How to Train Your Betta to Tell You What Food It Wants


Findee is such a foodie. It’s her favorite thing. Finley wasn’t into food – he loved art – so if you’re betta isn’t particularly interested in food, this might not work with them. I like that it gives me another way to communicate with my betta, and that it gives my betta just a tiny bit of control over their own life. So it’s worth trying even if they aren’t a big foodie right now.

The goal: have your betta tell you what food they want for each meal.

Here’s what I did.

I already had two kinds of betta food:

  • Yellow cap – the one that I bought in the pet store when I got her just because I needed something to feed her and this was the healthiest one I found – it’s National Geographic Betta Pellets.
  • Blue cap – the one that I ordered offline because it’s supposed to be the healthiest betta food available – it’s New Life Spectrum Betta Formula
  • Then I got the Betta Dial-A-Treat that has 3 kinds of ‘treats’ by which I mean three kinds of freeze dried bugs (mysis shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia). The daphnia are fruit flies that are supposed to be especially good to have on hand if your betta is constipated because they are a mild diuretic.

The Betta Dial-A-Treat you’ve probably seen in the betta section of major pet stores (it’s also pictured in the sidebar on the right). The treats are really tiny and they come with a little spoon to make it easy to put them in the tank. Those are the things I moved to the colorful containers. I could tell that the shrimp were her favorite, but she did like the other ones and she also really (reallllllllllllly) loves her National Geographic pellets – yellow cap). So I came up with a way to distinguish between each of her foods: put them in different color containers.

I picked up these little travel containers from Walmart – they were in the bins with all the travel-size items (toothpaste, shampoo, etc.). Since I already had a food with a yellow cap and another with a blue cap, I decided to get three new colors: green, purple and red. They also had a blue one if you prefer.

Findee and I already have a way of communicating: the wiggle. My first betta, Finley, taught me the wiggle: it’s basically just shaking your head back and forth like you would to say “no” but faster and with a little spunk. To a betta, that movement means joy! excitement! happy! like! like! like! You’ve probably seen your betta wiggling when it’s feeding time or when you come near the tank. When I got Findee I started wiggling with her right away and she caught on quick. So for us – I just hold up each container and then she wiggles to tell me which one she wants (no wiggle, I just move on to the next one, show it to her, wait to see if she wiggles, and so on). And it works great! She does tend to want her favorites more often, but she has asked for the other ones sometimes as well.

To be fair, at first she wiggled every time. It took about a week for her to finally catch on and realize that she shouldn’t wiggle every time because she wants food, but instead to wiggle only for the food she wants.

I showed the container contents to her a several times – took the lids off and let her thoroughly inspect the contents, especially at first. So this isn’t purely based on color and repeated feedings associated with that color – she has also seen what’s inside each container. The first could days I let her taste a little of each: show her the container, show her the contents, feed her some. But since then I just hold up the container, wait for the wiggle, then feed her. There have been a few times that she has wiggled and then didn’t really want whatever it was and instead of eating it, came back to the front of the tank to see what else I had available.

If you aren’t currently wiggling with your betta, I came up with another way to communicate: color windows.

Get a pack of construction paper from the Dollar Tree or a box of rainbow note sheets and cut out a square window from each color of food that you have. The goal will be to get your betta to swim to the window of the color of food that they want. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Attach the windows to the side of the tank in a line.
  2. Put them on a clear sheet like a notebook page holder slip and hold up the sheet against the tank before each feeding.

Since the wiggle is working for us, I don’t want to confuse her by trying the window method too. But I’m confident that a betta could figure it out pretty quickly – they’re so smart. Be sure to show them the containers first and feed them from each one a few times to get them used to knowing which color means which food. Food is a great motivator for training.

Here is a pic of Findee doing a little food ballet – gracefully sneaking up on a Nat Geo pellet. She puts so much pizzaz into it. 😊 My little foodie.

Leave a comment below with how this works out for you and your betta!

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