There are a lot of different food options when it comes to feeding your Betta fish, and often one of the cheapest and easiest to buy in bulk will be tropical flakes.
Flakes, if you’ve not used them before, are super-thin foods that can be easily broken into small pieces by you or by your fish.
But are they right for Bettas? Is it acceptable to use flakes or should you be using an alternative?
Read on to find out.
Can Betta fish eat tropical flakes?
Betta fish can eat tropical flakes, provided they have a high protein content – at least 45% is considered a good amount. Most tropical flakes will not have the required protein as they are aimed at non-carnivorous tropical fish, so you may need specialist Betta flakes.
There are many different types of flake food you can buy for fish, each of which are tailored to either specific breeds or broad categories. Tropical flakes are aimed at freshwater fish, while marine flakes are those designed for saltwater fish.
But these flakes are often aimed at a wide range of fish, and so many don’t have the required nutrients for a particular breed. That’s why you can buy specific goldfish flakes, and it’s the same reason that Betta flakes exist too.
Bettas are carnivores in the wild – they will primarily eat other small insects or shrimp. So the ideal diet for a Betta fish is particularly high in protein.
As long as the flakes you’re feeding your Betta are primarily made up of proteins, they should be good.
Personally, I don’t feed my Betta on tropical fish flakes. He eats a pre-mixed food consisting of Betta-specific pellets and Fluval Bug Bites, which are insect and salmon-based micro-pellets:
I supplement this mixture with freeze-dried bloodworms as an occasional treat for my Betta. All together, this ensures he is fed at least 30% crude protein content and little to no fillers.
It’s also important that any pellets you feed should be Betta-specific to ensure they receive the necessary nutrition they need.
One other thing to consider is the quality of the protein. Wheat flour is commonly used in some flakes and pellets, and it is not the best. It’s a perfectly fine ingredient in general, but avoid flakes where wheat flour is the primary ingredient (where it is the first in the list).
This might provide your Betta with the quantity of proteins, but not the quality they need, and they won’t thrive. Bettas are low-maintenance fish, but like all aquarium species, they need to be fed the right food.
Do Bettas prefer flakes or pellets?
While every Betta fish is different, most prefer to eat pellets. Very few Betta owners report that their Betta won’t eat pellets, whereas they tend to be more particular about flakes. The exact reason for this preference isn’t clear.
There are some important things to consider whenever you’re buying food for your Betta, whether it’s flakes, pellets or something live or frozen. They are as follows:
It should float
Betta fish tend to be top feeders – they prefer to find their food near the top of the tank. So food that floats is ideal.
This means that flakes or pellets will both work, as both will generally float if you buy Betta ones. Some pellets are designed to sink, but they are aimed at bottom feeders.
That being said, your Betta will eat from the bottom of the tank if there is food there – they just might not go for it quickly. They will normally prefer floating food.
It should be high in protein
I’ve already covered the nutritional value but it’s worth reiterating. The most important nutrient for your Betta is protein, so whether you choose flakes or pellets, make sure that it is appropriate for a Betta diet.
It should hold together
Your Betta fish may not want to eat their food immediately. They also may not spot it. So it’s important that whatever food you buy, it holds together.
Both pellets and flakes will break down in water eventually, losing a lot of their nutritional value, but pellets will last a lot longer. Flakes will start to break down almost immediately.
So not only do Bettas tend to prefer pellets, they’re usually a better option too.
Having said that, flakes can make a good change for your Betta if you want to mix things up, which can be beneficial.
Ideally, ask a fellow Betta owner for a sample to try with your fish, to see if they like flakes before you buy them. Otherwise, buy a small tub first to avoid wasting money.
How many flakes to feed a Betta fish
It is harder to recommend a portion size for flakes, as they are usually different sizes. 2-3 medium-sized flakes, or 4-5 small flakes, would be considered a good portion size for Betta fish every meal. You should feed them this amount twice a day.
Portion control is very important with Betta fish, for two main reasons.
Firstly, your Betta may overeat if it is presented with the opportunity. Feeding your Betta too many flakes could cause it to become bloated, which could lead to problems with their digestive system or issues swimming.
Bloating is not an easy problem to fix, beyond starving your Betta until they’ve naturally resolved it, but it can make your Betta quite unwell.
At the same time, if you try to overfeed your Betta and they don’t eat the extra food, it will break down in the water.
That’s problematic too. Once food begins to dissolve it will release particles into the water, which can often raise the ammonia levels.
This can alter the overall parameters of the tank, unbalancing your aquarium and making it unsuitable for your Betta. Over time, they could also become sick from the increased ammonia.
For that reason, it’s best to slightly underfeed your Betta than it is to overfeed them. Overfeeding is one of the main causes of a shortened lifespan in Betta fish due to the health problems it causes.
It’s another reason that people prefer pellets too – you can feed your Betta one at a time to monitor their hunger, and they’re easier to retrieve if your Betta isn’t interested.
Why is my Betta fish spitting out his flakes?
A Betta fish will spit out flakes if it doesn’t like them, or if the flakes are too big to properly swallow. If they have digestive issues and are bloated, or if they have a parasite, they may also spit up food after they’ve eaten it. Usually, this goes hand-in-hand with swimming problems.
If your Betta is spitting out flakes, look to see if there are any other signs of discomfort – are they swimming freely and normally near the top of the tank?
If they are, then the chances are it’s just an issue with the flakes. Your Betta might not like them, or the flake might be too big to swallow it properly.
For flakes that are too big, make sure you break them up before putting them into the water. If your Betta doesn’t like them, then there’s not a lot you can do really. Switch to pellets where you should have more success.
How do I get my betta to eat flakes?
If your Betta isn’t eating flakes, make sure that they are small enough to swallow, and feed them in small quantities. Allow your Betta to see them at the top of the tank, to avoid them breaking down as well.
Firstly, your Betta is more likely to avoid the flakes if they are too big. Even though flakes will break down quickly and easily, your Betta will normally avoid anything too large.
So, always make sure you break large flakes into smaller pieces, though not too small. Otherwise, they will quickly disintegrate in the water.
Next, make sure you’re not overfeeding your Betta. While Bettas are generally hungry and willing to eat at most times, they may avoid eating them if they are bloated.
And don’t add flakes to the tank when your Betta is resting and won’t see them. They might not know they’re being fed, and the flakes could break down before they’ve had time to be eaten.
If you follow these steps and your Betta still isn’t interested, chalk it up to a fussy fish – and Bettas can be fussy.
Pros and Cons of tropical flakes for Bettas
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of choosing flakes for your Betta’s diet.
- They’re cheap – flakes are one of the cheapest options when it comes to fish food. If you’re on a budget then they can provide the necessary nutrients without breaking the bank
- They’re easy to buy and store in bulk – you can buy large tubs of flakes and they don’t need a lot of storage space. This means it’s easy to stock up and always have food ready to go
- They break down easily in water – this means they lose their nutritional value quickly if they aren’t eaten by your Betta immediately. They can also add ammonia to the water as they decompose.
- They often don’t have the same nutritional value as some other types of Betta food
- They’re usually the food type that Bettas are least interested in, although it does depend on the individual fish
- It’s harder to control portion sizes with flakes than it is with pellets
Most Betta owners would recommend you choose pellets over flakes. They may be slightly more expensive but they are still good value, and they avoid many of the negatives of flakes.
But don’t completely rule out flakes if you think your Betta will eat them, as they can be used as a part of a mixed diet.
Can Bettas eat regular fish food?
Regular fish food is not suitable for Bettas. It does not contain the levels of protein needed for a carnivorous fish, and so your Betta won’t get the nutrients required to keep them healthy. They would likely become sick if fed only regular fish food.
Always aim to buy food designed for Bettas. Or, failing that, check the protein levels of the food you are using for your Betta.
A mix of Betta flakes and Betta pellets is a good diet, but try to add in some live food as well. Live food is more expensive and harder to keep, but it helps to stimulate your Betta.
That’s because they are natural hunters. They enjoy hunting and eating live prey. Adding small amounts of live food into your Betta’s diet as an infrequent snack can be good for their digestion but also their mental health.
Frozen live food is another alternative, provided you make sure you defrost it carefully and that you check the nutritional value. Frozen foods often lose a lot of their nutrients in the freezing process.
If you do have a large budget, it’s still best not to rely only on live food. That’s because Betta pellets and Betta flakes are tailored with the micronutrients these fish need.
A bloodworm, for example, might be a protein-packed snack for your Betta. But it isn’t designed to be Betta food. Whereas some pellets and flakes are.
So mix it up.
Whenever you’re feeding your fish – regardless of the species – you should check the ingredients list to make sure it’s suitable.
There are a lot of different products available, and not all are tailored to a certain species’ diet.
With Bettas, tropical flakes will likely not provide the necessary protein, but specialist Betta flakes will.
Don’t be disheartened if your Betta doesn’t like them though – that’s not uncommon. As long as they eat pellets then they will be fine.