If you’re a betta owner, then you already know there’s a lot of debate about what type of food your betta fish can eat. Pellets, flakes, live food, frozen food, human food… It is a topic that many betta owners love to discuss. And why wouldn’t you? These little guys are such a popular fish among aquarists and what they can eat often comes in at the top of the list of things discussed among their owners.
A controversial topic among betta owners is whether or not 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? We hear these kinds of questions all the time!
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, the pet store is closed, or for whatever reason you can’t get a new supply of fish food for a few days. Can you feed your betta fish human food so that it doesn’t go hungry?
Other times it’s a genuine discussion about whether bettas need dietary supplements to help them stay healthy. For example, do they need fiber or vegetable matter in their diet to help with digestion?
In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about whether betta fish can eat human food. From feeding human food in a pinch to deliberately supplementing 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, betta fish eat other small, meaty creatures such as bloodworms, daphnia, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, and even other tiny fish. However, in your home aquarium, your Betta doesn't have access to the full range of food options that they would normally find out in the wild.
To supplement you're betta's diet, 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. It's a good idea to mix it up a bit by feeding your fish 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 for your betta:
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Can You Feed your betta pellets or fish flakes?
The answer here is both yes and no. You can but it’s good idea to be aware of some of the issues involved with commercially produced food.
While it’s certainly possible to buy food that is specially advertised as being suitable for bettas, they tend to do better with food that is live, fresh, or frozen. Commercially produced flakes and pellets can cause your betta to suffer from digestive problems. Pellets and flakes are often padded out with indigestible fillers. They also have a low moisture content. Both of these factors can lead to digestive issues.
If you are going to feed your betta pellets or flakes, we recommend you use one of the following high-quality pellets or flakes specifically designed to improve betta coloration and support digestion.
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Pellets can absorb water and potentially expand to two or three times their original size in your fish’s stomach. This can cause bloating and constipation for your poor betta. If you're going to feed your betta pellets, you should look for ones specially designed not to expand and/or pre-soak them before feeding them to your fish.
If you use pellets, it’s a good rule of thumb to always soak the pellet in tank water for around 10 minutes before you feed it to your betta.
But now we come to the reason you're probably here. What if you don't have 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, yes, you can feed your betta human food. However, this does come with plenty of caveats – what type of food, how much you give, and 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 human 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 is yes.
In fact, giving your betta part of a pea can be an excellent aid for bloating or constipation. The fiber in the pea can help get your betta’s digestive system moving, cleaning them out, and relieving them of the symptoms of constipation and bloating.
If you are thinking of giving peas to your betta fish,
be really careful with the quantity and the way you feed it to your fish.
Never give your betta a frozen pea. Instead, boil the pea so that it’s mushy, remove the outer skin as it can be hard for your betta to chew through, and then cut the pea into quarters. This process will break the pea down into digestible sized pieces for your betta to eat.
Remember that your betta’s stomach is about the size of its eye, so be careful not to overfeed it. A quarter is plenty for one betta.
Can betta fish eat vegetables like cucumber, lettuce or spinach?
If peas are a good way of introducing some fiber 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?
The answer is yes, betta fish can tolerate a little bit of these other vegetables instead of peas. However, it will depend on your particular betta's appetite and taste buds. Bettas can be finicky eaters.
Like all creatures, bettas have their likes and dislikes – your betta might gobble peas up without a second thought, whereas your friend’s betta may only eat tiny pieces of cucumber.
You might even have two fish in the same tank that like different things.
Like the peas, cucumber or zucchini should be boiled a little first to soften it up and make it 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 system.
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 to your betta. These are difficult for your betta to chew and swallow and they can cause digestive problems.
You should also avoid vegetables that have bitter flavors – things like cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli. Don’t ever try onions, leek, or shallots either.
Can you feed betta fish meat?
Can bettas eat chicken, beef, or ham?
Technically, bettas are carnivorous – which means they’re meat eaters - 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 animals like chickens, cows, and pigs 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.
However, 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.
Can you feed betta fish tuna or other kinds of seafood?
With seafood 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 a can, 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 your betta 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 will pollute your tank!
You could also think of giving your betta some little pieces of shrimp, as this is something they might eat in their natural diet. However, make sure they are unseasoned and never give them fried shrimp.
Whatever seafood you feed your betta, always make sure to cut it up into very small pieces. And, like always, be careful not to overfeed your betta.
Can betta fish eat citrus fruit?
No, do NOT feed your betta fish fruit! Fish keeping 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 conditions in your tank, they can hurt your betta’s sensitive digestive system, which isn’t used to dealing with hard acids.
Your fish could die as a result of feeding it citrus fruit. This means don’t give your betta any kind of oranges, lemons, mandarins or any other kind of citrus fruit.
Can you feed your betta fruit? Can bettas eat banana, mango, or melon?
Some bettas go crazy for sweet fruit like mango, banana, melon, or kiwi fruit.
However, you won’t know what type of fruit your betta might like until you try. You can start by dropping a very small piece in and seeing if your fish is willing 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 his 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 or bread?
This is a bit of a yes-and-no answer. Many of us remember feeding fish in a pond with breadcrumbs when we were little kids and wonder if we can do the same with our bettas. While some bettas do love to nibble on a little bit of cracker or a breadcrumb, it's best not to feed them these things too often.
You should think of a breadcrumb or a cracker for your fish as 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. There are a lot of additives that go into making bread - like oil, salt, butter, and other chemicals - and these generally are not good for your betta. Bread and crackers will also expand when wet, which can cause bloat and constipation for you betta.
Like all animals, bettas have certain nutritional requirements for the food that they eat. And the best way to give your betta these nutrients is through a natural carnivorous diet.
However, as this article has shown, there are some circumstances in which you can “treat” your fish and feed your betta 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 favorite 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 your betta human food that it’s only as a treat or as an occasional substitution for their regular food.
And remember, bettas have sensitive digestive systems just like all fish do. It’s best to keep their food as close to nature as possible.