There are always plenty of fishkeepers trying to find out the cause of their betta fish not eating. This isn’t because these fish are prone to hunger strikes, it’s simply because they’re a popular species.
Betta fish are one of the most popular species that’s kept in captivity, which means the struggles of one owner are likely shared by many others.
Fortunately, this means that there are a handful of things to consider and try if your betta fish isn’t eating. These techniques have all been tried before, and they work like a charm.
This guide will help you diagnose the problem and make adjustments to ensure that your betta fish starts eating again and stays healthy.
Table of Contents
Keep An Eye On Them
Before you rush off and start making changes, it’s important to be totally sure there is a problem. For some, this might 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 behavior around feeding time. We recommend doing this a few times and taking notes of what you see so nothing slips through the cracks if you end up talking to a vet later on.
Find out if your betta fish won’t eat at all, or if they’re simply having a portion of what you’re giving them. This is one of the most common mistakes that betta owners make. They think their fish isn’t eating when instead they’re actually just feeding them too much.
If your betta fish truly won’t eat, it’s time to brainstorm why. One of the best ways to do this is by monitoring the details around feeding time.
Do they go for the food but back off when other fish are around? Are they sampling it and losing interest? These little details can be a big help later on when you start testing solutions.
Consider How Long It’s Been Going On
The length of time your betta fish won’t eat will indicate how serious the problem might be. If they’ve just taken a meal off every once in a while then it’s probably not a big deal. However, if it’s consistent and regular you have a problem.
Betta fish can be temperamental little creatures at times. This can show up in a variety of ways, with skipped meals being one of them. If you’ve recently changed something in their habitat or diet, that could be the cause for the refusal to eat.
This isn’t something you can wait forever to figure out (since fish need to eat obviously) so start keeping tabs as soon as you notice.
Making Sure The Food Is Ready
It can be possible to feed your betta fish the right food and still have them refuse to eat it. This can often happen if you’re trying to feed them freeze-dried or frozen foods.
While these are completely fine types of foods to feed your betta fish (we talk about that in this care guide), they might not get eaten if they’re not properly thawed.
Bettas don’t like to eat food that’s still frozen or crunchy. If you’ve been throwing in this food before everything has thawed out and softened enough, then that could what’s causing them not to eat.
The way you fix this is by giving the food a little extra time before dropping it in their cage. If you want to go all-out, take some tank water in a small container and put the frozen food in it. This will speed up the process and quickly get the food ready to be eaten.
Scrutinize Their Diet
This step will require you to take an honest look at the quality of the food and diet you’re providing your betta fish. If your betta fish won’t eat, it’s possible that their diet isn’t hitting their baseline nutritional requirements.
If this ends up being the case, it doesn’t make you a bad owner. We all make mistakes with our care or get misled into thinking a certain product or food is better than it is. It’s part of the fishkeeping process, and navigating these challenges is what makes it so rewarding.
If your betta fish isn’t eating due to a poor diet, the fix is relatively simple (in principle). Simply providing them with better food 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 extra bucks, but it’s worth it.
Simply reference our recommended diet in the care guide we linked to in the section above to see if you’re missing out on anything. Are they getting enough protein? Is their primary food source low-quality? All of those questions will be answered.
It Could Be Confusion
If you purchased your betta from a breeder, this is a possibility you’ll want to consider. Since breeders want to encourage growth at a young age, they often feed their fish a mix of live, freeze-dried, and frozen foods.
These foods pack the most punch when it comes to nutrition, and will result in a better “product” for the breeder to sell.
The trick is when you take your betta fish home and start trying to feed them other foods (like flakes or pellets) they might not be used to it. They’ve been eating the fancy stuff their entire life, and they don’t realize that these new little objects that float around in their water are edible.
Fortunately, if this is the reason your betta fish isn’t eating it will typically resolve itself. Your fish should eventually pick up on the fact that the flakes and pellets you’re giving them are indeed food and begin to eat.
Author Note: Having some of their old food ready is necessary when going through this process. If your fish aren’t catching on, you may need to drop in some of the old stuff to make sure they don’t starve.
The Stress Might Be Getting To Them
It’s not uncommon for new betta fish to go on a little hunger strike after being placed in a new home. Acclimating to a different tank is stressful for any fish, and this can show itself in different ways.
Some fish get shy, some get aggressive, and some lose their appetite.
This is another one of the causes that should resolve itself. Be patient and continue to try and 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 water quality in your tank, leading to a whole host of other problems.
The Water Isn’t Warm Enough
Even though betta fish have a reasonable range of water temperatures they can function in, they can’t deal with everything. If your water temperature is beginning to dip too low, that could be what’s causing your betta fish to avoid eating (they may also start laying at the bottom of the tank).
Author Note: Just for reference, the ideal temperature range for this species is between 74 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
To rule this out you’ll likely need to bring in some additional gear to fact-check what you’re currently using. We’re operating under the assumption that you’re monitoring the water temperature on a regular basis (something all fish owners need to be doing).
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 properly. Thermometers are cheap so running out to grab one to use as a sanity check shouldn’t be a big deal.
If your second thermometer shows that the water temp is lower than it should be, warm it up (duh). If it confirms that your original thermometer is accurate then you have two options.
The first option is to raise it to the higher end of the recommended range (assuming it’s not already up there in the first place) and see if that helps. If that isn’t an option or doesn’t work then water temperature isn’t the reason for your betta fish not eating.
Check For Sickness
While this is obviously not something you want to have happen, a sick betta fish will often lose its appetite. A general lack of energy will usually accompany this as well. This makes it a bit easier to diagnose the problem (or at least get a good guess).
If your betta fish is not eating and you suspect that they might be sick you need to get to work. It’s possible that you’ve accidentally introduced a disease into the tank via a new fish or object. They could also not be sleeping enough, which will only make the problem worse.
Another possibility is poor water quality or contaminated food. These are both common causes of sickness in betta fish and will regularly result in them refusing to eat (among other things).
If you want to play it safe then taking your pet to a veterinarian that deals with fish is a great idea. They know more than you on the topic and should be able to diagnose and help you solve the problem.
The Water Parameters Have Shifted
This is another common reason why your betta fish won’t eat. Fish are extremely sensitive to water parameters and this can play out in various ways.
Similar to the temperature possibility, you’ll want to make sure you have an accurate reading of the levels in their tank. There are ideal pH levels, water hardness, and ammonia are all things that can have a serious impact on your fish.
The severity can fluctuate depending on what’s changed. We won’t go into how to address each specific piece of the water parameter puzzle, but it’s something you need to take seriously.
Author Note: It’s common for bettas who have been moved to a new tank to need a little adjusting before they resume their normal eating pattern. This is because the water parameters will be slightly different (fish are more sensitive to this than your testing kit) in a new tank.
Take Them To The Vet
If you’re stumped or don’t want to risk wasting time troubleshooting it’s never a bad move to take your fish into the vet.
A betta fish not eating is on the clock. There’s only so long they can sustain a hunger strike before it ends in disaster.
If you don’t have much experience with these fish or simply want to play it safe there’s no shame in getting an expert opinion. Too often aquarists want to try and do everything themselves, and think that consulting others makes them “bad owners.”
In our opinion, the only bad owner is the one who doesn’t do whatever it takes to help their pet. If you need help, get it! That’s what a veterinarian is there for.
It won’t take them very long to eliminate theories and narrow down on a likely cause. From there you’ll get a course of action on how to turn things around and get your betta back to its normal hungry self!
By now you should have a good idea of the possible reasons why a betta fish isn’t eating. As you can tell, a lot of it comes down to collecting as much information as you can and taking action.
If your betta fish won’t eat getting stressed is understandable. However, it doesn’t mean the outcome will be catastrophic. In fact, a lot of the time this issue resolves itself.
Keep this in the back of your mind if you begin to panic! While you should obviously take this seriously, it’s important to remain optimistic so you can continue to work on solving the problem.
If you have any thoughts or feedback about additional reasons why a betta fish won’t eat, let us know. We’re committed to improving our guides and resources going forward!