Do Bettas Eat Their Fry And Eggs?

Many betta owners and breeders have a common concern when it comes to the feeding phenomena of these fish – do bettas eat their fry and eggs?

Although betta fish will sometimes eat their eggs in cases of failed spawning or unfertilized eggs, it’s not so common for betta fish to eat their young (fry). Bettas really only eat their fry when they are extremely hungry or aggressive and have no other option.

Keep reading as we explore the above questions in-depth, including why/when this feeding pattern may occur and how you can prevent it when it comes to at-home betta breeding.

Do Bettas Eat Their Fry?

Betta fish don’t often eat their fry (the young hatchlings) unless there is something wrong with the father. Most commonly, this only happens when you have a male betta who is not fit to raise the young. Male bettas are typically the ones who raise their young, so if you have a bad one, he might eat his fries within the first few days of their life. 

Eating the fries is usually a sign of aggression in male betta fish, so if the male (fathers) aren’t well-conditioned or don’t have good instincts, it could be bad news for the fries. Therefore, if you notice this happening, it may be best to just stop using that male for spawning purposes.

There is one other rare instance where the fries may get eaten by other bettas – but it’s not at the hands of the parent bettas. In more aggressive betta species, the fries that grow faster and stronger than their siblings may attack and even eat the smaller fries in the tank. This is a big reason that separating bettas by size and growth rate in their early days of life is essential. 

Do Bettas Eat Their Eggs? 

When it comes to betta fish eating their eggs, it’s a different story entirely. Although it’s pretty rare for bettas to eat their young, it’s not quite as rare for them to eat their eggs – especially when it comes to the kinds of domesticated bettas that many people acquire at pet stores and keep at home. 

In some cases, the male (father) betta fish may eat unfertilized eggs during the spawning process if the chain of events ends up going awry. Furthermore, sometimes the female (mother) betta fish may also eat the released eggs in the spawning process if things don’t quite go according to nature’s plans.

There are a few key stress-related reasons why this might occur and when it might occur to look out for if you’re breeding your betta fish in captivity at home. We will explain those in detail below, as well as the reasons that breeding bettas in captivity contribute to this parent-eating-egg phenomenon.

Why Do Some Betta Fish Eat Their Babies?

There are several reasons why betta fish might eat their babies, whether they’re in the egg stage or the fry stage (already hatched from their eggs). Below, we’ll explain some of the reasons why this happens and when it’s most common to see when breeding your betta fish in captivity. 

A Bad Male Betta Parent

It may seem odd to label a betta parent as “bad” or “good” since they’re arguably just fish. However, when people start to breed betta fish in captivity, they lose some of their natural environment that normally would guide them in the spawning processes. Therefore, if a male betta parent fish has only ever lived in a tank, he may not be well-conditioned to care for his young (fries) and eat them out of aggression instead of raising them. 

You’re Breeding with a First-Time Father

This is a similar issue to what happens with ill-conditioned male betta fish parents. If the male betta fish you are using to spawn is facing his first time in the process, he may make mistakes or become confused about the natural order of spawning. Thus, you may end up with some of the eggs getting eaten in the process, whether they get fertilized correctly or not.

Confusion During Spawning

Another reason for bettas eating their eggs is when confusion arises in the breeding process. As previously mentioned, spawning in a non-natural environment can lead to problems – namely, incorrectly fertilizing eggs, confusion during mating, etc. When this occurs, both the mother and father betta can become stressed and turn to eat the eggs out of frustration or aggression. 

Females Get Left with the Eggs for Too Long

Since the male bettas are in charge of raising the fertilized eggs and fries, many people don’t realize that you also need to think about the female. After the eggs arrive for the male betta to raise, it’s time for the female (mother) to naturally leave the environment, or else she might create her own nest to care for some of the eggs. This is risky because female bettas are prone to eating their eggs if you keep them nearby after the spawning occurs. 

You Are Dealing with “Mouthbrooder” Betta Fish

If you are breeding “mouthbrooder” bettas, then you may run into a situation where the male bettas get stressed out and resort to eating their young. This is partly because they aren’t used to domesticated environments and also due to the fact that this species of betta fish cares for and stores the eggs inside of its mouth. The result is a situation where it’s more likely that the eggs will get eaten by the father. 

Competition Among the Young

Finally, one other common instance of betta fish eating each other is among the different fries themselves. This occurs when the betta fries that have grown stronger and faster than their siblings get aggressive for food and attack, then eat the smaller, weaker betta fries in the same tank. While it doesn’t always happen, it is something to seriously keep in mind if you’re going to keep the whole brood in the tank together while they’re raised. 

Betta Fish Feel Insecure or Unsafe

This occurs most often when the environment in the aquarium isn’t suited to betta fish. Because these fish are naturally somewhat aggressive, their sense of safety or security can feel rocked if the environment of the tank – like the water temperature, water cleanliness, supply of food, or coverage – is inadequate. 

How to Prevent Bettas From Eating Their Babies

Now that you’re aware of when and why betta fish might eat their fries or their eggs in the spawning process let’s explore ways that you can try to prevent this from happening. Within a home aquarium, you may need to take extra measures to prevent babies from getting eaten, such as having extra tanks, separating fries, and more. 

Make the Spawning Environment Less Stressful

Since betta fish tend to make mistakes while spawning if they feel stressed out, one measure you can take to avoid eggs getting eaten is to remove stressful environmental factors. For example, you may consider keeping the tank/aquarium more dimly lit during the spawning period or keeping the tank in a less-trafficked room of your home. This is likely to keep them calmer (especially the male) while the fertilization and raising of the eggs occurs.  

Keep Trying or Find a Better Male

Since it’s only natural for male betta fish to mess up on their first few tries at spawning, you may need to just be patient and wait until the fourth or fifth try for better results. At that point, they will likely have learned better and won’t be eating their eggs anymore. Or, if you want to avoid inexperienced male betta fish altogether, you could opt for seeking out a male betta fish that has experience in the spawning process from the start.

Make Sure That You’re Adequately Feeding Your Betta Fish

One instance where betta fish might eat their young (eggs or fries) is if they’re starved or malnourished. Unfortunately, as a survival instinct, they may turn to eating their young as a solution. Although this is pretty rare in adult betta fish, it’s more common when it comes to fries eating each other, and you can avoid it by sticking to a strict and proper feeding routine each day.

Separate the Female Betta After She Lays the Eggs

Since it’s pretty common for female betta parent fish to eat the eggs after laying them, one simple way to avoid this is to separate the females from their young. Since the male betta fish are the ones that do most of the raising of the eggs anyway, you can safely move the female betta fish to her own tank or aquarium so that the new eggs can have the proper attention they need without becoming food.  

Provide More Tank Coverage

One of the environmental factors that may stress out your betta fish is a lack of coverage over their spawning area. When there isn’t proper coverage – such as foliage or aquatic greenery – the male betta fish might turn to eat their young. This is due to the fact that they feel unsafe or insecure in their poorly covered environment, the stress of which leads to eating the eggs they should be caring for.

Don’t Check on or Bother Your Tank Too Often

Stress also arises for spawning betta fish when they feel like they’re intruded upon. You really don’t need to be constantly checking in on the aquarium during this process – just when it’s feeding time or time to clean the tank. Make sure not to walk past the tank too often or make your presence too known by the betta fish, as they may get stressed out and resort to eating the eggs in their nest. 

Keep the Water at the Correct Temperature

Finally, one other environmental factor that may stress out betta fish and lead to eggs getting eaten is having the water at the wrong temperature. When it comes to breeding tanks for betta fish, the ideal temperature is usually an average of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. To stray away from this temperature is to put your fish at risk of getting confused, stressed, or prone to eating their babies. 

Recap

When caring for and breeding your own betta fish at home, there are several natural and environmental factors to be aware of so that your fish don’t eat their eggs or fries. While it’s not so common for betta fish to eat their fry babies, it is more common for them to eat their eggs if they become stressed or confused during the spawning process. Keep our tips in mind to avoid this phenomenon so that you can keep as many baby bettas alive and healthy as possible.