How Long Can a Betta Fish Live Without Food?

Planning a vacation? As an aquarium hobbyist, you have more obligations than others.

Most fish need to be fed on a daily basis, so you might constantly be worried about your Betta fish while you’re away.

In this guide, you’ll find out how long betta fish can survive without food and a lot more so you can plan your trip accordingly.

How Long Can a Betta Survive Without Food?

Betta fish are notoriously picky eaters.

They can go a day or two without eating and then gulp down every bit of food you give them later. Plus, a Betta fish’s stomach is as big as its eyes.

It’s why Bettas don’t need a lot of food.

You can rest assured that your betta fish will easily go a week without eating if you’ve been feeding it with healthy food in the right amounts.

Typically, a betta fish can survive without food for up to 14 days, but that’s like pushing the boundaries.

While that’s the maximum length of time, there may be variations from one fish to another.

As a responsible Betta owner, you should be more concerned about when your pet may start starving.

While 14 days is the average maximum survival time, a Betta begins to starve after 4 to 5 days when not provided with food.

This not only increases their stress levels but may also cause a disease contraction or organ failure.

Therefore, we recommend that you never leave your Betta alone for more than 4 to 5 days.

If you love your Betta and really want to keep it healthy, you should feed it every 3 days, regardless of how long it can stay alive without eating.

Hence, you can certainly manage a weekend trip without having someone feed your Betta while you’re away.

But for longer excursions, request a family member or neighbor to do the feeding job for you. In either case, be sure to feed them yourself as soon as you’re back.

No one else will take care of your fish better than you.

Also read: How Long Do Betta Fish Live? Captivity & Wild

Not Feeding Your Betta for a Day or Two Can be Healthy

Naturally, you’d think it’s crazy to not feed your Betta for a day or two, but it can actually be healthy for your pet.

Many of the times, these fish gulp down anything provided to them, even if it’s scrap.

If you keep giving them food, they continue to eat it. Hence, the chances of overfeeding your betta fish are pretty high.

Overfeeding proves detrimental to Betta fish’s health. From swim bladder issues to unhealthy weight gain, it can cause a lot of health problems.

Considering this, underfeeding is better than overfeeding your Betta fish.

That being said, make sure the little amount of food you provide them with is nutrient-rich!

Not feeding your fish for a day or two will give their digestive system sufficient time to break down the food particles consumed in the past few days.

This will ultimately have a positive impact on their overall health and well-being. If you want your Betta to live longer, give at least a one-day break between meals.

Also read: How Often Should You Feed Betta Fish?

Living Conditions Determine How Long Betta Fish Can Go Without Food

How long a Betta can survive without food also greatly depends on their living conditions or the aquarium environment.

As a tropical fish, Betta can only survive in warm water, so make sure you arrange that before going on vacation.

Water change is also critical because Betta fish release ammonia in the water as they breathe.

Combined with the toxins that exist in food waste, ammonia can be dangerous for the fish.

If you plan on leaving your Betta for more than 4 days, change 50% to 100% water on the day you leave and upon returning.

You must also consider the size of your aquarium. A tank that holds up to 2 gallons of water will require at least 80% water change.

The larger the fish tank, the safer it is for you to leave it for longer periods without care.

Regardless of the aquarium size, there must be enough holes in the lid to ensure a regular supply of oxygen.

Moreover, you must always keep it in a well-lit room, preferably somewhere near the sunlight. However, avoid exposing the tank to direct sunlight.

To keep your Betta fish healthy, stable tropical water temperature is a must. The best temperature range for betta fish is 76 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep in mind that extreme water temperatures can make the fish stressed or even result in death.

If you think that water in the tank turns cold quickly, shift the aquarium to a warmer location.

If you’re concerned about starvation, you can use the water temperature to control your fish’s metabolism.

Keeping the temperature low between 71 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit should make your Betta lazy, thereby reducing their activity levels and caloric consumption.

This way, they won’t store fat or burn food as quickly.

What Should You Do If Your Betta Fish Is Not Eating?

How long a Betta fish goes without eating will also depend on what you’re feeding the fish.

The best diet for Betta fish is one that is high in protein. It’s because Bettas are carnivorous fish.

They feast on insects and insect larvae in the wild.

It’s why you should feed them food that has protein in it and doesn’t have fillers, such as wheat or corn.

If you don’t feed them food that is high in protein, they might not even eat it.

The ideal way to mimic the diet of Betta fish is to give them high-quality flakes or pellets.

If you want to provide them with a balanced diet, you can give them live, frozen, or freeze-dried food along with the pellets.

When feeding Betta fish pellets, it’s best not to follow the instructions written on the back of the fish food bottle.

It’s because these instructions can often be generic and misleading.

As mentioned earlier, Betta fish have small stomachs, so you certainly don’t want to overfeed them and create more food waste.

Ideally, you should feed Betta fish at least twice a day for six days a week.

If you give your Betta fish pellets, don’t give them more than four to six pellets every day.

Give them two to three pellets at each feeding time. It will ensure that you don’t overfeed the fish.

Things to Avoid with Betta Fish Feeding

Avoid using the following Betta feeding tactics while you’re away:

Don’t Use Vacation Feeders

These are white blocks containing food inside them. They gradually dissolve in water and release food that your Betta can eat.

However, the food inside these blocks is often non-specific and low-quality. It usually constitutes plant-based fillers – something that will not keep your Betta healthy.

Even more alarming is the fact that there’s no standard rate at which these blocks would dissolve in water.

Their dissolving rate is subject to high fluctuations, which means you can get one that dissolves between 30 to 50 times a day or another that doesn’t dissolve at all for two weeks.

In either case, your Betta can easily die due to overeating or starvation.

As a result, the first organ to be affected is usually the swim bladder, causing the fish to sink or float.

This condition in which your fish cannot function properly can persist for longer periods due to constipation.

Don’t keep Betta Fish in Small Vases

Some people believe that keeping Bettas in small, uncycled vases is a great idea when going on vacations.

The fish would feed on the plant roots, and those roots will also keep the water clean.

This is nothing but a big misconception!

Terrestrial plants with roots nurturing in water can indeed regulate the water quality.

However, in a vase or any other small container, there’s no way the roots will be able to remove ammonia or nitrate.

Using this technique before leaving on vacations can reduce your pet fish’s lifespan from 3-5 years to only 1 to 6 months.

This can be attributed to several issues combined, including nitrate and ammonia poisoning and disorders pertaining to swim bladder and bloat.

Bloating and swim bladder issues are primarily caused by overconsumption of plant matter. As carnivorous fish, Betta fish require meat-based protein.

They’re not created to eat planters. Plant-based protein can cause constipation and blockage in their intestines, which will impact their swim bladders and other organs.

Why is Ammonia Dangerous for Betta Fish?

The blocks in the vacation feeders that some people use to feed their Betta are also known to release large amounts of ammonia.

No matter how well your tank is cycled, the release of excessive ammonia will make it impossible for the beneficial bacteria to turn it into nitrate and nitrite quickly enough.

This can result in massive increases in nitrate levels in the upcoming weeks. If you’re unable to change the water or test your tank for some reason, the living conditions for your Betta can exacerbate.

Ammonia can cause severe, permanent damage to your Betta’s gills, thereby significantly reducing their lifespan.

It not only causes serious harm to their eyes and mouth but also burns off their scales and fins.

Nitrite, on the other hand, leads to a condition known as ‘brown blood disease.’

As a symptom more than a disease, this condition occurs when the blood of fish affected by nitrite poisoning turns brown.

Nitrite binds with hemoglobin, preventing the blood from carrying oxygen around the body. Soon enough, the fish will begin to suffocate due to insufficient oxygen flow.

Final Thoughts

Betta fish are among the rarest species that can survive without food for an extended period.

Yet, you need to provide an ideal living environment with perfect water conditions to ensure your fish stays healthy and thrives while you’re away.

While Betta fish may survive for 14 days without food, don’t leave your pet unfed for more than 5 days.

A couple of days trip should be okay but you must assign someone to feed your Betta if you’ll be away for longer. Also, don’t rely on vacation feeders or plant matter for feeding your Betta.

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