With pet care becoming more and more discussed within online forums, there are a lot of fantastic ideas being spread that seriously enhance the lives of domestic pets. One popular tip involves feeding Betta fish live prey to mimic their natural environment. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to help you better decide if live feeding is right for your fishy friends!
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Is it safe for betta fish to eat bugs?
One of the biggest concerns with any change in your pet care routine or with pet care in general concerns the safety of a general action. Your pet’s happiness and wellbeing should always come first so it is only natural you may be a bit worried about changing something as important as your beloved pet’s diet.
As a whole, live feeding for Bettas is entirely safe. In the wild, no one is coming by and sprinkling commercial Betta pellets into the ponds and puddles Bettas are found in. They are hunters and eat a wide variety of protein sources!
There is much debate, though, surrounding the live feeding of Bettas and fish in general due to some risks. Let’s take a closer look.
Benefits and Concerns
As a whole, mimicking the natural environment of a Betta helps to prevent stress and keep them happy and healthy. They usually attack and devour a variety of six and eight legged insects and are pretty keen hunters despite their small stature. These feisty little fish are no stranger to taking down sizable prey items!
Insects provide protein and roughage that otherwise cannot be gotten from dry, commercial pellets. Fish are insectivores, meaning they do not consume plant matter and do not really need the empty calories and useless nutrients provided by filler packed products. They also offer some enrichment to your pet’s life, as hunting is a natural instinct that may become unused when fed traditional Betta pellets or flakes.
Still, there are some valid concerns around using live prey. For one, your fish could potentially become injured or sickened by specific insects. Some insects may act as vectors for fungal infections and parasites or bring pesticides into the tank that can harm your fish. Additionally stinging or biting insects may fight back against being eaten and injure your pet, as well.
Another valid concern is that your pet may have larger insects become lodged in their throats, blocking the labyrinth organ. This would essentially choke your fish and could be fatal if not remedied.
Fortunately, these concerns are easily avoided. Always feed your pet insects that are small and easily eaten to prevent choking. Additionally, source your insects from reputable sources where they are not exposed to pesticides and are treated for parasites and infections. Never feed dangerous insects and always opt for ones that are not going to bite, or sting and you are all set.
The Best of the Best
Now that we understand the basics, let’s take a look at some of the insects that are safe for your fish to consume and the benefits they provide.
Fruit flies are perhaps one of the most popular foods to be fed to Bettas, as they are healthy, safe, and easy to culture in captivity with minimal work. Some pet shops even sell starter kits that include fly media, food, and containers for storage. A little tip: opt for wingless or flightless fruit flies so they do not begin escaping and invading your home. These little bugs spread like wildfire!
Few cultured foods are as nutritious as fruit flies. They are protein full and packed with nutrients since they primarily feast on fruits and vegetables. Just be sure to feed smaller flies to prevent potential intestinal blockages or break bigger ones in half before tossing them into the tank.
Daphnia is another choice that is absolutely fantastic. These little bugs usually hang out around water and are packed with protein and nutrients. They are also great due to their exoskeletons containing tons of fibrous materials which can be quite good for Bettas!
Daphnia can be fed without much concern for intestinal blockages since their fibrous content keeps things moving. Four to six should be enough for a single Betta; be warned, though, overfeeding can result in fairly rapid weight gain!
One of the Betta fish’s favorite foods in the wild, mosquito larva are perhaps one of the best food options out there! Bettas gobble these up with gusto when in the wild and simply cannot get enough of these wriggly little guys!
Mosquito larva can be fed regularly and provide very few health concerns. You can add some to your tank and watch your Betta go berserk over them, flying into a feeding frenzy. Plus, you can feed these larvae a few at a time and a couple times a day, making them a great option to make up the bulk of your pet’s diet, though you should still incorporate other insects to create a varied and natural set up.
Some other fantastic options include:
- Black worms: These highly nutritious and underrated worms have an insane nutrient content and have actually been known to help improve the coloration of nutrient deficient, dully colored Bettas! These should be more of a supplementary food, though, and used sparingly due to the potential for constipation and other digestive issues.
- Moina: The smallest version of Daphnia, these teensy insects are great for smaller Bettas or those who are rather picky. They are super rich in protein but should be used infrequently due to their high fat content.
- Shrimp: A common ingredient in commercial foods, shrimp are great for Bettas and fish in general! Brine shrimp and Opossum shrimp are the usual choices since they are small enough for Bettas to easily consume. These are great for their protein content, but like black worms, they can cause constipation if eaten too often and lead to rapid weight gain.
Fairy shrimp are another common choice for shrimp feeding that can actually be used as the bulk of your pet’s diet. Just be sure to supplement with other things to prevent boredom and keep their diet enriching and fulfilling!
- Mealworms: One of the most popular insects to feed to reptiles and amphibians alike, this worm is packed with protein and vital nutrients, as well as a good bit of exoskeleton crunch to keep your fish’s digestive system moving along. Try using baby worms or cutting up bigger worms very finely to ensure your pet does not have issues digesting their meal and you are all set!
- Bloodworms: Some people choose to feed only bloodworms to their Bettas. While your fish can technically survive on a diet of only this food, it is best to rotate out other prey and keep their diet more balanced than providing only a single food option. Bloodworms actually work best as an occasional treat, as well, since they are rich and can cause constipation!
Live feeding can be a fantastic way to ensure your fish gets enough nutrients and live an enriching life full of the same stimuli they would receive in their natural habitats.
If possible, it is recommended you breed your own insects or gather them from stores or natural areas with no pesticide or fungal risks. Most are relatively easy to raise at home and will multiply quickly in numbers even with regular feedings.
If you do not wish to live feed fully, you can still incorporate insects as treats or occasional supplements, especially if you notice your Betta’s colors appearing dull, which can indicate they are nutritionally deficient.
If keeping live insects in your home is not something you are comfortable with, some Bettas are fine with packaged insects or frozen options. You can find both of these at most pet stores and, as an added bonus, they are usually ensured to be free of any harmful content.
Never, ever feed your Betta spiders, centipedes, bees, wasps, or other stinging and biting insects. There is an alarming rise in these “dangerous” feeds on social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram.
While it may be interesting to watch a tiny Betta take down a massive, fighting centipede, it is not a good idea and can lead to serious injury or even death for your fish. Plus, these types of insects are often not even a great source of Betta nutrition in the first place and pose significant risks of constipation and intestinal blockage, as well.
Live feeding Bettas, when done properly, can be a wonderful thing that mimics the natural environment of your fish and helps keep them feeling healthy and secure. Do your research and find a viable, reputable source for your insects of choice or opt to breed them yourself.
Try mixing and matching different insect combinations and do not be afraid to switch things up. Bettas have preferences just like humans and just because they refuse one insect does not mean they will not be incredibly excited over another! Good luck!