Did you notice your betta fish begging for food at feeding time and go to feed it, only to realize you’ve run out of fish food? Or maybe it’s gone bad, and you don’t have time to buy more.
Maybe you’re about to take an extended vacation, and you’re wondering, how long can a betta fish live without food?
A betta fish can live one to two weeks without food, though this can be affected by many factors. Read on to learn more!
How long can a betta fish live without food?
Last time they ate
Obviously, one of the biggest aspects regarding how long a betta fish can live without food is the last time it ate.
This probably won’t be a problem for vacations since you’d presumably be feeding your betta fish up to the last day.
However, if you run out of food two days ago and simply cannot make it to the store for a few days, you may think you have a problem.
Your fish can wait one week without ill effects; anything longer than this could lead to the fish becoming starved. Read more to learn how to tell if your betta fish is starving.
An older, more robust fish can go longer without food than a younger one.
Likely, you don’t know the exact age of your betta fish, but a good rule of thumb is that a bigger betta fish is an older betta fish.
Unless you’re breeding betta fish and have a lot of fry, or you simply chose to get a young betta fish, age might not be a significant factor. But if you do have a younger fish, it is something very important to consider.
For example, it is recommended to feed betta fish fry 3-4 times a day.
While any betta fish will eat as much as you can give them, a younger, smaller betta fish cannot eat as much as a larger one and will absorb fewer nutrients.
Fewer nutrients mean less energy for your betta fish, and less energy means less time for your betta fish.
Quality of food
Quite possibly, the biggest factor in how long a betta fish can live without food is the quality of food. If their food is good, it provides them with more nutrients.
While pellets and flakes are probably the most commonly used food items, they’re often not the most nutritious.
One of the best things to feed your betta fish is a bloodworm, though only as a treat. Bloodworms are fly larvae and can be purchased live or frozen.
They’re a holy grail for fish keepers, and your betta fish will go crazy for them!
Because of their fat content, it’s not recommended to exclusively feed your betta fish bloodworms, but fattening up your fish will definitely help if it has to go without food for a while.
Other good feeders are daphnia and brine shrimp- also available both live and frozen, though not as universally loved as bloodworms.
While daphnia is higher in protein than brine shrimp and will help your betta fish’s energy levels, they are less easy to find than brine shrimp.
Then there are mosquito larvae- it’s a bit gross, sure, but it works! This live, protein-packed food is close to what your betta would eat in the wild and is good for keeping their energy levels up.
Three signs of a starving betta fish
The easiest thing to notice and your first sign that your betta fish is starving; your beautiful, colorful, eye-catching betta fish’s color has dulled!
Whether it goes from a vibrant blue or a striking red to a more muted tone, you will definitely notice when your bettas’ color has dulled.
While this can be a symptom of several illnesses, it’s indicative of starvation.
There’s no magic cure to immediately brighten up your betta fish again, other than just getting them back on track.
If you feed your betta fish regularly, it’s sure to get its natural beauty back in no time.
Every animal needs to sleep, but a starving betta fish can take that to extremes. A betta fish can seem to lose its personality and activity since it’s not getting any energy from food.
If it’s spending all day on the bottom of its tank or resting on a leaf, or it just doesn’t seem to have the energy it used to, it could be starving.
It’s important to note that betta fish are individuals, and each has its own personality- some are just lazy!
There’s no singular set of parameters to identify ‘lethargy’, but you probably know your betta fish well enough to recognize when it’s behaving strangely.
It’s a bit obvious, but if betta fish visibly lose weight, they’re probably starving- especially if this happens rapidly.
If your betta fish is truly starving, it’s already burnt through its fat reserves for energy, resulting in a visibly skinnier fish.
Don’t give in to begging
Something very important to note is that while your betta fish might be begging, that does not mean it’s starving!
Betta fish are voracious eaters and will eat anything they can, and much like cats or dogs, they can learn their feeding schedule.
A begging betta knows it’s feeding time and is hoping for food- it might be hungry, but it’s probably not starving.
Or maybe it’s already past feeding time, and the fish is hoping that putting on a little show will win it some more food.
What can I feed my betta if I’m out of food?
If you’re out of your usual betta food and need something to feed your betta in a pinch, you don’t need to worry. You have several options!
One option is a worm. Worms are a well-known favorite of all fish- cutting one up from your garden will make your betta very happy.
Plus, this is close to what betta fish would be eating in the wild, so it’d likely appreciate this snack. But what makes worms an excellent option is that no purchase is required!
Sure, you could specifically go buy them if you wanted to, but if you go into your backyard after it rains, you can easily find some for free.
Betta fish are carnivores, though they’re small ones- normally, they’re small enough that they normally can’t eat other fish.
Thankfully, they still can digest fish meat- for example, if you keep guppies that just keep having too many babies, guppy fry can make a good snack for your betta fish!
If you’ve got some fish filets sitting in the freezer, slicing a little off provides some nice protein.
You’ll need to use tiny pieces- like the shavings from a cheese grater. Remember, it has to fit in your betta fish’s mouth, and it certainly can’t eat a whole filet of tilapia.
Cooked egg yolk
This has to be used as a rare treat, as it likes to clog up filters. One VERY good source of protein and more than an ample substitute for fish food in a pinch is cooked egg yolk, diced into small enough pieces.
The yolk is the most nutritious, protein-packed part of an egg, though the fatty content and amount of oils can leave your tank looking worse for wear if used regularly.
For best results, it’s recommended to roll the egg yolk into small, pellet-sized balls. A betta fish’s stomach is just as small as it looks, and it should be fed no more than 3-4 pellets.
What can I do if I’m on vacation too long?
If you’re going to be away from your betta fish for some time, quite possibly the easiest solution is to just have somebody feed your betta fish for you.
It’s best if this is somebody you trust, like a family member or good friend. If you ask somebody to come and feed your fish 3-4 pellets every 2-3 days, you’ll return home to happy, healthy fish and a clean tank!
Feed them more
A betta fish with more fat reserves will be able to last longer without food than a thinner betta fish. And so, a simple solution is to fatten up your fish beforehand.
You can feed it slightly more or give it some fattier treats, like the aforementioned bloodworms or cooked egg yolk.
Be careful not to overfeed your betta! Anything your betta fish doesn’t eat will start rotting and lead to a dirty tank- read on to see what that means for your betta.
Purchase an automatic feeder
This option has the highest overhead cost but arguably requires the least effort.
There are plenty of available options for automatic feeders, though because of the cost, this is best for long trips over 2-3 weeks and if you can’t get somebody to feed your fish.
Some automatic feeders are prone to overfeeding, as well, and may require some modification to be suitable for betta fish.
Most models of automatic feeders are designed to feed multiple fish, which is not likely for a betta fish tank- and so they’d overfeed your betta fish.
In most models, such as the rotating feeders, adding some tape to the opening can restrict how much food comes out, allowing you to find the right amount to dispense.
Do not leave food in the tank
Unless you have a cleanup crew in your tank, uneaten food can have some adverse effects.
It can jam the filter or start rotting and molding, contributing to a dirty tank that could make your betta fish ill.
It could also serve as food for flatworms or planaria, starting an infestation in your tank.
Even if you have a cleanup crew, they can miss some food- so be very careful about overfeeding, and do not leave extra food in your betta fish tank!
Best automatic feeders for betta fish
Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder
The Fish Mate F14 Feeder is a proportioned feeder, allowing you to put 2-3 pellets into your tank every 1-2 days.
This is an ideal amount for a betta fish, and yours will feel like nothing’s changed at all.
This feeder’s schedule is programmable like an intermatic pool timer, meaning no internet connection or technological know-how is required.
EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder
The EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder is a bigger feeder called a ‘rotator’ for the way it dispenses food.
As a rotator, it’s very easy to overfeed your betta with; however, previously-mentioned slight modifications can make it perfect for your betta.
This feeder has digital controls, making it easier to set up for an extended amount of feedings.
Intellifeed Fish Feeder
The Intellifeed Fish Feeder is a rotating feeder, much like the EHEIM, with more options for programming.
One downside is that it’s more expensive than the EHEIM, but its versatility and flexible programming can justify that price tag for the more technologically-capable betta fish keeper.