Burgandy and white betta fish

How Long Can a Betta Fish Go Without Food?

What happens when you leave your betta fish for an extended period of time to go on a vacation, business trip, or any other reason?

You may be wondering how to keep your betta fish fed while you’re away or how long they can survive without food. The last thing you want is your pet dying before you get home.

In this guide, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about leaving bettas for an extended period. You’ll find out how long they can go without food and the various methods you can use to keep them fed while you’re away.

How Long Can Betta Fish Survive Without Food?

Most betta fish can survive anywhere between 10-14 days without food. Even though betta fish are generally picky eaters, they have a stomach as small as their eyes, so they don’t need a lot of food to survive.

Keeping this in mind, here are three factors that determine how long your betta may survive when there’s no one around to feed it:

1. Tank Size

The conditions of the tank your betta lives in are crucial, as the environment your fish lives in is just as important as the food they need to survive.

You’ll need to clean any tank smaller than 3 gallons more often than bigger tanks as the conditions in smaller tanks will decay quickly and get inhabitable for your betta. So, even if your betta can survive without food for a long time, it may be the water conditions of the tank that kill it.

Apart from that, poor water conditions will stress your betta and deteriorate their health severely. 

2. Filtration of the Tank

The presence and quality of the filter in your tank is another factor that determines how long your fish will last while you’re away. 

A filter will help remove all the debris, food scraps, and other particles in the tank that make it unlivable. Not only is an unfiltered tank more work for you to maintain, but depending on how long you plan to leave, an unfiltered tank will have a lot of dirt that a filter would’ve helped remove if it was available. 

3. Health of Your Betta Fish

Your betta’s health before you leave it unattended is a factor that plays a massive role in how long it’ll last without food. Not all fish will react the same way when you place them in the same scenarios and conditions.

Your betta’s health before you leave them without food will also determine how long they can last. These factors include their metabolism, age, stress levels, and overall health.

Generally, younger betta fish can handle the strain that comes with no access to food better than older bettas that have lived for a while. Older bettas, however, also have fat reserves to help them in hunger conditions. As long as leaving your fish without eating for extended periods isn’t the norm, your betta shouldn’t have any problems if it’s generally healthy.

Methods To Keep Your Fish Fed 

If you have no choice but to leave your fish while you’re unavailable, here are a couple of alternatives to keep your fish fed when you’re not around.

1. Fish Sitter

A fish sitter will look after your fish and your tank when you’re not available. This could be a friend, family, neighbor or someone you pay for the service. This is the best option anytime you have to leave your fish for a long time as they can check on other things apart from your fish like the tank’s water temperature and the filter pump.

A great benefit of asking someone to look after your fish is that they can always contact you if they notice something unusual or have questions about caring for your fish. Regardless, remember to leave a note about all the essential details of your fish.

If you don’t have a willing friend, you can also look into a commercial fish sitter to check on your fish, such as those looking after aquariums in offices, hospitals, schools, and other public places.

2. Automatic Fish Feeder

If you can’t get someone to feed your betta, the next best option is an automatic feeder. According to your programming, you attach devices to your tank that can hold and dispense food to your betta periodically.

You can find many of these feeders in stores or online, each with unique designs depending on your needs. These feeders start from about $20, but some could cost more depending on their reliability (we recommend a variety below). All you have to do is put the food in a small container and rotate it to set the feeding frequency.

Regardless of the type of automatic feeder you decide to purchase, it’s vital to test it with your tank set up before leaving. Check how it functions about 2-3 days before you have to leave your betta alone to detect any issues it may have.

Although automatic feeders are convenient, you should know that sometimes these automatic feeders lead to overfeeding. We recommend that you use them only when you’re not going to be home and not as alternatives for feeding your fish regularly.

We found some great automatic fish feeders for betta on Amazon. Check them out:

  • Noodoky automatic fish feeder: This fish feeder has the best price. You’ll also get great value for your money as it’s more efficient and durable than average feeders.
  • Petbank automatic fish feeder: This is the best feeder for you on Amazon if you’re going on a long vacation. On a full charge, the battery lasts 2-3 months and the storage capacity is 200ml.

3. Block Feeder

If you can’t use any of the above options, the last one we’ll recommend is a block feeder. A block feeder is a large block of food you put in your tank before going away for a while. These blocks will break down in the tank releasing food for your betta fish gradually.

Your fish will not be able to eat more than they need because it takes time for the block to release the food in bite-sized bits.

There are some known issues with feeder blocks, however. One of which is it makes you unable to control how much your fish will eat. Overfeeding your fish is dangerous because some will keep eating as long as they can see food. 

Another challenge with feeder blocks is that they can rot and decompose if you leave them in a tank for too long, creating ammonia in the water. Ammonia is hazardous for betta fish, even if it’s in small quantities, and it may be too much for your filter to clean quickly.

How To Prepare Your Tank Before Traveling

If you prepare adequately before traveling, you can reduce the effects of leaving your tank and betta fish for an extended period. To keep your tank in an ideal condition before leaving, you have to keep your betta fish’s stress levels low and build their resilience to fast for about 3-4 days.

You can prevent poor health and stress-induced diseases with these processes if you plan to leave your tank with no attention for 10-14 days. The chances are good that you’ll come back to a healthy betta fish and tank if you follow the steps below.

Keep the Conditions Optimal

Ensuring the water and tank conditions are in a good state will maintain your betta’s health when you can’t attend to it. If you leave your tank in bad conditions, it’ll worsen until it becomes unhealthy for your betta. You can follow these precautions before traveling and on the day you are traveling.

7 Days Before You leave:

  • Inspect your filtering system and clean the filtering media
  • Clean the gravel to take out any debris and leftover food
  • Use aquarium test kits to check the pH level of the water to ensure it is between the 6.8 – 7.5 range
  • Trim any aquatic plants you may have and remove dead matter
  • Check all the other items in your tank to ensure they’re in good working condition. (i.e. air pump, heater, filter, etc.)

Departure Day

  • Check the temperature of the tank to ensure a range of 75-80oF.
  • Do a more significant water change than usual. If your tank is 3 gallons or below, do an 80% change and a 50% change for larger tanks.
  • Perform a health check on your betta fish
  • Feed your betta fish before leaving the house. Do not give them a more significant portion than you would normally.

Check Your Tank Heater

Bettas are tropical fish, so the temperature in their tank should ideally be in the 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit range. This is the optimal range in which a betta’s health is at its best. They’ll have an intense coloration, and remain active.

Follow the below steps if you’re planning to leave your tank unattended.

  • Check to ensure your heater is working effectively and set the water temperature between 75-80°F.
  • Don’t put your tank in the direct view of sunlight, especially if it is a small tank. This can cause sudden temperature changes or overheat, which harms your betta.
  • Place your tank in a draft-free area, far from cooling vents and heaters.

Set a Timer for Your Tank Lights

Ensure that your fish maintains a daily schedule even when you aren’t around. A daily schedule is an excellent way for your fish to self-regulate and keep their stress levels at a minimum.

If they don’t get any light while you’re away, they can get as stressed as staying in direct sunlight or when you leave the lights on constantly. Set your timer to 8-10 hours of light daily to help your fish with their regular schedule of resting at night and playing during the day.

Keep Your Lid On

Betta fish love feeding at surface level and would usually come up to the water’s surface for air. As the water quality in the tank drops when you’re away, they will come up to the tank more frequently and occasionally try to jump out of the tank.

Keeping a lid on the tank is the way to keep your bettas protected and prevent them from jumping out of the tank. You shouldn’t fill your tank to maximum capacity if you’re covering it with a lid, so there is space for air when they come up.

Can betta fish survive five days without food?

Yes, your betta fish should be able to survive five days without food, provided that they are healthy and the tank conditions are optimal.

How long can I leave my betta fish without food?

Most betta fish can survive without food for two weeks.

Should I use an automatic fish feeder?

Betta fish are picky eaters, especially when you give them a lot of pellets or freeze-dried food. If you’re using an automatic feeder, you have limited food options, so your fish may be reluctant to eat. You shouldn’t have a problem with an automatic feeder, however, if you follow the tips below:

  • You have enough time to test the feeder before traveling
  • Your betta fish eats the food the feeder dispenses for ten days continuously
  • You can determine the appropriate portion sizes that don’t pollute the water and minimize waste in your test period. 

Keeping Your Betta Fish Healthy While You’re Away

Bettas can live for up to 14 days without food; however, this is stressful on their bodies and isn’t recommended. It’s essential to know how long your betta can go without food before traveling and make provisions when you won’t be available, so you don’t harm it. Be sure to prepare your tank and your betta accordingly at least a week before leaving, and to use either a fish sitter, automatic feeder, or feeding block to ensure that your betta doesn’t go hungry. 

Are you a betta fish beginner? We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to betta fish care including tank setup, food, and ailments to watch for >> The Complete Betta Fish Care Guide

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