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Do Betta Fish Have Teeth? Mouth Anatomy & Feeding Behavior

If you’re like me, then you might wonder whether or not betta fish have teeth, and what their mouths look like.

Quick Answer

Betta fish do not have teeth. Bettas have a toothless mouth, but also has a special feature known as a protrusible jaw. The jaw extends forward and creates a tube-like structure to capture and swallow prey.

Keep reading to find out everything there is to know about betta fish and their mouths, whether or not they have teeth, and how their mouth structure is related to their feeding behavior.

Do Bettas Have Teeth: Mouth Anatomy

Betta fish have what is known as a toothless mouth, which of course means that they do not have any teeth.

Therefore, if you’re worried about your betta fish biting you or drawing blood, this is not of concern. Seeing as a betta fish does not have any teeth, they can’t really bite you and cause damage. All they can do is suck on your finger and try to swallow it, which is thanks to that special feature I mentioned above.

betta splendens with open mouth on black back

A betta fish has what is known as a protrusible jaw. In simplest terms, the jaw of the betta fish, the lower jaw, is set on a hinge. This hinged jaw allows the jaw of the betta fish to extend forward.

When a betta fish eats, this protrusible jaw creates a tube-like structure that allows it to capture and swallow its prey. This is generally reserved for smaller insects and aquatic invertebrates.

Of course, because a betta fish does not have any teeth, and due to this protrusible jaw, it swallows its food whole. A betta fish does not have any teeth to grind or true its food with, so it can’t break anything down. This means that any food you give your betta fish has to be small enough for it to swallow whole.

Eating Habits of the Betta Fish

In the wild, betta fish are natural hunters. They feed on a variety of small aquatic insects, larvae, zooplankton, and other tiny prey items, such as extremely small fish and invertebrates. A betta fish uses that protrusible jaw to create a bit of suction which it uses to suck up anything small enough to fit in its mouth, and anything small enough to be swallowed whole.

Betta fish can be extremely aggressive and territorial, which also translates to their eating and hunting habits. When a betta fish detects any kind of movement of potential prey, they will stalk it, chase it, and attempt to strike it with precision. 

They may try to bump into it or injure it to slow it down, or if possible, use the protrusible jaw to just sneak up on it and swallow it whole right away.

Although you might think that in an aquarium, if you constantly feed your betta fish, that its hunting behaviors will disappear, this is unfortunately not quite true.

Betta fish often retained their natural hunting instincts in an aquarium. If they see a very small fish or other creature that they perceive as food, they may attempt to eat it. This means that you need to be careful in terms of which tank mates you keep with your betta fish, because they may attempt to eat some of them.

Feeding Tips for Betta Fish

Eating your betta fish the right amount of food, at the right times, and the right type of food, is very important. Let’s go over a litany of feeding tips so you can keep your betta fish as healthy and well fed as possible.

The Feeding Schedule

Just like us human beings, betta fish are creatures of routine. This means that they get used to getting a certain amount of food at certain times of day. This isn’t just a mental aspect, but it contributes to physical health as well.

If you maintain a consistent feeding schedule, it helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract and also reduces the risk of you over feeding the fish, something I’ll talk about further below.

Most people will feed their betta fish either once or twice per day. In my opinion, feeding your Betta fish twice per day, with both feedings lasting no longer than 3 minutes, is ideal. Remember that it’s not only when you feed your betta fish that’s important, but how much as well.

Also remember that betta fish are diurnal, which means that they are awake during the day. It’s therefore best to feed your betta fish when you have the tank lights on, and this is when they are the most responsive and alert.

The Right Amount of Food – Avoid Overfeeding

Also make sure that you always provide your betta fish with the right amount of food. Strictly speaking, if you feed it twice per day, the feedings should last no longer than 3 minutes.

In other words, do not give your betta fish more food than it can eat within about 3 minutes. If you are only feeding your betta fish once per day however, you can give it as much food as it can eat in about 5 or 6 minutes.

With that being said, you do need to avoid overfeeding your betta fish at all costs, as this can cause some pretty serious health issues.

At the least, your betta fish can actually become obese, which can also result in a variety of other health conditions, such as reduced mobility, organ stress, and a lower lifespan overall. 

Furthermore, if you overfeed your betta fish, it can overwhelm its digestive system, and lead to issues such as bloating and constipation.

These can then both lead to buoyancy issues, issues with swimming, and stress and disease. Furthermore, if there is too much uneaten food left in the tank, it can also cause severe water quality issues which can then also cause stress and disease in your betta fish.

The Best Food for Betta Fish

Now that we know when to feed your betta fish and how much, let’s take a quick look at some of the best types of food.

Keep in mind that a betta fish will benefit the most from a well-rounded diet, which usually consists of a combination of high-quality betta fish flakes and pellets, combined with occasional frozen or live foods.

  • Fish Flakes or Pellets: the best option here is to go for specifically formulated betta fish flakes or pellets from trustworthy brands. These are special foods that are specifically designed to meet all of the nutritional needs of your betta fish. They usually contain a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. On a side note, you’re better off going with pellets than flakes, because they won’t cloud the water as much.
  • Live Foods: As mentioned previously, betta fish do like to hunt. Therefore, as an occasional treat, you could give your bait fish some live foods, such as small aquatic invertebrates, daphnia, brine shrimp, blood worms, and more. These will allow your betta fish to put their natural hunting prowess to use, and give them some action as well.
  • Freeze-Dried Foods: One small issue with live foods is that they may contain parasites and disease. For this reason, some people avoid live food in favor of freeze-dried foods. You can get freeze-dried daphnia, blood worms, brine shrimp, and more. They do need to be rehydrated to avoid potential digestive issues, and they don’t provide your betta fish with the fun and action of hunting, but they are generally considered safer.
  • Vegetables: As a rare treat, you can also give your betta fish some blanched and peeled vegetables, like spinach and peas. These are a great source of fiber and serve as a good treat as well. However, vegetables should only comprise a small part of the diet.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, although betta fish don’t have teeth, they still love to eat. Make sure to provide your betta fish with a well-balanced diet so we can live a long, happy, and healthy life.

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