Can Betta Fish Over Eat? (Interesting Information!)

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I have been keeping fish for over 30 years and Bettas for 20 or more years.  Over that time it never ceases to amaze me just how much a Betta fish will eat if we let them.  Betta fish have ferocious appetites, which combined with their fantastic ability to beg at the surface, means they can easily eat too much food.

If you are a Betta fish keeper you may find yourself asking ‘Can Betta fish over eat?’ Betta fish can overeat when too much food is placed in their aquariums. Although Bettas have receptors around their stomachs that send signals to the brain to say they have eaten enough, their instincts to ‘eat while there is food’ are strong which can lead to them gorging themselves and becoming bloated.

Why Do Bettas Over Eat?​

In the wild, Bettas are opportunistic feeders.  This means when times are good they eat what they can and when times are not so good they will eat less often. Many animals in the wild have evolved to be this way. The problem is, when living in our aquariums, they don’t need to be opportunistic.  Food gets delivered to them 2, 3, or 4 times a day, every day.

I have had great success feeding my Betta Bug Bites which is made by Fluval.  I buy this tub from Amazon

Is Over Eating Bad For Bettas?​

When Bettas overeat, their stomach expands.  Unfortunately, Bettas only have very small stomachs, so it doesn’t take much for a Bettas stomach to expand to the point it starts to put pressure on and move other organs.  

Like all fish, Bettas have an organ known as a swim bladder.  The swim bladder’s job is to expand and contract as the Betta moves around the aquarium, keeping the Betta neutrally buoyant in the water, meaning the Betta doesn’t have to swim continually just to stay still.

If a Bettas’ stomach expands enough and moves the swim bladder just a little bit, the Betta may struggle to stay upright in the water.  Many fish keepers have experienced a fish with swim bladder issues, and it isn’t nice to see.

Will A Betta Stop Eating When It Is Full?​

Much like with people and many other animals, some Bettas will stop eating the moment they have had enough, and others will keep eating until they can’t swim. In my experience, it is best to assume a Betta won’t stop eating when it is full, and only give it a small amount of food at each feeding.

How Much Should You Feed A Betta Fish?​

Two of the most important questions any Betta fish keeper should know the answer to are How much should you feed a Betta? and How often should you feed a Betta? The video below looks at both questions.

How Much Should You Feed Bettas?

Whenever you look on a fish food packet, the feeding instructions will say feed as much food as your Betta will consume in 2-3 minutes. However, this information is wrong.  You are instead much better off adding a small pinch to the Bettas aquarium, several times a day than you are adding as much as the Betta will eat in 3 minutes.  

In their natural habitat, Bettas will graze all day long, eating as and when food presents itself.  Trying to recreate this situation will lead to a much healthier Betta.

How often should you feed a Betta?

In my experience, feeding little and often is much better than feeding lots in one go.  I try to feed my Bettas 2 or 3 times a day, just adding a small pinch at each feeding.  By feeding little and often, your Betta has a chance to eat, digest, and poop out one meal before the next one comes along.  Fish aren’t built to eat a large meal and then digest it over a prolonged period, they have evolved to graze through the day, eating, digesting, and pooping all day long.

Signs a Betta is Overeating​

There are a number of signs a Betta is overeating and these include your Betta has a swollen belly after eating or sitting on the bottom of the tank for long periods after each mealtime. 

Even directly after meals, Bettas should still be active swimmers, always moving around the aquarium.  They should never be sluggish and choose to sit on the substrate.

How To Prevent A Betta Overeating?​

The answer to this one is fairly simple, just put less food in!  Bettas are totally dependent on us, the fishkeeper, to provide their food.  As such, they can only eat as much as we put in.  If you feel your Betta is eating too much, don’t give him as much to eat.

What To Do If You Put Too Much Food Into Your Betta Tank?​

OK, so this is one I am guilty of.  You take the lid off the fish food, tip the pot over the aquarium, and a large clump of food plops into the water!

If this happens to you, quickly remove as much of the food as you can with either your hand or a fish net. It is easier to fish it out straight away, rather than wait for it to go soft and start to disintegrate. 

If a lot of the food sunk straight to the aquarium bottom, consider carrying out a water change and vacuuming the gravel at the same time to remove as much food as possible.  

Once you have removed as much of the food as you possibly can, spend the next couple of days keeping an eye on your fish and testing the water regularly with an aquarium test kit.  Excess food breaking down in the aquarium can cause a spike of ammonia, which may prove fatal to the tank’s inhabitants. 

I would also consider not feeding your Betta for 2 or 3 days following the food spillage.  Your Betta will be fine, especially if they have gorged on the extra food.

About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James