Fishbowl Adviser

How to Properly Feed Your Aquarium Fish

When owning a fish, many aquarists, especially beginners, often wonder about feeding their beloved pet. What do I feed my fish? How much should I feed my fish? How often should I feed my fish? Let’s take a look at how to properly feed your aquarium fish.

Fish Feeding

What Should You Feed Your Fish?

When setting up your tank and putting fish in it, it’s important to know what your fish eat in the wild. What you feed your fish depends on whether they are carnivores (meat-eaters), herbivores (plant-eaters), or omnivores (both meat and plant eaters)?

Most aquarists tend to have a variety of species in their aquariums, so the best option for them is to provide the fish with a combination of different foods. If you plan on keeping carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores in your aquarium, you should do alternate feedings of meat protein and plant-based foods in order to keep all your fish satisfied.

How Much Food Should Fish Have?

With fish, it’s best if they are underfed, especially with new aquariums. Uneaten food can often cloud your tank and cause problems for your fish. A general rule of feeding is to feed them only what they can consume in 2 or 3 minutes. If you’re not sure, you can start with a small amount and observe how fast your fish consume it.

The food size you will give your fish needs to match the size of their mouths. When giving them frozen foods, you can dispense food a little at a time with a large syringe or turkey baster, just to make sure every fish gets some.

How Often Should You Feed Your Fish?

How often fish ultimately depends on their dietary preferences and species. In the wild, you can find fish that are carnivores (meat-eaters), herbivores (plant-eaters), and omnivores (both meat and plant eaters), and this is what their feeding habits depend on.

Herbivores tend to look throughout the day because they need more plant material to satisfy their nutritional needs than it takes for carnivores. Carnivores will eat less frequently because they will not catch food every day. Omnivores have many options for food, and as such has it best. If we’re talking about predators or specialized feeders, they will eat more when there is an abundance of food, and less when there is not. They can go several days between meals but will accept food anytime it’s offered to them.

For the most part, it will be sufficient to feed your fish once or twice per day. But that will depend on your fish. Larger fish can actually go without food for longer than smaller ones. Small active fish, along with newly hatched fry deal with higher metabolic rates, which means that they should be fed frequently, especially if they are kept at warmer temperatures. Herbivores will forage their food throughout the day, so they need to be fed more frequently in small quantities.

When Should You Feed Your Fish?

In the wild, most fish will eat early morning and at dusk, except herbivores that will forage throughout the day. Although fish in the tank can be fed at any time of day, creating a feeding schedule that includes morning and evening feedings is the best solution. Just make sure the aquarium light is on at least 30 minutes before the morning feeding and on for at least 30 minutes after the evening feeding.

What Are the Signs of Overfeeding Fish?

One of the main questions aquarium owners ask themselves is how do you know you are overfeeding your fish and not just giving them the right amount of food they need? Let’s take a look at some of the signs that might indicate you are overfeeding your fish.

Fish Are Always Hungry

Freshwater tropical fish and goldfish will most likely come to the front of the tank in order to “beg” for food, but this behavior doesn’t mean they are actually hungry. In the wild, fish are used to scavenging and preying on foods – they have to find them and capture them. As you start feeding your fish, they will learn that your presence near the aquarium means they will get food. And since their instinct is to eat, they will eat whenever food is offered to them, especially goldfish. But, don’t be fooled and give them food just because they’re snapping at the water surface. Just give them proper care and stick to the feeding schedule.

Extra Food on the Bottom of the Tank

If there are flakes on the bottom of the tank and none of your fish are eating it, it means they’ve been fed too much. Flakes that are not consumed within two minutes, chances are that they will be left in the tank, soften, and decay at the bottom. Once flakes get soggy, your fish will most likely ignore them – except if you have bottom feeders like loaches and corydoras catfish.

High Ammonia and Nitrite Levels

During your regular aquarium maintenance, you will need to test the water for ammonia and nitrate levels. While fish consume and digest food rich in protein, they will excrete ammonia from the gills. The biological filter will convert the ammonia to nitrite and then nitrate that is toxic to fish.

If there is an ammonia build-up in the water, it can damage the gills, stress the fish, and cause problems and diseases. If fish are overfed, there will be high levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrite in the tank’s water.

Feeding goldfish

Fat Fish

A clear sign of overfeeding is seeing fat fish. Healthy fish are normally slender and streamlined so that they can easily swim through the water, but it is possible for them to become obese. However, feeding fish too much food will make their bodies bloat up at each feeding and cause digestive problems.


  1. A Healthy Diet for Fish – RSPCA
  2. Fish Food: How to Properly Feed Your Underwater Pet – PetMD


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