My Betta Fish Won't Eat, I'm Worried he is Sick or Will Die

Topic: I’m super new to this and please excuse my lack of knowledge. I want to properly care for my fish. I’m gonna ask anyways just because I’m worried about my new fish. He won’t eat and its been a couple of days now. What should I do about this? Will my fish starve to death because he is scarred?


Reply from Admin Chris:
It would take your betta fish two weeks to completely starve to death. What I am getting at is your fish doesn’t eat as much as you think he/she does. Their stomach is the size of the eyeball. Another variable is that THEY DONT LIKE THE FOOD you have. There are much better foods than others. Chances are… if you bought the food from walmart.. your fish hate it (because it sucks). Try some good quality food like Omega one

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What’s happening most likely is your fish is either eating when you don’t see it or the fish has too much stress going on to feed. The betta is a meat eating carnivore. Feeding your fish those crappy flakes or pellets just isn’t cutting it. I would advise getting them some good food like bloodworms or dried shrimp. Here is an image of some meat based foods that you can get from Amazon that they will love!

A new fish tank setup is always going to bring stress to the fish because its new. What is important to know is that stress puts a fish’s body at harm. Fish rarely get sick unless under stress levels. So if you can cut back on as much stress as possible, the better.

If you think your betta might not be eating due to stress then maybe try bringing some darkness to the tank to reduce stress. Cover the tank with a small blanket so the fish doesn’t have to witness all the movement outside of the tank. Even though he is inside the tank, he still gets stress from movement in his surrounding view. Darkness helps this stress tell he is more used to the new environment.

The betta fish eats way less than what you would think. Their stomach is the size of their eyeball. Take a look at their eyeball. It’s about the size of a small pebble.. if even that. That’s how much food they need to be full for the day. So think of a tiny amount of food your fish may have ate while you didn’t see him do it.

Another word of advice, betta fish have digestion problems that are very common. Overfeeding them really causes bloating issues and brings on new problems. I would truly not worry about over feeding these fish but more concern on feeding them a super quality small meal.

Those betta pellets you got at Walmart aren’t going to cut it. These fish like good food from the carnivore food group. Bloodworms, live brine shrimp, dried shrimp and more. These carnivores crave real food that is moving or look like its moving. I think if you stress more on better food with more protein in smaller amounts you will have higher success rates.

My betta fish beg to be fed at all times of the day. I switch up bloodworms with dried shrimp that I find in the turtle section of your local pet store. Another tip is to feed them pieces of “peas.” Like the pea that human eat. You can by them out of a can already cooked. Peel the skin off and cut into small pieces for betta. If the pieces float, they Bettas will eat more of it. The pea really helps with their common digestion issues. I personally do this once every 2 weeks. Hope this helps you some.

Posted by Harley B: My daughter and I went to Pet Smart Saturday evening. She’s been wanting a betta for awhile now. She got a female betta, small, tank, rocks, decorative tree and pellet food (per Pet Smart’s recommendation) and water conditioner. Came home and prepped tank and let water come to room temp, etc. Fish from what we can tell isn’t eating. Not sure if it’s the pellet food, or just environment change? Is this normal. We’re first timers. TIA

  • If “room temp” is not 78-80 degrees, she may not eat. Bettas are tropical fish.
  • My little girl only eats micro pellets. She would spit out the regular size pellets.
  • You need a heater. 78 to 80 is ideal. Might take fish a few days to get used to new home before it will eat. Bettas can go up to 14 days without food, so it won’t starve to death.
  • Anyone know how long these fish live for because that’s also a good question.
  • Maybe nervous from new environment? My Charlie barely ate couple days but now eats. I figure size isn’t a huge deal since they can eat live insects? Pellets are pretty small..
  • I would get a heater, bettas are tropical and need an average 78° temp. When they are cold their metabolism slows, so she may not eat or be very active if she’s at a cooler temp. The Hydor Theo is a small adjustable heater, and well recommended. And honestly she may need some time to adjust before she eats. I know my one boy wouldn’t eat his first week because of the stress. I added more silk plants to give him coverage and as he felt more safe he finally started eating. Micro pellet (like Omega One sells) are perfect for bettas as they are small and easier to consume. Hth and good luck.
  • Did you get a filter setup or not yet?
  • Betta require a heater in most places. They will survive if room temperature is 72° or above, but will be prone to getting sick. You want a heater with an adjustable temperature setting so you can set your tank to 78° or 80°.A huge thing with Betta is to not overfeed them. You want to give them roughly the size of their eyeball twice a day. Most good breeders teach fish to eat flake and pellets before they sell them. (Young betta are fed live foods.) Coming from a pet store it may be that they simply don’t understand something not moving is food. Continue offering food. Remove it with a turkey baster after it has been in the tank several hours uneaten. Sooner or later the fish will try it out of desperation. As my father told me when I got my first Betta almost 40 years ago, the fish won’t starve itself to death.Now that I breed, I offer one meal of golden pearls (out of three) daily from three days old. By the time my Betta are three months old, they all understand that not all food moves and accept anything. Also, soak any freeze dried foods in tank water for 10 to 15 min before feeding it. I use the measuring cap from nyquil and pesto bismol to soak the food, then gently pour it back in the tank. Clean and rinse the caps well before aquarium use.
  • Since other people have covered the lack of a heater, I’d also like to add that you’ll need to do frequent water changes and it’d be a good idea to buy the API Freshwater Master Kit to test the water’s ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Since it sounds like you bought everything at the same time, you’re going to want to make sure the water is safe for the fish. You’ll need to research fish-in tank cycling processes. This is different than just letting the filter run and clean the water. Tank cycling will build the a habitat of beneficial bacteria that will consume the ammonia and nitrites produced by your fish’s waste, decaying food, etc. and turn it into nitrates which is okay for the fish to have at some levels. The only way to remove the nitrates is to do water changes. How often depends on the size of your tank.
  • You should never feed a fish for the first few days you have them. Ever.
  • Because they never eat. That leads to water pollution and all the gunk build up from uneaten food (say if they eat it then spit it back out). They generally never eat the first few days anyway because they’re stressed and all that jazz so they won’t eat all that much if at all.

Posted by Julia Tiang:
I was really confused for the longest time because my fish weren’t eating. I have a bunch of females and they just wouldn’t eat to save their lives it seemed.. I took the advice to get some live food and we’re back to being on schedule of having a daily feeding or else bi-daily feeding. That whole bloated illness I see all over the forums is really scary. I don’t want my fish to get that.

Posted by NatashaR:
I can’t find these special foods you speak of for my fish. We only have a walmart in town and zero pet stores. Why can a person in my case do. My fish isn’t eating anymore and I’ve had him for two years and don’t want to loose my little blooper (his name). Please help me out.

Posted by Jason N:
My son has a Betta that he is crazy about and he isn’t looking so good. He looks to be loosing his color some and seems totally depressed. He won’t eat anything and we tried the bloodworms too. What do you think is up with our fish here. I told my son I thought he was totally fine but I lied to him just to give him confidence. I need your help here.

Reply from Admin Chris:
Sorry to hear your fish is getting sick. Here is what you do, act fast. First start with doing a 50% water change with a siphon hose. Don’t pour your entire tank in the sink and get everything stirred up for your fish to get stressed more about. Gently add new water with water conditioner. Slowly add the water with a cup. Your fish is sick and everything that makes it worse will make him closer to death. Stressed fish die.

Second, find a fish store and get some of the top food available. I would advise getting some tiny brine shrimp or mosquito larvae. This is the favorite food of Betta fish usually. Try feeding your fish this to build some stamina.

Third, continue the tank water changes at around 50% each day. This is to ensure your aquarium has the best water available. Make sure there isn’t something hiding in your gravel like a dead fish or huge chunk of food. Things like this can kill your water parameters. I’m guessing you have single fish consumed tank like 70% of Betta owners but I just wanna cover all grounds.

Fourth, if none of these work.. check out the disease and sickness guide with medicines and such. Hopefully that helps.

Reply from Jason N:
Thanks for your help! Our fish is back to being healthy with just the wage changes alone. Something must have wen bad in the water. We will have to keep up on our tank water better. It’s hard to make sure your younger son is doing a chore like this and probably lies when you ask him to cover his path. My male’s name is Hercules and he is a tough fish.

Posted by Rachel Yuang:
Why do you think fish owners want to feed their pet so much? I like to push my animals like they would live in the wild. I like to think that animals don’t eat as much as we think in the wild.

Reply from Admin Chris:
It all breaks down to our fish not needing as much food as we think they may. Even though us Americans eat all the time and obesity is an epidemic.. that doesn’t mean our fish need to eat 3 times a day. Haha sorry about the lash out there but it kind of sickens me how much we think we need to eat at times. I visited Europe once and noticed how different their eating habits were and how much healthier people are there.

Bottom line, our fish don’t need as much food as we think they do.

Posted by Eric B:
I would have to agree with you. I have a piranha tank and only feed them like once a week because that is what’s a healthy diet for them. The reason you see those “bloat” problems all over the forums is because people are feeding too much. I think another issue is the fact that lots of parents are getting their children that are 9 years old and they feed the fish 12 times a day. Then the food doesn’t get eaten and sinks to the bottom creating terrible water parameters… Arrghhhh when will the problems end.

Reply from Admin Chris:
Settle down Eric haha! I like your attitude though. Your on the right track to being my best friend. Although you can’t let the thing that younger children do to animals concern you because we can’t control it. I also think of all the Betta fish kids out there are mistreating everyday.  We can’t do anything so we need to move forth.

Posted by Stanley:
Some betta fishes would rather starve to death than eat foods that they dislike. And some bettas will ONLY eat the foods they love. I have a total of 8 male bettas. One white betta will gulp down absolutely anything that you give it, while another black-red betta will absolutely reject freeze-dried bloodworms to the death but totally loves commercial red fish food pellets (weird!) and BBS. My most picky eater is a purple betta that simply refuses to eat anything for days, not even BBS! I had a super hard time experimenting all different kinds of food until I finally found its favorite food, a small sinking pellet food meant for shrimps and cories -_-”. You just have to experiment with different foods to see what they like through trial and error. But rule of thumb is that they love tiny foods, and will not bother to struggle with any food that they cannot fit in their mouths in one bite.