If you’re a betta owner, then you already know there’s a lot of conversation out there about the kind of food your betta can eat.
Pellets, flakes, live food, frozen food … it’s a topic that betta owners love to discuss. And why wouldn’t you?
These little guys are such a popular fish for aquarists that diet often comes in at the top of the list.
One of the topics that often comes in for controversy though,
is whether betta fish can eat human food.
Can you feed your betta lettuce or spinach? Should you feed your betta peas? What about tuna, or other kinds of meat? Can bettas eat fruit?
When might you want to feed human food to your betta fish?
Sometimes it’s a question of necessity.
Say you’ve run out of fish food and the shops are closed, or you can’t get a new supply for a few days for some reason.
Can you resort to some types of human food in that situation, so that your betta doesn’t go hungry?
Other times it’s a genuine discussion about whether bettas need dietary supplements to help keep them healthy.
For example, do they need fibre or vegetable matter to help keep their digestive systems working well?
In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about whether betta fish can eat human food.
From feeding in a pinch through to deliberately augmenting your betta’s diet, we’ll show you the ins and outs of this lively debate.
What do betta fish normally eat?
Bettas are small carnivorous fish, which means they need high amounts of protein in their diet to survive and thrive.
In the wild, bettas eat other small, meaty creatures such as bloodworms, daphnia, worms, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp and even other tiny fish.
When your betta is living in your home aquarium though, they don’t have access to the full range of food options that they can find when they’re out in the wild.
Instead, you can buy special fresh or frozen food from your local aquarium shop or pet store.
Like you and me, bettas appreciate some variety in their diet – so make sure you mix it up a bit by feeding different things from time to time.
As nice as bloodworms might be, no one wants to eat them every single day of their life!
Here are some food options to consider:
Brine shrimp – frozen, live or in gel
Can you feed your betta with pellets or flaked food?
The answer here is both yes and no. You can… but it’s good to be aware of some of the issues involved with commercially produced food.
It’s certainly possible to buy food that is specially advertised as being suitable for bettas, but they tend to do better with food that is live, fresh or frozen (not freeze-dried).
Some commercially produced foods can cause your betta to suffer with digestive problems, as pellets and flakes are often padded out with indigestible fillers. They also have a low moisture content, which also contributes to digestive issues.
For example, pellets will absorb water and can expand to two or three times their original size in your fish’s stomach. This can cause bloating and constipation for your poor fish.
But now we come to the crunch.
If you haven’t got any food left – fresh, frozen or commercially produced – can you feed your betta fish human food?
Or even if you’re well stocked up on betta food, should you be adding other items to your betta’s diet?
Can betta fish eat human food?
On some occasions, you can feed your betta some human food.
This does come with plenty of caveats – what type of food, how much you give, how often you give it.
We’ll explore the recommendations in the following sections.
The most important thing to remember is that
your betta cannot survive exclusively on human food.
Any people food that you feed your betta fish should be an occasional supplement or treat – it should never form the majority of your betta’s diet.
Although your betta fish is technically your pet, it’s also a live animal with very specific feeding and nutrition requirements.
Can betta fish eat peas?
This is a common question on fish forums and discussion threads, and the answer here is yes.
In fact, giving your betta part of a pea can be an excellent aid for bloating or constipation.
The fibre in the pea helps to get your betta’s digestive system moving, cleaning them out and relieving them of the symptoms of constipation and bloating.
Never give a frozen pea. Instead, boil the pea so that it’s mushy and remove the outer skin, which can be hard for your betta to chew through and digest. Then cut the pea into quarters so that it’s a nice, easy size for your betta to grab.
Remember that your betta’s stomach is about the size of its eye, so be careful not to overfeed. A quarter is plenty for one betta.
Can betta fish eat vegetables like cucumber, lettuce or spinach?
So if peas are a good way of introducing some fibre into your betta’s diet, you’re probably wondering if there are other vegetables that they can eat as well.
Can betta fish eat lettuce? Can bettas eat cucumber? What about other salad vegetables like spinach? Can bettas eat zucchini or courgette?
Like all creatures, bettas have their likes and dislikes – your betta might gobble peas up without a second though, where your friend’s betta will only allow itself to be tempted by a tiny cube of cucumber.
You might even have two fish in the same tank that like different things.
So, you can add vegetables like cucumber or lettuce to your betta’s diet.
Like the peas, cucumber or zucchini should be boiled a little first to soften it up, so that it’s easier for your fish to eat and digest.
You can’t boil lettuce or spinach though, so wash the leaf first and then give it 3-5 seconds in the microwave instead as a way of helping to break down the cellulosic barriers in the leaf.
This will help your betta get it into their mouth and down through their digestive systems.
You can also use a kernel of sweet corn instead of a pea – remembering to boil it first, remove the outer skin and mush it up into tiny quantities so that your betta can easily seize and swallow it.
It’s not a good idea to feed carrots, beans or other vegetables that are very fibrous.
These are difficult for your betta to chew and swallow and they can cause some digestive problems.
You should also avoid vegetables that have bitter flavours – things like cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli. Don’t ever try onions, leek or shallots.
What about meat? Can bettas eat chicken, beef, bacon or ham?
Technically, bettas are carnivorous – that means they’re meat eaters – when they’re consuming their natural diet in the wild.
However, there are a lot of conflicting opinions about whether you can feed your betta fish with a little bit of chicken or meat from time to time.
Accepted wisdom is that hens, cows and sheep are land-dwelling animals.
That’s not the kind of meaty food that your betta would tend to come across if they were living in their natural habitat.
Some owners do give their bettas little slivers of chicken or other kinds of meat as a treat from time to time – a tiny piece, always cooked, and without any salt or sauces.
Caution is advised here. Farm-grown animals may have been reared with antibiotics or other additives that could cause harm to your betta.
Bacon for example is also “cured” with additives that can upset your betta’s tummy.
What about tuna or other kinds of seafood?
Here, you’re probably on safer ground. Your bettas are used to eating small marine animals including tiny fish.
If you’re thinking of giving tuna, you can be fairly confident to give your betta a tiny snack from a piece that’s been freshly caught.
If you’re giving tuna out of the tin, choose a variety that is packed in brine or in freshwater. It must always be unflavoured and with as few additives as possible. This makes the tuna as close as possible to the fish that your betta would find in their natural habitat.
Don’t give tuna from a tin that’s been packed in oil. Your betta’s digestive system isn’t used to oil and it could cause your fish to become sick or unhealthy. Plus it’s a pollutant in your tank!
You could also think of giving your betta some little pieces of shrimp, as this is something they eat in their natural diet. Make sure they are unseasoned and never give fried shrimp.
Always take care to cut up very small pieces, and like always, be careful of overfeeding.
Can betta fish eat citrus fruit?
Fish forums are full of sad stories about betta owners who put a piece of citrus fruit into their betta’s tank, with devastating results!
Citrus fruits are highly acidic. Not only can they affect the water in your tank, they can hurt your betta’s sensitive digestive system, which isn’t used to dealing with hard acids. Your fish could even die.
Don’t give your betta any kind of oranges, lemons, mandarins or any other kind of citrus fruit.
What about other kinds of fruit? Can bettas eat mango or melons?
Some bettas go crazy for sweet fruit like mangos, banana, melons or kiwi fruit.
You won’t know until you try, so you can drop a very small piece in and see if your fish is interested to take a bite. If he does, then you have another food you can add to your fish’s diet as a very occasional treat – not more than once every few weeks.
If your betta turns up her nose at the piece of fruit, make sure you take it out of the tank after 20 minutes so that it doesn’t start to rot and pollute the water.
You always don’t want your betta investigating it once it’s started to decompose – better to get it out straight away.
Can betta fish eat crackers? What about bread?
This is a bit of a yes-and-no answer. Do you remember feeding fish in a pond with breadcrumbs when you were little?
Some bettas love to nibble on a little bit of cracker or a breadcrumb.
In this situation though, think of a breadcrumb or a cracker for your fish being the same as a hamburger or fries for a person.
We can eat them, and we enjoy them when we do! But we probably shouldn’t, because of all the additives like oil, salt, butter and even chemicals that go into the process of making them.
Like all animals, bettas have certain nutritional requirements for the food they eat, and they get these in the best way through their natural carnivorous diet.
However, as this article has shown, there are some circumstances in which you can “treat” your betta to a small range of human food. You can also fall back on some of these foods if you’ve run out of fresh or frozen food for your betta and you don’t want them to go hungry before you can restock their favourite dishes. Mmmm, water fleas!
So just remember that when you’re choosing to feed your betta something different, that this isn’t a part of their regular diet. Make sure that if you give it, it’s only as a treat or as an occasional substitution for their regular food.
And remember that bettas have sensitive digestive systems, like all fish do. It’s best to keep their food as close to nature as possible.