Are Betta Fish Carnivores?

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are betta fish carnivores

You might have seen betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, swimming in small bowls with one plant. These beautiful fish seem happy living alone in a minimalist environment with only the plant to nibble on for food. Part of keeping these fish beautiful is making sure they have a proper diet, so feeding them well and understanding the answer to are betta fish carnivores is important to their health.

This can confuse new betta owners because one placed in a fish tank, these fish seem like they’ll devour anything, even other small fish. If a betta could talk, they’d likely be asking you for a nice piece of shrimp or a juicy mosquito larva instead of a plant.

In the wild, betta fish are carnivores. They love eating meat in the form of insects and other similar creatures. They will devour any kind of protein-based creature they can get their little fish mouths around. This includes tiny fish, insects, and their larvae, brine shrimp, water fleas (daphnia), bloodworms, and many other creatures that live in their underwater environment.

So, if bettas are carnivores, why do people put them in bowls with just a plant? Don’t all fish eat underwater plants, too?

Are Betta Fish Carnivores or Herbivores?

In nature, carnivores are animals that get food from killing other animals and eating them. Betta fish are carnivores, although if they have no other food, they will resort to eating plants. Herbivores get their energy and nutrition strictly from plants. Since bettas are not natural herbivores, they will eventually become sick if they don’t get any protein types of food.

In nature’s food chain, carnivores will eat herbivores. However, they may also eat omnivores, and now and then, other carnivores. Unfortunately, aggressive bettas occasionally eat other bettas. Carnivores make up an important part of the earth’s ecosystem because they keep other species from multiplying too much and becoming overpopulated.

What Do Betta Fish Eat In the Wild?

In the wild, betta fish enjoy a variety of insects, other small fish, crustaceans, and insect larvae. These fish love to feast on tiny insects and larvae that float or stay close to the water’s surface, such as mosquito larvae. If you look closely at your betta’s mouth, you’ll see that it’s turned upward, perfect for grabbing floating insects before they know what’s happening!

Since bettas are natural carnivores, they do not eat plants unless they have no other food options available. Young, small betta fry in the wild eat foods such as daphnia or water fleas, small zooplankton, and infusoria or tiny aquatic creatures such as protozoa.

Can They Eat Specific Things?

Your betta can eat specific things that you choose to feed it, such as a regular diet of store-bought betta fish food. As long as the specific food you feed contains the right amount of protein and nutrients, you can stick to a specific food type. Your beta will probably appreciate a treat now and then, and you can find mealworms, brine shrimp, and other things that bettas consider treats, at a fish store.

Can Betta Fish Eat Meat?

Your betta can have a little chicken snack, but it’s not really recommended because they don’t eat chicken in the wild. For protein, the best you can get for your fish includes live-bait types of animals such as white worms, brine shrimp, or blood worms.

If your betta isn’t eating its normal diet, you can try a little chicken to encourage it to eat. Give only small pieces of unseasoned, freeze-dried, frozen, or boiled chicken. Unfortunately, farmed chickens often have hormones and antibiotics added to their feed, and it’s unclear how that can affect your betta, so keep chicken low on the list of potential foods for your friendly fish.

Do Betta Fish Eat Other Fish?

Hungry, carnivorous bettas might eat other fish in your tank. They have small mouths so won’t likely swallow other fish whole, but will probably chase them around the tank and take bites out of them. These fish are opportunists, meaning that they will eat whatever is available. If other fish are faster, or larger, they might avoid becoming dinner for a hungry betta. Fish fry stand a good chance of being eaten because of their small size. Not all bettas have the same appetite, though, and some may not pursue other fish at all if they have other food available.

Do Betta Fish Eat Insects?

Out in the wild, bettas eat mostly food that is still living, and this includes insects. They love bugs and will probably eat just about any insect you feed them. Before you go out with a bug-catching jar, avoid any poisonous bugs, spiny critters, or insects that could have chemical sprays on them. Smaller insects that fit in a betta’s mouth, such as mosquito larvae, make up part of a betta’s menu in the wild. In captivity, some owners even cultivate their own mosquito larvae or fruit flies as food for their fish.

Can Betta Fish Eat Roaches?

Insects provide a significant source of protein for bettas, and cockroaches fall right into this group. These insects make a healthy meal for your pet if you choose smaller cockroaches that your betta can fit in its mouth. This usually means selecting a smaller variety of cockroaches or feeding cockroaches that are in their nymph stage. Most cockroaches measure less than 1/8” as nymphs and stay in this stage for one to three months before molting and growing larger. Some people raise their own cockroaches for feeding, and one egg case takes one to two months to hatch, with anywhere from 16 to 50 eggs inside. Some say that In Asia, you can purchase farm-raised, frozen cockroaches to feed fish.

Can I Feed My Betta Mealworms?

Bettas can eat mealworms, although only sparingly as a treat because of their high protein content. Choose smaller-sized worms to make sure your fish can eat them easily. You can also feed your mealworms substances that your fish may not like, but needs, such as certain nutrients. Once your betta consumes the mealworm, it then gets the benefit of whatever sits inside the mealworm’s stomach. This process, called gut-loading, gives you an easier way to get a picky betta to eat things it would not otherwise touch.

You might also see bloodworms for sale at your local pet store, and while these creatures aren’t really worms, bettas don’t care. They still love them, but this is another food to feed your fish in moderation. Blood worms are the bright red larvae of the midge fly, and they offer a significant source of nutrients and protein for your fish.

Will They Eat Shrimp?

Whether your betta will eat shrimp depends on a few factors. Before getting into the details, consider whether you want to know because you’re buying shrimp for food, or if you were thinking about buying a few nice-looking shrimp as additional pets to keep your betta company in the tank. When you buy fish food made with shrimp, it typically contains brine shrimp.

Two other types of freshwater shrimp, the ghost shrimp, and cherry shrimp, commonly end up in tanks as pets with betta fish. Shrimp are omnivores, and they make great scavengers in your tank to clean up carcasses, fish poop, algae, food pellet remnants, and other plant and animal leftovers.

Cherry Shrimp

These shrimp are red and, as adults, will grow from one to two inches long. They’re a popular and nice-looking addition to your tank, and typically active during the daytime. Some bettas can peacefully coexist with cherry shrimp, but if you have a particularly aggressive betta, it’s better to avoid adding cherry shrimp as pets just to watch your betta go into predator mode and eat them. Since cherry shrimp are omnivores in the wild, larger adult shrimp could take a nip out of your betta, but cherry shrimp tend to be pretty laid-back, so probably no worries there. Sometimes you won’t know how your specific betta will react to shrimp until you try adding them to the tank.

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost shrimp got their name because their outer shell is almost transparent, and you can see their insides through the shell. They also are nocturnal, so you won’t see them coming out until nighttime. Ghost shrimp grow to be about an inch larger than cherry shrimp, and this size difference could be enough to keep them from being eaten by your betta. The same rule applies to ghost shrimp as for cherry shrimp. Sometimes, you won’t know if they can coexist until you put them together.

If you see your betta harassing and trying to eat shrimp, you’ve added to your tank, you can try adding lots of plants and rock features to provide hiding places for your shrimp.

What Should Betta Fish Eat?

Betta fish living in captivity should eat a diet that resembles their natural diet in the wild as much as possible. This could include store-bought foods such as frozen, freeze-dried, or live brine shrimp, bloodworms, mealworms, daphnia, and other high-protein items. Betta also love flies, and pet stores often sell fruit flies for feeding.

Fortunately, many flakes and pellet foods made especially for bettas exist on the market, so you don’t have to do the dirty work of feeding live or frozen foods to keep your betta fish healthy and happy.

What Should I Feed My Betta Fish?

The simple answer is to feed them the best quality food you can find that’s convenient enough so that you can easily keep the fish fed a healthy diet in the future. You probably want to have various options ready in case you can’t always get to the pet store for frozen or live foods. For people just getting started with their first betta, it helps to feed your fish flakes or pellets at first because it’s very easy to overfeed with live or frozen foods.

  • Flakes don’t cost a lot and you can find them in most pet stores. They provide just enough nutrients, but it’s the low price that makes them popular.
  • Pellets are a better choice, and you can feed these daily to your betta. They’re made with high-quality crude protein from insects and crustaceans, and you can also find these in most pet stores. When feeding pellets, drop two to four pellets in the tank one to two times each day. Once the pellets absorb water, they expand and become quite filling for your betta.
  • Freeze-dried foods are another option, and while they offer high-quality nutrients, they’re easy to overfeed.
  • Live foods and frozen foods also satisfy your betta’s dietary needs, but the price, maintenance of live feed, and availability are issues that make pellets much more appealing. If you choose these types of food, feed them only once or twice per week.
  • If you feed freeze-dried or frozen food, soak it in some tank water before dropping it in for your fish. Bettas won’t eat food that’s still frozen or too crunchy.

If you don’t have any scavenger fish in your tank with your betta, remove excess food that your fish doesn’t eat right away, to avoid fouling the water. Bettas will stop eating if they’re full, so don’t be alarmed if they don’t eat all their pellets. A betta’s stomach is about as big as its eye, and overfeeding is one of the biggest causes of fish illness. Give your fish the right quantity of food daily and feed high-protein treats such as mealworms in moderation.

Can Betta Fish Eat Goldfish Food?

A hungry betta fish will eat food made for goldfish, and if you have nothing else, this might do for a short while. Tropical fish food won’t hurt your fish, but it won’t be healthy or helpful for them either.

Most commercial fish foods don’t contain enough protein for betta fish. Check out the label on the food and compare it with betta food if you would like to make your own decision based on your fish.

Keep in mind that goldfish are omnivores. This means that goldfish flakes typically contain mainly fruit and vegetable matter, providing lots of carbohydrates, but very little protein. Your carnivorous betta needs lots of protein that comes from a food formulated for them. Read the fish food packages and choose products that have high amounts of animal proteins, such as shrimp or shellfish.

Summary and Recap

Bettas are natural carnivores and cannot survive on a diet of plants. These fish love to eat bugs, larvae, worms, other fish, water snails, and any other small living creatures that inhabit their underwater world. Feed your betta food that nature intended and enjoy your beautiful and healthy fish friend for a long time.

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