As fish keepers, whether amateur or experienced, keeping our fish happy and healthy is a top priority but why is my Betta fish not eating?
It is very worrying for me as a Betta owner when my Betta refuses to eat even for just one day.
I immediately envision the worst-case scenario but there are some simple explanations for why your Betta has decided not to eat.
Let’s explore these in more detail.
They Aren’t Hungry
Now, this may seem obvious but it is something to consider.
Maybe you are new to keeping fish, or Betta’s in particular, and aren’t used to how much you should be feeding.
It is important to keep in mind that these guys have tiny stomachs and only really need four to six pellets twice daily.
If you are overfeeding, your Betta will not only be reluctant to eat again but you could also be causing excessive waste in your tank water.
The biggest health concern for your Betta would be problems such as swim bladder disease or constipation, both of which you seriously want to avoid if possible!
If you are worried that you may be overfeeding, here are some tips to stop that.
The next time you go to feed your Betta, watch how they are behaving.
If you drop in 5 pellets and they only eat 1 or 2, you might want to decrease the amount you are feeding.
My other suggestion is to only feed your Betta once a day.
I feed Monty (my Betta) every morning and not again for the rest of the day.
He is then hungry enough to eat the pellets as soon as they hit the water.
The next possibility, and one of the most common reasons for a Betta’s loss of appetite, is poor water quality in their tank.
The reason this is such a common answer is due to the misinformation about what size tank a Betta should live in.
Many pet stores will lead buyers to believe that Bettas are fine in a 1 or 2-gallon tank (or worse… vases) but one of the big problems with such a small tank is that the water will become dirty very quickly.
The waste your fish excretes will cause ammonia levels to rise and if these are not sorted out, they can reach a toxic level. If your fish lives in dirty water for too long it can start having health problems.
If you want to keep your water nice and fresh, make sure to not overfeed your fish (which will make your water dirty much faster) and do partial water changes every week.
Also, having your tank fitted with the correct filter will do wonders for keeping your tank clean.
Bettas are tropical fish.
They do not appreciate cold temperatures and like to be kept between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 27 degrees Celsius).
I make sure to keep aquarium thermometers in all of my tanks so that I can check exactly what the temperature is at any time.
You ideally want to pick up temperature drops as soon as possible and then correct them.
When tank water gets too cold for a Betta’s liking, the first thing that will happen is a slowing of their digestive system.
If your Betta isn’t able to digest his food properly, he may stop eating from the discomfort.
Thankfully, if your Betta’s loss of appetite is due to a heater problem, as soon as a new heater is placed inside with the correct temperature set things should return to normal.
Stress or Illness
The fourth possibility is a lack of appetite caused by stress or illness.
First, we’ll look at some things that may be causing your Betta stress.
If your Betta is new, or maybe you’ve changed things around in their tank, the change of scenery may be what’s caused your fish to worry.
Other things could include bright lights being on too much (like us, Betta fish like to sleep in the dark), or non-compatible tank mates.
Ways to avoid environmental stress are making your Betta’s tank a calm space and offering him plenty of space to hide.
If you have ruled out stress as a cause, the problem may be illness.
This is something all fish keepers dread and the key to a successful outcome in these instances is identifying the problem as soon as possible.
Look for things like an odd swimming pattern or your fish being more lethargic than usual.
A loss of appetite is often an early indicator of a fish that isn’t feeling its best. Have a close look at their body and fins for any sores or white spots.
Does your fish look bloated?
Are they clamping their fins against their body? Identifying small things can help point you towards the problem and make it possible for you to research the symptoms presented.
He Doesn’t Know He’s Being Fed
This may seem unlikely, but if you are experiencing a new Betta fish that doesn’t have any appetite, he may not know that you’re actually feeding him.
If your fish was previously being fed a mix of frozen and freeze-dried food and you have popped flakes or pellets in his tank if he hasn’t seen those before he won’t know they are for him to eat!
Try and get his attention when you want to feed him and then lure him to the top of the tank near the glass.
Quickly drop a pellet or two in front of his nose.
He should then immediately realize that it is food and eat it.
Just remember that if you have left food in the tank for 10 minutes and it is still uneaten, take it out.
Your fish will not suddenly decide to eat it and you don’t want excess waste in your tank that will make it dirty faster.
Bettas and other carnivorous fish in the wild feed on live food that wiggles and moves which triggers a Betta’s prey instinct.
A lot of breeders only feed live food to their breeding stock to make them grow faster and to brighten their colors.
Betta fish may be refusing to eat their pellets because the meal isn’t moving or appealing enough or they are just plain picky and want what the breeder fed them.
Make sure to check the expiry date of your Betta’s food. He will definitely not appreciate being fed stale pellets.
You need to slowly introduce Betta pellets to your fish.
You can do this by feeding a little bit of frozen or live food like blood worms or brine shrimp.
Then randomly add a pellet or two to the feed.
Slowly reduce the live or frozen food until you are only feeding pellets.
As long as you mix in the pellet food every now and again, most Bettas will appreciate the variety in their diet and may even start to prefer it.
Hopefully, these tips have given you an idea as to why your Betta has lost his appetite.
Remember, skipping the occasional meal isn’t the end of the world but if your Betta has been off food for a few days then further investigation is warranted!
Want to know how long a Betta can live without food?
How do you know if your betta fish is dying?
Please read this article that I wrote about how a Betta behaves before death.
How often should betta fish be fed?
Most people feed their fish twice a day but I only feed once a day.
How do I get my betta fish to eat?
Try different types of food as most Bettas like variety in their meals.
How do you know if your betta fish is hungry?
Bettas can act like they are hungry all the time. If you are feeding him twice a day with the correct amount of pellets then he cannot be hungry. He is just trying his luck. If he is skinny and has no energy then you might want to up his food every day.