Overfeeding Betta Fish: The Hidden Dangers

It can be hard not to feed your fish too much, especially when we want to give them our best care. However, ensuring your betta doesn’t get too much food is essential. Overfeeding can lead to many health problems. Read this article to learn why you shouldn’t feed a betta fish too much.

What Are The Signs Of An Overfed Betta Fish?

As an aquarist, it is always essential that we watch the health of the fish that we keep to avoid our fish from getting sick, which could lead to worst cases. That includes their feeding habits and the amount of fish food that they consume. If you think you have overfed your betta, look out for these signs.

1. Bloated Belly

If your betta has a bloated stomach, it’s likely because it’s been overfed. In the wild, Bettas eat whenever there is food in the wild because they are opportunistic feeders. If you feed your bettas too much, they won’t be able to swim normally or will become stressed, which can be harmful in the long run.

2. Lethargy

If your betta swims less, hangs on the bottom of the tank more, or seems tired, this is another sign that it has been fed too much. It could be because it hurts a little from overeating. This slight pain can cause stress, making your betta sick and weakening it over time.

3. Swim Bladder Disease 

Swim bladder disease can happen if you feed your betta too much. It might swim funny or wobbly because its stomach is so full that it’s hard to move around normally. This is because their full stomach pressures their swim bladder, an organ that helps bettas and other fish swim normally.

4. Constipation

Constipation is another problem if you feed your betta too much. If your betta has trouble getting rid of waste, it can cause feces and urine to build up inside its intestine, which can pressure the fish’s swim bladder. Not only that, but constipation also causes stress, which is terrible for the health of your betta.

5. Overweight

Bettas are typically long and lean, so they can glide through the water with little effort. But giving them too much food makes them look slightly rounder and plumper. It’s not a big deal if your bettas gain weight, but if you keep giving them so much food that they get bigger every time you feed them, it will cause liver and digestive problems.

6. Fatty Liver

If you feed your betta too much, they might get a fatty liver. This can cause liver failure, which can kill your pet fish. Either the betta’s liver will fail and die, or it will get dropsy, which is caused by liver failure and will kill it eventually.

What Happens If You Feed Your Betta Too Much?

As an aquarist, you should never give your fish too much food. It can change the chemistry of the water in your fish tank and also make your fish sick. Here are some things that could happen if you feed your betta too much.

1. Cloudy Water

If you give your betta fish a lot of food, it will eat it all until it can’t eat anymore. Then, the food that hasn’t been eaten will break into tiny pieces, clouding the water. As it falls apart into smaller pieces, it will start to go bad and make the water in your fish tank terrible.

2. A Lot Of Leftovers

It’s never a good idea to leave food in the aquarium that hasn’t been eaten. The food that doesn’t get eaten can cloud the water in your fish tank and cause the ammonia level to rise. Not only that, but the food that isn’t eaten breaks down into sludge or muck, fish poop, and other organic waste on the bottom.

3. Bettas Will Produce More Waste

If you feed your betta too much, it might make more fish poop. This means you must change the water in your fish tank more often to keep the ammonia and nitrates down. You will also have to vacuum the substrate more often to get rid of the fish waste that fell there.

4. Ammonia Spikes

If you feed your betta fish too much, ammonia and nitrate levels can rise, which is not good when maintaining a fish tank. Even small amounts of ammonia and nitrates are highly dangerous and can kill your betta. When you give your betta too much food, not only do they make a lot more waste, but the food that they don’t eat and that stays in the fish tank starts to go bad, making even more ammonia and nitrates.

5. pH Drop

Most of the time, when a lot of biological matter is added, the pH level drops quickly and by a lot. Over time, the pH drops because of fish waste, food that isn’t eaten, and the buildup of nutrients can increase the water’s acidity. But when more food is available, the leftover food and the increased quantity of fish waste can make the water more acidic and lower the pH level of the aquarium.

6. Low Oxygen Levels In The Tank

If you feed your betta too much, there may not be enough oxygen in the water, which can kill your fish. Oxygen is used up when fish waste and uneaten food break down. This can reduce the amount of oxygen in the aquarium water, which is bad for your fish and plants when the lights are off.

7. Algal Blooms

Extreme algae blooms are another thing that can happen when you feed your betta too much. Algae thrive in water environments with lots of organic material and other nutrients floating around. Algae blooms are a problem in fish tanks because they can deplete oxygen levels and deprive aquarium plants of the necessary nutrients.

8. Mold Growth

Mold can grow and build up, which is another problem that can happen when animals are fed too much. Like algal blooms, mold grows when more dissolved organic matter is in the water. Mold in the fish tank can not only make the water quality in the aquarium worse, but it can also make betta sick.

How Do You Treat An Overfed Betta?

To treat betta fish that has overeaten, stop giving it food until it gets better. To do this, try feeding your betta fewer pellets at each meal until it starts to eat less. Since the pellets come in different sizes, you can provide them with pellets that weigh about 1.8 grams.

You can also make your betta fast one day a week while giving it less food during feeding time. A fasting period can help a betta recover from being overfed and clear the intestines of waste, which can relieve constipation. Also, the water quality drops slowly, so you don’t have to change it as often as you would if you fed your fish daily.

Still, the best way to get your betta not overfed is by preventing them from eating a lot by not giving them a lot of food. As an aquarist, the fish’s health is our responsibility to make sure not to put their health at risk. Overfeeding is often a common mistake beginner aquarists make, which can be prevented by adequately researching how much food their fish eats.

How Much Should You Feed Your Betta?

Many aquarists say that an adult betta should eat about 1.8 grams of food every day. If they eat twice daily, that’s 900 milligrams for each meal. No matter what kind of food you give your betta fish, this measurement will still work. 

In the wild, betta fish are carnivores that eat insects and insect larvae. But in captivity, they can be omnivores and eat animal and plant foods. But if you only feed your betta plants and vegetables, it won’t grow as well as it should because these foods don’t meet the needs of a healthy betta.

You can also feed your betta at the same time every day. When you do this, your betta will start to remember it and expect to be fed at the same time every day. You can feed them at least 12 hours apart, but once in the morning and once in the evening is often suggested.

Bloated Betta Vs Dropsy

Dropsy is a severe illness that can risk your betta’s life, so it must be treated immediately. But simple bloating can sometimes be confused with dropsy because the symptoms are often the same. Here, we’ve made a comparison between a betta that is bloated and one that has dropsy to help you understand the difference.

Bloated Betta

The symptoms of a bloated betta are simple and straightforward, with the first symptom obviously having a bloated stomach.

1. Abdominal Swelling

When your betta is bloated, you might notice its swollen abdomen. And it can be caused by diseases and health conditions that affect the fish’s digestive system. If it is a female betta, it could also be carrying eggs.

2. Swimming Abnormally

Bloating in bettas can also put pressure on their swim bladders, an organ responsible for keeping them afloat in the aquarium. Having an inflated abdomen means that this organ won’t function properly. This will result in your betta being unable to freely control their buoyancy, making them swim sideways.

3. Loss Of Appetite 

Because of the discomfort, a bloated betta may lose appetite. Bloating can cause stress in any fish, causing it to lose interest in eating. If your betta is bloated, trying to feed it in the first place is never a good idea.

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Betta With Dropsy

It is easy to confuse dropsy as bloating, constipation, or swim bladder disorder. All these health conditions can have quite similar symptoms to dropsy, so it’s essential that you can tell if your betta has dropsy or not. Here is a list of symptoms that will help you tell if your betta has dropsy.

1. Betta is Puffed Up

A betta with dropsy will not only have a bloated abdomen but also look like it’s about to explode. You can notice the bloating because it will look larger than they were a few days earlier. This is because the betta can’t expel water out of their body fast enough, resulting in a buildup of fluid inside them and bloating.

2. Bulging Eyes

When the betta’s body becomes bloated, its eyes will also begin to bulge. This is because the fluid buildup puts pressure behind the betta’s eyes, making it bulge outward. This might not be noticeable if you don’t pay close attention to your betta’s eyes.

3. Pale Gills

Another symptom that can help you tell if your fish has dropsy is if their gills slowly start losing color. The fluid buildup in the betta’s body can also affect their gills, making them ineffective. If your betta’s gill is no longer working properly, it may not be able to breathe well.

4. Increased Breathing

Since dropsy makes the gills of your betta not work correctly, the fish will then struggle to breathe more oxygen. However,  they do have a labyrinth organ, which is an organ that helps them breathe air.  You can even see your betta gasping on the water’s surface, indicating that it needs more oxygen.

5. Clamped Fins

You can also tell if your betta has dropsy if you see that they clamp their fins along with the other symptoms. Dropsy causes stress to your bettas that they instinctively stick their fins to their sides. Fin clamping is a typical stress response, so having clamped fins does not directly tell if your betta has dropsy.

6. Lethargy

Not only will your betta clamp its fins, but you will also find them lethargic and seem tired or swimming slowly. Lethargy is a common symptom when a fish has an ailment and in heavy stress. Like clamped fins, it can also be a symptom of other health conditions.

7. Pinecone Scales

You can also see if your betta’s scales are sticking out like a pinecone. This is a clear sign that your betta has dropsy, and this sign alone can tell you that. Check the betta’s whole body because pinecone scales usually only appear on some parts of the fish.

How Do I Know If My Betta Fish Is Hungry?

Ensuring the fish always gets the right food is essential when caring for a betta. But if you’re new to taking care of bettas, it might be hard to tell whether your fish is hungry. So, here are some ways to tell if your betta fish is hungry.

1. Lethargy

A starving betta will do everything possible to save energy, so they tend to swim or move a little.  They have also become too weak to move, so they sit around for long periods. If your betta seems lethargic, it might be because it is hungry.

2. Seek For Food

When Bettas are hungry, they often swim in places they wouldn’t usually go. They will also move into the territory of other fish, dig through the bottom of the tank, or look around driftwood and decorations. This is a strange thing for a betta to do, and you can tell when they do it.

3. Becomes Aggressive

Sometimes, if a betta is hungry, it will become aggressive over available food.  Some would attack their tankmates when eating because they wanted the food for themselves. If your fish don’t get food for a long time, they may act violently for no reason.

4. Jumping

Your betta fish will also jump to the top of the tank if they notice yindicatingSome will simply wait at the water’s surface during meal times because they expect to be fed. Bettas are very intelligent fish and will recognize you and associate it with feeding time, which makes them expect to be fed in your presence.

5. Eating Plants

Bettas are carnivores by nature, but when they are hungry, they eat plants to keep themselves alive. They may be seen nibbling on plants, but sometimes they are really picking up tiny insects or other living things from the tops of the plants. Bettas can eat plants in a pinch, but the fish will get sick and die since they don’t have the proper nutrients.

Overfeeding Betta Fish_ The Hidden Dangers

FAQ

Why Did Your Betta Fish’s Stomach Explode?

One common reason why a betta’s stomach explodes is due to a bacterial infection in the kidney by a bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterial infection is so dangerous that the bettas’ livers swell up, and their stomachs explode. It can also happen if your betta is so bloated that its belly is stretched out.

Is It Better To Overfeed Or Underfeed A Betta?

Both underfeeding and overfeeding can be harmful to your bettas. If you don’t feed your bettas enough, they might behave strangely and get stressed, slowing their growth and hurting their health. To keep your bettas healthy, ensure they don’t get too much or too little food.

Should You Skip 1 Day When Feeding Your Betta?

You don’t have to skip feeding your betta for a day, as they can be well if fed daily. It is also acceptable to miss a day of feeding your betta as they can go without food for a few days. Some hobbyists even let their bettas go without food for one or two days a week to clean out their stomachs.

How Long Can Betta Fish Live Without Eating?

Bettas can live for ten to fourteen days without eating. However, it’s not a good idea to let a betta fish go without food for a long time because you’re slowly starving it, which can make it die quickly. Also, if you don’t feed your bettas, they might get stressed, making them weaker and more likely to get sick.

Recap

As aquarists, we must ensure our fish are well-fed and healthy so they don’t get sick more often. It’s also fun to watch our betta respond to the care we give it. Ensure that your bettas get their nutrition by giving them the right amount of food. You’ll have more time to enjoy your fish by ensuring they’re happy and healthy.

About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio!

Betta fish keeper for over 6 years now! Since owning a betta I've also housed all kinds of tropical fish, and have seen all manner of problems and how to look after them!

If you need any advice you can always message me or better yet join the Facebook group where a community can answer your questions!

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