I once forgot to feed my betta fish for a few days, and was really concerned that it would be dead when I got home, but luckily it wasn’t. So how long can a betta fish go without food?
A betta fish should be able to survive for anywhere between 7 and 14 days without food. Exactly how long it can go without food depends on a variety of factors, such as environmental conditions, age, and overall health. That said, skipping meals is not recommended.
Keep reading to find out everything there is to know about how long betta fish can go without food, how to feed them when you’re not there, and what happens when they don’t get food for a prolonged period of time.
How Long Can a Betta Fish Go Without Food?
Just like with human beings, a betta fish will not die if it does not get food for a few days. In fact, although this is a very small fish, it can actually survive for up to 14 days without food.
On average, you can expect a betta fish to live for at least 10 days without being fed, although anything after that is of course pushing it. Now, exactly how long a betta fish can survive without food depends on many other factors, such as the fish’s overall health, age, and environmental conditions.
For instance, if the fish is already old and not doing so well in terms of its health, it might only last for five or seven days, or even less. There is a great deal of variation here, so although we can provide you with a rough estimate, these are not fixed numbers.
What Happens if a Betta Fish Does Not Get Food?
So, as you could rightfully assume, if your betta fish does not get food for a prolonged period of time, it will starve. Betta fish have a relatively high metabolism, which means that they burn a lot of calories in a short period of time.
This in turn means that they require regular and constant feeding to maintain their calorie intake, their fuel source, and their overall health. If a betta fish does not get enough food, it will starve, it won’t have the fuel it needs to survive, and it will eventually die.
However, there are many things that will happen to your betta fish before it dies, so let’s take a quick look at some of the signs of a lack of food.
One of the first things that you will notice happening if your betta fish does not get enough food is that it won’t have enough energy anymore. Betta fish tend to be very active swimmers, but if you notice that your fish is no longer actively swimming around, but rather lethargic and lazy, it might just be the start of starvation.
You might also notice that your betta fish starts to look sick or might even develop a variety of illnesses and diseases. This is because without the proper nutrition and without enough calories, the immune system of your betta fish cannot function properly.
This means that your betta fish becomes very susceptible to a variety of diseases, many of which are already present in aquariums. So, if it’s not the start of starvation that takes out your betta fish, it might just be a disease.
Several days into not eating anything, you will then notice that your betta fish starts getting very small. This is because muscle wasting starts to occur, which is when the body of the betta fish starts breaking down muscle tissue to get the energy it needs to live.
If the energy doesn’t come from, then the betta fish will quite literally start to eat itself from the inside out. Eventually, this will lead to organ damage, and then death.
How Much To Feed Betta Fish (and When)
Something that is very important to note on this front is that betta fish require a certain amount of food to remain healthy and happy. Generally speaking, you should feed your betta fish about as much food as it can eat in 3 minutes, and you should do so twice per day.
Some people may choose to feed their betta fish only once per day, in which case you may want to give it as much food as it can eat in around 5 or 6 minutes.
However, to keep the metabolism going and to keep the digestive tract in good condition, feeding your betta fish twice per day with smaller portions is recommended. Just like with human beings, it’s better for betta fish to eat more smaller meals than it is to eat fewer larger meals.
It’s just much better for their digestion. Remember that overfeeding your betta fish is not good either, often much worse than underfeeding, especially over a short period of time. The simple reality is that over feeding your betta fish can also lead to a variety of health conditions, which we will take a closer look at further below.
In terms of when to feed your betta fish, most people choose to feed them at dawn and dusk, or sometime around sunup and sundown. The reason for this is because in the wild, this is exactly when a regular betta fish would eat.
Insects and other critters that are betta fish would eat in the wild are generally most active during these times, so by feeding them at this time, you are effectively recreating their natural feeding schedule.
Whatever the case may be, whether you feed your bait to fish once or twice per day, and whether you feed them at sunup and sundown or at different times, you always want to maintain a routine. Just like human beings, fish also get used to routines, and it’s best to stick to them.
How to Feed a Betta Fish When You Aren’t There
OK, so the problem here is of course that you can’t always be there to feed your betta fish. The reality is that as a human, you have to go to work, you have to go to school, maybe you want to leave for a weekend, or maybe you even want to leave to go to Mexico for a whole week.
The point here is that transporting a fish tank to your neighbors or friends house, if you even have any of those, is very difficult. More often than not, fish suffer great stress when they are being transported.
Therefore, moving the fish into a new aquarium for just a short period of time, or even moving the whole aquarium to a new location for a short period, is really not a viable option. This means that you need to find a way to keep your betta fish well fed in your home, in its own tank, when you aren’t there.
Effectively, there are two options that you have at your disposal here, which include feeding blocks and automatic feeders. Personally, I would recommend going for an automatic feeder over a feeding block, although both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The Feeding Block
First, we have the feeding block, which is essentially just a compacted pile of food that you place in the fish tank karma which your betta fish can eat from for as long as need be.
Although this is more or less a guaranteed way to keep your betta fish fed, it’s also a great way to make the fish tank dirty.
All of that food will start to make the water cloudy and it will start rotting, therefore releasing ammonia and other substances into the water that really shouldn’t be present. If you plan on using such a feeding block, then you better have a really strong filtration unit that is able to remove all of the ammonia and loose food particles from the water before it starts to negatively impact the water quality and the health of your betta fish.
The other option that you have at your disposal is an automatic fish feeder, which is what I personally would recommend. The reason for this is because these only dispense as much food as you’re back to fish needs at once.
Automatic fish feeders are programmable, which means that you can set them to release a certain amount of food at a certain time of day, and usually several times per day. They can usually also accommodate both flake and pellet food, which therefore makes them quite versatile.
Overall, this is my number one recommendation, especially when compared to a feeding block. With that being said, remember that these are pieces of electronic equipment, and things can sometimes go wrong.
This means that if your automatic fish feeder breaks down, the result will be that your betta fish won’t get fed, and you might just come home to a starved fish. Therefore, while some people may choose to use an automatic fish feeder, many will still use a small food block as a backup, although this is at your discretion.
The bottom line is that your betta fish can only go so long without food, and if you plan on being away, you need to find a solution.