulnerable to attack by various parasites and bacteria that can be present in the tank. Common causes of stress for bettas include:

  • Overcrowding
  • Unsuitable tank mates
  • Environmental changes
  • Not enough cover or hiding places in the aquarium
  • Too much bright lighting
  • Too much activity around the tank
  • Dirty water

If you take steps to remove or correct whatever is causing your betta to get stressed, he should start eating again. 

One of the first signs of illness is a lack of appetite. So, if your betta stops eating, observe him carefully for any symptoms of a disease, such as laying at the bottom of the tank. Common illnesses affecting bettas include Ich, Velvet, Swim Bladder Disorder, and Fin Rot. Various parasites can also attack bettas, including flukes, anchor worms, and fish lice. Research any symptoms carefully and treat the disease or parasite accordingly. Once your betta is on the road to recovery, he should start eating again.

You Have A New Betta

When you first get your betta home, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t eat at first. 

Often, a betta will be stressed from the move and finding himself in an unfamiliar environment. That’s especially true if you bought your betta online and he’s been shipped across great distances, rather than just traveling from your local fish shop. Maybe your betta is suffering from jetlag?

Pro Tip 

Usually, all you need to do is allow your pet some time to settle in. Leave the lights off for a few days and feed your fish in the evening and morning. Remove the food after five to ten minutes if he doesn’t eat it.s densely stocked.

You Spoiled It

Although it sounds odd, it is possible to spoil your betta fish. That might not be entirely your fault, as many breeders and some pet stores feed juvenile bettas high-protein foods, such as live bloodworms and frozen meaty proteins. A high-quality diet like that helps to bring the fish into prime condition and color, ready for sale. 

So, even though your new finned friend looks great, he might be accustomed to a five-star diet, and anything less is simply not good enough! If that’s the case, you’re going to need to dig deep and splash your cash on the luxury food your new pet is used to.

It’s Breeding Season For Your Betta

When bettas are in breeding condition, they can go off their food.

Male bettas build bubble nests in the corner of the tank or underneath floating plants and broad leaves. Your betta will defend and guard his nest against any fish that get too close. That behavior can happen even if there are no female bettas present in the tank and is a perfectly natural thing that you shouldn’t get concerned about.

However, sometimes male bettas get so preoccupied with building their nest that they stop eating. You might see your fish hanging around underneath the nest, waiting hopefully for a female to swim by. Luckily, it’s relatively simple to break the cycle and get your lonely male betta buddy eating again.

  • Remove the nest
  • Add a couple of female bettas to the tank

However, depending on your betta’s temperament, adding a female to the mix can be fraught with danger and can result in very aggressive behavior from the male. So, unless you’re an experienced aquarist, I recommend removing the nest.

The Best Solutions To Try

Here are a few solutions that are often effective in getting your betta eating again.

Wait It Out

It’s actually quite beneficial to starve your betta for one day per week. Fasting for 24 to 48 hours allows the betta’s digestive system to process any food that’s still passing through and helps to prevent the blockages that can occur as the result of overfeeding. 

So, if your fish is reluctant to eat but appears active and healthy, try withdrawing food for a day or so. Then, offer your fish something super-tasty and tempting, such as some live daphnia, brine shrimp, or bloodworms, provided that you can get them from a reliable source.

Bettas can survive for up to ten days without eating, although we don’t recommend that you wait for that long without taking some course of action to get your fish eating again.

Try Feeding Other Foods

As previously mentioned, bettas can get bored with eating pellets and flakes. Often, all that’s needed to perk up your pet’s appetite is a bit more variety in his diet. So, instead of feeding pellets twice a day, swap one pellet feed for some frozen, rehydrated freeze-dried bloodworms or live food

Unsatisfied with Environment

Bettas are intelligent fish and can quickly become bored and unhappy if kept in a tank without decorations. 

Your betta needs places to rest and hide, as well as plenty of rocks, driftwood, and plants to explore and patrol as a territory, so be sure to provide that for your pet. You should also add some toys to the tank and make time for interactive play or training sessions with your betta.

Although bettas are highly territorial and will fight with other male bettas, which is why you should never keep two males together or within sight of each other, these fish do enjoy some company.

Choose a few peaceful tank mates to keep your betta company. Even shrimp and snails are a great idea for your betta, and they can also work for you as a useful cleanup crew, removing uneaten food, fish waste, and plant debris from the substrate.

Check the Water 

Finally, you must remember to check the water in your betta’s tank regularly.

Bettas can be very sensitive to water quality, especially to high levels of nitrates and a temperature that’s too low or high. Invest in a good quality aquarium water testing kit and check the water each week to make sure that ammonia and nitrite levels are zero and nitrates are below 20ppm.

The water temperature should be a stable 74°- 82°F.

In Summary

I hope you found this article helpful. If you enjoyed it, please share!

Bettas can be picky eaters for a few reasons, as outlined above. If your betta stops eating suddenly and for no apparent reason, he could be sick, or you might be overfeeding him. Some bettas get bored with a diet that consists exclusively of pellets or flakes. Try mixing up your betta’s food by adding live, freeze-dried, or frozen food to perk up his interest.

What’s your betta’s favorite snack? Tell us about your fishy friend in the comments box below!

Alison Page has been an avid fish keeper for over 35 years and has owned many different species of freshwater tropical fish including bettas. Currently Alison has two large freshwater tanks. The first tank has two huge fancy goldfish who are almost ten years old and still looking as good as ever. In the other, she has a happy community of tiger barbs, green tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, platys, and mollies.

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