Betta Fish Not Eating: Top Reasons and Solutions

Betta Fish Staying Still
Betta Fish Staying Still

When your betta fish won’t eat, it’s both worrying and frustrating. However, it’s also an important sign that your fish could be having health issues. Relying upon expert advice from experienced betta fish keepers, this guide will better your understanding of why betta fish stop eating and how to fix it. Continue reading to learn what you should do to get your fish eating again.

Why is my betta fish not eating?

Overfeeding is the most common reason why betta fish stop eating. However, stress, sickness, water quality, and more can all cause your betta fish to not eat. Continue reading to learn more about what could be causing your betta fish not to eat.

Diet

Food for Aquarium fish
Food for Aquarium fish

Poor diet is the most likely reason why your betta fish isn’t eating. When, what, and how much you feed them can all cause your pet to lose their appetite.

Overfeeding

Overfeeding is the most common mistake beginning fish keepers make with betta fish. Betta fish have small stomachs- about the size of their eyeball- but that won’t stop them from eating everything they can. But too much food can cause their gastrointestinal (GI) tract to fill up faster than their metabolism can digest.

If you suspect overfeeding to be the reason your fish isn’t eating food, examine your betta’s stomach. It will become bloated when they’ve had too much to eat, and their stomach will appear inflated. In general, betta fish should be fed 7-8 fish pellets per day.

Expired Food

Betta food should be replaced far before the container runs empty. About every 6 months is the right time to buy new fish food. There are two reasons for this. One, most water-soluble vitamins- such as vitamin C- will be lost from the food after this 6 month period. Without these necessary vitamins, your fish’s immune system could be compromised.

Two, betta fish use their sense of smell to find food. Old food loses its strong scent and can be difficult for your betta to find. For this reason, pellets/flakes should not be kept as backup food but rather regularly repurchased every 6 months.

If you’re having a hard time remembering if it’s time to buy new fish food, take a look at the expiration date on the container. While different companies may place the expiration date in various locations depending upon packaging, it is most often stamped on the bottom of your fish food container.

Picky Eaters

Betta fish can be picky eaters, especially if you’ve just purchased yours. This is because some betta breeders will feed their fish high quality foods to ensure they grow well. Your betta fish could have become used to this diet and may temporarily be unwilling to try new food.

If you have a picky eater, continue to offer them their food, but consider encouraging them to eat with treats. Brine shrimp or freeze-dried bloodworms are excellent options for this and can easily be found at your local pet store.

Feeding your Betta Fish

Betta Swimming To Food Near Water Surface
Betta Swimming To Food Near Water Surface

Giving your betta fish a balanced diet can be a difficult endeavor. How much, when, and what you feed your fish can all affect them. Ideally, you should feed your betta fish a small amount twice a day, and their diet should be a mix of commercial fish food and live, frozen, or freeze dried food. For a more in-depth look at how to feed your betta, continue reading below.

How Much Should You Feed Your Betta?

How much you should feed your betta fish will vary depending upon their size, gender, and age. However, there are a few methods you can use to estimate how much food they should be getting. If you feed your fish pellet food, think about roughly how many pellets would fit into one of your fish’s eyeballs. This is approximately the correct amount of food for your betta fish per day.

Two, you can add food to the tank and wait 5 minutes to see how much has been eaten. As a general rule of thumb, the amount of food your fish eats within these 5 minutes is the correct amount for it. If neither of these methods appeal to you, a total of 7-8 pellets per day is a good amount for most betta fish to eat.

Never feed your betta fish more than 8 pellets in one instance. If your fish requires more than 8 pellets a day, half the required number of pellets and feed them in 2 separate instances.

TIP

Always remove leftover food from your fish tank to help prevent ammonia poisoning.

When Should you Feed your Betta?

It’s recommended that you feed your betta fish twice a day, once in the morning and evening. This will make it easier for you fish to digest food and add extra enrichment into their day. That being said, your betta fish’s dietary needs can be met with once day feedings as well. Regardless of if you feed your betta fish once or twice a day, they should receive the same total amount of food each day.

For example, if you feed your betta fish twice a day, you might give them 4 pellets in the morning and 4 in the evening. However, if you only plan to feed them once that day, you should give them 8 pellets altogether. If you plan to supplement your betta fish’s diet with treats (usually live or frozen food), these should be given no more than 1-2 times a week.

Some betta owners recommend fasting your fish for 24 hrs once every two weeks. This can allow the GI tract to clear and prevent bloating. If you do choose to fast your betta fish, it should never last more that 48 hours.

What Should You Feed Your Betta?

Betta pellets are highly recommended for your pet betta fish. While fish flake food can provide your betta with the nutrition they need, they may pose a choking hazard. Pellets will be much easier for your fish to consume.

Protein Based Diet

Bettas are a carnivorous fish meaning their food should be protein-based. When buying food, look for one that is 40% protein or higher, and avoid foods that rely heavily on fillers. Search for a food that lists a meat-based product as its first ingredient. Poor quality food may lead to your betta fish not eating.

Betta are also surface feeders meaning they are used to swimming to the top to get their food. So, make sure to get a fish food that floats.

Adding Variety

A varied diet is recommended for your betta fish. If you’d like to supplement their diet with live foods, brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, and mosquito larvae are all great options. Frozen foods such as blood worms or tubifex worms can also enrich your betta’s diet. If you do choose to feed your betta tubifex worms, make sure to get them frozen. Live ones carry a higher chance of passing along parasites to your fish.

TIP

Make sure frozen food is completely thawed, betta fish may not eat it otherwise.

Causes of Stress in Betta Fish

Close-Up Photo of a Betta Fish
Close-Up Photo of a Betta Fish

When betta fish experience elevated stress levels, they may stop eating. Other signs of stress are inactivity, loss of color, strange swimming patterns, clamped fins and excessive hiding. If your fish seems stressed, the best thing to do is continue feeding it regularly. Just make sure to remove any uneaten food from the tank. If within your control, you should also attempt to remove the stressor from your betta’s tank.

Common stressors include:

  • Tank mates
  • New environments 
  • Changing water conditions
  • Too much light
  • Lack of hiding places

Now let’s take a more in-depth look at how these factors can stress your fish out. 

Tank Mates

Both male and female bettas (especially competition betta fish) are highly territorial and aggressive. If there are too many other aquarium fish in their tank, they will become stressed and may fight with other fish. Even a single tank mate could be causing your betta fish trouble.

TIP

Never place male betta fish in the same tank. Male bettas will fight with each other.

New Environment

Even if your aquarium has the best possible conditions for your new pet fish, your betta may still get stressed out when first introduced to the tank. This will be especially true if their current environment is highly unlike their previous one. Don’t worry. It should adjust within a few weeks.

Water Conditions

If your betta’s tank’s water quality is poor, this could be stressing your fish. In fact, one of the first signs of poor water quality is that fish will stop eating. However, water conditions could still be stressing your betta fish out even if they’re within the correct parameters. If the current water quality in your tank is significantly different from your betta’s previous tank, they may need time to adjust.

Too Much Light

While betta fish do enjoy a well-lit environment, too much light in your betta’s environment will disrupt its sleep cycle. This can lead to overstimulation and stress. If you notice your betta behaving oddly, moving lethargically, or becoming increasingly aggressive along with their lack of eating, this may be a sign that they’re receiving too much light. In general, you should aim to mimic the natural light cycles of the earth. 8-10 hours of light per day should suffice.

Hiding Places

Betta fish enjoy hiding in caves and behind plants. If your tank is too small or lacks places for your betta fish to hide, they may become stressed. Consider moving them to a larger tank– at least 5 gallons- and adding decorations or plants.

Water Quality

Fish Tank Being Filled with Water
Fish Tank Being Filled with Water

Not eating is one of the first signs of poor water quality in your aquarium. This can put unnecessary stress on your fish as well as compromise their immune system. If you think this could be the issue, pull out your liquid test kit to confirm it. Once confirmed, you will likely need to perform a 50% water change. More water changes may be necessary over the next few days depending upon the severity of the problem. Here are a few quick tips to help you avoid poor water quality.

  • Use liquid test kits to regularly check your aquarium is within optimal water parameters.
  • Never use untreated tap water for water changes. Always use a water conditioner beforehand.
  • Make sure your betta is in an appropriately sized tank. 5-10 gallons is recommended.

Even if your aquarium is within the correct water parameters, they could still be the reason your fish isn’t eating. If the current water parameters are significantly different from previous ones, the change could be stressing your fish out and causing them not to eat. Continue with regular feedings and your fish should adjust within a week.

Temperature

Bettas are tropical fish who need warmer waters to thrive. When water temperatures drop below their preferred range (72-82 degrees Fahrenheit) food will tend to build up in their GI tract, and your betta will stop eating. Bettas may also grow lethargic or display clamped fins in cold water. 

To avoid this, make sure your betta’s tank has a water heater. Your local fish store should carry one that will be the right size for your tank. If your tank already has a heater, but you still think temperature could be the issue, check it with a thermometer. There’s always a possibility your equipment is malfunctioning.

Breeding

Both sexes of betta fish may stop eating while breeding. If you have a male/female betta pair, here are a few signs that your bettas are ready to breed.

  • Your male betta makes a bubble nest. A bubble nest is a collection of bubbles at the tank’s surface usually along the edges or next to solid, floating objects like leaves. 
  • Your female betta has a stripe across her back.
  • You notice a barring pattern– vertical stripes- along your female betta’s midsection.

Breeding can place extra stress upon your fish hence why they may stop eating. Males can also become extremely protective of their bubble nests and may ignore food in order to defend it. Continue to provide them with regular feedings and consider giving them treats- live or frozen foods- to encourage eating. Make sure to remove any food from the tank that hasn’t been eaten within 5 minutes.

Is my Betta Sick?

Sick Betta Fish Swimming
Sick Betta Fish Swimming

If you have a sick betta fish, it’s not uncommon for them to stop eating. If you suspect this is the case, check for other symptoms. Fin rot, color change, erratic/strange swimming patterns, gasping for air, and lethargy can all be signs that your betta is sick and should be taken to the vet. Listed below are signs and symptoms of some of the most common betta diseases.

TIP

If your fish is confirmed to be sick, it’s wise to check your betta tank for what could be causing this. Incorrect water temperature, poor diet, stress, and more can all lead to sickness.

Common Betta Diseases

Written below are some of the most common diseases a betta can experience when in a fish tank. Two more common health problems to watch out for, nitrate poisoning and fin rot, are also listed below. If you suspect your betta to have any of these fish diseases, quarantine them to prevent infection spreading to other fish in the tank.

Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladders are an organ which help bony fish- like bettas- to maintain their buoyancy. Some symptoms of swim bladder disease include:

  • sinking to the bottom/floating to the top of the tank
  • struggling to stay upright
  • swimming sideways/upside down
  • distended belly
  • loss of appetite

Since bloating can be the cause of swim bladder issues, fasting for up to 3 days is recommended. Treat with antibiotics if infection is the cause. You should also ensure your fish tank has the correct water temperature (72-82 degrees Fahrenheit) and is within the correct water parameters.

Cottonmouth Disease

Also known as Columnaris, cottonmouth disease is a bacterial infection that can cause white cotton-like clumps to form around your betta fish’s mouth, fins, and body. Symptoms include:

  • slimy mucus on head, gills, and mouth
  • dulled colors
  • frayed fins
  • skin irritation
  • gills turning brown

Treatment includes quarantining your fish and providing antibiotics. Adding aquarium salt to your tank can also help manage bacterial infections.

Ich

A parasitic disease, Ich will appear as small, white spots on your fish’s body or fins. Other symptoms include lethargy, rubbing against objects in their tank, and trouble breathing. Medicine will be required to treat this disease as well as water changes. To prevent it, always quarantine new fish before introducing them to the tank.

Velvet

Sometimes called gold dust disease, velvet is a parasitic disease that can cause your betta fish to develop orange spots. Other symptoms include labored breathing, peeling scales and clamped fins. Steps to treat it include: quarantining affected fish, raising the water temperature (slightly), removing the tank from light, maintaining proper water parameters, and performing water changes. Medicine can also be used to treat it.

Nitrate Poisoning

While a gradual increase of nitrates in your fish tank may not cause your fish to display symptoms, a sudden increase can result in death. Symptoms include:

  • Rapid gill movements
  • Disorientation
  • Betta fish laying at the bottom of the tank
  • Curling head to tail

If you suspect your fish is experiencing nitrate poisoning, immediately test the water and perform a water change.

Fin rot

Fin rot is not a disease itself but rather a symptom of a disease. Signs of fin rot include fraying along the fin/tail, inflammation, or fin edges changing color. If you believe your fish is suffering from this, further steps should be taken to determine the cause.

Why is my new betta fish not eating?

Transferring A New Betta Fish To An Aquarium
Transferring A New Betta Fish To An Aquarium

When first introduced to an unfamiliar environment, betta fish can get anxious. This stress may lead to them not eating for a bit. Don’t worry. Your fish should start eating within a few days. In the meantime, continue to feed your betta regularly making sure to remove any uneaten food from the tank. You can also try to make your tank more closely resemble your betta fish’s previous environment to reduce stress.

Water quality and temperature can also play a role in stressing your fish out. Even if you’re within the correct parameters, your fish may still get stressed if the water quality/temperature are drastically different from their previous environment. Continue with regular feedings while your fish adjusts. If this is the problem, it will eventually start eating again.

One other possibility is that your betta is not used to the food you are feeding it. Bettas can be picky eaters, especially if they’re breeder fed them a fancier diet. Try encouraging your betta to eat with special treats like brine shrimp or bloodworms.

What to do if my betta fish is not eating?

First, try to determine the reason why. Most often, diet and overfeeding are to blame. If this is the case for your fish, make modifications to when, what, and how much you feed them.

If you’re certain this isn’t the cause, test your fish tank’s water and temperature and adjust them accordingly. If your tank is within the correct water parameters, check your fish for any changes in color, damaged fins, or odd behavior. These could all be signs of sickness.

After you’ve cleared all of these potential causes from your list, it’s time to consider that stress may be the problem. Ask yourself, have I made any recent changes or introduced my betta to a new environment? Could tank mates, too much light, or not enough hiding places be the issue? If possible, remove the stressor from the tank and continue to regularly feed your fish.

A special note, some betta fish may stop eating while breeding. If this happens to your fish, continue to provide them with regular feedings. You can also give them special treats- such as frozen or live bloodworms- to encourage them to eat food.

Why is my Betta Fish not Eating and Floating Sideways?

Most likely, your betta fish is experiencing an issue with its swim bladder. Bloating, infection, a tumor, or an abdominal injury can all cause the swim bladder to malfunction. Dirty water or the wrong water temperature could also be the cause.

To fix the issue, try to determine the root of the problem. A 50% water change should be conducted if your aquarium water looks dirty. A thermometer can be used to make sure the tank’s water temperature is between 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, a heater should be installed. To reduce bloating, read this article’s section on diet to learn good feeding habits for your fish. If infection is the issue, take your fish to the vet for antibiotic treatment.

Why Is My Betta Fish Spitting Out Its Food?

In general, betta fish spitting out their food is not a cause for concern. There are plenty of reasons for a healthy betta to exhibit this behavior.

Food Size

Most likely, the food you’re feeding your betta is just too big for it to eat in one bite. By spitting it out, your betta may actually be breaking it down into smaller pieces so it’s easier to eat!

Juvenile Betta Fish

Most juvenile betta fish are fed live food, especially by breeders. So if your fish isn’t fully grown yet, it might not be used to eating fish food. Another possibility is that the pellets or flakes are too big for them to eat.

Picky Eaters

Bettas can be picky about what they eat. Continue to feed them regularly, and they should adjust to what you’re giving them.

Parasitic Infestation

While certainly the scariest reason why your fish could be spitting out its food, it’s also the least likely. Check your fish for other symptoms such as erratic swimming. If a parasite seems to be the issue, immediately quarantine your fish to prevent other fish from getting sick.

Summary

Although worrying, remedying why your betta fish isn’t eating is usually an easy fix. What’s important is that you identify the problem- diet, environment, sickness, etc. -and take the steps to improve it. With proper care, your betta fish should be back to its happy, healthy self in no time!

If you found this article helpful, make sure to share it on social media to help other betta fish owners out there!

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