Why Is My Betta Spitting Out Food? 6 Common Reasons

Underlying Illness

Why Is My Betta Spitting Out Food?

Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are a popular aquarium fish that can live up to 3 years with proper care. Bettas are known for their long, flowing fins and bright colors. However, many betta owners become concerned when they notice their fish spitting out or rejecting its food. This seemingly picky behavior is actually quite common in bettas.

Bettas are carnivorous fish with upturned mouths suited for consuming food from the water’s surface. They have small stomachs so they eat frequent, small meals rather than large servings. In the wild, bettas eat insects and insect larvae. For pet bettas, most owners feed commercial betta pellets or flakes formulated for their nutritional needs. However, their petite mouths and sensitive digestive systems can cause issues with eating these foods.

If you notice your betta fish spitting out its food, it likely indicates an issue with the food’s size, texture, or palatability. By understanding the reasons behind this behavior and making some diet adjustments, you can ensure your betta stays happy and healthy.

1. Food is Too Large

Boredom with Food

One of the most common reasons bettas spit out their food is because the pellets or flakes are too large for their small mouths. Bettas have relatively small mouths compared to other fish. As one betta owner notes on the Bettafish.com forum, “My betta that I bought yesterday seems to have a small mouth. He can’t eat whole pellets I have to break them in half.”Another discussion on Fishforums.net confirms this is a common issue: “I noticed that one of my female bettas has the smallest mouth. It’s tiny :huh: It doesn’t open up like the other girls either.”

In addition to having small mouths, most betta pellets expand significantly in water. So a pellet that may have fit into their mouth dry can quickly become too large once submerged. The combination of tiny mouths and swelling pellets is a recipe for spitting them back out.

2. Overfeeding

overfeeding betta fish

Many betta fish owners accidentally overfeed their fish. This happens because bettas have surprisingly small stomachs, only about the size of their eyeball. Their stomachs cannot handle large amounts of food at once. When a betta fish is fed more than their stomach can hold, the extra food sits undigested in their digestive tract. This can lead to a bloated belly and constipation.

Signs of an overfed betta include:
– Swollen or distended belly
– Lethargic behavior or loss of appetite
– Spitting out food or loss of interest in eating
– Floating near the surface or sinking to the bottom
– Constipation

An overfed betta fish is vulnerable to serious digestive issues and bacterial infections. Their small organs can also become damaged from the excess food expanding in their stomach. It’s critical not to feed bettas more than 2-4 pellets per feeding, and to skip feedings periodically to allow their digestive system to rest.

To remedy an overfed betta, fast them for 2-3 days while monitoring water parameters closely. Then, feed a blanched, peeled pea to help clear their digestive tract. Going forward, feed just a few small pellets at a time, and vary their diet with bloodworms, brine shrimp, and other nutritious treats to prevent boredom.

3. Boredom with Food

Betta fish can easily get bored by eating the same food day after day. In the wild, bettas are opportunistic eaters and consume a wide variety of foods like insects, larvae, and zooplankton. Their natural environment provides them with a diverse diet to support their nutritional needs.

When kept in captivity, bettas should be provided a similar variety in their diet. Feeding the same pellet or flake food at every meal can cause a betta to lose interest in that food and start spitting it out. According to experts, offering two or more different foods is ideal for preventing boredom.

Rotating between a few high-quality betta foods like pellets, frozen foods, and freeze-dried treats can provide mental stimulation along with balanced nutrition. This variety will keep bettas engaged at mealtimes and satisfied with their diet.

4. Prefer Smaller Portions

Bettas have a natural instinct to break down their food into smaller pieces before eating it. In the wild, they would nibble on insects or insect larvae bit by bit. This gives them more control over their feeding and allows them to pace themselves.

When given large pellets or piles of food all at once, some bettas become overwhelmed. Their instinct is to spit it out and wait for smaller, more manageable portions. Bettas feel safest and most comfortable eating multiple tiny meals throughout the day.

Feeding one or two big pellets or a huge pinch of flakes may seem convenient for us, but can stress bettas out. Giving them smaller amounts more frequently suits their natural feeding behavior better. If your betta is spitting its food out, try offering tiny portions several times a day.

Watch your betta’s cues – if they eagerly gobble up small amounts then pause, that’s a sign they want you to stop and feed them again later. Following their lead on portion size makes mealtimes smoother for both of you.

5. Underlying Illness

Underlying Illness

One of the most concerning reasons betta fish may spit out their food is due to an underlying illness. Bettas are susceptible to a variety of diseases that can cause appetite changes. Some common illnesses that lead to loss of appetite in bettas include:

  • Bacterial infections – Diseases like fin rot, mouth rot, and dropsy can make eating difficult and reduce appetite.
  • Parasitic infections – Internal parasites like hexamita can damage the digestive tract and lead to appetite loss.
  • Swim bladder disorder – Swim bladder problems cause buoyancy issues, bloating, and loss of appetite.
  • Enlarged abdomen – Often caused by overfeeding, an enlarged abdomen presses on the stomach and reduces appetite.

According to https://www.thesprucepets.com/what-to-do-betta-fish-is-not-eating-5210883[1], bacterial and parasitic infections require antibiotic treatments prescribed by a veterinarian to resolve the underlying issue and restore appetite.

Owners should monitor for signs of illness in bettas not eating, like lethargy, clamped fins, bloating. Catching and treating diseases early can help improve appetite faster.

6. Signs the Food is Wrong

There are a few clear signs that indicate your betta fish is having trouble eating its food properly and that the food is the wrong shape, texture, or type for your fish. The most obvious sign is if your betta is consistently spitting out certain foods and leaving them uneaten at the top of the tank or sink.

According to The Spruce Pets, bettas that are spitting out foods are likely being given foods that are too large or too hard for them to eat and swallow comfortably. A healthy betta should eat most prepared betta foods readily. So consistent rejection of certain foods, especially hard pellets, is a red flag.

Additionally, bettas that are struggling with their food may start to show a loss of appetite, even when you try feeding them smaller, softer foods. A decreased appetite can quickly lead to lethargy and inactivity as the fish becomes malnourished.

You may also notice signs of bloating or a swollen belly if your betta gets backed up from swallowing foods that it can’t properly digest. Bloating or constipation can cause serious health issues over time. So be on the lookout for a rounded or inflated belly, which signals problems with their feeding.

In summary, any behaviors like spitting out foods, disinterest in eating, lethargy, or bloating after feeding could mean your betta fish is unable to properly consume its current diet. Making some adjustments to the foods you offer is important to get your fish back on track.

Dangers of Not Eating

If your betta fish is consistently not eating enough due to spitting food out, it can lead to some serious health dangers including malnutrition, organ damage, and increased susceptibility to diseases.

Malnutrition occurs when bettas do not get proper nutrition from their diet. Bettas are carnivores and need high quality protein from foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and pellets to stay healthy. Malnutrition can cause lethargy, color loss, fin deterioration, and a weakened immune system.

Organ damage is another risk if a betta persistently eats too little. Since their organs are not getting the nutrients they need, they can start to fail over time. Liver and kidney damage is particularly common. This causes severe lethargy, swelling, and death if not treated.

Finally, bettas that are malnourished have a much weaker immune system. This makes them far more prone to diseases like fin rot, velvet, dropsy, and ich which can be fatal. Bettas need proper nutrition to fight off pathogens and infections.

It’s critical for betta owners to identify why their fish is spitting out food and correct the issue to avoid malnutrition, organ damage, and disease. Getting your betta to eat a balanced diet in the proper amount is essential to their health and longevity.

Getting Them to Eat Properly

If your betta is consistently spitting out certain foods or leaving food uneaten, there are several things you can try to encourage proper eating habits:

First, soak any hard pellets in tank water for 5-10 minutes before feeding to soften them up. The moisture makes them easier to swallow and less likely to expand uncomfortably in your betta’s stomach.

Try offering your betta various pellet sizes, from mini up to standard, to find the right fit for their mouth and appetite. Pellets that are too big will likely get spat out.

In addition to pellets, provide a diverse buffet including freeze dried or live foods. Variety stimulates their appetite and provides balanced nutrition.

Feed in smaller portions 2-3 times per day rather than one large meal. Many bettas prefer nibbling smaller amounts.

Observe your betta at feeding times to monitor any changes in eating habits. Make notes if they start rejecting certain foods or eating less overall.


In summary, betta fish often spit out their food due to issues like improper pellet size, overfeeding, boredom, or illness. It’s important to pay attention to signs like your betta spitting out certain foods consistently, leaving food uneaten, losing appetite, appearing lethargic or bloated. If your betta isn’t eating enough due to spitting out food, it can lead to dangerous health complications like malnutrition, organ damage and disease.

There are solutions you can try to get your betta eating properly. Start by softening hard pellets first and experimenting with different pellet sizes to find one they can swallow. Offer a variety of frozen, freeze-dried, and live foods for enrichment. Feed smaller portions 2-4 pellets, 2-3 times a day. Closely monitor eating habits and look into treating potential illnesses. With some adjustments to their diet, most bettas can be trained to eat a healthy amount.

Providing the proper food in appropriate portions is crucial for your betta’s health and happiness. Be observant of their eating behavior and willing to make changes until you find a diet that works. With patience and care, you can get even the pickiest betta fish eating to their needs.


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