Can You Eat Betta Fish? [Really?]

You’ll probably find Betta fish dazzling everyone with their beauty in any aquarium. Betta fish are one of the most popular breeds in the USA and Japan. But they are fish, and humans are always curious. So, can you eat Betta fish?

You can eat Betta fish. They are safe to eat but do not have much nutritional value. They have been bred as pets or fighters, so they are not meant to be eaten.

Eating a fish that is kept as a pet comes with some uncomfortable questions. But maybe you’ve eaten or found Betta fish on your plate by accident, and you just want to make sure. Or this is just a question. Either way, let’s try to sate your curiosity.

Are Betta Fish Edible?

Betta fish are not inedible, but you may not want to eat them. They are quite small and don’t provide a good nutritional value.

Betta fish are anabantids, as they have a breathing organ called the labyrinth. This allows them to thrive in low-Oxygen conditions. Betta fish were originally found in rice paddies in the 1800s.

But living in a low-Oxygen, changing environment requires strict adaptation. Hence Betta fish are smaller and aren’t much voluminous either. The small size makes Betta fish an impractical choice for eating.

Another issue is their diet. Betta fish can thrive by eating almost anything they come across. They are hardy fish that can eat worms, larvae, insects, or smaller fish in the wild. But this diet won’t make them nutritious for consumption.

But can you eat Betta fish? You certainly can if you want to. In fact, the Giant Gourami is the biggest anabantid in the family, and it is eaten by the natives of Southeast Asia.

Wait, Aren’t They Poisonous?

Can you eat Betta fish when they are venomous or poisonous? You’ve probably heard this question before. There are two reasons why people may assume Betta fish are toxic.

  • Betta fish have bright vivid colors and patterns. Bright colors or patterns are typically used to warn predators that the fish is toxic.
  • Betta fish flare when they get aggressive. Poisonous or venomous fish display similar warning signs.

Betta Fish, especially the males are well known for their vivid colors. They are also well known to flare up their gills and fins when they become aggressive.

The Color’s not a Warning

Vivid colors are indeed common for poisonous species. Spotted Trunkfish, Pufferfish, Zebra Surgeon, and Boxfish are all either marked or vividly colored.

But the color of the Betta fish comes from selective breeding. Betta fish were initially bred for fighting during the 1800s. They were then bred for keeping as pets from 1910. The captive Betta fish have developed their vivid colors in this process.

Betta fish are dull grey in color in the wild. They are found in shallow waters, and they are ambush hunters. The dull grey helps them to blend in with their environment as they hunt.

Artificial Aggression

Betta fish flare-up to look intimidating when they feel threatened.  Many venomous or poisonous species warn others when they become wary. Like Pufferfish, the most venomous fish in the world blows up like a balloon.

Betta fish also aren’t so aggressive in the wild. Captive Betta fish have been bred for fighting, so they react to any threat with extreme prejudice. But wild male Betta mostly threatens other males over territory and not much else.

So, both their aggression and coloring come artificially from selective breeding. Neither are natural signs of toxicity. Also, Betta fish have no way of becoming venomous, in captivity in the wild.

Poisonous or venomous fish typically gather their toxin from their diet. They accumulate toxins by eating other toxic aquatic animals or plants. Betta fish do not consume anything toxic, so they can’t produce toxins.

In essence, Betta fish aren’t toxic. You can eat captive or wild Betta fish without fear.

Should You Eat Betta Fish?

I’ve already discussed that Betta fish are not necessarily great for eating. But aside from their size and nutritional value, there are other reasons why you shouldn’t eat Betta fish. I’ve listed a few reasons why I wouldn’t eat Betta fish here.

  • There are moral implications. Betta fish are largely adored for their beauty and intelligence. They are kept as pets and loved by many people. Eating a breed that is kept as pets doesn’t sit well with human emotions.
  • There is almost no culture that eats Betta fish nowadays. Some parts of Japan consider them a delicacy. But the practice is rare and has the same reason why people eat Pufferfish. It’s got a forbidden element that gives people a thrill.
  • Eating Betta fish is impractical. Your most likely option would be captive Betta fish. And captive Betta fish do not come cheap enough to eat.
  • Betta fish are typically not farmed for consumption. There have been other fish breeds in the past with greater issues. But farming can selectively nudge the breed in a direction that makes the fish an actual food choice.
  • There are also health concerns attached to eating Betta fish. They aren’t toxic, but they aren’t checked for eating either. If you eat one, it may have some illness or latent issues that can upset your stomach.
  • When it comes to eating anything, the taste is the biggest enticer. Based on what little information is available, Betta fish aren’t any different and don’t have an exquisite flavor. So, it has little value as a culinary delight.

Other issues aside, owners are sentimental about their Betta fish for good reason. While Betta fish are admired for their beauty, it’s only a superficial reason. But eating a breed that’s smart enough to recognize and play with their owners just feels wrong.   

Conclusion

At the end of the day, eating Betta fish is a choice you’ll make. But can you eat Betta fish knowing they are intelligent breeds that are loved by people? Whether you’re curious, or you’re planning a meal with one, hopefully, you can answer the question before you choose.

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping shrimps as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my shrimp keeping knowledge with you.

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