When I first got Narcissus and started this blog, information for feeding and taking care of bloating and constipation was rather vague other than being told that a betta’s stomach is only as big as its eye.
It pretty much still is rather vague and I’ve only managed to get where I am by picking up small tips seasoned hobbyists and breeders had suggested to newbies on bettafish.com after stalking their posts, along with learning some things on my own.
Some things I’ve learned about feeding and combating constipation/bloating:
Quality food is key.
You want a betta-specific food source that is either live food, frozen live food you have to thaw out before feeding, or dry food in which there are actual protein sources in the top 5 ingredients (the first few ingredients listed are what the product is mostly made of).
I spent 30 minutes reading ingredients on the back of betta pellet.
From what was in stock in the store at the time (which was like 5-6 different brands/types), the only suitable food there was Omega One Betta Buffet pellets in which the first 2 ingredients are whole salmon and halibut.
Wheat and gluton products will always exist in dry fish food as cheap fillers so the companies can save on money (they do this with dog food and cat food too), so always check labels to ensure a few actual protein sources are listed in the first 5.
Avoid foods in which stuff like fish meal is listed in the top 5.
Fish meal/chicken meal/whatever is usually nothing but all the junk parts of an animal like bones and organs all ground up together into a paste that in turn gets mixed in when making the food.
There can be pieces of bone that didn’t grind into a powder and can cause injury to your pet when ingested.
Presoak your pellets using your betta’s tank water before feeding them.
This makes it easier for them to digest and expel from their bowels before their next feeding.
Not only that, but once the food has expanded from absorbing water, you can better gauge how much you are really feeding your betta.
Do not confuse freeze dried food for frozen live food to use as a legit food source.
The process in making freeze dried bloodworms actually decreases the amount of protein supplied as opposed to cultivating live bloodworms or buying bloodworms frozen in water, so its insufficient for feeding as a core meal.
Its ok as a treat every now and then IF you pre-soak it.
If you are feeding live or frozen bloodworms, definitely fast your betta one day each week as bloodworms have an indigestible shell that unless fasted and aided in pooping, can cause a blockage and create bloat and constipation.
It takes around 8 hours for a betta fish to digest properly prepared food, maybe even sooner.
Spacing your betta’s morning and evening meals at least 8 hours apart and encouraging flaring for a few minutes before feeding until they poop definitely helps in preventing constipation and bloating.
My rule of thumb for how long to make them flare is until they poop or 3 minutes have passed.
If you’ve spaced their meals out far enough, they should near instantly poop once they start flaring.
If your betta cannot poop using this method, the next step is treating with unscented pure magnesium sulfate epsom salt at a ratio of 1 teaspoon per gallon of water in the tank you’ll be treating your betta in.
Epsom salt acts as a muscle relaxant and a laxative.
ALWAYS check the labels, and NEVER use scented epsom salt as the perfumes in it can poison your betta.
Predissolve the appropriate amount of epsom salt in the water before acclimating your betta into it.
DO NOT pour undissolved salt into the tank if your betta is in it as it it can burn your betta, and DO NOT just dump your fish into the treated water as the sudden change in water chemistry can shock and kill your betta.
You can do a daily 1hour epsom salt bath until it poops, or leave it in the treated water for a few days (provided it has somewhere to hide and a sufficient heater)
I’ve personally treated Narcissus’ actual tank (a 10g), simply because the last time he got quarantined to the 1gallon hospital tank, he got bored and started biting his tail.
I’m not sure if there’s a time limit for how long a betta can stay in epsom salt before it starts harming them like how aquarium salt has a 10day max limit before it starts harming, so I treated the epsom salt just like I would aquarium salt.
I let Narcissus swim in epsom salt for 5 days, once we hit 5 days, I started doing 25% to 50%(the amount depends on if he’s finally pooped or not) daily water changes for another 5 days.
On the 10th day, I did a 100% water change and rinse off all his decorations and gravel in warm water.
During these water changes, don’t put salt back in the water, as you’re trying to remove it in the first place.
I don’t touch the filter except to dump out the epsom salt treated water from it so as to not kill the beneficial bacteria that has made a home of the filter media.
Another method for curing constipation is feeding bits of a skinned pea to your betta.
I personally would never suggest this simply because I’m not sure how exactly a pea will help with constipation in a fish whose diet is supposed to compose of just proteins, so if you’re interested in this method, your best bet is to visit bettafish.com and ask someone experienced in using this method.
All in all, I usually go for fasting and flaring to combat betta constipation as it doesn’t require dumping chemicals into your betta’s water, or feeding it something that’s not part of its natural diet.
And if anyone’s curious, I feed Narcissus 3 presoaked Omega One Betta Buffet pellets in the morning or around noon (depends on when I wake up), and about 8 or 9 hours, I feed him 2 more after making him flare before each meal.