There are always many anglers trying to figure out the cause of their betta fish not eating. This is not because these fish are prone to hunger strikes, it is simply because they are a popular species.
Betta fish are one of the most popular species kept in captivity, which means the struggles of one owner are likely to be shared by many others.
Fortunately, this means there are a handful of things to consider and try if your betta fish isn’t eating. All of these techniques have been tried before and work like a charm.
This guide will help you diagnose the problem and make adjustments to ensure your betta fish starts eating again and stays healthy.
keep an eye on them
Before you rush in and start making changes, it’s important to be absolutely sure that a problem exists. To some this may be obvious, but we need to include this section just to be sure.
If you suspect that your betta fish is not eating, monitor their eating behavior. We recommend doing this several times and making notes of what you see so nothing gets lost if you end up talking to a vet later.
Find out if your betta fish is not eating anything or if it is just eating a part of what you are feeding it. This is one of the most common mistakes betta owners make. They think their fish are not eating when instead they are being fed too much.
If your betta fish really isn’t eating, it’s time to think about why. One of the best ways to do this is by monitoring the details around mealtimes.
Do they go for food but back off when other fish are nearby? Are they trying it out and losing interest? These little details can go a long way later when you start testing solutions.
Consider how long it’s been going on
The length of time your betta fish will not eat will indicate the severity of the problem. If you’ve just had a meal every once in a while, it’s probably not a big deal. However, if it is consistent and regular, you have a problem.
Betta fish can be temperamental little creatures at times. This can show up in a number of ways, and skipped meals is one of them. If something has recently changed in its habitat or diet, that could be the cause of the refusal to eat.
This isn’t something you can wait forever to find out (since fish obviously need to eat), so start keeping an eye on it as soon as you realize it.
Making sure the food is ready
It may be possible to feed your betta fish the right food and still have them refuse to eat it. This can often happen if you are trying to feed them freeze-dried or frozen food.
While these are completely fine types of food to feed your betta fish (we talk about them in this care guide), they may not eat them if they are not thawed properly.
Bettas do not like to eat food that is still frozen or crisp. If you have been tossing this food in before everything has thawed and softened enough, then that could be what is causing them not to eat.
The way to fix this is to give the food a little more time before dropping it into its cage. If you want to go all out, take some water from the tank into a small container and put your frozen food in it. This will speed up the process and quickly prepare the food for consumption.
Scrutinize your diet
This step will require you to take an honest look at the quality of the food and diet you are feeding your betta fish. If your betta fish is not eating, its diet may not be meeting its basic nutritional requirements.
If this ends up being the case, it doesn’t make you a bad landlord. We all make mistakes with our care or delude ourselves into thinking that a certain product or food is better than it is. It is part of the process of keeping fish and overcoming these challenges is what makes it so rewarding.
If your betta fish is not eating due to a poor diet, the solution is relatively simple (in principle). Simply providing them with better foods and a variety of things to eat that cover all their nutritional requirements is the way to go. This might end up costing a few dollars more, but it’s worth it.
Simply refer to our recommended diet in the care guide we linked to in the previous section to see if you’re missing out. Are they getting enough protein? Is your main food source poor quality? All those questions will be answered.
could be confusion
If you purchased your betta from a breeder, this is one possibility you’ll want to consider. Since breeders want to stimulate growth at a young age, they often feed their fish a mix of live, freeze-dried, and frozen foods.
These foods have the biggest impact when it comes to nutrition and will result in a better “product” for the breeder to sell.
The trick is when you bring your betta fish home and start trying to feed them other foods (like flakes or pellets), they may not be used to it. They’ve been eating fancy things all their lives and don’t realize that these little new objects floating in the water are edible.
Fortunately, if this is the reason your betta fish isn’t eating, it will usually resolve itself. Your fish should eventually catch on to the fact that the flakes and pellets you are giving them are food and will begin to eat.
Author’s Note: Having some of your old food ready is necessary when going through this process. If your fish aren’t catching up, you may need to put in some of the old stuff to make sure they don’t starve.
Stress could be affecting them
It is not uncommon for new betta fish to go on a short hunger strike after being placed in a new home. Acclimatizing to a different tank is stressful for any fish, and this can manifest itself in a number of different ways.
Some fish become shy, others become aggressive, and some lose their appetite.
This is another cause that should resolve itself. Be patient and keep trying to feed them on a regular schedule so they begin to understand the pattern. As they get more comfortable with their new home, they should start eating again.
If your betta fish won’t eat, it’s important to remove uneaten food from their tank after it’s clear they’re not interested (give them a chance first). Uneaten food can quickly sabotage the quality of the water in your tank, leading to a host of other problems.
The water is not hot enough
Even though betta fish have a reasonable range of water temperatures in which they can function, they can’t handle everything. If the water temperature starts to drop too low, that could be causing your betta fish to avoid eating (they can also start to settle to the bottom of the tank).
Author’s Note: For reference only, the ideal temperature range for this species is between 74 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
To rule this out, you’ll probably need to bring some extra gear to check what you’re currently wearing. We operate under the assumption that you are monitoring the temperature of the water on a regular basis (something all fish owners should do).
If your current thermometer says the water temperature is within the ideal limits, it’s a good idea to make sure your equipment is calibrated correctly. Thermometers are cheap, so running out of one to use as a sanity check shouldn’t be much of a problem.
If your second thermometer shows the water temperature is lower than it should be, heat it up (duh). If you confirm that your original thermometer is accurate, you have two options.
The first option is to raise it to the upper end of the recommended range (assuming it’s not already there in the first place) and see if that helps. If that is not an option or does not work, then the water temperature is not the reason your betta fish is not eating.
Check for disease
While this is obviously not something you want to happen, a sick betta fish will often lose their appetite. This also often accompanies a general lack of energy. This makes it a bit easier to diagnose the problem (or at least make a good guess).
If your betta fish isn’t eating and you suspect they might be sick, you need to go to work. You may have accidentally introduced a disease to the tank through a new fish or object. They may not be getting enough sleep either, which will only make the problem worse.
Another possibility is poor water quality or contaminated food. Both are common causes of illness in betta fish and will regularly cause them to refuse to eat (among other things).
If you want to play it safe, taking your pet to a veterinarian who deals with fish is a great idea. They know more about the issue than you do and should be able to diagnose and help you solve the problem.
The water parameters have changed
This is another common reason your betta fish won’t eat. Fish are extremely sensitive to water parameters and this can happen in a number of ways.
Similar to temperature possibility, you’ll want to make sure you have an accurate reading of the levels in your tank. There are ideal pH levels, water hardness and ammonia are things that can have a serious impact on your fish.
The severity may vary depending on the changes. We won’t go into how to address each specific piece of the water parameter puzzle, but it is something you should take seriously.
Author’s Note: It is common for bettas that have been moved to a new tank to need a little adjustment before resuming their normal feeding pattern. This is because the water parameters will be slightly different (fish are more sensitive to this than your test equipment) in a new tank.
take them to the vet
If you’re stumped or don’t want to risk wasting time troubleshooting, it never hurts to take your fish to the vet.
A betta fish that doesn’t eat is on the clock. There is only so long they can hold a hunger strike before it ends in disaster.
If you don’t have much experience with these fish or just want to play it safe, there’s no shame in getting an expert opinion. Too often, aquarists want to try to do everything themselves and think that consulting others makes them «bad owners.»
In our opinion, the only bad owner is the one who does not do everything possible to help his pet. If you need help, get it! That’s what a vet is for.
It won’t take them long to weed out the theories and narrow down the probable cause. From there, you’ll get a course of action on how to turn things around and get your betta fish back to its normal starved state!
By now you should have a good idea of the possible reasons why a betta fish is not eating. As you can see, a lot of this comes down to gathering as much information as possible and taking action.
If your betta fish won’t eat, it’s understandable that they become stressed. However, it does not mean that the result is catastrophic. In fact, many times this problem solves itself.
Keep this in the back of your mind if you start to panic! While you should obviously take this seriously, it’s important to remain optimistic so that you can continue to work to resolve the issue.
If you have any thoughts or comments on additional reasons why a betta fish won’t eat, please let us know. We are committed to improving our guides and resources in the future!