Yellow and white betta fish

Why Is My Betta Fish Not Eating? (Causes & Solutions)

It can be concerning if you’ve been attempting to feed your betta fish but it refuses to eat. While it’s not uncommon for a new betta fish to refuse to eat while it adjusts to its new home, if your betta’s refusal to eat continues for more than a week, there could be other causes.

Your betta could be transitioning to a new diet, experiencing stress due to tank conditions, or having health concerns. In this article, we’ll cover the top causes of betta fish not eating and how to address them.

Common Reasons Why Your Betta Fish May Stop Eating

There are many reasons why your betta may not be eating, but the most common causes include acclimating to a new tank, health issues, diet, and environmental stress.

Health Issues (Illness or Parasites)

Disease and other health issues can cause your betta’s refusal to eat. The following are common diseases and health conditions.

Bladder diseaseDistended abdomen
Floating on the surface
Resting on the bottom
Leaning head tilt
VelvetGold dust or rust-colored appearance
Ammonia poisoningGasping
Bloody patches
Red gills
Lying on the bottom of the tank
IchWhite spots on the body and fins

Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease is a syndrome rather than a disease. The swim bladder controls the fish’s buoyancy level by how much air it takes in. Bettas who have swim bladder disease have difficulty regulating their buoyancy and could refuse to eat. The symptoms of bladder disease include:

  • Distended abdomen
  • Floating on the surface
  • Resting at the bottom of the tank
  • Leaning while swimming
  • Tilted head

Causes of bladder disease include:

  • Poor water quality
  • Overeating or improper diet
  • Sudden temperature shifts
  • Parasites
  • Bacterial infections
  • Physical trauma

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a common disease in aquarium fish, especially bettas, that also results in poor appetite. It’s caused by environmental factors, such as poor water quality, overcrowding, or your fish being bullied by more aggressive fish. These stressors allow a certain species of bacteria to overtake your fish due to its weakened immune system.

Fin rot can be difficult to detect in the early stages because the symptoms are minute. The edges of your fish’s fins will seem to be a milky color. As the disease progresses, the fins of your fish will become discolored and frayed. Other symptoms include:

  • White, black, or cream-colored spots
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of appetite


Velvet is another common disease caused by a parasite. Diagnosing velvet can be difficult, but this disease can quickly kill your fish if not addressed. Velvet disease can appear on the fish as gold dust or rust, but, it takes a veterinarian or skilled fishkeeper to diagnose it correctly.

The primary cause of velvet is not following quarantine procedures when acquiring new fish for the aquarium. Before introducing them to your betta’s tank, all new fish should be kept in quarantine for four to six weeks.

Ammonia Poisoning

Ammonia poisoning is one of the leading causes of death of tropical fish. It results from elevated levels of ammonia in the tank and usually occurs in newly set-up tanks but can also occur in established tanks.

Ideally, an aquarium would have no ammonia in it. However, there are many ways that ammonia can build up in a tank, some of which include:

  • Chemically treated tap water
  • Build-up of organic matter
  • Insufficient beneficial bacteria

Symptoms of ammonia poisoning include:

  • Gasping for air at the water’s surface
  • Loss of appetite and lethargy
  • Bloody patches on the body
  • Red gills
  • Laying at the bottom of the tank


Ich is a parasitic infection that causes small white spots on your fish’s body and an increase in gill movement.


  • Bacteria Colummaris
  • Too much ammonia


  • White spots on the body and fin

 🐠 Read the full list of 10 common betta fish diseases including causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Environmental Stress

Environmental stress includes poor water quality, overcrowding, and a fish’s introduction to a new tank.

Poor water quality is caused by over-feeding and inadequate filtration, which create high ammonia levels, toxic to fish. Overcrowding can lead to increased aggression and stress, which weakens the fish’s immune system.

When introduced to a new tank, betta fish can also become stressed, which is increased if there are incompatible tank mates. Over the long term, stress can weaken a betta’s immune system, making it more vulnerable to diseases. For this reason, you must monitor your betta closely.

Dietary Preferences and Changes

Just like people, some bettas can be picky eaters. Sometimes, they don’t recognize that they’re being offered food, especially with wild bettas new to aquariums. Also, many people feed their bettas poor-quality food. Wild bettas feed on small insects, larvae, and zooplankton. As carnivores, bettas need foods that are rich in protein.

Diagnosing the Problem

Now that you know some common reasons betta fish stop eating, here’s how to diagnose your betta’s situation.

When to Worry About Your Betta’s Eating Habits

As mentioned, a healthy betta can go up to two weeks without food. However, you have reason for concern if you suspect health issues. The following are signs to look out for:

  • Being less active than normal
  • Spending most of the time at the top or bottom of the tank
  • A swollen belly
  • Weight loss
  • Convulsions
  • Eyes bulging out
  • Color fading
  • Rapid breathing
  • Slimy-looking skin
  • Fins clasped together

If you observe any of these symptoms, place your betta in an isolation tank and provide it with the appropriate treatment or seek professional help.

Acclimation Tips

As bettas are territorial, they need to go through an adjustment period when placed in a new tank. They need to establish their territory, which may result in a disinterest in food.

It is important to provide consistency when feeding new bettas. Feed them at the same time daily and introduce new food items gradually until they become accustomed to them.

If your betta isn’t eating, it’s important to determine whether it’s because it’s still getting acclimated to its new home or if something else is going on.

Solutions and Improvements

Now that you’ve diagnosed why your fish isn’t eating, here’s what to do about it. Even if you couldn’t diagnose the problem, the changes below may improve appetite.

Medical Interventions

Look out for any signs that your betta may be in distress. Such signs include swimming abnormally, loss of color, rapid breathing, and lethargy. If you notice any of these signs, isolate your betta. If you can diagnose the disease, offer the appropriate treatment. See veterinary care if you can’t find a diagnosis or your fish is not responding to treatment.

Environmental Adjustments

Ensure that you’re providing the proper conditions for your betta. These include:

Hiding Spots

Does the tank have hiding spots, such as plants or caves, where it can feel secure? If not, add them in. Having a place to hide can help relieve stress levels.

Water Temperature

Bettas do best at temperatures between 76-85 degrees Fahrenheit (24-29 degrees Celsius). Keep a reliable thermometer in the tank to track the temperature.


The water’s pH should be 6.8-7.5, which is slightly acidic to neutral. Ensure the pH is at the right level by testing the water and doing regular water changes. You can also purchase a water conditioner to help stabilize the water.

Ammonia and Nitrates

Besides pH, the water should be tested regularly for ammonia and nitrate levels with ammonia test strips. At high levels, either of these compounds is toxic to fish. You can manage these compounds with an effective filtration system combined with regular water changes. The following are suggestions for lowering ammonia levels:

  • Do a 50% water change, ensuring the replacement water is at the same temperature as the original water.
  • Use a chemical pH control product to neutralize the ammonia. When using this product, do not feed your fish for two days.
  • Do not add any additional fish to the tank until the ammonia levels reach zero.
  • If you have fish with ammonia burns, place them in a quarantine tank and treat them with antibiotics until they heal.

Dietary Adjustments

Try diversifying the foods that you offer your fish by offering foods with different textures and flavors. Try offering:

  • Live food like blood worms, brine shrimp, or daphnia
  • High-quality, protein-rich pellets
  • Protein-based frozen foods

You can use high-quality flake food,  but be selective about which brand you choose. The flake food should be high in protein to keep your fish healthy. Some aquarists add garlic to flake food to boost the immune system and encourage picky eaters to eat.

Develop a feeding schedule and be consistent with it. Feed your bettas at the same time each day. Also, offer your betta foods that are small enough to be easily eaten. If needed, feed your bettas twice a day if you offer small meals. Avoid overfeeding as it can cause health problems for your betta or increase ammonia levels.

Maintaining Your Betta’s Appetite 

If your betta isn’t eating because it’s still acclimating to a tank, it should begin eating in a week. Otherwise, it likely has a health condition that needs to be addressed. Use our guide above to diagnose the problem and make the necessary adaptations to improve your betta’s care. Each of these steps requires patience and persistence to monitor your fish for clues, but you’ll soon be able to figure it out and help your betta accordingly.

Oftentimes, health problems are by improper tank conditions. You can keep your betta healthy and its appetite strong by maintaining proper tank conditions and providing a healthy diet. Feed your betta protein-rich, nutritious foods, and be sure to maintain water conditions like temperature, pH, and ammonia levels. Be sure to provide your betta with hiding places to reduce stress as well. By following these tips, you should ensure your betta lives a long, happy life.


What do I do if my betta fish isn’t eating?

There are many reasons why your betta may not be eating. The most common causes are acclimating to a new tank, health issues, diet, and environmental stress.

How long can a betta fish go without eating?

A healthy betta fish can go without food for up to two weeks.

Why is my betta fish staying at the top of the tank and not eating?

Swim bladder disease is a syndrome that makes it difficult for fish to regulate buoyancy.  Because of this, fish with this disorder may float at the surface and not eat.

Why is my betta fish barely moving and not eating?

Many diseases can cause bettas to be lethargic and not eat. Swim bladder disease and ammonia poisoning are two such conditions. We recommend you quarantine the fish and have an aquatic vet examine it.

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