What To Do If Betta Fish Food Is Too Big?- Will It Die?

It’s very difficult to bring Bettas under a limited or strict diet. They just love food so much. You barely have to wonder whether the fish will like a certain food or not. But this awesome characteristic has a dark side. Oftentimes they end up eating food that’s too big to fit in their mouth. We understand how frustrating that can be for you as a fish-keeper.

Bettas can choke on food they can’t chew properly. But if they end up swallowing it somehow, let them fast for the following day. It gives their digestive system enough spare time to deal with this unchewed big piece of food.

We know it is painful to see your pet suffer. But don’t worry, though. There are plenty of ways to help the poor fish out of this situation. In this article, we focus on giving detailed guidelines on what to do and what not to do. Please stay with us.

Key Takeaways

  • Betta fish usually choke on live food, including large bloodworms, mealworms, shrimps, or even small fish.
  • If the food has a crusty shell (like mealworm), and it’s too big, the fish has hard time chewing it.
  • Even if the Betta ends up swallowing the whole thing, it can cause constipation, stress, and a bloated belly.
  • After such an incident, letting the fish fast for at least one day is important.

How To Determine If A Food Is Too Big For My Beta?

First of all, if you are using packaged betta pellets, it’s very rare that the food would be too large. The food is manufactured in such a way as to fit into a betta’s mouth with ease. Some common sizes for betta pellets are 1 mm, 2 mm, and 3 mm (which are meant for adults). If you have a baby betta, there are options called micro pellets ranging from 0.5 to 0.45 mm.

Yes, one pellet is not even close to 1 millimeter. So, there’s no issue of being too large. From what we have seen, an adult betta can easily kill and devour 0.5-inch tetra fry. According to experts, Bettas are comfortable swallowing food even as much big as their eyeballs.

However, some enthusiasts choose to offer a change in diet by giving live food, including worms, shrimps or small fish. The problem is the size of such live food can vastly vary. In fact, your betta will have a hard time putting a cherry shrimp in its mouth.

The same goes for small fish as well. While there are potential options like guppy fry, Indonesian super-dwarf fish, etc., some fish can be too large to be eaten whole. Especially if you are new to this hobby, you can make a mistake measuring the right size of food. And, the betta’s interest in eating whatever you give him doesn’t help you much in this situation.

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So, here are some ways to identify whether your Betta has had a large piece of food. Then, you can do the due diligence.

1. Spitting Out

 Okay, so most fish, including Betta, spits out half-eaten food into the water. New hobbyists assume it’s because the Betta doesn’t like the food. But experts tell us something different. apparently, bettas do it when they face difficulty chewing food and then moving it down to the stomach. Of course, it means the food is too big.

 If it ends up swallowing the whole thing, the situation can get even worse. You see, there’s no way you can stop a betta from eating if there is food left in the tank. So, it’s better they spit out whatever doesn’t fit the mouth.

2. Digestive Diseases

Both diarrhea and constipation are known as digestive problems. But eating food too large will cause constipation the majority of the time. You can check it by observing the water only. Is there no fish poop at all? Well, your betta might have been constipated then.

Not being able to release the digested food causes the toxins to remain inside its body. As we all know, it’s extremely harmful and the main cause of various other diseases.

3. Bloating Belly

Bettas have a tendency to bloat very quickly after a heavy meal. You can easily notice it by observing their bellies and mouth. Bettas have a lean stomach. So, it’s not that difficult to notice when the belly gets distended a bit.

However, don’t judge the Betta by watching their face. Bettas usually pull their lower lip in an upward direction, causing them to look like they are upset or grumpy. But in reality, that’s just how they look.

4. Bad Odor

You will also get a foul smell from the tank, which essentially comes from the fish waste. It happens when the fish has been constipated for some time. The food waste inside its stomach starts to rot, leading to such a smell. Or, it might not be such a case. In some cases, your betta can digest and then release the food waste into the water. However, the unprocessed parts got into the stomach since the food was too large to chew.

Even with the help of acidic enzymes, some parts of the food remain undigested. Because in the meantime, the Betta is eating more food which also needs attention. The final result is fish waste that still has rotten and half-digested particles in it. when it comes to contact with the water, it gets polluted. So, even if you miss the earlier signs of digestive error, you are still notified.

5. Lack Of Appetite

Bettas don’t usually suffer from an appetite issue. They will munch on almost anything you offer. However, prolonged constipation due to eating food that’s too big can trigger a lack of appetite. That’s how you know it’s an emergency situation.

Along with this, you will also see a bloated belly bad odor in the tank (which increases stress as well). All of these elements combined together causes the fish to get lethargic and become super lazy.

betta fish eating
Owner: Frankie Hernandez

What To Do If Betta Fish Food Is Too Big?

If you follow the general rule of thumb, you won’t ever have to worry about feeding something too big. Always remember the food you are offering should be only 30% to 50% of a betta’s mouth. That’s the only way they can swirl the food around and chew the food comfortably. And how do you know what’s the size of a betta’s mouth?

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Well, it’s said to be around the betta’s eyeballs. Baby bettas have a tough time eating food; an adult can fully swallow. So, your betta’s age is also a big factor. Keeping all of that in mind, here are the things you can/should do after feeding something too large to a Betta.

1. Underfeed

After you mistakenly offer too large food to your Betta, it’s time to be practical. We know your Betta loves food more than anything. But you have to be a little strict with it from now on. Let it fast for at least 24 hours following the incident. It will make sure the Betta is not putting too much pressure on its stomach.

Also, the enzymes in its body have more than enough time to break down the entire substance leading to smooth digestion. It’s a must if you want to avoid the kind of digestive disease we mentioned earlier. Bettas can fast for as long as 7 days. We are not asking you to go that far. One or two days should be fine.

2. Offer Pre-Soaked Pellets

Next time you are offering big pellets to your Betta, try to soak it beforehand. It helps to soften the rock-hard pellets enabling the fish to chew better. Once the pellet is soaked and soft, you can divide it into smaller pieces using only your fingers.

However, there’s a negative side to it. Soaking the pellets can cause some important minerals and other nutrients to be dissolved into water. That means your fish is going to be deprived of those ingredients.

We can fix this issue by grinding the pellets using a small hammer. Just one strike is enough to divide one pellet into two (or more). You don’t need to go overboard with this (make sure it doesn’t get too powdery).

metal body betta fish
Owner: Sean Aurellio

3. Keep The Water Warm

The ideal water temperature for Bettas can range from 72 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, betta-keepers stick within 73 to 75 degrees (which is okay). But increasing the temperature slightly (for example, 78 degrees Fahrenheit) will warm up the water.

 The benefit is that soon; the Betta will try to match its body temperature to the water. As we all know, heat will trigger a fast metabolism rate. That means the body will digest the food (unprocessed and half-chewed) better in warm water.

4. Dim The Aquarium Light

 Once the fish has eaten something too big, the main focus should be on digesting. To avoid further digestive errors, it’s important that the fish don’t consume any more food. However, the Betta will keep looking for food if the light is still ON. It can be the leftover of other fish or even plant decorations. To avoid that from happening, dim the aquarium lights. It gives the Betta signal to rest or sleep.

How Can You Avoid Giving Something Too Big To A Betta?

Prevention is always better. You never know whether the Betta is going to survive a particular accident or not. after all, they are tiny in size. For that reason, we have listed some preventive methods that help you avoid such incidents from ever happening again.

1. Stay Away From Giving Live Food

Live food is yummy. There’s no doubt about that. But there’s a big chance the betta will choke. Even more so if the fish has never hunted before. How the betta manages its prey is totally out of your control. So, it can easily misfire. We suggest you don’t give live food to your baby Bettas at all. 

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Start with small fish fry, unfertilized eggs, daphnia, and blood worms. Once your Betta learns to handle living food, you can choose to give something bigger.

However, remove the left pieces from the tank if you have already given live food that seems to make the Betta uncomfortable. Once it’s obvious that the betta is not ripping the food according to its mouth size, please do intervene.

2. Offer Frozen Fish-Food

We highly recommend frozen food over live ones. It gives you much more flexibility and is a better treatment option. Frozen food usually comes in cube shapes. You have to use a hammer to break it into smaller pieces. You don’t have to worry about cutting it into pieces.

The mini food particles automatically separate once the cube is dissolved into water. It’s easy to put in the mouth and chew for a baby Betta (as well as adults).

3. Prepare Veggies Beforehand

Bettas do love eating green veggies every now and then (even though they are mainly meat-eater). That’s why we often see fish keepers offering slices of cucumber, zucchini, or lettuce to their water pets. If your community tank contains betta, you have to prepare the veggies before dropping it into the tank.

For example, peel the cucumber first. Cut it into smaller pieces. Then, heat a bowl of water until it boils. Throw the cucumber inside. wait until the cucumber pieces become transparent. Take them out of the pot. Next, put the pieces in cold water to reduce the temperature. Finally, the food is ready to be eaten by a Betta.

Note: It’s preferable to throw large slices of cucumber instead of chopping. Because if you fail to cut finely, it would be too big to fit in a Betta’s mouth. However, when you throw a large slice, the fish don’t try to put the whole thing in the mouth (because it can’t). It slowly bites the edges and eats smaller portions.

blue white gorgeous betta fish
Owner: Sean Aurellio

Will My Betta Die If It Eats Something Too Big?

There’s a popular saying that a fish that don’t eat is sick. And, a sick fish will die. Well, if that’s what worries you, calm down. Eating something too big doesn’t necessarily kill a fish as long as you help the fish overcome the suffering. If the food is soft enough, even if it’s slightly big, the Betta can keep biting it to break it into smaller and more manageable pieces.

But if it’s something with a crusty shell, for instance, mealworms or shrimps, your Betta might choke. Suppose it happens before your eyes. Just put your finger in its mouth and bring the whole thing out. Don’t worry; you won’t be harmed. Even though Bettas have sharp teeth, they are pretty tiny in our comparison.

Before You Leave!!

It’s highly recommended to let your Betta starve for some time after such an incident. It helps the digestive system return to how it was and reduces stress. However, it might be difficult for you to witness as pet owners. To help you prepare mentally, why do you check out our next article on Can a betta fish fast?

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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