Betta owners often wonder what can and cannot be fed to their royal fish.
Bettas are weird when it comes to food. On one hand, they will eat just about anything (especially things they are not “supposed” to), and on the other, they can be really picky.
So in this article, let’s look at what bettas will or will not swallow, starting with their favorite gourmet food at the top and going downhill from there (down to the “I’m gonna puke” food).
Bettas are funny because when you feed them something they don’t like, they have that look (yeah, you know, THAT one) on their faces, kinda like saying: “You expect me to eat “that” ????”.
They can be real snobs. However, if you give them something they love then they just gobble everything up with such enthusiasm and will continue doing so until they turn into little balloons. I often tenderly refer to them as my “little finned piglets”
Best Food for Betta Fish
Let’s start with the food that your betta fish is going to love (in the given order)
Mosquito Larva (Hard to Find)
This, my friend, is the real true betta food. Bettas eat tones of them in the rice paddies of Thailand, so it is a great choice of food.
One slight tiny problem though: finding the damn things.
I don’t have mosquito larva where I live (but I guess Florida residents might have better luck).
I hate mosquitoes, so I don’t mind not finding their larvas floating about in my water. In short, unless you have them pesky little insects around, you won’t be able to get larva to your bettas.
Be careful also to not harvest from dirty water (where bacteria might be flourishing), so you don’t bring diseases back into your tank.
Live Brine Shrimp (Occasional Treat)
Bettas love feeding on live brine shrimp, but they also cost more than regular fish food. If you can, go for it.
You can buy them at your local fish store or from online stores such as Amazon or Chewy, and your bettas will love you forever.
Also, don’t use it as an everyday food. It’s a treat and you should give it to your betta in moderation.
Live Worms (Betta Loves it, but Try to Avoid it)
Betta loves live worms (brown worms, blood worms) and you can easily find these in your local pet shop.
Although the pet shop may tell you that the live worms are clean and ready to be fed to the betta, you should still thoroughly clean the worms before using them.
In my experience, feeding live worms often lead to a higher rate of dropsy in the fish tank. So you need to make sure that all the worms you feed to betta are clean of any bacteria and parasite
To wash live worms, dump them into a brine shrimp net and let cold water run on them. Rinse them for a good one minute.
Brown worms need to be stored in a container, with only enough water to cover their bodies (no more) and placed in your refrigerator. You should open the container daily and rinse the worms, whether you intend to use them or not.
If you cannot do all the above, then don’t bother with live brown worms, because they will be so unsanitary they will IMMEDIATELY give your fish diseases.
Live worms are also a rich diet and need to be balanced with other foods. This is however a great food to condition your bettas for breeding.
Frozen live food
This is one of the “once live but now dead” food that bettas will love eating.
It is more expensive but cleaner and less yucky to manipulate than live food. Freeze it and it will keep for a long time (unlike live food).
Unfreeze small portions and feed them to your bettas.
One warning though, I believe there is a correlation between frozen foods and parasites, especially ich. Therefore, if you are feeding frozen food, remember to add AQUARISOL to your water to prevent ich.
Also, if anyone tells you that freezing the worms kills all the germs, then they don’t know what they are talking about. Freezing does get rid of some bacteria, but not all.
Freeze-dried live food (the Best Option)
This is another one of the “once alive but now dead” food that bettas will eat. I highly recommend it, because unlike the above live foods, it is sterile and will not bring any diseases or parasites into your tanks.
You will mainly find two types: Freeze-dried bloodworms and freeze-dried brine shrimp.
Bettas are especially fond of the latter, while they sometimes eat the first reluctantly. I feed both to my betta fish. If you have many bettas, you might consider buying freeze-dried food in bulk, it is otherwise pretty expensive.
If you are prone to allergies, experiment with this food, I have found that myself and other breeders have a reaction to it (sneezing, temporary asthma, etc…). I use it anyway (aaAAAAA tchA!)
Be careful to not feed any freeze-dried food that is hard (overcooked if I may say) as it can cause internal damage to your bettas. Any little hard piece should be tossed pronto.
There are a few different brands of betta food out there, food that was specifically designed for bettas.
Most betta fish breeders don’t bother with them, because they are expensive and too generic. They prefer to have more control over the protein intake of our fish.
But if you are just keeping a few bettas as pets, this is not a bad option, as long as you alternate with something else every now and then.
Betta pellets are easy, just throw a few in your jar and you are done 🙂
Bettas might not want to eat pellets if they have had a chance to taste yummy foods such as brine shrimp, but it’s a good idea to alternate the food and give some treats and some easy to get done with food such as pellets.
Food Betta Can Eat But Doesn’t Like
And as I said, Betta is a picky eater. A lot of the food they want to eat is either expensive or fraught with the risk of infection/disease.
So here are some items that are safe, easy to get, and still edible Betta. They may not enjoy feeding on these, but hey – who said life is fair.
This is good for your generic tropical fish, but not for our royal highnesses. Bettas will despise you if you have the audacity to present them with flakes.
Some breeders do raise their bettas on flake and only these bettas might then accept to eat flakes throughout their adulthood.
So while Betta will not enjoy eating this, it could be the backup food in case you run out of their favorite food, or in case you want to alternate the diet a bit.
Unless starved past sanity, a betta will not eat pellets either.
Especially if they have been exposed to gourmet food such as Brine shrimps and worms.
Again, if a betta has been raised on pellets then it will eat them. Make sure to use only small size pellets, Hikari is probably what breeders use most. I personally have always had the hardest time getting my bettas to eat them.
Yeah, you know the cubes made of compressed frozen dried worms.
You can try but often you will see Betta reject it (unless they’re starving). I have tried and never had any luck with cubes. So my advice to you would be to not bother and get the food your betta actually wants to eat.
How often to Feed Your Betta Fish
I recommend feeding your adult bettas once a day and your fries twice a day.
If you really have nothing better to do, then you could also feed your adults twice a day, but cut the quantity of feed in half. You don’t want obese bettas, now, do you?
How Much to Feed your Betta Fish
People think they have to feed their bettas until they explode, and that bettas will get big and strong that way.
More than likely what will happen is that the bettas will not eat all the food, the uneaten food will rot in the jars/tanks, polluting the water, and bacteria will promptly flourish in such an environment.
In turns, the bacteria will attack the bettas, which will become sick.
So rule number one in betta feeding is DON’T OVERFEED!!!
Feed as much as your betta can eat in 2 mn, and no more.
Try to achieve a softly rounded belly. Your betta should not look pregnant.
On the other hand, If your betta’s belly looks “hollow” or too flat, then you are either not feeding them enough, or they a bacterial infection causing them to waste away (or internal parasites).
To illustrate this “softly rounded belly” concept, I have picked the following four photos. Please look at the area right were the ventrals start (inside the red circle):
Perfectly Fed Betta (with a soft round belly)
A little overfed (almost too much food)
This One is Clearly Overfed
And this one is out of control
Betta is not your regular run of the mill fish that can be fed anything. They are picky and they will let you know if they hate the food you give them.
A mixed diet of frozen dried food and pellets designed specifically for Betta should do the trick.