Q: Anon wrote,
I have a bit of an unrelated question. I was wondering how long can a betta go without being fed? I am a student and am planning to travel home for spring break. I take the fish home on longer vacations but was wondering if it would be possible to leave them for a week? My two bettas are both in heated 2.5 gallon tanks. I could take them with me, but I always find they that they get stressed out by the trip and I can’t get anyone to come in to feed them. Thank you!
A. Determining how long to leave your betta without food is a bit of an exercise in evaluating the cercumstances. A betta may survive up to two weeks without food before it dies from the lack of nutrition. This, of course, means he has used up all his reserves and has gone into starvation mode some time prior to succumbing. Starvation is a process. A few days will likely not affect the fish at all but eventually the body will begin to suffer the effects of stress, which will only worsen as he continues to live without food. The health of the fish comes into play too. A strong, well fed male in his prime may survive longer than a very young or old fish or one who has a weakened immune system due to illness or exposure to poor water qualtity.
All I can really offer is my own personal feelings on the subject but should make clear that others may hold a different opinion. For me personally, I have a four day rule. If I am gone less than four days then I don’t bother finding someone to feed the fish. Inexperienced fish keepers tend to be a little heavy handed on the feedings and I generally perfer not to bother a friend when I am fairly sure the fish will be fine. If I am gone more than four days, then I train a trusted friend. Because I also have a cat, I retain the services of a professional pet sitter as well and I know, for a little extra money, I can have her feed my fish.
This past Christmas I went away for 5 days / 4 nights and pushed my no feed rule the extra day hoping all would be ok. Most of my fish did survive, some seeming none the worse for wear but I did loose an older male Dwarf Gourami (closely related to Bettas) and felt quite badly about it. I probably won’t go 5 days again without feeding as I personally don’t think it is humane.
For people with community tank set-ups, it is even more important to avoid long stretches without food. When you have an aquarium with several fish and one dies, the water quickly fouls rapidly increasing the danger level for the remaining fish. Once you loose one fish in community tank, you put the others at great risk. Also, if there is any sort of equipment malfuction (loss of power, etc) having someone checking in daily can mean avoiding serious losses.
If you are going on a vacation then read our Betta Fish Care While on Vacation article for more info.
***I should also make note that different species will react to starvation at a different rate.