Fish poop, just like you and your other pets, in order to remove the non-digestible part of their diet from their bodies. Bettas and other pet fish have a very simple gastrointestinal tract, with a short esophagus and intestine ready to absorb all the good stuff from their food and remove the leftovers. Poop is a natural process of your fish’s digestion, but how do you know if its bowel movements are normal or not, and what can you do if your fish isn't pooping?
Causes of Betta Fish Not Pooping
They are pooping, but you aren’t seeing it
Most fish owners cannot watch their fish 24 hours a day, so during the day or overnight, your fish is likely pooping. Instead of looking for poop on your fish, try to examine its environment.
Fish poop is usually long and stringy and should usually be brown or black, but may be similar to the color of the fish's food. White or clear fecal movements are not actually a sign of disease, but a bowel movement without any food present. Just like us, fish rely on mucus to slide food along their intestines, which gives poop this white or milky appearance. White feces can happen with fish who eat very intermittently, but their GI system is still processing. This can also mean your fish is living at an inappropriate temperature, where its metabolism is ramped up too fast and churning out empty fecal casts.
Depending on how much your fish eats, how frequently meals are given and the temperature of its water, you can expect to see one to a few pieces of feces per day. Given its simple Gastrointestinal (GI) tract, a fish that is fed at least once a day, such as bettas, should poop at least once a day, but it may be in the middle of the night and disintegrate before you can find it the next day. Gravel vacuuming the bottom of the aquarium will remove any accumulated feces and you can monitor the quantity through regular cleaning.
Not Getting Enough to Eat
What goes in must come out, and if you aren’t getting enough to eat, not much is going to come out the other end. Bettas are tropical fish and should be fed two to three times per day at a water temperature of 78 to 82 Fahrenheit (26 to 28 Celsius). Be sure that you are feeding food that has been opened within the past six months in order to have a good nutritional profile. The amount of fish food given should be consumed in 3-5 minutes. If it is gone too soon, give a little more; if it takes the fish longer than that to eat it, you may be overfeeding the fish.
It may sound counterintuitive, but overfeeding your betta can have serious consequences. Overfeeding without adequate processing of the diet can lead to an impaction that can halt all movement of food down the gastrointestinal tract. Often, your betta will continue to eat without pooping at all and have a distended belly. If you are concerned about your betta possibly being overfed and constipated, contact your aquatic veterinarian ASAP.
If you are feeding or offering adequate food, your betta may simply not be interested in eating, which can have many causes. Here is a link to a few causes why your betta fish isn’t eating.
If you have not seen your betta poop for a while, do not panic. The fecal remnants can disintegrate very quickly when mixed in with the bottom gravel, so you may not even see consistent signs.
Removing all the substrate and décor in your fish's tank can help you to better see the environment and assess your fish's bowel movements. Your fish will likely not appreciate the sudden environmental change, and can become stressed, but you will be able to clearly see any recent bowel movements. Gravel vacuums can also be used to clean the bottom substrate and assess feces.
It is critical that you check your betta's tank water temperature to make sure it is warm enough for your Betta's metabolism to work correctly. Be sure that you are feeding your fish appropriately and have opened your container of food within the last 6 months. Older food loses some of its nutritional value.
If you are 100% certain that your betta fish isn't pooping and its temperature is appropriate, evaluate its diet and feeding. If that all checks out, contact your aquatic veterinarian for additional assistance.
How to Prevent Not Pooping
To ensure your betta is healthy with normal bowel movements, it is critical to keep it in a heated, filtered aquarium, check your water quality regularly, keep up with your regular maintenance and feed it appropriately. If you have any concerns about your fish's health or wellbeing, contact your local aquatic veterinarian as soon as possible to get help for your fish before it is too late.