You just got your new wild betta fish, now you’re wondering what to feed them, how much you need to feed them each session, and how often this should happen. Firstly, you will need to understand what they eat in the wild before finding out what you should feed them in aquaria.
What do Betta Fish Eat in the Wild?
In the wild, betta fish primarily feed on insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, and worms. Basically, anything that moves and is small enough to fit their mouths.
Foods in the wild are rich in proteins and fats that promote fast growth and breeding. This ensures that they get to reproduce, which ensures their survivability. However, when caught and kept in an aquarium, you might encounter difficulties feeding them dried foods.
What Should I Feed my Wild Betta Fish?
In the aquarium, the domestic betta fish are fed mostly flake food, freeze-dried bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and tubifex worms. (The other names for the food may vary depending on where you live.)
Note that the food that betta fish eat in the wild is much different from the food they are fed in captivity. The main differences are that it isn’t live foods and the nutritional content is not the same.
Dried foods do not replicate movement like live food does, and many wild bettas tend to ignore them as it doesn’t trigger their natural instinct.
Furthermore, commercial foods – even those meant for bettas – generally have lower protein and fat content. Although this is still alright, it is presumed that growth will be slower in wild bettas (and domestic betta splendens) fed with commercial foods, and breeding will not occur as frequently.
But before we can even begin talking about feeding non-live foods to your wild betta, you first need to get them eating the moment they end up in your aquarium. The most obvious food to feed your wild betta fish is
Anything live and small enough to fit in the mouth of your betta can be fed to them. Here’s a non-conclusive list of live foods that you can feed to your betta.
- Mosquito larvae
- Live bloodworms
- Live tubifex worms
- Vinegar eels
- Brine shrimp
- Baby brine shrimp
- Shrimp larvae
- Zooplanktonic rotifers
- Fish fry
- Fruit flies
All the above, when alive, will move. This will trigger your betta’s natural instinct to go after them. These foods are the easiest foods to feed your wild betta and is probably the most nutritious option available. It’s important to note that live foods might carry bacteria and parasites, especially in unclean cultures.
When properly maintained or purchased from a reputable breeder, you don’t face this problem with live cultures.
However, the bigger problem comes when you’re lacking supply. If you don’t have a culture of any of these lying around, you’ll probably need to find alternatives. Heck, sometimes you just wish you had an option so that it’s much easier for you.
The next best alternative. Frozen foods will come in handy when you run out of live foods to feed your wild bettas. The problem with frozen foods is that they will not be accepted readily by all wild bettas. The good thing is that most of them can be trained easily to eat frozen foods.
Here are some types of frozen foods that you can feed your betta fish
- Frozen bloodworms
- Frozen brine shrimp
- Frozen daphnia
- Frozen tubifex worms
- Frozen blackworms
However, there might be times where you will run out of supplies, don’t feel like feeding frozen foods, or have to hear the constant nagging from your spouse for keeping worms in the freezer. That’s where dried alternatives come in.
Betta Pellets & Flakes
While betta pellets and flakes don’t offer the variety the nutrition that live and frozen food does, they are a good source of nutrition for your fish and can act as a staple food. However, as previously mentioned, the issue with them is that wild bettas will not readily consume them.
Maybe the bigger mouthbrooders can be trained to eat dried pellets, but the smaller wild bettas will refuse to even take a sniff.
Heck, you can starve them all you want, and they will rather die than eat these foods. It simply isn’t attractive enough for them to even try.
Despite this, I have successfully trained some of my smaller wild bettas to eat pellet foods, though I will cover that in another article.
Things to Note Before Buying Betta Pellets
If you manage to convince your betta fish to eat pellet or flakes, you should note that they are of the proper nutrition levels for your fish.
Firstly, look for fish foods that are explicitly meant for bettas. This is because betta fish are carnivorous fish, while generic fish foods are usually made for omnivores.
Once you find betta-formulated foods, look at the nutrition value. This study by Pleeging & Moons mentions that protein levels for a betta splendens diet should ideally be 35%. Anything higher will promote more waste and the excess production of protein enzymes that will slow down growth.
However, breeders and hobbyists find that protein contents above 40% promote fast growth. This should be accompanied by frequent water changes to keep the water quality high – a factor that affected the growth mentioned in Pleeging & Moons.
With the above information, I’m more inclined to feed them foods with above 40% protein content not because I’m against science, but the literature cited by Pleeging & Moons merely theorised that it will slow down growth.
This study also shows how tubifex worms have high protein contents (50-55%) and promotes fast growth in fish, further emphasising that higher protein content is better.
Also, make sure that the proteins are of animal origins and not plant-based. This creates a difference in the growth rates as well.
In terms of fat content, breeders mention that fatty foods promote breeding, and you should aim to feed foods with a fat content of at least 8-10%. I feed my wild bettas 2 different pellets to vary their diet, one with 9% fat content and another 15% fat content. I have yet to see any difference in my current pair of betta albimarginata.
However, all this information is useless if you can’t train them into dried prepared foods. Your last alternative is to feed them freeze-dried betta foods.
Freeze-dried foods are great to introduce some natural foods into their diets without feeding them live or frozen foods. However, freeze-dried foods are stripped of moisture and contain additives for them to last longer.
As they have no moisture in them, it’s best to soak freeze-dried food in tank water before feeding. I wouldn’t recommend feeding only freeze-dried foods as they are known to cause bloating and constipation.
This will open up different levels of issues that you’d just want to avoid. However, these foods contain almost similar nutritional levels as live and frozen foods that are beneficial for your betta. Thus, they are a good treat to complement betta fish diets, but never as a staple food.
Here are a list of freeze-dried foods you can feed your betta
- Freeze-dried shrimp
- Freeze-dried krill
- Freeze-dried bloodworms
- Freeze-dried daphnia
How much to feed your betta fish?
Generally, it is recommended to feed about 2-3 pellets for feeding. However, this really depends on your pellet size and nutrition content.
Personally, for my first few times feeding, I would feed until there is clear satiation. Based on the number of pellets fed until they are full, I reduce the number by 10-20% and maintain it for future feedings.
For growing fishes, remember to always test for the perfect amount as they will require different amounts at different stages.
How often should you feed betta fish?
For general feeding, once a day with the amount mentioned is sufficient. If you’d like, you can feed them twice a day, but lesser each feeding. It’s best to keep to set feeding schedules for consistency.
Some betta keepers opt to fast their fishes for 24 hours every 2 weeks to clear up their digestive tracts. In fact, bettas can go days without food, so you can give it a few days of fasting without any issues.
There are many types of foods that you can look for to feed your wild betta fish. The best obviously being live foods and, if possible, frozen foods. However, each of them can come with its own setbacks. Dried foods like pellets and flakes are a great staple but are challenging to train your wild betta fish to eat.
Nevertheless, whatever foods that your wild betta is consuming, remember to always feed a varied diet to vary the nutrition levels and so that they won’t be bored with a single type of food!
Other frequently asked questions:
Can betta fish eat tropical flakes & fish foods?
Bettas can eat tropical flakes & fish foods. However, tropical flakes should not be fed long-term due to their low protein content. Bettas require high protein content in their diets. Thus, betta flakes or pellets are recommended as they are specially catered per their dietary requirements.
Can betta fish eat goldfish flakes?
Bettas can eat goldfish flakes. However, you should always aim to feed specially made betta foods. Goldfish flakes contain vegetables and fruits which are high in carbohydrates and fiber. This is not ideal for bettas and should only be fed once in a while.
Can betta fish eat ants?
Yes, betta fish can eat ants! Any moving insect that can fit inside a betta’s mouth can be a meal. Do make sure that they’re not sprayed with pesticides or any harmful chemicals beforehand. If you do catch a few, feel free to put the ants in your fish tank.
Can betta fish eat bread?
Although bettas can eat bread, do not feed it to them. They do not contain sufficient nutrition and may cause dietary problems and health risks.
Can betta fish eat mealworms?
You can feed your wild bettas baby mealworms. This is because they are still young and do not have tough exoskeletons that could cause potential issues. Alternatively, you can try chopping up adult mealworms and try feeding them to larger mouthbrooders.
Can betta fish eat lettuce?
Feed lettuce only when your betta has digestive issues. The fiber in the lettuce will clear up the digestive system, allowing your betta to recover and resume eating foods normally.
Can betta fish eat shrimp?
Yes, ghost shrimps, caridina shrimps, neocaridina shrimps and other types of shrimps that are small enough to fit in a betta’s mouth will be food!
Can betta fish eat peas?
Yes, they can eat peas. However, peas are usually fed for bettas with constipation issues due to the fiber content in them. This will clear up its digestive tract. You can feed blanched peas occasionally to promote a healthy system, but I haven’t read any studies that proves that this is beneficial.
Can betta fish eat human food?
It’s best to not feed human food to your betta fish. You don’t know how your fish will react to it and risk it being sick or, even worse, dying. A betta’s diet is very specific, and its best to meet their natural diets instead.