Help My Betta Fish Is Not Eating
I was so happy when I brought home my first Betta fish. I had carefully set up the tank and picked out a beautiful red Betta to call my own.
After a few days, though, I noticed that my Betta hadn’t been eating and I was starting to worry. It turns out, there are several reasons why your Betta fish won’t eat including:
- Betta’s are picky eaters
- Water conditions
- Environment changes
Though sickness is not usually the cause of a Betta losing its appetite, it’s still a possibility, so we’ll take a closer look at why your Betta fish is not eating, how to tell if it’s due to illness, and what you can do about it.
Most Common Reasons Your Betta Fish Won’t Eat
First, we need to take a deeper look into each reason why your Betta fish won’t eat. Once we have figured out what the problem is we will discuss some tactics to get your Betta eating again.
Betta’s Are Picky Eaters
People are often surprised to find that Bettas can actually be picky eaters. Bettas are carnivorous by nature, and some pet stores will feed them high-quality pellets or even frozen or live daphnia and brine worms.
Once Bettas get used to eating the good stuff, they often don’t want to settle for the standard food flakes or pellets that you may be trying to give them at home.
Another reason your Betta may not be eating is simply that it might be full. Betta’s stomachs are about the size of one of their eyes, so they really don’t need to eat a lot of food, and the amount of food they do need can be quickly consumed when you’re not looking. Certain tank conditions can lead to overeating, but for the most part, if a Betta doesn’t need to eat, then it won’t.
So while it may look like your Betta isn’t eating, it’s possible you’re just overfeeding it and it’s eating the comparatively small amount it needs when you’re not looking.
Bettas are tropical fish and prefer their water to be between 78 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a heater for your tank, or you don’t keep the room temperature warm enough, then it might get cold enough that your Betta will start to feel sluggish. This will affect its appetite and cause it to stop eating.
Conversely, if the water is too warm, Bettas are likely to be more active and will eat more. However, this can actually cause them to eat too much – especially if you’re overfeeding them – which can lead to bloating. If a Betta starts to get bloated, it will stop eating food for a few days.
Bettas might also stop eating if the water is too dirty. These fish are surprisingly sensitive to their environment, and dirty water might be enough to cause it to stop eating out of stress.
Since Bettas are so sensitive to their environment, they can become easily upset and stressed if something changes. This includes adding or removing tank decorations, moving the tank to a new room, or placing them in a new tank (which is what was happening with my Betta).
Unfortunately, Bettas can get sick which can sometimes lead to a loss of appetite. Since Bettas are so easily stressed, they may stop eating because they are uncomfortable, even if the illness itself doesn’t directly interfere with digestion or appetite.
Some of the common diseases Bettas can develop are fin rot, constipation, parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infections, and swim bladder disease.
How to Get Your Betta Fish Eating Again
Once you have diagnosed what the problem is, it is time to get your Betta fish eating again.
Dealing with Illness
Step 1: Identification – You should start by looking for signs of illness like:
- Swollen abdomen
- Lack of waste in the water
- Spitting out food
- Trouble swimming
Step 2: Diagnosis & Treatment – Fin rot is a bacterial infection that will eat away at your Betta’s fins and can spread to its whole body if left untreated. This illness needs to be stopped as soon as possible and is often treated by changing out the water and dosing the fish with tetracycline.
Swim bladder disease is another bacterial infection and can affect your fish’s ability to swim upright or at the top or bottom of its tank. If you notice this happening, move your Betta into a swallow tank with a few inches of water above its top fin. Treat the water with an antibiotic and change it daily until your Betta recovers.
Ick and velvet are parasitic infections that are characterized by small white cysts or a grayish coating that shows up along a fish’s body. These can be treated by medicating the water and heating it to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat will cause the parasites to detach and the medicated water will kill them.
Fungal infections can set in if your Betta’s slime coat has been damaged and will look like cotton growing along its body. This can be treated by adding a fungicide to the tank and spot treating with methylene blue or gentian violet as needed.
Constipation can occur if you’ve been overfeeding your fish. If this happens, they will often stop eating and making waste and can become bloated. Fasting your fish for a few days will help, and you can also feed it a single pea peeled and cut into small pieces. The fiber will help get the digestive system working properly again.
Change the Water
Most diseases can be prevented by changing your Betta’s water frequently. Since dirty water can also stress out your Betta and cause it to stop eating, frequent water changes to maintain a clean and healthy environment are one of the best ways to get your Betta eating again.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but Bettas can survive up to two weeks without food. If your Betta stops eating because it’s full, bloated, constipated, or stressed by its environment, giving it a break for a few days can give its system time to regulate and realize it wants food. This can also help if your Betta is becoming a picky eater and you don’t want to change its food.
Fasting your fish can help it get over its pickiness, but it might be a better idea to switch to more nutritious and appealing food. This will keep your Betta happy and healthy longer.
Some of the best food for Bettas are:
- Omega One Betta Buffet Flakes
- Ocean Nutrition Atison’s Betta Food
- Brine Worms
Daphina and worm varieties can be bought fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried. Fresh food has the most nutritional value but can be hard to find or keep alive and is generally the most expensive option. Frozen food is usually cheaper and easier than live varieties and is only slightly less nutritious.
Freeze-dried food is the least nutritious of the three options, but still healthier than pellets or flakes and is often the cheapest of the three.
If you notice your Betta fish not eating, your immediate reaction may be to panic. Fortunately, most causes of appetite loss are easily identifiable and can be fixed by keeping a clean environment, fasting your fish for a few days, buying better food, and diagnosing and treating an illness if necessary.
As long as you keep an eye on your fish and keep trying till it starts eating again, your colorful friend should be just fine in no time.