Saturday, July 6, 2019

What Is the Best Food to Feed Betta Fish?

So you got your first betta fish, but there’s like a million types of foods to choose from. Which one is the best? Keep reading as I cover my top favorite foods to keep a betta fish happy and healthy!

For the first couple of betta fish I owned, I just bought a random jar of betta flakes or pellets and fed them the same thing for their entire lives. Poor things! Then I found out that there are a huge selection of goodies that betta fish can eat, and so I started buying and trying everything because nothing’s too good for my baby, right? (Seriously, I think my fish eat healthier than I do.) Anyway, to save you some time and money (and refrigerator space), let me share with you some yummy, nutritious foods that my betta fish go crazy after.

What Do Betta Fish Eat in the Wild?

Betta fish are mostly insectivores that’ll eat any bug (or bug eggs) that falls into the water, as well as zooplankton, crustaceans, etc. In the aquarium world, that means they mostly prefer protein-rich, small-sized, floating foods. Their mouths are scooped upwards and shaped for eating off the surface of the water. That’s not to say they won’t go after your catfish’s sinking algae wafers because some bettas are like little water pigs.

For me, I believe that variety is key! There’s no one magical food that contains all the nutrients and minerals a fish needs. (However, some betta fish are very picky and may not take to new foods unless you mix it together with their favorite snack and/or if you don’t feed them for a few days so they get hungry enough to try something else.) One thing to note is I would avoid any messy or microscopic foods. If you don't have any cleanup crew with your betta, then stay away from certain flake foods, powder foods for fish fry, and Repashy gel food. Many times these messy foods will get into substrate and foul up the water faster because the betta fish can’t find it or reach it.

3 Types of Betta Fish Foods

#1 Prepared Fish Food

First off, let’s talk about prepared foods. Sure, they’re not exactly the most natural-looking choice, but they’re like an all-in-one breakfast smoothie that contains lots of protein and essential vitamins. Floating betta pellets are my favorite because they’re very clean, float at the top of the water for easy access, and are great for measuring out exactly in case you have to leave instructions with a pet sitter. Some people like to pre-soak them to avoid causing bloat in their betta fish, but I usually don’t bother. A few high-quality brands that are popular right now include Hikari, Ocean Nutrition, Northfin, and New Life Spectrum. For smaller or younger bettas, try Hikari pellets because they’re very tiny in comparison to many other brands. I do not uphold to any strict rules like “only feed x number of pellets per day” since pellets can really range in size (and bettas also vary in size and activity level).

Betta fish food pellets
Betta fish food pellets (source: Alibaba)

Another prepared food I’ve tried is Fluval Bug Bites. I like the concept because they’re made out of black solder fly larva – perfect for our little insectivores. Unfortunately, the granules are tiny and sink fairly quickly, which is not ideal for most betta fish but doesn’t deter my very food-motivated betta named Soundwave. It’s kinda like enrichment for him to hunt for every fallen morsel he can find.

Quick note on prepared foods: Don’t let them expire! It could really get your fish sick, and honestly, some people say that the foods are the freshest and most nutritious within the first month to maybe six months of unpackaging them. That’s why I keep mine in the fridge and I label them with the date they were opened.

#2 Freeze-Dried Fish Food

Next up is freeze-dried foods. They're very similar to prepared foods because they’re both dry, usually come in a jar, and last a long time – but the difference is that these are whole foods that are processed a lot less and they’re generally free from bacteria and parasites (unlike live foods). I’ve only bought freeze-dried bloodworms so far, and fish go crazy for them. They float which is great, and they’re like a tasty treat to feed once a week. Other freeze-dried options include tubifex worms, brine shrimp, daphnia… really anything that is small enough to fit into their mouths. Just be careful that the smaller pieces don’t get lost and dirty the water.

freeze-dried bloodworms for betta fish
Freeze-dried bloodworms (source: Prodac)

#3 Frozen Fish Food

I really love the next category: frozen foods. They’re my second favorite thing to feed fish and would be closer to #1 if they could be easily purchased online and didn’t go bad so quickly once you thaw them. They usually come in frozen cubes or sheets. For me, one cube is way too much food for one feeding (unless you have other fish to feed), so I prefer the frozen sheets so that I can break off smaller pieces. I like to thaw them in a small plastic container with a lid, use a baby spoon to drain out any excess liquid and feed a few worms, and then refrigerate the rest for a few days. Make sure not to refreeze anything because the food may have bacterial growth. Also, don’t accidentally leave this stuff out on the counter because it’ll stink to high heaven!

My favorites are frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia. Because their exoskeletons are less digestable, daphnia and brine shrimp fed with spirulina algae are sometimes used as a "laxative" to help betta fish who are constipated or bloated.

frozen bloodworms for betta fish
Frozen bloodworm cubes (source: Alibaba)

#4 Live Foods for Fish

And then we have live foods… this should be the perfect choice, right? It’s the closest thing to what a betta splendens would eat in the wild and provides excellent enrichment, so why don’t I feed them as often? Two reasons: potential diseases and they’re a hassle to maintain. But there are plenty of people who swear by them, especially for conditioning a breeding pair or raising fry, so let’s discuss.

Common suggestions I’ve heard include: live blackworms, daphnia, microworms that you can culture, flightless fruit flies, and even pinhead crickets. Personally I’ve only fed live baby brine shrimp because I happened to be raising some baby honey gouramis, and even though they’re practically microscopic, they swim in these irresistible jerky movements and are great enrichment. My betta fish somehow caught every single one even though they’re itty-bitty.

live blackworms for fish
Live blackworms (source: NeliMartín. Der. Beef)

I’ve also tossed a few shrimp culls in my betta tank. Yes, I know that sound a little unpalatable for some people, but I knew they were disease-free, I didn’t want them breeding anymore, and Soundwave had a good ol’ time chasing them down. However, you’ll be happy to know that in his old age, he’s mellowed out a lot and has decided to graciously spare them… for now.

How Much Should I Feed My Betta Fish?

It is really easy to overfeed betta fish in captivity because they always act hungry and beg for food. I personally feed my betta once a day, six days of the week. Some people believe that fasting one day a week or more can prevent bloating, so I designate Sunday as his "day of rest." In fact, adult betta fish can go a week or so without food, so no need to get that pet sitter if you’re just gone for the weekend.

Now I don’t go by the “feed as much as they can eat in two minutes” rule because my betta can gorge himself to death in that amount of time. So, when I first got him, I started off feeding four pellets a day for a week, and then increased to five pellets the next week, and six pellets the next. You see the pattern. If my betta started getting a little on the hefty side, where his abdomen wasn’t a smooth slope but rather protruded like a pregnant belly, then I backed off by one pellet each week until he reached a healthy weight. Or you can skip a feeding or two to help re-balance him a little faster.

overfeeding a betta fish
Don't overfeed your betta fish

This system works with frozen or freeze-dried foods as well because you can start estimating about how much volume his daily portion should be. And again, if he’s getting rotund, just cut back on the amount and you should see immediate results.

Now if you have the opposite problem where he’s not eating, he may be sick so take a close look at his environment, check out his symptoms, and maybe get rid of some expired food. 😉

If you have more questions about betta fish care, I may have the perfect video about it in this playlist. Otherwise, comment below to suggest the next betta tutorial I should cover. Take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you in the next post!

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