What to Feed Betta Fish?

What to Feed Betta Fish?

In order for something to be classified as “living”, it has to consume and use resources. For animals, the resources they use include food. No living thing can live without food, and since food can range from wood (something many animals cannot digest) to insects, to plants, it is important to feed your fish the right food. Otherwise, it will not be able to digest and use its resource, which could result in its death.

In terms of feeding betta fish, the best place to start is with a staple food of some kind. While it is possible to make your own, we will discuss commercial food here, as it is the easiest type of food for beginners to obtain and understand. However, one staple food, or even two, is not enough for betta fish. They also need supplementary types of food in order to get all of the nutrition they need to thrive.

In this article, we will discuss staple food, supplementary food, live food, feeding bettas in community tanks, and bloat from constipation.

Staple Food

A staple food refers to a commercial (or homemade) pellet or flake that contains several different types of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Be sure to get a food specifically for bettas, as they require more protein than other fish.

If you look at the food container, the first several ingredients should be various protein sources, normally other types of fish. Don’t get worried about cannibalism, it is generally only considered cannibalism if one species eats another of its kind.

If a fish eats another fish, this is the same as a mammal, such as us, eating another mammal, such as a pig, cow, or rabbit. That being said, betta fish do not normally eat other fish in the wild, due to their small size. They may occasionally snack on fry, but fish protein is not ideal for them.

Normally, you will find that wild bettas eat insects. They eat plenty of insect larvae, drowning bugs, and bugs resting on the surface. In addition, they eat small freshwater crustaceans and aquatic worms.

The best type of food for bettas is a staple food based around bugs. One such food is Bug Bites, but there are several other brands available as well. You should have at least two or three staple foods to feed your fish, but they don’t have to be bug based.

Supplementary Food

On top of the nutrients found in the staple food you feed your betta, there are other micronutrients they need that aren’t found in normal food. The most common addition to a betta’s diet is a type of bloodworm.

Freeze dried bloodworms are commonly fed to bettas, but the process of freeze-drying extracts most of the nutrients and makes the product difficult for bettas to digest. They can also expand inside of a betta’s stomach, which can cause bloat and similar health concerns.

Frozen bloodworms and bloodworm cubes are also popular choices and are much healthier than freeze-dried food. Since bettas are small and cannot consume anywhere near the amount of food in a cube, you should cut it up while it’s still frozen.

Bloodworms are not worms but are midge fly larvae. These larvae are extremely fatty, as are most supplemental foods, so supplemental foods should only be fed once or twice a week.

The best supplemental food is live food, but since most areas do not have access to this, frozen food is a great replacement. Unlike freeze drying, simple freezing retains most of the nutrition in food.

Brine shrimp, daphnia, blackworms, and tubifex worms are other common types of frozen food you may be able to find at the local pet store. Some of these, mainly tubifex worms, normally have parasites, so buying frozen tubifex worms eliminates the possibility of your fish getting sick from these worms.

Live Food

Bettas absolutely love live food. They love chasing down their food, and the addition of live food often leads to your fish becoming much more active and lively. The only live food that I’ve seen bettas ignore was live baby brine shrimp, likely because they were too small.

Tubifex and California blackworms are aquatic organisms very closely related to earthworms. These are a great choice for live food, and even vacation feeders, because there is no chance of them rotting in the aquarium. In aquariums that have many hiding places and decor, I use blackworms as vacation feeders because it takes my bettas several days to hunt them all down.

Grindal and White worms are also commonly fed to bettas. Just like the aforementioned worms, they are closely related to earthworms. Unlike tubifex and blackworms, they are terrestrial worms and are cultured in the soil.

They survive only a few hours in aquariums, so if any are left over after feeding (which is rare for bettas), you need to remove them before they pollute the water. Springtails can be cultured alongside these and can also be fed to bettas, though they can jump out of the tank.

Daphnia is a small aquatic crustacean that is best cultured in “greenwater”, or water with high amounts of suspended algae. Fairy shrimp, which are essentially freshwater brine shrimp, can be cultured alongside daphnia as an added treat.

Finally, fruit flies are also fed to bettas. Both fruit flies and springtails float on the surface tension of the water, and while not all bettas are attracted to activity at this level, most are. Fruit flies are terrestrial, but cannot be cultured with springtails, grindal worms, or white worms due to their specific needs.

Feeding Bettas in Community Tanks

Keeping a betta in a community tank has always been a debated issue, and the debate is nowhere near its end. This is primarily due to the fact that the individual personality of the betta is the biggest factor in whether or not it can live with other fish.

A broader concern is feeding. Betta fish the opposite of picky eaters, but they cannot digest plant matter well at all. They are also a species prone to obesity and bloat as they do not stop eating once full.

Most of the tank mates that work with them, such as corydoras catfish, are herbivores. If a betta gets some of that plant-based food, it can easily develop bloat. In addition, since community tanks are more stressful than solitary tanks, the bloat can cause swim bladder disease as well.

Overeating is also a common cause of bloat and constipation. In turn, constipation is the most common cause of swim bladder disorder in bettas, which is luckily easily treatable. In a community tank, it is very difficult to feed the other fish without overfeeding the betta.

The best way to feed everyone is to train the betta to eat from one side of the tank. Begin to feed the betta first by dropping in flakes and pellets on one side, then put in food for the other fish. Feed the betta floating flakes and pellets, but feed the other fish sinking pellets. This will help separate out the food and eating habits of the fish.

Bloat from Constipation

Since bloat is linked to feeding, it is often very easy to fix. There is also one cause that cannot be cured, which we will also mention, but it is an incredibly rare cause for betta fish.

The first step in treating bloat is to fast your fish for three days. Don’t feed anything. The second step is to feed a laxative type of food to your betta on the morning of the fourth day. For bettas, the best food is frozen daphnia, but if this is unavailable, you can also feed a small part of a deshelled and blanched pea.

The untreatable cause is impaction. Impaction occurs when a hard and foreign object becomes lodged in the digestive tract, often the organs. This is rare to see in fish, especially bettas, but the most common cause is the substrate they swallowed.

Gravel is too large for a betta to swallow, and sand is often too small to cause impaction. Sometimes starving bettas will eat parts of plants that can become impacted, but this is a rare occurrence.

The obstruction must either be expelled or removed through surgery, but bettas are too small to receive this surgery. You can attempt to feed the betta laxative foods, but the impaction does not always come out. Even if it does come out, it can cause severe damage on the way out.

In conclusion, you should feed your betta fish two or three different types of staple foods. These foods do not need to be insect-based, but insect-based foods most closely align with a betta’s natural diet. Supplementary food should also be fed, of which you have many options, but the best types are frozen and live foods.

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