How Long Can A Betta Survive Without Food?

Summer is here and with it comes vacations spent with family and friends away from home. This time of year we get a lot of emails asking, “how long a betta fish can survive without food?” Many betta keepers are going out of town and don’t know what to do with their betta while away. Some fear leaving their fish without care for even a day or two, while others write in hoping they’ll find their betta alive and well after a week long vacation. I thought I’d take this opportunity to fill you in on your betta’s feeding schedule requirements as well as some tips to keeping your betta safe while on summer vacation.

  • Fish are cold blooded. Their metabolism (and nutritional needs) are based in part on their environment. As a general rule, fish kept in warmer water need feeding more often than fish kept in cooler water. Take Koi for example. Koi kept in a warm pond in the summer are fed regularly, while in the winter, when the water is near freezing, their metabolism slows to the point they can go for long periods without food. Bettas are tropical fish and could never survive in very cool water. They require regular feeding and can never go for very long periods without food. They can go longer than mammals though. Skipping a day or two of feeding is not a problem for a betta fish.
  • A healthy betta of a good size living in a large, fully cycled aquarium may survive longer than one who has suffered health problems, is underweight or who lives in an unfiltered fish bowl. In a perfect case scinario (large 10 gallon tank, fully cycled, etc) I might personally go as long as 3 full days without food assuming I’d be home to feed him by the 4th day and every day after that.Marina LED Aquarium Kit, 10 gallon
  • Automatic fish feeders are notoriously unreliable. They often over feed your fish or don’t work at all. The web is filled with stories of automatic fish feeders gone bad. If you are sure that your only option is an automatic fish feeder, I suggest setting it up a week before you leave and monitoring it daily to see how it works. Remember, if it dumps it’s entire load of fish food into the aquarium (like some have reported) the decaying food can turn to ammonia quickly, making your tank water toxic to your fish.
  • Surviving is not thriving. It’s funny, but whenever I get an email from a reader it always asks, “How long with my betta SURVIVE without food?” I always cringe a little when I read that because surviving simply means that the fish isn’t completely dead when you get home. Starvation is a horrible way to die and no animal, no matter how small, should be left to starve. After a short time (maybe 4 or 5 days, I’m estimating) the betta’s body will begin to go into survival mode using up it’s reserves to stay alive. During prolonged periods of fsting, stress from starvation can be tremendous and eventually will cause the kidneys to shut down and can lead to organ failure. Even if the betta appears alive and healthy, his immune system can become quickly weakened leaving him susceptible to common illnesses that can lead to serious complications or death. Betta fish in the wild live in a very lush environment with lots of insects and larvae to eat. It is not likely that bettas in their natural environment would have to go long without food.
  • Keep in mind there are other dangers to leaving your fish unobserved for several days. Take care to make sure the tank or bowl is covered so he can’t jump out. Bettas are great jumpers and will do it. Also, be sure your equipment is in good working order. Check that the filter basket on the intake is firmly attached so your betta doesn’t get sucked up while you are gone. If you are using a heater, be sure it isn’t set too high and is in good working order. Often tank heaters get stuck in the “ON” position and the tank can quickly get over heated in the summer months. Be sure your tank isn’t left in direct sunlight or in a place that is too cold either.

So for a quick recap, by taking a few cautionary steps most betta fish will be fine without food for a weekend. For trips longer than a few days you should consider asking a friend or family member to watch over your fish. A betta fish should never be left without food or supervision for a week or more.

Feeding Betta Fish

Betta Fish by Rhizae

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53 Comments

  • Kenneth Strong

    Thank you, Christie for all this info on the Fighting Fish. We got one recently ( I don’t even know how old it is) and we will be away for exactly 4 days and won’t be able to get a sitter. I’m hoping we can feed it well and keep it in roughly 70 degree water in his fish bowl. I’ll still see if I can find somebody to take care.

    Reply
    • I’m glad we could help. I’d only add that you should aim for a stable temp in the mid to high 70s. The low 70s is a little too cool for bettas even if you are attempting to slow his metabolism. Have a great trip!

      Reply
      • Keaton Carter

        My class project was a betta fish and my teacher let me bring it home. My teacher feed it today and I wont be able to get food intill tomorrow. Will my betta live. Its in the container my teacher bought it in.

        Reply
        • Courtney

          Yes, it’s okay to skip a day of feeding just make sure you get food within two days any longer than that can be stressful for the fish.

          Reply
      • Mari M

        I am leaving on a vacation for about a week or six days. My betta is in a tank with no filter. I usually clean the tank once a week so that will be no prob but feeding and temp of tank I am worried about. We got these time release food blocks but am still worried. I am not trying to be a bad fish owner it’s just I am at a loss. PLEASE HELP!!!

        Reply
        • Mari M

          Oh and FYI my tank is a half gallon tank

          Reply
      • rita

        my betta quit eating over a week ago. I put in food for 1/2 hour and remove it while still floating and put in new. he won’t touch it. neither will he eat krill, shrimp, bloodworms nor veggie.???????

        Reply
  • ashley s

    if i get a betta and not weed it on the weekend will that be ok?
    cause i am a college student and come home on the weekends.

    Reply
    • Bettas make great pets for college students because they can be left over the weekend. I suggest, in your case, that you feed him 5 days a week, twice per day. Then it won’t be a big deal to skip the two days you are away from school. Just remember to keep your tank covered. Bettas are great jumpers and are notorious for leaping to their death when their human is out of town.

      Reply
  • James

    Greetings, I have a nice turquoise super delta tail, at the time I purchased him he looked fairly healthy and with vigor but when I brought him home he wouldn’t accept any food I gave him (freeze dried blood worms, brine shrimp flakes, beta pellets). Now he has clamped fins and looks lethargic, I did salt water baths for 3 days and used a beta health aid solution afterward, then I changed his water daily using only a good conditioner, still he wont eat 🙁 he has no signs of shredded fins or fungal infection and the water temp is 74F – to 78F, what could be wrong? thank you for such nice forum.

    Reply
    • Arvin

      Hi James, youre betta might be suffering from DEPPRESION!!!! Try and increase the tempurature to 80-ish and make sure you have some extras to keep him happy and entertained. Mine has to plants, a spinning top and a back drop I drew myself.
      From the boy who STILL isnt in high school! Not to brag.

      Reply
      • somly lomly

        Good for you not being in high school, kid. Quit being a douche abouut it and shut the fuck up fgt

        Reply
    • Nick

      The warmer the warmer the less oxygen. My beta likes room temp wate rI had him for 3 years already.

      Reply
  • Marty

    Ok, my daughters betta is in a 10 gal filtered tank. 5 weeks ago it got sick out of the blue with a curved back and can’t swim straight AT ALL! it also hasn.t eaten ANYTHING!!! for those 5 weeks!! is this possible!!!! what should we do?? we give it food every night before bed but it doesn’t come out to eat like it used to. the pellets are on the bottom or stuck in the filter, he isn’t eating them. he has become almost straight again but is cowering in a little cave we bought him. any info???
    Thanks, marty

    Reply
    • Arvin

      Hi Marty, youre betta is going through a disease, I forgot what, but if you search on google about betta diseases you might find what is happening.
      PS Remove ALL uneaten food!!
      From the young boy who isn’t even in high school yet!

      Reply
  • Arvin

    Hi Christy,
    I’m going on a vacation from the 14th of Jan till the 21st.
    Will mine be ok?

    Reply
  • cassandra

    Hi I just recently got a new betta fish because my old one died and i just fed it food and it wont eat. Is this normal?

    Reply
  • zoe

    Wonderin why my beta fish lays on the rocks in his tank. I thought he was dead and freaked out cause I didnt want my 3yr old seein that, but wen I tapped the tank its like he woke up. Do they sleep like that?

    Reply
    • Ash

      Yes Betta fish are actually one type of fish that enjoys lounging around, mine did that too! If you don’t want him lying on the rocks the sell these awesome “Betta Leaf Hammocks” (try to google it) as soon as I bought mine one the rock lounging stopped!! now he just lays on his little hammock and loves life!

      Reply
    • Annabelle

      If your fish is laying on or inbetween the rocks in your tank it means that it is either sick or scared and trying to hide. To avoid making the fish scared place a small plastic tank plant suitable to the size of the tank into the tank. Note before placing the plant or object into the tank be sure to wash it with fresh water and no cleaning products. Also note that betta fish sleep in a L shape position ( head up and feet down)

      Reply
  • Kiel

    I know this article is very old, but I was wondering what variety/color betta is displayed with this article?
    Thanks.

    Reply
  • kammy

    i feed my betta fish once a day and clean the tank every week. i always leave the food and water conditioner right next to the tank but when i got hoe from school the food and water treatment was gone. i asked everybody in my house if they had seen it (no one was home at the time it went missing) but no one has seen it. i put bottled water in the tank intead of tap with treatment and it was rather cold (around 65 degrees f.) and i put a little hot water to warm it up to around 75 and i put him in it. he is now verry pale and he wont respond when i tap the tank (usualy he starts looking for food at the top of the tank). also i have a few plants in the tank and i know that they can eat plants but i was wondering how long before having no food will start to hurt him (before i should feed him next) because i have no money to buy new food at the moment.

    Reply
  • Help!! My betta hasn’t eaten for a MONTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How can it be????????????????? I have no idea what’s going on!

    Reply
  • DUck

    well the only reson im worried about my batta fish is because the only fish food i have at the moment is tatra fin fish food which is way too big for my betta

    Reply
  • I love that you pointed out that surviving isn’t thriving – it’s a shame that has to even be said. It’s important to remember to leave some sort of written instructions if you’re going to leave your betta’s care up to a friend or family member. I know I’ve had at least a couple incidents where the person taking care of my fish while I was on vacation just thought they were doing me a favor, but they ended up overfeeding them to the point of an ammonia spike. That being said, someone coming over and feeding your fish if you’re going to be gone for more than a few days is a much better alternative than an automatic fish feeder – at least in my opinion.

    Reply
  • hopefulChick

    I have to leave my betta for 5 days, I will be home for 2 days and I will clean the tank and feed him as I usually would. Then I have to leave for another 4 days, which makes me sad because I dont want to leave him for that long. Is there a chance that he might be alive when I get home? Please reply..

    Reply
  • i kinda worried my fish jumped otta the bowl and she isswmming very slow now im extreamly worried
    sincerly,
    Betta fish lover

    Reply
  • im very worried my parents wont take me to the pet store for new fish food and my cat ate the other bag im worried will my fish be okay
    sincerly,
    Betta fish lover

    Reply
    • hey back again you fish will be fine both articles
      from the kid whos still not in high school yet!!!!!!!

      Reply
  • t

    You’re an idiot. Your fish won’t die in 3 days. I’ve gone to Thailand for a month and fed my fish really well before I left and when I come back, they’re all fine and dandy. You might want to do some research before writing an article like this.

    Reply
  • Robbin

    Thanks for all the great betta advice. You had mentioned extras for your betta. Could you please let me know where to find a spinning top such as you have and what plants are betta friendly and healthy?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Bret

    When we go out of town for more than 3 days we put feeder blocks in the tank. This is not the same as an automatic feeder. They are blocks of food that slowly release pieces of food randomly over a period of 4-10 days. It breaks down very slowly over the days and as it breaks down it will release a random bit of food. You can get different sizes for different size tanks and the amount of fish you have. They have very small ones also about the size of a dime that are just for betta tanks. They last 5 days and we have used them with great success everytime.

    Reply
  • w4pw

    My Betta is about 3 years old and recently has been swimming in an unusual manner, sorta curled to one side and n a very lethargic manner. Plus, he is not eating and this is different as he has always gulped down when he sees me coming to feed him.
    He is old and there is something wrong with him. I have wathed him over the years and don’t want him to suffer. He comes up and breathes, but immediately goes down and sticks himself in the plant, not moving.
    Should I euthanise him so he won’t suffer. I love the little guy, but there is definitely something wrong. I will put himdown humanely.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Ellen

      My Betta is about 2 years old and is doing the same thing. Not really swimming around anymore, just lays on a plastic plant i put in the tank. feel so sorry for him. I keep thinking he is just old. could he be that way because it’s cooler in the house now? He has Been this way for a few weeks. I do not have a heater in the tank, should I?

      Reply
      • lol

        Oh wow hope your betta feels better!!!

        Reply
  • umm

    Hey, I’m new st this fish thing but I just decided it was the best pet since my husband n I both work n my kids are in school there won’t be much time for any animal that needs more care… But I’ve been interested on bettas for awhile n decided it would be a nice Christmas gift. Ever since I bought the fish it hasn’t eaten:-( … No pellets or regular fish food… I dnt know what to do… I just hope its more sick!

    Reply
  • umm

    Sorry I hope is not sick!

    Reply
  • Amy

    I sit next to my betta’s fish tank every day and my betta fish
    doesn’t jump.
    Scince I’m only 9 I don’t know that much about betta fish,but I do know they are exellent jumpers.
    So does this mean: I’m a bad owner,or is my fish shy.
    P.S.please tell me if my fish is shy,or it has to be trianed.

    Reply
  • Emily

    Hi! I just got my male betta fish today. How long will it last in a fish bowl with room temp. Water without a filter? I didn’t get a heater or a filter. 😐

    Reply
    • Horse girl

      Hi Emily, your fish will last about a week but remember it needs space and deceractions so it feels at home. If it’s a pretty big fish bowl just add some gravel and a fake plant and it will be

      Reply
  • Anna

    Hi I need help. I dont know what to do. I have had my sons betta fish for almost 5 years. He has always been very active and has been through it all (being a small childs pet) Recently he just lays on the bottom and struggles to get to top for his food. I have tried everything and dont know if he is sick or old. To me it looks like his tail is too long. He had tail rot about 3 years ago and his tail grew back fine. Its started when I had a friend feed him while we were on vacation and she defiantly over fed him could that do it even months later! HELP!

    Reply
    • Horse girl

      Hi Anna, your fish is probaby old from all those years of action
      Hope he feels better!

      Reply
  • Sz

    Hi we have had a betta for a few months now and were told he could survive on the plant roots. He has been thriving but my ex husband left the windows open a few days ago and it was way too cold (55) in the room. Now a couple days later he is very lethargic and sitting at the bottom of the bowl and we are all very worried and my son is just crying his eyes out. Help!!

    Reply
  • BZ

    Hi, I have recently purchased a betta fish of my own and I put him in a starter betta fish bowl. I filled the water to the top and I am worried he might jump out over the weekend where I am not there to watch him. Will he still be okay by the time I get back to him?! Also, what is the minimum temperature that betta’s can be stored at for them to be okay?
    PLEASE HELP!!!

    Reply
    • lol

      Hi bz,
      Your betta’s water should be 75 degrees to 78 degrees. Try not to fill the bowl with water at the top.Put at least 1/4 of water in the tank.NOTE:YOUR BETTA WILL NEED MORE THAN A BOWL, BUY HIM AT LEAST 3-5 GALLON TANK.Hope this helps!!!!
      Sincerely, lol

      Reply
  • Ariel

    My brother found a betta fish who is being given away because the owner moved. The poor guy has been in a bowl for a week with no food appearantly, but somehow, he’s still hanging on. I’m aware that there might be nothing I can do for him, but when I get him, how should I feed him? Small portions spread out through the day?

    Reply
    • lol

      Its better to actually feed him no more than 3 pellets.Look for your betta’s feeding times and then follow that routine.Hope it helps Ariel!!!
      Sincerely, lol

      Reply
    • Horse girl

      If you use flakes, give him a pinch in the morning and one at night before bed.
      That’s what I do with my Betta.
      Hope this works

      Reply
  • Mickey

    Hi, my beta fish has big balls and is a chronic masturbator. Can I teach him not to touch himself so much?

    Reply
    • Fish mom

      Mickey, first I think you are on the wrong site, but to answer your question, I guess you didn’t know bettas are very good mimics … So maybe the solution to your problem is to move the tank out of your bedroom.

      Reply
  • Cristal Thibault

    Hi I was wondering how much food to give my baby betta fish? The reason why I’m asking is because he isn’t eating and I’m wired like a lot. So please HELP MEEE. Thanks
    Cristal Thibault

    Reply
  • Anna Moore

    Hi, I have a male beta that was in a tank with a few GloFish. I just got them and was a little worried that my beta might attack the newcomers. When I went to feed them, my beta didn’t come to get food, I moved the “cave” that is in the tank and he was underneath. His entire tail was gone. He’s still alive and trying to swim when ever I touch him. I’m wondering if it is still possible for him to survive long enough for his tail to grow back. Please get back to me.

    Reply
  • Horse girl

    Anna Moore Your Betta will be OK. Just put it in another bowl so that way the GLOFish will not bother it. What probably happened was your Betta probably wanted to fight with the fish but the GLOFish charged back. Just do that and your Betta will heal hopefully
    Good Luck

    Reply

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