Do you have a last-minute work trip and can’t leave your fish with someone else? Did your pet sitter cancel on you when you were just about to leave the house to catch your flight? Or did your favorite pet food brand just run out at the store? Whatever the reason may be, are you worried sick about how long your betta fish might survive without food?
Generally, Betta fish can manage to live without food for up to a week. However, it depends on various other factors, with Optimal Aquarium conditions topping that list.
Keep on reading to know how long your betta fish can survive without food as we share our fish-keeping wisdom with you.
We will tell you all you need to know about feeding your little pet friends and how long your little betta fish can go without food. So don’t worry, sit back, and read through because you are in the right place to have all your queries answered.
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What Does Betta Fish Eat?
Before diving into how long betta fish can go without food, let us first discuss the ideal diet to feed your betta fish. Since well-fed and healthy betta can go without food for longer amounts of time. Betta fish are carnivorous in nature, i.e. they are meat-loving little creatures that typically have a protein-based diet.
Betta Fish Diet in the Wild
In the wild, betta fish primarily feed on invertebrates, small insects, insect larvae, fish eggs, and even small fish, for this reason, betta fish are known as insectivores or insectivorous. Now the insects and fish they feed on depend on the region in which they reside, mostly Asia or similar tropical climates. Specifically, they feed on brine shrimps, mosquito larvae, midges, common water fleas (daphnia), etc. But this does not mean that you can go out into your lawn and just feed them any insects you find. Insects can be toxic and poisonous to your betta fish leading to complications so it is important to feed them commercially available fish food targeted especially for bettas.
Betta Fish Diet in Your Aquarium
In your tank, betta fish need a diet predominantly containing animal protein. You can find high-protein betta pellets easily, both online and in stores. You soak these pellets in water for 5 to 10 minutes before feeding them to your little betta friends. Such pellets are sufficient to ensure that your betta fish get the appropriate amount of protein necessary for their development and growth. But for a balanced diet betta fish require variety. Blood worms, white worms, glass worms, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp are some of the betta‘s favorite treats. They are available as frozen foods and in freeze-dried forms.
Foods to avoid in the Betta Fish Diet
Do not feed your bettas fish flakes. Given the shape of their mouths, they have trouble consuming such flakes even if they are in crushed form. These flakes might get caught up in their throats or sink down to the bottom of the tank and rot. In addition to this, betta fish should not be left to feed on the plants present in the betta fish tank. As they require a full of protein meat-based diet.
Betta Fry Diet
Betta fry (baby betta fish that are newly hatched) require smaller-sized portions of the same betta fish diet. Frozen food is to be thawed before giving it to them. While baby brine shrimp and small live foods can also be given to betta fry. Baby betta fish or betta fry have not developed the sharp teeth that betta fish are known for. So they consume food more on the softer side. They can also be given small betta fish pellets. Although betta fish flakes are mostly to be avoided.
Recommended Betta Fish Feeding Schedule
It is recommended to feed your betta fish 2 to 4 protein pellets twice a day or 6 to 8 protein pellets once a day. Betta fish have a stomach the size of their eyeball so skipping one meal is no problem for them. You can exchange the pellets with freeze-dried or frozen foods like blood worms, brine shrimp, daphnia, etc. for one or two days per week. After a few consecutive days of feeding, you might want to give your betta fish a break for a day or two. This helps your betta fish digest the food already present in their system making them healthier.
Overfeeding and Underfeeding
It is important that both overfeeding and underfeeding are avoided. Since underfeeding will lead to your betta fish being malnourished, underweight, and therefore more susceptible to disease, ultimately leading to death. While, when betta fish are overfed it might lead to obesity in the fish thereby causing bloating and disease. But more often the betta fish do not consume this extra food and it sinks to the bottom of the tank. Here this extra food undergoes rot and results in the need for the tank to be cleaned more regularly and the dissolved oxygen levels also start depleting.
Survival Without Food
So the question remains, how long can betta fish survive without food? Can you make the last-minute business trip in peace? Or will you constantly spend it worrying about your little betta fish friends? Well, the answer to this question depends on a number of different factors. Some of the most important factors in this include:
- The health of your betta fish
- The size of your tank
- Whether your tank contains a water filter or is without a water filter
Although betta fish have a stomach the size of their eyeball and do not require much food, they can stay without food for long stretches of time about 10 to 14 days given the conditions present in the tank. But this is not recommended and may even be deemed as animal cruelty. However, if good tank conditions are maintained your betta fish may stay healthy for up to one week i.e. 7 days without food being added. The betta fish do start to starve after about four to five days but may go on without food for even longer. Let us discuss the conditions that prove to be best for betta fish in a bit of detail.
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Betta Fish Health
To leave your betta fish without food and in less than ideal conditions for up to 2 weeks (14 days), it is important that your fish are already in ideal good health. Fish that are stressed or have already been kept in conditions where they struggle to survive face extreme difficulty surviving without food and enduring fasting conditions.
Your fish may be stressed for a number of different reasons;
- Feeding your fish a plant-based diet instead of their preferred protein diet
- Keeping your fish in conditions other than the optimum temperature range which is 76 °F to 81 °F about 24.5 °C to 27.5 °C
- Keeping too many betta fish in a small-sized tank etc.
Betta Fish Age
Your betta fish will respond to living without food in different ways, the response is not the same even for fish kept under the same conditions. This depends on their health, metabolism, and age. Generally, a younger betta fish is more likely to survive stress conditions than an older betta fish. But older betta fish have fat reserves that can be used to provide energy during starvation conditions.
Betta Fish Fry
Betta fish fry should not be left alone without food. This is because they require 3 to 4 feedings a day and do not have any fat reserves. They can survive for three days when they are at age of 48 hours after hatching. This is because they can still get nutrients from the egg sack but after this time period, they require proper meals to be fed.
Smaller tanks require their water to be changed regularly for good quality to be maintained. The water conditions deplete faster as compared to when you put your fish in bigger tanks. If you have your betta fish kept in a big tank (i.e. more than 4 gallons) or a community tank, they are more likely to withstand fasting conditions. This means that your betta fish are less likely to be stressed early on. So if you are planning to leave your betta fish for an extended amount of time without food, it is better that you keep them in a bigger tank.
Unfiltered tanks usually prove sufficient in housing betta fish under normal circumstances. But when leaving your fish unattended for an extended amount of time, you might want to invest in a water tank filter. Your betta fish are more likely to withstand fasting if the water conditions are optimum and the water is clean. Filtered tanks are more likely to put less stress on your betta fish even under fasting conditions.
If you have an unfiltered water tank it is recommended that you change your tank water on the day that you leave or last feed your fish. A 50 to 80% water change is recommended so the water may last for a few days without being in the need of a change. The water will be under optimal conditions for a longer period of time this way.
Starvation and Stress
When under stress betta fish are more susceptible to disease and their growth and development suffer. Fish become stressed for about 4 to 5 days without eating food. They stop swimming properly, their social behavior suffers, and they struggle to come up to the surface to breathe.
After about 7 days without food, betta fish enter starvation mode. Starvation mode means that the betta fish start using up the fat stores that are present in their body. Once these fat reserves are completely used up widespread organ damage starts to occur and it is not possible for your betta fish to recover beyond this point, death becomes unavoidable. This usually occurs after 10 days but in some cases, if you have optimum conditions in your tank, your betta fish might make it up to the 2-week mark. Although it is not recommended to leave your betta fish without food for this long.
So ideally you shouldn’t be leaving your fish without food for more than a period of 7 days.
The Bottom Line On How Long Can Betta Fish Go Without Food?
Betta fish are resilient and their small stomach size makes it possible for them to survive on limited food. But it is recommended that you do not leave your betta fish without food for more than one week i.e. 7 days at a time even if your tank conditions are optimal. If you are away for a longer period of time, you should make sure that your tank has a water filter and is equipped with a suitable auto feeder. Or you might want to invest in employing a pet sitter. Since your fish might not survive otherwise and even if they do for a period of up to 14 to 15 days, it may leave permanent organ damage. Which can be deemed as animal cruelty and is not recommended for your betta fish pet friends.
We hope this answers all your questions, and you can make the 2-day business trip with ease and peace. We will be sure to address any other queries that you have. Stay tuned with us if you want all other kinds of questions answered. We will be sure to be back with more and make sure your little fish friends live the perfect life they deserve. And keep on swimming.