Fish, like any other organism, need a supply of calories to sustain their metabolism, and selecting the right fish food helps them stay healthy and supports the beauty of your aquarium.
Fish are cold-blooded and do not need an overabundance of food to maintain their body temperature. Ideally, fish should be fed once a day around the same time. Feed fish the amount they will eat in five minutes or less. The exception is herbivores, which typically do not have large stomachs for lots of food. They can be fed more frequently or given live greens to snack on during the day.
The size of the tank should not be an indication of how much food fish need. Six fish in a large aquarium need as much food as six fish in a small aquarium. Be sure to distribute the food across the tank to all fish can access it.
Fish owners who overfeed their fish may see an increased amount of waste in the tank from matter left from what fish do not eat and what they excrete. If nitrate levels go up and the tank seems cloudy, overfeeding may be the culprit.
Types of Fish
There are hundreds of species of aquarium fish. It is important to know if the fish are plant eaters, meat eaters or omnivorous (eat plant and animal) to select the right food that will support health and longevity.
- Carnivores (meat eaters): Acara, Archerfish, Bettas & Oscar
- Herbivores (plant, algae and fruit eaters): Molly, Farowella, Pacu and Tropheus
- Omnivores (meat and plant eaters): Angelfish, Goldfish, Danios and Loaches
Quality food will provide essential nutrients so that fish are healthy and energetic. There are many prepared fish foods, so reading ingredient and nutrition labels is essential.
Common types of fish food:
Dried Foods: The most common of fish food, dry food is easy to use, has a long shelf-life and is less costly than other types of fish food. Some dry foods are designed to float, while others slowly sink to feed bottom-dwellers. Dry food is a great basic staple food for all fish and comes in these forms:
- Flakes: These small pieces of paper-like fish food are probably the best-known dry food. Flakes are great for surface feeders and those that swim in the middle of the water column. They may be unsuitable for fish that live in the bottom of an aquarium since they quickly dissolve.
- Crisps: These are a denser version of flakes. The extra thickness allows crisps to float longer, dissolve slower, retain nutrients longer and feed cleaner with less waste. Crisps can be crushed between fingers before adding to an aquarium if they are too large for the mouths of smaller fish.
- Pellets: Also known as granules, pellets deliver food wherever your fish prefer to eat. Like flakes and crisps, they can be made from a wide range of ingredients to suit a specific diet. The types of pellets for different fish are floating, slow-sinking and fast-sinking.
- Stick-on Tablets: To use a stick-on tablet, hold it to the front glass of the aquarium for a few seconds and remove your hand. The table should stick to the aquarium wall and create a fish feeding frenzy.
- Wafers: Sometimes called tablets, wafers quickly sink to the bottom of the aquarium and slowly soften. They are not designed to be eaten in a single bite, rather they easily break up as they are nibbled. Wafers are typically packed with plants and vegetables for a delicious meal for bottom-feeders.
Freeze-Dried and Frozen Foods: These are good supplemental foods and an excellent alternative to live food. The main benefits of freeze-dried and frozen foods are that they are natural and usually retain their whole form to help retain nutrients. Fish crave the flavor of these foods, which include krill, plankton and bloodworms, but these should not be the primary diet for fish.
Variety in a fish diet is important to reduce the chance of nutritional shortcomings that could lead to health problems. Providing a variety of foods also reduces the chance that your fish lose interest in the diet.
Fish can smell and taste their food. They have taste buds in their lips and along the skin around their mouths. Fish also use their sense of smell to identify chemical compounds like pheromones, which are distributed throughout the water and can be a sign of a larger predatory fish.
Fish can be picky, so if you notice a fish is not eating, switch to another food until you find something pleasing to its palate. There are plenty of choices.