How Often Should I Feed My Fish?

Aquatics hobbyists already know their pets’ feeding routine. They know how much food to give, what kind of food their aquatic friends love, and how often they should eat. Unfortunately, newcomers to the world of aquariums and fish tanks may not have a clear understanding of their fish’s feeding habits and requirements. They often ask seasoned hobbyists, ‘how often should I feed my fish’? In this article, we shall answer this question and many more. Hopefully, you will use the knowledge to develop your fish’s feeding schedule.


What should I consider when feeding my fish?

Feeding frequency depends on several factors, including dietary preferences, food availability, and appetite. You can assess these factors using your knowledge of your fish’s feeding nature.

Herbivorous Fish

If your fish subsists only on eating plant materials, you may have to feed them more frequently. Aquatic herbivores forage round-the-clock because they need more plant material to meet their nutritional needs. Animal food sources contain more calories and proteins than plant food sources. Hence, your fish will need to eat more. Examples of herbivorous fish include the parrotfish and the surgeonfish.

Carnivorous Fish

Aquatic carnivores tend to feed less often than their herbivorous counterparts. As mentioned, animal food sources pack more proteins and fats that are more energy-dense molecules. Moreover, it is often more difficult to catch prey to eat. It would help if you always consider this when making a fish feeding schedule. Arowanas and some cichlid species are examples of carnivorous fish.

Omnivorous Fish

Similar to humans in feeding behavior, fish omnivores will never have problems finding food. They can munch on aquatic plants or chow down on smaller aquatic animals to keep them going. You can expect specialized feeders and aquatic predators to go on a feeding frenzy if there is food abundance. They will not mind not eating for a few days if there is no food. The omnivore’s behavior can explain why most of the aquarium fishes will feed every time you give them food. They do not know when they will feed next.

feeding fish

How much food can I give to my fish?

There is no exact figure as to how much food you can give to your fish. It would be best if you watched them closely as they feed. You can start by feeding them a small amount of their preferred food. If your fish can finish their meal in less than two minutes, it usually means they need more. If you can still see food particles in the water, you gave fed your fish more than what they needed. If this is your first time feeding your fish, it is often best to underfeed. You can always adjust the fish feed amount. Make sure to remove any fish food particles in the water after five minutes of feeding. You can use a net or a siphon hose for this.


What kind of food should I give to my herbivorous fish?

You may see your herbivore fish feasting on live food. However, its proper diet consists of plant materials, including fruits and algae. Fish herbivores do not have a true stomach. What they have is a specialized intestine that can break down plant materials. The absence of a stomach also makes fish herbivores eat more frequently.


What kind of food should I give to my carnivorous fish?

Aquatic meat-eaters require live food, although some hobbyists also give fresh frozen food. Carnivorous fish have sharp, saw-like teeth that tear through flesh. They also tend to swallow their food whole instead of chewing or grinding it first. Aquatic carnivores have large stomachs and short intestines. Their digestive anatomy makes them less efficient in processing plant food. They can eat plant food, but they will not be able to absorb the nutrients. You can give your carnivorous fish krill, plankton, bloodworms, and brine shrimp, among others.


What kind of food should I give to my omnivorous fish?

You are lucky if you have omnivorous fish. They are the easiest to feed. They can eat a wide variety of animal and plant food materials. However, some fish species cannot digest some grains and other plant types. You can always feed them high-quality fish pellets or flake foods. You can also give live food or fresh-frozen treats.


How often should my fish eat?

Fish feeding frequency depends on the feeding preferences of your aquatic friends. In general, it is sufficient to feed your fish no more than twice a day. The feeding frequency mainly applies to omnivorous fish. Fish carnivores may need less frequent feeding. Some hobbyists feed their carnivorous fish once a day or once every other day.

Herbivorous fish require more frequent feeding, as frequently as four times a day. However, they should only be fed small amounts at a time. Sedentary fish also require less frequent feeding than active fish species. Small fish species tend to feed more frequently because of their higher metabolic rates than large fish. You may also consider water temperature. The warmer the water, the faster is the fish’s metabolism. Hence, it needs more frequent feeding.


What time of day is best for feeding my fish?

The best time of day to feed your fish is in the early morning and at sunset or dusk. However, you should feed omnivorous and herbivorous fish throughout the day because they tend to forage. Another exception to this rule is nocturnal fish species. It would be best if you fed them at night when they are most active.

It is essential that you turn on the fish tank light half an hour before you start feeding your fish in the morning. You will also need to wait 30 minutes after their final meal in the evening before you turn the aquarium light off. If you have catfish or knifefish in your aquarium, it would be best to give them sinking fish foods after turning off the aquarium light at night.


How do I know if my fish is eating more than needed?

You know you are overfeeding your fish if you notice food particles remaining in the water five minutes after eating. You may also notice your fish having no interest in their food. They may swim towards it but never eat it. You might also notice a fuzzy white fungal growth starting to form on plants, decorations, and at the aquarium’s bottom.

Another sign of fish overfeeding is cloudy or hazy fish tank water. You may see froth or foam on the water surface, and your aquarium may smell bad. Your filter media also clogs easily, even if you cleaned it only a few days prior. There is also excessive algae growth because of phosphate and nitrate accumulation. If you check your water characteristics, you will see a low pH level and high nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels.


How do I know if I am underfeeding my fish?

You know you are underfeeding your fish if they have sunken bellies or skinny bodies. Underfed fish also tend to have paler and duller colors than normal. You may notice a few of them dying one at a time. However, it is also essential to understand that these signs can also signal intestinal parasitism in your fish. If you think your fish are getting enough food yet they do not gain weight, you may want to give them a deworming or antiparasitic medication.


Will you recommend fasting for my fish?

Some aquatic hobbyists intentionally withhold food from their fish to help cleanse its intestines. They usually do this for one to two days every week. It is often helpful to institute a one-day fast for your fish if you plan to introduce different food. Fasting for 24 to 48 hours is also necessary when you are transporting your fish. Having food in their intestines can only worsen their physiologic stress response to travel.


Why does my fish always seem hungry?

It is not easy for fish to find food in their natural habitat. It is mainly the case for carnivorous fish. They jump on the feeding opportunity the moment it presents itself. That is why you may see some of your fish behaving like gluttons.


How long can my fish go without eating?

Most fish can live up to three weeks without feeding, depending on their metabolism, water temperature, and size. You may also want to remember that fish are cold-blooded. They have fewer energy requirements than warm-blooded animals.

Will my fish stop eating once it is already ‘full’?

Yes, your fish will stop eating once it is already ‘full.’ By ‘full’ we mean its stomach has already expanded to its maximum. There is no way your fish can push additional food down its stomach. It would help if you were careful about overfeeding your fish. Do not wait for them to become ‘full’ every meal. They can become obese and develop health problems.

Knowing the answer to the question, how often should I feed my fish?’ is crucial to becoming a responsible aquatic hobbyist. It allows you to develop a feeding program that is specific to your aquatic friends. It is one of the best ways you can ensure their optimum health and well-being.




Rita Wagener
Rita is a resident paw expert at Pet Keepers. A registered & licensed dog trainer, she also has a degree in animal nutrition, and runs her own dog training course.

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