You'll probably notice a quirk with betta fish. They'll continue stuffing themselves as long as you keep giving them food. Their stomach can be a bottomless pit if you’re not careful. Thus, betta fish are often at high risk of overfeeding, bloating and other downstream problems.
Two of the most common questions fish keepers ask are:
"How much should I feed my betta fish?”
"How often should I feed my betta fish?”
When looking to answer this question, most online resources give blanket statements as answers. But this “one-size-fits-all” approach shouldn’t be the case because everyone has:
Different tank setups
Unique bettas with varying personalities
Fish food of different shapes, sizes, and compositions
In this article, I can help you develop your own feeding regimen, personalized for your specific betta fish.
My Personal Feeding Regimen
In terms of feeding frequency and schedule, I try to stay consistent. This way, my betta fish knows when to expect food. An inconsistent schedule can leave them underfed, overfed, stressed, and/or generally unhappy.
Every morning, I feed only once a day as soon as a light turns on for my betta fish's tank. I feed 6 times a week, with Sundays as a fasting day. Fasting once every 7-10 days helps promote full digestion and prevents constipation.
I feed 5-8 pellets per day, with Fluval Bug Bites here and there throughout the week as a treat.
Now that you know my regimen, should you follow it too? The answer is… it depends.
Like I've mentioned before, every betta fish owner has a different setup to their betta fish's tank and different bettas of varying:
The type of fish food an owner buys can also vary greatly.
The key is that every situation is unique...including yours.
The bottom line is you should understand your betta fish and various factors that may impact how much food you should end up feeding.
Let's move on to those specific factors you must consider.
7 Factors to Consider on How Often and How Much You Feed a Betta Fish
1. Baseline Activity Level
The first factor to consider is your betta fish’s activity level.
Some betta fish are chill, nonchalant, slow and/or love to hang out in their specific tank corner as time passes by. On the other hand, some bettas are extremely active and constantly moving throughout the tank.
Generally, the more active your betta fish is, the more food they need.
In my experience, and do take this with a grain of salt, many short-finned betta fish such as Plakats are usually more active than long-finned bettas.
2. Baseline Body Size
A second factor that you need to consider is the general size of your betta fish.
Intuitively, the bigger the fish, the more food you'll need to feed to provide sustenance. In this case, I'm not talking about obese betta fish, which would be an indicator that you should decrease how much you’re feeding.
By “bigger” I moreso mean giant or king betta fish, which are anatomically larger than your regular betta fish at a baseline.
3. Tank Temperature
A third factor that you need to consider is the temperature of your tank.
The ideal tank temperature for betta fish is 78-80°F or 25.6-26.7°C.
If your tank is below the ideal temperature, your betta fish's rate of metabolism slows down. They can't digest as easily or as quickly with a slower metabolism, so your betta fish should theoretically intake less food than normally to avoid backing up the digestive system.
Granted, if the tank is cooler than the ideal temperature, your main concern should be to bring the betta fish's tank temperature to the ideal range over decreasing the amount of food you're feeding.
Colder water has a number of other negative implications outside of just the metabolism, such as lowering the immune system.
4. Size of Your Fish Food
The fourth factor is the size of the food that you’re feeding your betta fish.
Fish pellets come in different sizes, shapes, and caloric densities.
When fish keepers ask how much they should feed their betta, they usually get a blanket statement such as...
"Feed X amount of flakes twice per day, so you should do the same."
Unfortunately, this isn't helpful because it doesn’t factor in the type of fish food you have compared to others.
Betta fish foods come in a plethora of different sizes, shapes, caloric densities. So keep that all in mind as you’re doing your research.
5. Stomach Size
The fifth factor that I like to consider is the short-term impact on your betta fish’s stomach.
A useful visual cue to know if your betta fish is full or not is to check their stomach size. A betta fish with a full stomach has a slightly rounded, but not bloated, abdomen.
A bloated betta fish has a stomach that looks like it's bursting at the seams. On the other hand, a rounded abdomen will slightly protrude where you could just barely make out the shape.
Avoid making your fish bloated, as it can lead to constipation and other digestive problems. But feed enough to where you see that slightly rounded shape.
6. Change in Weight Over Time
This sixth factor I consider is the long-term impact of your betta fish’s weight.
This is different from considering the baseline size of your fish, mentioned in factor 2 of this list. By change in weight, I’m referring to the betta fish’s change over time. If your fish is gaining weight, cut down on the amount of food you're feeding them.
On the other hand, if you notice that your betta fish is losing weight over time, increase the amount of food you're feeding them.
You may be wondering what's a good indicator of a healthy weight for betta fish…this leads us to the seventh and final factor.
7. Swim Bladder Prominence
The seventh factor to consider is the prominence of your betta fish’s swim bladder.
The swim bladder is a gas-filled internal organ that allows the fish to control its buoyancy. It's located near the tail end of your betta fish. I use the swim bladder as a visual cue to see if a betta fish is overweight or underweight.
If you can make out where the swim bladder is, chances are your betta fish is underweight and you should increase their daily intake.
If you can't see the swim bladder because their body-to-tail-end is a smooth continuous shape, then your betta fish is probably at a healthy weight.
At this point, you can either decrease the amount of food you're feeding or don't make any changes.
Now that we've covered the 7 factors to consider, let's move on to what I recommend you do to find out your betta fish's unique feeding regimen.
Everyone needs to start somewhere. Keeping in mind that betta fish can go 1-2 weeks without having to eat, it’s safer to stay on the side of precaution of starting low and going slow.
Gradually increase the amount of food that you’re feeding. The last thing you want to do is overfeed your betta fish right from the start.
I personally recommend that you start off with 3-4 pellets daily using the North Fin Betta Bits. Pellets are a great form of fish food because they’re easily proportionable, keep the water relatively clean, and are nutritionally dense, if you pick the right one.
From 3-4 pellets, gradually increase by 1-2 pellets per week. While doing that, consider the 7 factors above and adjust accordingly.
Again, I recommend that you fast your fish every 7-10 days to help with digestion.
Lastly, it's up to you whether you want to feed your betta fish once or twice a day. I personally like once a day, because at baseline, I don’t need to feed my betta fish too much.
But of course, if you see that your betta fish doesn’t like eating too much in one sitting, or the proportion sizes are too big for one sitting, then I would split it up into a morning feed, and then a night feed.
Other betta fish keepers out there have a different methodology for finding out how much you should feed your betta. They recommend that you feed them to their maximum capacity to understand how much they can potentially eat. Then from there, you can cut it back down.
I don't recommend this methodology because of the higher risk of causing bloat during that initial "testing phase."
There are many blanket answers on how often and/or how much you should feed your betta fish. But everyone’s case is unique because we all have different tank setups, different bettas, and different types of food.
So to answer your question on how much and how often you should feed your betta... start small and consider your unique situation. As long as you gradually increase the amount and consider the 7 factors, you should be ahead of the curve.