Welcome to our betta fish feeding guide. In this in-depth article, we’ll try to answer all your questions about betta food. If we don’t, ask away in the comments.
How much to feed a betta fish
A good daily portion of food for an adult betta is about 1.8 grams, but it doesn’t have to be exact. This applies regardless of the type of food you are feeding your betta. A betta keeper is not expected to meticulously weigh out 1.8 grams of food everyday, especially when a betta is on a diet of different types of food. However, if you are unsure of the amount to feed your betta, you may like to weigh out 1.8 grams of your chosen food the first time you use it so that you get a rough approximation of what the portion size should be. Some bettas will happily consume more than 1.8 grams, and you do not need to strictly adhere to this number, but it’s a good amount (as a rule of thumb) to aim for in order to maintain the health of the fish.
When to feed a betta fish
It’s a good practice to feed a betta one whole portion once a day, or two half portions twice a day. We recommend the twice-a-day feed as it’ll keep your betta that little bit more happy and stimulated. Bettas are very intelligent compared to other fish, so if you stick to a feeding time, chances are they’ll remember it.
What to feed a betta
It’s very important to give your betta a varied diet in order to keep it happy. Bettas love live food. If it isn’t of that much inconvenience, consider substituting the pellets for live food on a daily basis. A betta can live purely on live foods but not purely on pellets. Move your betta onto live food as soon as possible — no transition phase is needed.
Pellets or flaked food?
As a beginner, it’s not a bad idea to feed bettas pellets, but most bettas tend to be fussy when it comes to flaked food. Bettas don’t tend to like flaked food because when it sits on the surface of the water it’s similar in appearance to debris. Pellets also sit on the surface of the water, but they look more like insects. In the wild, bettas sometimes eat small insects that land on the water, so naturally, pellets are more effective.
Anything between 4 to 6 pellets a day is a good amount to feed a betta. This measurement can vary as manufactures produce differently-sized pellets, so take this measurement as a rule of thumb. Aim for about 1.8 grams worth (for an adult betta) if you are unsure.
Another variable to consider is the size and age of the betta. Younger bettas will need less pellets, older bigger bettas more. When reaching the end of their life span, some bettas will start eating less as they lose their appetite, so don’t put too many pellets in the aquarium if they’re not going to eat them. The fish will either overfeed or the pellets will sink to the bottom, decompose and then cause excess waste.
Something else to take into account is your brand of fish food. Some pellets instantly sink to the bottom of the aquarium as soon as they hit the water. Most manufactures that produce specifically for bettas will create pellets that float – this will be specified on the pellet packaging. Aqua One Betta Pellets are a brand that we have been impressed with and used for our bettas.
When deciding which pellets to give your fish, it’s a good idea to look at the ingredients. They’re usually written somewhere on the food packaging. You want to make sure your betta is getting the right nutrients. Pellets manufactured specifically for bettas usually contain the right ingredients, but some pellets are known to be better than others. Look for the level of protein given in the pellets; bettas are carnivores so protein is one of the most important vitamins for them. Good pellets will actually contain dried meats like brine shrimp, krill or fish. A minimum of 30% protein is what you should aim for.
Live food usually consists of aquatic insects like bloodworm, brine shrimp and daphnia; similar to what bettas would eat in the wild, thus making live food one of the best options for your betta. Live food can be bought in three different forms: living, frozen or freeze-dried. Living or frozen foods are the best option for your fish — at least one of these will usually be sold in any good fish/pet store.
Dried or freeze-dried versions (for example, freeze-dried bloodworm) is good, but shouldn’t be used to regularly feed your betta. It lacks nutrients compared to other live foods and can cause constipation. When feeding live food to a betta, aim to give it about 1.8 grams on a daily basis.
Just to clear up any confusion about terminology: ‘Live food’ refers to the type of food, i.e. insects. This ‘live food’ is available in three different forms: living, frozen, or freeze-dried. It may seem a bit redundant referring to live food as being living, but it’s so we can easily distinguish between the three different forms, which we’ll now look at in more detail.
Giving your betta living food is a very natural, healthy option for your fish, but it can also pose a risk. Living food has a very high nutritional value and will please a betta, but some living food can carry disease. Bettas have been known to catch all kinds of diseases from it, the worst being tuberculosis (although this is a rare occurrence). Once contracted, tuberculosis is fatal for a betta.
In the same way that if you put an infected fish into an aquarium, the infection can spread to all the other fish, the same can happen with living food. Because it’s ‘living’ it can harbour disease or parasites. Living food should therefore only be purchased from a reliable source/farm. Even so, there’s no 100% guarantee that it won’t be carrying anything, so bear this in mind if you do decide to feed your betta living food.
Any professional, reliable fish store will stock their living food from a reliable farm. These aquatic insects are alive and are usually kept in watertight packaging. The insects available are usually bloodworm, brine shrimp, daphnia, etc. The alternative option is buying eggs and hatching the living food yourself. This gives you more control, but it still doesn’t guarantee that it won’t be carrying disease.
Most live food that has been frozen comes in cube form. Cubes will vary in size depending on manufacturer, but again, stick to the rule of thumb of feeding the betta 1.8grams.
Regardless of manufacturer, cubes will always be big enough that giving a whole cube to one betta is a bad idea; most cubes are way too big to be used in one go.
Instead, cut the cube into quarters. Then take one of the quarters and divide it in four — generally speaking these four parts will be small enough to be fed to the betta in one sitting. Defrost them, leave them out on a plate for about 20 minutes, then give to the betta. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s appropriate for a betta fish. A betta’s stomach is only about the size of its eyeball, so it gets full up rather quickly!
Freeze-dried food is not the same as frozen food. Frozen food is great to give to your betta, if not on a regular basis. Freeze-dried food, not so much. This is because freeze-dried food lacks important vitamins which are lost in the drying process. Because the food lacks moisture, it can absorb and expand, causing the fish to have constipation once it enters the digestive system.
If you do decide to feed your betta freeze-dried food, you should first soak it in some aquarium water with an aquatics multivitamin (or any vitamin solution for fish). An example brand is Boyd Enterprises “Vita Chem” for freshwater. As mentioned before, freeze-dried food isn’t a good regular diet for bettas as it absorbs moisture in their stomachs and expands. Also, it doesn’t tend to contain enough nutrients. By simply soaking it in this solution for about 15 minutes before feeding it to your betta it will a) pre-expand the food and b) allow it to soak in beneficial nutrients. This is a good way to feed your betta.
If your betta is a fussy eater, try soaking the freeze-dried food in a flavour enhancer too (for example Seachem’s “Garlic Guard”). This way your betta will be more likely to take the food.
Growing your Own Live Food
If you really want to give your betta a treat, you could grow your own live food. Below are instructions on how to grow bloodworm, daphnia and brine shrimp for your betta.
Bloodworm isn’t actually a worm. It sure does look like one, but it’s actually the larval form of a species of fly known as a midge. In the wild, bloodworm grow in ponds, puddles, pools or any stagnant, shaded bodies of water. The flies lay their eggs in the water, which hatch into bloodworm (the stage they are used to feed fish). Then they pupate and hatch into flies. Bloodworms are usually cultivated in netted troughs on a farm. These troughs are shaded, and contain stagnant water and natural debris to help stimulate the worm growth.
A good way of mimicking this at home is by simply filling a bucket up with natural / de-chlorinated water, then adding dead leaves / soil so it sits at the bottom of the water in the bucket. Leave the bucket in a shaded area and simply wait. Over time, midge flies should lay their eggs in the water. These eggs will then hatch into bloodworm and grow. Two to three weeks after setting up the bucket, check for the bloodworm. They’ll be ready to feed to your fish when they’re about 2 cm in length and a bright red colour. You can try picking them out by hand (bloodworm are harmless) or netting them. You can also tip the content of the bucket out into a net or sieve to try sieving them out.
Daphnia are tiny planktonic crustaceans that live in ponds and filter feed on microscopic algae and organic matter. On a farm, daphnia are usually cultivated in large, slightly-filtered troughs. To grow your own, first you’ll need to acquire some daphnia / water-flea eggs. You can usually obtain these online, or at a fish store. They’ll need to go into some sort of container, such as a bucket. Simply fill the bucket with de-chlorinated water or rainwater and leave to stand for 2 days before adding the eggs.
It shouldn’t take that long for the daphnia to grow (2 weeks, max). They’ll look like little grains of salt swimming around in the water when adult. Algae will naturally grow in the bucket for them to feed on. The hatched daphnia will breed with each other over time once hatched. Simply catch them with a net to feed them to your fish, but don’t catch all of them at once if you want them to reproduce. If you are planning on maintaining them for a long time, do an 80% water change of their container every 2 to 3 weeks.
Find a container you wish to grow your brine shrimp in: any bucket, plastic container or aquarium will do. The brine shrimp need to have aerated water, so take this into account too. The best way to aerate the water is with an air stone – you can order air pumps / air stones online, or you should be able to find one in a fish or pet store. Fill the container with de-chlorinated, treated water. You’ll need to grab some aquarium salt or salt without iodine.
For every 40ml of water, add 1.25 grams of salt. Leave this to mix and add the aerator to the container. Leave the water for 12 hours before adding the brine shrimp eggs. You can buy brine shrimp eggs online or a fish store may sell them. Once the eggs have been added to the water, it should take anything between 12 to 48 hours for the shrimp to hatch. A brine shrimp will be a fully grown adult at 6 weeks of age, but are a substantial meal for an adult betta at just 4 weeks old. Simply catch the brine shrimp you want to feed to your betta within a net, or you can just use your hand – brine shrimp are harmless.
Any betta enthusiast will hear, “Never overfeed your betta!”, or something along those lines. So, why’s it so bad? There are a few reasons why.
Bettas are greedy, they’ll eat as much food as they can get. All that’s going through their little fishy head is, “more more more”, “this might be my last meal”, “I should cram as much in as possible”. In the wild, bettas would rarely be exposed to a mass amount of food and wouldn’t necessarily eat that often, hence the constant thought to eat as much as possible should the opportunity arise. However, it would be rare for them to overfeed, and if they do it will only be on the odd occasion. If a fish consumes too much food at once, bloating, digestive blockage and constipation can occur. This isn’t necessarily problematic if it happens rarely, but it you constantly overfeed your betta it will likely make it ill.
You’ll usually be able to tell if the fish is over fed just by looking at its stomach. The fish will look disfigured as its belly will be quite bloated. It may also have trouble swimming – sometimes overfeeding can cause swim bladder disorder (SBD). If you think your fish has got SBD from overfeeding, don’t worry too much. SBD isn’t permanent, but you do need to address it.
If you feel you have overfed you betta, simply leave it to fast for a few days and allow it to digest all the food in its system. Once the symptoms seemed to have dissipated, continue normal feeding.
Constipation or digestive blockage won’t always occur due to overfeeding; it may be due to a poor diet. Dry food or food that contains very little moisture has been known to expand in a bettas digestive system and cause blockages. Of course, if you don’t feed your betta dried food too often, this is unlikely to occur. This is another good reason to give your betta live food as much as possible compared to dried food or pellets.
Feeding your Betta a Pea
One of the oldest tricks in the betta book known to combat betta SBD and constipation is to feed it a de-skinned pea. This may sound a little strange, but it’s been known to work effectively. The pea works as a laxative and clear a betta’s gut.
Simply grab a fresh pea (make sure it hasn’t been exposed to pesticides), boil it, peel the skin off, then chop it into small pieces so that they are bitesize for your betta. A betta might not always eat the pea, but keep trying until he or she does. Be sure to take any uneaten pea out of the aquarium as they can decompose and cause excess waste.
It’s worth noting that a pea doesn’t need to be a regular part of your betta’s diet and you may only wish to feed it a pea if you think the fish is constipated. It’s fine to do once, maybe twice a week, but it would be unhealthy to do it more regularly than that.
Feeding a Fry or a Young Betta
The yolk stays attached to a fry for up to 3 days after hatching. For the first 48 hours it will feed off this. After it has finished feeding off the yolk sack, it will start to hunt for food.
Newly-hatched bettas feed best on tiny aquatic creatures called infusoria. This is a living food that looks like a liquid. Living food is great for rearing hatchlings as it’s nutritious and it moves around, so it grabs the attention of the fry, making it easy for them to hunt. To feed them to the young bettas, simply remove the infusoria from the container they’re in by using a pipette or eyedropper, then squirt them near the betta fry.
Another good living food to feed the fry is microworm or even young brine shrimp. Just take into account that whatever you feed the fry, it must be bite-sized. As the fry grows, you can feed them gradually larger portions.