The Best Food For Betta Fish

Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are prized for the beauty of the male fish, which come in gorgeous, iridescent colors and have luxuriant, fan-like fins and tails. But bettas aren’t passive beauties that simply like to be admired and they’re probably not the first aquarium fish for an amateur. Frankly, betta males are territorial and aggressive. They’re not only aggressive toward each other, but they’re aggressive toward their own mates after the deed is done. Though the males raise their fry to a point, the babies need to be taken out of the tank after a while otherwise their fathers will eat them.

Well, what do betta fish eat beside their young? Actually there are several, better options when it comes to betta fish food. Here they are:

Fish Flakes
Flakes are inexpensive food items, and the betta may like them or not. Often, fish flakes contain fish meal, which is dried, leftover fish that’s ground up, shrimp meal, which is shrimp that’s dried and ground up, yeast, oatmeal, algae meal, potato protein, soybean oil, fish oil and a variety of vitamins. These include Vitamin C, calcium, the B complex vitamins and Vitamin E. Some fish flakes also contain artificial coloring. Fish owners should be a bit wary of these dyes and lakes because some of them, especially Red 3 Dye, can make a betta even more aggressive than it already is. Yellow 6 lake, also found in some fish flakes, is considered a carcinogen. By the way, a dye is water soluble and a lake isn’t. Therefore, a dye can also discolor the water if the fish flake isn’t eaten. Owners have also complained that wheat gluten, which is a filler in many flakes, can cause constipation. Constipation, besides being bad in itself, can interfere with a betta’s swim bladder.

Good things to look for in fish flakes are spirulina, a sort of algae and probiotics.

Live Food
Live food that betta fish really go for are bloodworms, daphnia, grindal worms and brine shrimp larvae, or nauplii. Bloodworms are the larvae of non-biting midges. They can be found in all types of watery environments, even those that are deeply polluted. They’re called bloodworms because of their red color, the result of a chemical much like hemoglobin found in their bodies.

Brine shrimp are notorious for being sold as Sea Monkeys. They are of course not monkeys at all, but crustaceans from the genus artemia. They are not even from the sea but are found in briny lakes. The nauplii are not only eaten but the cysts, or dormant eggs, are also eaten. Brine shrimp are often raised in huge breeding ponds.

Daphnia are also tiny crustaceans that are known as water fleas. Grindal worms are interesting because they’re not aquatic. They live in the soil and can be cultured in wooden worm boxes. They’re also called white worms. Some betta owners say that grindal worms make their fish fat, but the problem might be that the fish are simply eating too many fat worms.

Though bettas love live food, it can be a challenge to feed it to them. Live brine shrimp and bloodworms are expensive to buy, and they need to be kept alive until they’re fed to the fish. This might mean that the owner needs to make a daily trip to the aquarium store or other reputable place that breeds these creatures.

betta fish food photo
Betta Fish Pellets
This might be the best compromise between fish flakes and live food. These fish pellets are made specifically for Siamese fighting fish. They’re often made out of the crustaceans that the bettas crave anyway. Some pellets even have ingredients like garlic, which discourage parasites in the fish’s gut. Betta pellets are made just the right size for the fish to eat without trouble. The pellets also won’t foul the water the way fish flakes might. They’re easy to administer and certainly easier to keep on hand than live foods. Only two or three pellets need to be given per fish. They should be enough to fill but not overfill the betta’s stomach, which is about as large as its eye.

Freeze Dried Foods
These are often freeze dried brine shrimp, daphnia or blood worms. They have the convenience of fish flakes but don’t have the questionable fillers. Some owners believe that freeze drying also preserves more of the food’s nutrients since the cells don’t rupture as they would after regular freezing. Also, unlike frozen food, freeze dried foods don’t need to be stored in the freezer but can be placed in the pantry or on the shelf beneath the aquarium.

Frozen Foods
Frozen foods seem to appeal more to some bettas than freeze dried food. They should never be thawed out and then refrozen but can simply be dropped into the water. The bettas will happily nibble the food as it thaws out.

A Combination
Some owners feed their bettas a combination of pellets, freeze dried food and live food. New betta owners should know that some bettas won’t go back to plain old fish flakes after they’ve tasted pellets or live food.

Another question new betta owners have is how often to feed their fish. It’s important not to overfeed bettas or any fish because the food they don’t eat will only foul the water. Also, a betta can actually become overweight if it’s fed too much. One rule of thumb is to feed a young betta two times a day and mature betta once a day. It doesn’t hurt them to skip a day either.

Photo by Sarah Korf

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