Whether your betta fish hasn’t eaten the food you’ve given them for days or your pet sitter canceled on you as you were about to embark on a short trip, it’s probably got you thinking—how long can a betta fish go without food? At least a few days without you having to worry about your fish starving.
While it’s always best to have someone keep an eye on your betta fish while you’re away, it’s okay to take a weekend trip without feeding your betta.
In this guide, we’ll cover just how long betta fish can go without food and tips for how to handle unforeseen circumstances when you might not be able to feed your betta.
A betta fish can live for up to 14 days without food. However, before you start planning a 2-week vacation, consider this—humans can live up to two months without food. You can feel the hunger pains and stress just thinking about it, right?
That said, in the wild, betta fish encounter varying amounts of food. Therefore, their bodies can withstand days of no food without it damaging their health.
On average, a betta fish starts to feel starved after four to five days.
Related Article: Betta Fish Life Expectancy: How Long Do They Live?
Owning a betta fish is a responsibility. So, while it’s understandable for you to accidentally forget to feed your fish once in a while or for there to be extraordinary situations where you can’t get to their tank for feedings, you shouldn’t make it a habit to miss your betta’s mealtimes.
You might be wondering—how long can bettas go without food before starvation takes a physical toll on their wellbeing?
If you haven’t fed your betta for at least five days, they could start experiencing irreversible side effects from not eating.
Examples of the impact that starvation has on fish include:
- Organ and liver damage
- Skeletal muscle deterioration
- Physiological issues with the brain and digestive system
- Change in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids
Why You’re Not a Bad Owner For Leaving Your Betta Fish
Considering these grim facts, you might be ready to call your neighbor to feed your betta fish for your upcoming weekend trip. We’re not about to discourage you—feeding your betta every day isn’t bad.
However, if you’re only going to be away for one or two nights, it might actually be healthy for your betta to take a break from eating.
The reason is similar to why many humans perform fasts; fasting gives the digestive system a break. It helps reduce inflammation, prevents neurodegenerative disorders, and increases nerve cell synthesis, among many other benefits.
Furthermore, it’s common for betta fish owners to shower their bettas with love via overfeeding them. However, a betta’s stomach is only about as big as its eye.
So, it’s common for food to remain in its tank. By pausing your betta’s feedings for a day or two, they may finish up those pesky pieces of food stuck between rocks before starting their short fast.
How Often Do You Feed a Betta Fish?
You should feed your betta fish one to two times per day. Keep in mind that many pieces of betta food expand when introduced to water, including pellets and freeze-dried food.
Therefore, what may seem like a small amount to you actually becomes a significant amount for a betta fish.
Another factor to consider is that feeding your betta regularly with appropriate-sized portions isn’t enough; you also need to ensure that you’re providing them with high-quality food.
Therefore, in addition to betta pellets (purchase a mid-range to expensive brand), it’s also a good idea to supplement your betta’s diet with frozen, freeze-dried, or fresh food at least a couple of times per week.
Negative Side Effects of Overfeeding Your Betta:
Your betta only needs one to two pellets per feeding or the equivalent type of food that’s no larger than the size of its eye.
Overfeeding your betta fish can lead to detrimental health issues. Examples include:
- Weight gain
- Swim bladder
If you don’t feed your betta fish for a few days, their stress levels and health depend on whether their tank meets their ideal environmental conditions.
Betta fish enjoy warm water with an average temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Furthermore, too much ammonia in a betta’s tank is dangerous for your fish. Bettas naturally release ammonia as they breathe. Additionally, any extra food particles in the water can also produce ammonia.
Therefore, you should change 50 to 100% of your betta’s water the day that you leave and the day you return. That said, if your betta has a larger tank (we recommend a minimum of five gallons), the ammonia has more space to spread out, and it’ll have less of an impact on your betta while you’re away.
It’s natural to assume that providing your betta with a vacation feeder is a responsible step to take as a fish owner. However, vacation feeders can sometimes do more harm than good.
The reason is that these feeders often contain low-quality food based on plant fillers. Furthermore, the food release rate varies. Sometimes, the feeder may release food more than a dozen times per day. Other times, it may not release at all.
Therefore, using a feeder can sometimes cause health issues for your betta. So, if you want to use a vacation feeder, make sure to test out the brand before you go so that you know how often it releases food.