Beginner's Guide

How Often Should You Feed Aquarium Fish?

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When you take up the job of petting a fish, you need to take care of both the quality of food and feeding time. You cannot risk messing it up. So, the questions arise, what do fish eat? How often should you feed aquarium fish?

Fish can be herbivores, omnivores, or carnivores depending on the food they eat in the wild. Most of the fish need food once or twice a day and will be fine with it. However, it tends to get different from every fish species.

Hence, it is necessary to know the to-dos and not-to-dos list with fish food and their feeding schedule. Let’s get started.

How Often Should You Feed Aquarium Fish?

It is the main talk here so, let’s get started. Feeding frequency and time depends on the fish species you have.

For the most part, or say the ideal rule is to feed them once or twice a day. Fish takes nearly 16 to 18 hours to digest the food completely that’s why it is wise to feed them once a day.

It also depends on the size of your fish. If you have large sedimentary fish, then you can take a few days’ breaks from feeding with no worries.

But if you are petting an active fish, then your workload increases and regular feeding becomes compulsory.

Some aquarists even make their fish go without food for a few days to clear their digestive system. They feed their fish twice or thrice a week and still get away without issues.

Also, the type of food your fish eat decides how often they need food. Herbivores fish graze throughout the day and feed more frequently than others.

But remember to feed them in very small quantities as overfeeding your fish brings health and tank issues you won’t like.

Also, growing babies need more food than adults and they feed more frequently like slow grazers. It is good to feed them four to five times a day with an ideal quantity of food.

Temperature, too, plays an important role in fish metabolism. Warmer temperature increases the metabolic rates in fish making them eat more frequently. So, you must take steps to maintain the aquarium during summer.

When Is The Best Time To Feed Aquarium Fish?

Now let’s talk about the time, shall we? You can’t go around feeding them any time you like and make a weird mess.

You need to be precise and attentive if you are serious about fish keeping. The feeding time depends on the factor of whether your fish is nocturnal or not.

You need to provide the food when they are awake and most fish are awake at noon. So, what you can do is wait for 15 minutes after you turn on the light.

After 15 minutes, your fish will be fully awake, alert, and ready to be fed. Moreover, coming to the nocturnal fish, feed them after you turn off the aquarium lights.

If you have a problem with time management you can go for an automatic fish feeder. A rechargeable fish feeder that comes with a timer and USB charger cable like Zacro Automatic Fish Feeder is highly recommended.

What Do Fish Eat?

Fish can be herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore, it all comes down to what they find and eat in the wild. The same is reflected in the diet they ask in the aquarium.

Their diet depends on the type of food they prefer and that ranges from algae to shrimp, plants to small fish.

You need to research well about the species you have and what they like to have in their diet. Always go for good quality of food with all the nutrients fish asks for.

Also, learn how to feed your fish in the aquarium and try not messing it up.

The questions you need to ask while researching are:

  1. Are your fish (insert your fish type) herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore?
  2. Are your fish top, bottom, or mid-dwellers?
  3. Do your fish prefer frozen foods, live foods, or dry foods?
  4. What should be the size of fish food for your fish?

How Much Should You Feed Aquarium Fish?

Once you know what your fish eat and how often should you feed it, it is very necessary to know how much.

If you feed aquarium fish more food, then it will be overfeeding the fish and any less than it is underfeeding. You are stuck either way so it is of great importance to know the right and ideal amount and how to feed your fish.

It is always best to underfeed them rather than overfeeding because you can easily provide them little food later.

The ideal thumb rule, widely applied and accepted, is to feed aquarium fish what they can eat within 2 to 3 minutes. Some might take 5 minutes too.

As some fish are fast eaters and some are somewhat slow, do research well before concluding. Although, in most cases, you’ll be fine by sticking with the thumb rule.

Another thing is you need to start with a small quantity of food and check how much time they took to finish it.

If they took less than 2 minutes, feed them a little more. This will help you to determine the right amount after a while.

Also, don’t put the timer before they start eating. Some fish are shy and bottom dwellers, so it takes time for the food to reach them.

Surface feeders and mid-feeders do receive their food faster than the bottom ones that’s why you need to have patience there.

How Can You Know If You Are Overfeeding Your Fish?

The major problem with beginners is that they don’t know whether the food they are giving is more or less or sufficient.

It is the most common mistake people do when they don’t know what they are doing. They tend to feed fish more often to see the beauty of fish feeding.

Well, hands down, fish do look cute when they are eating their food and it is quite a game. But does that give you the window to feed them more?

No sir, you can’t overdo anything and wish the result in your favor. There are consequences for every action you take and Overfeeding brings some with it as well.

Here is the list of few signs these fish show when they are eating more than enough.

Obesity In Aquarium Fish

Your fish starts getting fatter and fatter to the point they are unhealthily obese. If the fish looks heavier and weightier than normal, then it is definitely because of overeating.

Clogged Filter

The filtration system works once a day and more or less someday. The filter tends to get clogged more often even though you are cleaning it regularly.

It is a clear sign that your fish is eating too much and producing more waste as well as there is uneaten food in the tank.

Cloudy Water

The water gets cloudy as well as foamy due to the presence of excess food and waste. Cloudy and foamy water is a clear sign of overfeeding your fish.

Aquarium water change may help to clear the cloudy and foamy water but the consequence will not subside as long as the overfeeding takes place.


The bottom of the tank or the water will contain food that is left uneaten. You can see the lighter food floating around in the water whereas the heavier ones in the bottom.

You need to maintain and clean the aquarium more often to get rid of the floating or leftover food or just stop overfeeding your fish.

More Waste

If your fish is eating more than enough, then it is no doubt the feces is more in the tank. You can clearly see the feces present in the tank have increased if you are feeding your fish overly.

Your aquarium gets dirty faster and you have to keep on cleaning the tank more often than usual.

Ammonia And Nitrate Level

Fish waste and leftover rotting food are the main sources of ammonia production and ammonia poisoning. The more ammonia is produced, the higher the nitrate level goes.

Beneficial bacteria in the aquarium and biological filter media cannot clear all the ammonia produced in the tank and hence the level keeps on increasing.

Even if the aquarium nitrogen cycle is taking place more often, it is quite hard to maintain the ammonia level due to the excess food in the tank.

Nitrate level and pH play the inversely proportional game here so when the nitrate level decreases, pH increases in the aquarium and vice versa.

If you can adjust the pH level in the aquarium when you stop overfeeding your fish.


The leftovers of the fish are the quality food for the algae. So, when you are hazardously pouring the fish food in the aquarium, you are inviting the algal growth in the tank.

It is very clearly seen when the green or brown algae start to cover the substrate and ornaments of the aquarium. It is quite hard to get rid of algae so be careful here.


Go near your aquarium and open the lid, do smell of feces, rotten food, etc. hit your nose? If yes, then you are doomed and with no doubt overfeeding your fish.

How Can You Know If You Are Underfeeding Your Fish?

There are certain signs you need to monitor closely to know whether your fish is underfed or not. You can take the risk of underfeeding your fish as these might results in fish diseases and other issues too.

Here are some signs and symptoms your fish shows when you are underfeeding it in the aquarium:

Skinny Bodies

Have you ever gone without food or with a small quantity of food for a few days? People tend to cut their diet to get skinny.

So, when you see your fish getting skinny day by day, it is quite clear to conclude. You, sorry to say, are underfeeding your fish and they are losing weight.

That’s the conclusion here and before they show any more issues, please research the good quality fish food and its ideal quantity for your fish.

After that buy fish food according to the recommendation for your species and feed your fish.

Sunken Bellies

Another sign that will more clearly make you understand your fish diet status. Look closely at their bellies, do they look normal or slightly sunken?

When the fish is well-fed, they have a very petite body with a fully-developed stomach. That’s why when you see a sunken stomach, give some food to your fish immediately.

They are very hungry and even their bellies are now giving up and sinking like a sponge without water.

Color Change

The most probable and noticeable sign is the color change in the fish. Your beautiful and colorful aquarium fish will start losing their wonderful color.

The paler they get, the clearer it gets that you are not feeding your fish properly. The pale and discolored fish is the result of underfeeding and neglect.

Mingling And Nipping

Have you ever seen a street cat or dog sniffling around searching for food? What do they do? They jump into everything around them in search of food and will eat anything they think of as food.

The case is the same with your aquarium fish with the difference that they do it inside the tank. Most fish start nipping and mingling around the live plants and substrate.

They are doing so because these fish are hungry and you are not providing them fish food. These fish are searching for anything that can fit in their mouth and will quench their hunger.

If you are not being able to get fish food anywhere, there’s always an option with some human food for aquarium fish. Feed them as soon as you see them nipping and mingling around.

Untimely Death

People die of starvation and it is quite a known thing in the world. Therefore, it is not rocket science to know that your aquarium fish that are sensitive and dependent will die of starvation as well.

If your fish are dying one after another, one of the causes might be underfeeding. When you deprive these fish of food for a long time, they start to get stressed and unhealthy.

These unhealthy, hungry, and starving fish can’t last long and will die eventually.

Sometimes, however, the fish shows signs due to internal disease they are suffering from. You may be feeding them plenty of food but they seem to stay skinner and paler.

It may be because of the intestinal worms or parasites that can be cured with simple medications. You need some dewormed or antiparasitic medications in your house for this very purpose.

How Long Can Aquarium Fish Go Without Food?

It is quite amazing to know how long your fish can go without food. Some species might surprise you and some will stress you about the definite time-table.

Especially adults have the capacity to tolerate hunger for some time but it is never recommended to keep your fish hungry.

It is necessary to feed aquarium fish as per the requirement to keep them healthy. Likewise, if you are gone for a longer period, ask someone to do that job for you.

Here are few fish along with their time limit to last without food.

You may like to read about: How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food?

Fish Days
Goldfish 10
Tetras 10
Guppies 7-10
Mollies 14
Platies 10-14
Danios 14
Angelfish 7
Rasboras 7
Plecos 10-14
Oscars 14
Loaches 10
Gourami 14
Corydoras 14
Discus 14
Barbs 14
Betta 7-14
Swordtails 14
Koi 14

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Fish Stop Eating When They Are Full?

Yes, generally they will stop eating once their stomach is full and can no longer expand. But they won’t stop till they can physically fit more food resulting in obesity and other overfeeding issues.

Can I Feed My Fish Every Other Day?

Yes, you can feed your fish once in two days but it is better to feed them daily to avoid underfeeding or overfeeding issues.


In conclusion, you need to be careful with fish diet and feeding time. It is very important to provide them qualitative food within the boundary of appropriate quantity. Don’t overfeed or underfeed your fish unless you want your aquarium filled with unhealthy or probably dead fish. Scary but the truth, so stay alert and attentive with your fish and you’ll have healthily swimming fish in the tank.

Happy Fish Keeping!!!

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  2. How Long Can Fish Live in a Bag: Shocking Facts!

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