Both betta fish and goldfish are super popular fish. I personally started with goldfish and bought the biggest container of goldfish food. I assume many people, you included, did the same and are now stuck with a surplus of goldfish food that you might want to feed your betta. Is this a good idea?
Betta fish can eat goldfish food, but it does not fulfill the dietary needs of a betta fish. Goldfish food consists of primarily carbohydrates as goldfish are omnivores. Betta fish are carnivores and need a lot of protein to remain healthy, which is only partly present in goldfish food.
Temporarily, your betta fish can surely eat goldfish food, but it just does not contain enough proteins. However, there are great ways to supplement protein and provide your betta with a phenomenal diet. In the rest of the article I’ll quickly run you through what you need to know to be better prepared than 90% of other betta keepers.
What’s in goldfish food that makes it unsuitable for betta fish?
If you’re out of betta food and would like to feed goldfish food to your betta, this would be a suitable option for a couple of days. I’m sure that your betta will eat it, you just have to take into account that your betta needs more protein than that’s in your goldfish food.
Now I should mention there are many different brands of goldfish food available. Whether or not it’s suitable for betta fish really depends on the ingredients used in your specific container of goldfish food. Luckily, just like “human” food, there is a list of ingredients and nutritional details on the back. Take a look and see whether it’s suitable.
What you want to be looking for is the protein percentage. While most goldfish food contains more carbohydrates when it’s made of vegetables, some foods I’ve come across can definitely be suitable as a temporary replacement for betta fish. If the goldfish food contains over 40% protein, it’s partly meeting the needs of a betta fish.
In most betta flakes and pallets, the protein comes from animals like artemia (brine shrimp), krill, earthworm meal, blood worm meal and other fish meal or fish protein. In goldfish flakes and food, these animal protein sources are less common. If the goldfish food still contains a high percentage of protein that’s similar to betta food, most dietary needs are still met.
Dried food contains more ingredients like vitamins, minerals and even pigment. The vitamins and minerals are fine for both goldfish and betta fish, but the pigment is introduced to goldfish food to make sure they maintain their bright colors. It’s a little bit less invasive and cruel than it may sound, but betta food usually does not contain any color enhancing substances. This is another reason why goldfish food really is tailored for goldfish and can’t and should not be part of the staple betta diet.
Food that’s great for betta fish besides flakes and pellets
Obviously there’s dried flakes and pellets made for betta fish that provide everything your betta fish needs. If you’ve run out of them, it’s a great opportunity to look around to discover other great and fun ways to feed your betta fish.
In nature, betta fish are carnivores. This means they eat a lot of protein rich food which they hunt for. Blood worms, daphnia, larvae, fruit flies and mosquito larvae are all on the menu for betta fish, and the great news is that it’s easy to reproduce a large part of their natural diet in our aquarium.
Feeding live food like daphnia or mosquito larvae
I’m starting with the best option, the most fun to watch and sadly also the most expensive. Live food is available at all quality aquarium stores and is the best way to keep your betta active, engaged and entertained. While we’re obviously controlling the environment our betta fish live in, adding live food allows the fish to hunt and catch its own food.
Depending on where you’re from, it’s also possible to catch live food yourself. This is what my grandfather used to do for his fish. He would go out looking for large groups of daphnia and scoop them straight out of a trench with a homemade fishing net. The fishing net is homemade because it requires a small mesh, panties work great for this.
Frozen food like bloodworms, tubifex and daphnia
Way more affordable and also more convenient to store is frozen food. Most live food options we discussed above are also available in frozen blister packages.
By adding these frozen food options to your betta aquarium you’re guaranteeing sufficient protein for your fish. It’s way more healthy compared to dried food because the fluids are not completely removed from food. Besides protein, frozen food can also offer additional components of a healthy betta diet.
Health problems your betta may encounter when eating goldfish food
According to a great article on another dedicated betta website, eating goldfish food is less than ideal for your betta. I would assume this is the case when you switch entirely to goldfish food and don’t supplement any of the missing protein. In this case, the lack of protein can lead your betta to attack other fish in your aquarium.
Whenever your betta is not consuming sufficient protein, he or she will turn to other sources. If you’ve got shrimp or other small fish in your aquarium, they are the next best option. The carnivorous instincts of your betta will surface and you’ll find your betta essentially hunting your other fish. While this does not automatically mean the betta will kill them, serious injuries to other fish are probable. This is something you want to avoid at all costs.
Behavioral changes caused by a lack of protein
Whenever fish don’t get all the right nutrients they need, you’ll be able to tell by carefully watching their behavior. Besides attacking other fish, your betta will eventually not have enough energy to behave in the usual, curious way.
Like you probably know, betta fish are extremely personable, curious and interesting to see. They’ve got a lot of energy (while they also like to rest on occasion). A poor diet will quickly show in a behavior that’s different from their normal self.
Whenever you do decide to feed goldfish food, make sure you keep a close eye on your betta. If there are any signs of an unhealthy fish, like a lack of appetite or lack of energy, think again and supplement protein.
The importance of protein during the first year of a betta’s life
It’s especially important to not feed goldfish food during the first year to year-and-a-half of your betta’s life. During this stage, the fish is developing its entire body, growing organs, bones and muscles. A full grown betta is able to grow close to 3 inches (7. cm) in length!
Whenever you notice your betta is staying small, take a good close look at their diet. Are you feeding enough? Do they get everything they need? If you’re providing an inadequate diet the growth of your fish may slow down or stop. This can have a permanent impact on the fish, where they only grow up to 2 or 1.75 inch (4 to 5 cm).