Betta Fish Not Eating: 14 Ways To Diagnose & Treat Them

There’s nothing more worrying than when you notice your betta fish not eating. Although, in a lot of cases it’s nothing to worry about, in some cases it can be something more serious. If you want to know all the different reasons why your betta isn’t eating then keep reading to find out!

As well as learning the common reasons that are causing a loss of appetite, you’ll also find out what you can do to fix it.

Why Is Your Betta Fish Not Eating?

Here are all the reasons your betta fish has stopped eating. Just remember, sometimes even if you think your betta isn’t eating, he may be getting some food without you realizing. However, if you want to make sure that something more sinister isn’t happening, then keep reading.

1. Your Betta Is Being Fussy

In most cases, this is going to be the reason why your betta isn’t eating. If you’ve been feeding him a certain type of food for a while and then swapped, he may not like it.

The way to know if this is the case is by feeding him different food. If he eats the food without a problem then the chances are he’s just being a picky eater.

Solution: Feed Them Food They Like OR Diversify Their Diet

There are two solutions here, the easy one and the hard one. The easy solution is to just feed your betta food that he likes and get rid of the food he doesn’t. While you may think this is a good idea, it could be more difficult in the long run.

It’s not uncommon for bettas to only like one type of food or brand. The problem is, if you can’t get hold of this food then you’re going to have lots of problems trying to feed him later on down the line.

The far better solution is to start diversifying your betta’s diet until he’ll eat a whole range of food. You can either start by giving him lots of new food until he isn’t fussy, or if you don’t want to spend more money, fast him for a couple of days. Once he’s fasted feed him the original food he didn’t want, and he should eat it.

(Check out the best food you can feed your betta to learn about all the different meals available for him!)

2. He Doesn’t Know It’s Food

Another common cause when your betta fish isn’t eating (especially if he’s new to the tank) is that he doesn’t know what you’re feeding him is food. This is especially common with pellets and flakes.

When bettas are with their breeders, normally, they will only be fed a mixture of live, frozen and freeze-dried food. This is the best diet a betta can have because it’s what they’d eat in the wild.

The problem is once you try to feed them pellets or flake food, it’ll be so alien to them they won’t even realize it’s food.

(Here’s a helpful article on the best live fish foods for bettas. Some great choices include brine shrimp, mosquito larvae and daphnia)

Solution: Keep Reintroducing The Food

In this situation, the best solution is to keep introducing them to the food until they realize they can eat it. Normally it’ll only take 2-7 days for them to begin eating their food. If they still don’t eat it after this time then you may be dealing with a fussy betta.

(Did you know a betta can live up to 14 days without food? However, it’s definitely not advised.)

Just remember, that you should never let a betta go more than 3 days without food. At this point, you’re going to start doing more harm than good. So have backup food you know he’ll eat, just in case.

Also if your betta hasn’t eaten the food within 10 minutes, remove it from the tank. If it’s left in the tank then all it’s going to do is produce more ammonia as it begins to go rotten.

(Live food such as daphnia and bloodworm can also be great choices.)

Red And Black Plakat Betta

3. Food Is Frozen/Freeze-dried

While frozen and freeze-dried food is good for bettas, some won’t eat it until it’s thawed properly. If you’re just dropping it into your tank without giving it a chance to thaw or soften then your betta may just ignore it completely.

You should also be aware that some frozen food can expand as it starts to absorb water again. If your betta eats it too fast, then it may continue expanding resulting in constipation and swim bladder disease in a lot of cases.

Solution: Defrost The Food & Let It Soak

The solution here is simple. Just defrost your food before giving it to your betta. The best way to do this is by taking a small amount of your tanks water and placing the food in it. Once the food is fully defrosted just drop it into your tank and your betta should eat it up.

4. You Have A New Betta

When you have a new betta it’s not uncommon for them to refuse to eat at first. A lot of the time they may be stressed from the move and being in a new environment. (This is especially true if you’ve shipped your betta instead of getting him from a shop).

This is extremely common behavior in a new betta, so you don’t need to worry too much for the first couple of days.

Solution: Let Them Settle

The easiest solution here is to give your betta time to settle. Keep the lights off for a couple of days and try to feed him in the morning and evening. If he doesn’t want to eat then remove the food after 10 minutes.

5. Your Feeding Him Too Much

Sometimes your betta is eating and you’re not even realising it. A betta’s stomach is about the size of his eye, so if you’re giving him too much food then he’s not going to be able to eat it all. You may notice that food is floating at the top of the tank and assume he’s not eating it. But in fact, you’re just simply feeding him too much.

(There are many dangers associated with overfeeding your betta, that you need to know about.)

Solution: Feed Him Less

Once again, the solution here is pretty simple. Make sure you’re not feeding your betta too much. You should be feeding him no more than 1-2 pellets of food or the equivalent twice a day. As a rule of thumb, just make sure he’s not consuming more than his stomach size in food.

(Want to know whether your betta can eat goldfish food?)

betta care facebook group

6. Food Is Poor Quality/Not Giving Him A Balanced Diet

A lot of the food you get in the pet store is incredibly cheap. And as you can imagine, cheap food is made from cheap ingredients. If your betta isn’t eating then it may be because of the quality of the food.

And even if the food quality is good, it may be because he’s not getting a varied diet. If your feeding your betta high-quality pellets that’s fine, but you also need to mix it with live, frozen and freeze-dried food to make sure his diet is varied.

Solution: Provide Better Food

The best thing you should do for your betta and any other fish you care for is to make sure they’re getting a balanced diet. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming buying your betta different food. I use betta pellets and freeze-dried daphnia mixed with live food every so often. You only need to buy the food once and it’s going to last a VERY long time.

Remember, bettas are carnivores, so you should make sure that you’re providing them with plenty of protein in their diet.

(Have you ever wondered whether you can give your betta goldfish food?)

7. Problem With The Water Temperature

Sometimes you may notice a betta fish not eating because of the temperature in the tank. Bettas are cold-blooded which means a lot of their energy is based on the temperature around them, like all tropical fish.

If you’re keeping your betta in a tank which isn’t warm enough then it’s going to result in lethargy and a slower metabolism. When your bettas metabolism slows down then it’s going to take him longer to digest food and he won’t eat as much. In fact, when the temperature drops or rises too fast, it can even result in temperature shock which is extremely dangerous for bettas.

While you may think this isn’t a problem, cold water can result in temperature shock which is often fatal for bettas, so it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. And if you don’t have a heater for your betta, then here’s everything you need to know about why you should get one.

Solution: Change The Water Temperature To 78°F

The best solution to this problem is to make sure that your betta’s tank is heated as close to 78°F as possible. To do this you should make sure that your tank has a heater.

Even if you live in a hot country it only takes one cold night to drastically change the temperature in smaller tanks.

It’s always important to use a thermometer in the tank as well so you can consistently keep an eye on the temperature.

Here’s a helpful article explaining more about the perfect temperature for betta fish.

8. A Change In Their Environment

Bettas are very sensitive to their surroundings. If the parameters in the water change for the worst then it may affect their eating habits. The most common causes of change in the tank is normally an ammonia spike, which if not treated right away can result ammonia poisoning which turns fatal real quick. However, any chemical that’s entered the tank may also result in your betta not eating.

But it may not be something bad. This can also happen after a water change. When you add new water to your tank it’s going to have a different pH, ammonia level, etc to what your betta is used to. Once your betta acclimatizes, however, he should go back to eating happily again.

Solution: Fix The Parameters

If your betta isn’t eating after a water change then the solution is normally to just try again in a few hours. However, if not, then check the parameters in your tank. If you notice that the parameters are off then you should perform a water change or fix the issues any way you can. After doing this your betta should eat happily again.

9. Diseases

Often times, when your betta has a disease or illness his appetite will be the first thing to go. However, along with a lack of appetite, there’ll be other symptoms that will alert you to something more serious. Some common diseases that can cause a lack of appetite include dropsy, constipation and swim bladder disease, fin rot, ich and velvet.

Solution: Treat The Illness

If you think your betta is suffering from a disease then you need to make sure that you’re addressing the situation quickly. if you don’t treat your betta in time then many diseases can quickly become fatal. If you’re not sure what disease your betta is suffering from then here’s a comprehensive guide on the different diseases bettas can get with pictures.

Remember even small bacterial infections like fin rot, can be fatal if left untreated.

10. They’re Competing For Food

While you shouldn’t put your betta with other males, you can put your betta with other tank mates! Unfortunately, if you’re not picking the right tank mates, then they may end up pinching your bettas food. Fast swimmers, like neon tetras are more than capable of outpacing a betta and stealing their food.

Solution: Feed Them Seperately

The easiest way to fix this is to feed both fish separately. To do this, I like to catch my betta in a net, and then put his pellet into the net, so no other fish can get it except him. However, you can also try sprinkling tropical flakes at once end of the tank for the tank mates, and then your bettas pellet in the other end.

11. Poor Water Quality

And it goes without saying that poor water quality in general is going to cause your betta to stop eating as well. As well as the temperature not being perfect, if the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates in the tank are too high, it’s going to cause your betta all sorts of problems, with not eating being the least of your worries.

Other cause of poor water quality in your betta’s tank include the temperature not being right (as we’ve previously spoken about) and the pH being off as well.

Solution: Improve The Water Quality

Of course, the solution is simple, you just need to improve the water quality in you aquarium. And this is incredibly easy to do!

  1. Testing The Water & Improving The Water

First of all, test the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels in the tank. (I’d recommend the API Master Test Kit for this.)

If you notice any of them are too high, there are a few things you can do. First of all, make sure you’re performing a 10-20% water change. This will help remove any ammonia from the tank as well as diluting what’s left. In cases, where the ammonia is extremely high, you should also add some ammonia neutralizer to the tank (like API Ammo Lock).

  1. Improving the pH

Once the ammonia is fixed, you should also check the pH in the tank. Bettas like a pH that is either neutral or slightly acidic (between 6.5-7.0).

If you notice that the pH is not acidic enough, try adding some Indian Almond leaves or driftwood to the tank. If you notice that it’s too acidic try adding some crushed coral to the tank.

  1. Clean The Filter

You should also make sure that you clean the filter, especially the mechanical media, which can often become clogged with waste, which not only reduces the filters effectiveness, but also decreases the water quality in the tank.

(Find out why filters are so important for betta’s and the best filters for bettas you can use!)

12. He’s Not Hungry

Remember, a bettas stomach is roughly the size of their eyeball, so it could be the case that they’re already full. There is no solution needed for this, just try feeding them again later!

13. Stress

There are so many reasons that your betta could be stressed, and most of them have been covered already. However, if you’re wondering what else can be causing stress, keep an eye on aggressive tank mates, especially fin nippers, a lack of hiding spots, and even too much light.

Solutions: Add Plants & Reduce Light

For the latter two, all you’ll need to do is add a lot more hiding places, such as plants, driftwood, caves and anything else that will shade your betta and make them feel safe. As well as this you can also reduce the amount of light you’re letting your betta get.

If you notice that there are bullies in the tank, then hiding places and plants can also fix the issues, however, in some cases, you’ll just need to move the bullies to another tank.

14. Your Betta Is Gravid Or Ready To Breed

If your female betta isn’t eating, then it may be because she’s gravid (full of eggs) and ready to breed. When this is the case, they may lose interest in eating. And in the case of a betta, you may also notice a bubble nest present.

Once again, in this situation there isn’t much to do. Just keep your betta’s comfortable and they should eat after a couple of days.

What Happens When Your Betta Is Underfed?

If your betta is underfed, then there are a whole range of problems that are going to end up occurring. In fact, you’ll notice any of the following:

  • They Will Become Skinny – It’s hard to imagine a skinny betta, however, when they’re not getting fed enough, your betta will become extremely emaciated. You’ll notice this especially if you look down from the top at them.
  • More Susceptible To Disease – The longer your betta goes without eating, the more susceptible to disease they’ll be. Eventually, their immune system will weaken, and they’ll get an illness they can’t fight off.
  • It Won’t Grow Properly – If you’re dealing with a juvenile betta, then a lack of food will stunt their growth causing a whole range of health problems later on down the line.
  • They May Die – And if your betta doesn’t eat for 10-14 days, then sadly, the most likely scenario is that they will pass away.

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about their betta fish not eating.

Should You Use Seachem Garlic Guard?

Seachem Garlic Guard is a great way to coax even the most finnicky betta into eating. The garlic will make your betta ravenous, starting his appetite again!

What Does A Starving Betta Fish Look Like?

There are a number of signs that your betta is starving, the number one being that they’re always hungry. However, on top of this, they may also be skinny, lack energy, and even try to eat the plants in your tank.

How Long Can A Betta Go Without Eating?

Bettas can go up to two weeks without eating, however, this is going to be extremely harmful them. In fact, unless your betta is constipated, they should never go more than a couple of days without food.

Why Has Your Betta Fish Not Eating For Two Weeks?

If your betta fish hasn’t eaten for two weeks then you should consult a professional as soon as possible. This is not healthy, and it’s a clear sign that something is very wrong with them.

Why Is Your Betta Fish Not Eating & Barely Moving?

If your betta fish is not eating and barely moving, then it could be caused by dropsy, swim bladder disease, poor quality food, or even a problem with the water quality or temperature.

Make sure to test the parameters, and then the temperature, before ruling out other options.

Why Won’t Your Betta Eat Floating Food?

Sometimes, your betta may not realise that the floating food in their tank can be eaten. This is especially the case if they’ve been fed a lot of live food in the past. So let the food sink for a little bit, and then see if it gets eaten.

Why Is Your Betta Fish Not Eating Pellets?

If your betta isn’t eating pellets, it may simply be that they’re not hungry. If they haven’t eaten in a while, it could be because they don’t realise the pellet is food, or they’re sick.

Why Is Your Betta Not Eating And Floating Sideways?

If your betta isn’t eating, and they’re floating sideways, then they’re suffering from swim bladder disease. This can be caused by poor water quality, injury, and overfeeding.

Why Is Your Betta Fish Not Eating Bloodworms?

If your betta isn’t eating bloodworms, then they may not like the taste. This is especially the case if you’re using freeze-dried or frozen.

Bloodworms aren’t the best food for bettas anyway, so you should try feeding them daphnia instead.

Is It Normal For A Betta Fish Not To Eat After Shipping?

It’s extremely normal for a new betta not to eat after shipping. This is an extremely stressful time for them, and it might take 1-3 days before they start wanting to eat again.

Why Is Your Betta Not Eating After A Water Change?

If your betta stopped eating after a water change, it could be because the new water you added has different parameters. This can shock your betta and stress them out massively.

Why Is Your Betta Spitting Out Food?

If your betta is spitting out food, it could be because it’s too big. It could also be because your betta is very fussy, or because they’re sick.

Recap

As you can see there are lots of different reasons why your betta fish may not be eating. While most of them aren’t going to be a big deal, there are some that are a cause for concern. Here are the main points to remember.

  • If your betta isn’t eating he may be fussy. If this is the case then you should feed him lots of different food until he’ll eat anything you put in the tank for him.
  • Your betta may not be aware he can eat the food you’re giving him. This is often the case with juvenile bettas who have only ever eaten live food. When this happens, keep trying until he begins to eat.
  • Sometimes bettas don’t like freeze-dried or frozen food. Before giving it to him, allow it to soak in some of his tank water so it’s more edible.
  • If you’ve just got your betta then he may be too stressed to eat. Keep the lights off in your tank for a day before trying again.
  • Perhaps your betta is eating and you just haven’t realized it because you’re feeding him too much. Keep an eye on him the next time you feed him and don’t put so much food in the tank for him!
  • If you’ve bought cheap food then your betta may be able to taste it. Only feed your betta high-quality food and make sure he’s getting a balanced diet.
  • Sometimes a small change in water can cause bettas to stop eating. Check your water parameters and see if there’s a problem.
  • If the water temperature is too cold it may slow his metabolism resulting in him eating less.
  • Lastly, your betta may be suffering from some sort of disease. Make sure he isn’t exhibiting any symptoms and if he is, treat him quickly.

Taking care of your Betta can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Click here to read an article with everything you need to know about Betta fish care.

Lastly, as well as not eating you may notice that your betta is spitting out food. If this is happening then here are all the reasons behind it!

2 thoughts on “Betta Fish Not Eating: 14 Ways To Diagnose & Treat Them”

  1. Thank you for the knowledge. Can another reason males will not eat be due to mating? I have a male that has made his bubble nest and is gaurding it without eating food. He looks at it and when it sinks chases it aggressively. Any ideas?

    • If you think it’s the bubble nest you can remove it from the tank to find out. My bettas bubble nest sometimes get destroyed when i’m doing a water change and he’s never cared.

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