Fish Food 101: A Beginner’s Guide On How To Feed Aquarium Fish

When it comes to feeding fish, you may think of sprinkling fish food on the aquarium water whenever you are near the aquarium and your fish beg for food. If you think so, then you must be new to this hobby of parenting fish. Well, hello, newbies! You have found the perfect match for the whirlwind of fish food questions running in your mind.

Feeding fish is much more than just buying anything from the fish food section at a pet store and giving your fish. To cut it short, remember the 2Qs before feeding your fish: Quantity and Quality. And if you’re wondering how many times you should feed your fish, keep reading until the end.

What Do Fish Eat?

Since food is limited in fish’s natural surroundings, these all-time hungry creatures eat whatever and whenever they find food. But, that’s not the case for fish in captivity. If you already have pet fish at your home or you’re planning to get some, don’t forget you’re taking the responsibility of keeping a living being alive. And by the responsibility I mean you’ve to take care of your pet’s hygiene and health just like you do for yourself.

The diet you feed to your fish solely covers a major part of creating a healthy environment for them. It’s not like one diet is suitable for every kind of fish species. The dietary preferences and appetite vary among diverse fish species. Fish are either herbivorous, or carnivorous, or omnivorous. I guess that has pretty much explained why the dietary preferences differ. To help clear your confusion, here are some tips for learning what kind of diet is good for your fish.

What Herbivores Fish Eat?

You must have understood by the name what they feed on: plants. If you’re a vegetarian, you know how much you want to munch something time and again. The same is the case for herbivorous fish. These species don’t have a stomach that can hold a large amount of food, which means they need very little yet frequent feedings.

Despite lacking true stomach, these vegetarians chew plant-based food with their flat teeth and digest it with a specialized intestine. Algae, vegetable, and fruits are their choice of plant-based foods.

What Do Carnivores Fish Eat?

Carnivorous fish, as in meat-eaters, require live foods over plants. With their sharp fangs, these species can shred and swallow large chunks of flesh at once. Can you believe these meat-lovers are capable of holding an entire fish in their stomach? Despite having this capability, the shocking fact is that they can’t digest plants because of their short intestinal tract. Even if you feed vegetables, they wouldn’t be able to nutrients form the plant-based food.

What Do Omnivores Fish Eat?

Omnivorous fish are comparatively easier to feed as they can consume both meat and plants. Having mixed features of herbivorous and carnivorous let these species enjoy live foods and flake foods. However, it’s better not to feed them with certain grains and plants to avoid digestion issues.

What is Fish Food Made of?

While picking fish food at the fish section of your local pet store, you might be wondering what ingredients are added to the fish food. High-quality fish food brands put wholesome ingredients in their fish foods. To the best of my knowledge, fish food is made from a variety of seafood. The seafood is oven-dried and grounded in small pieces that fit in the mouth of your fish. I know sea creatures feeding on sea creatures doesn’t tune in, but that’s how the life cycle works.

Now that you have already learned about what kind of fish eat what kind of food, it won’t be difficult for you to choose the fish food having the best ingredients for your fish. Just make sure to look for the following ingredients in the fish food before buying it.

Basic Ingredients to Have in Fish Food

The ingredients depend on the quality of fish food. There’s no doubt that good-quality fish food has all the necessary ingredients; thus, being expensive. Some fish foods have other ingredients that don’t go well with your fish’s digestive system. All you have to do is pick the fish food having these ingredients only and nothing else.

Basic Proteins

Your pet fish needs protein for growth and maintenance of body tissue. Earthworms, shrimp meal, fish meal, and squid meal are the perfect protein-pact ingredients for non-vegetarian fish species. As for the vegetarians, a blue-green alga named Spirulina is the source of rich nutrients and proteins.

Carbohydrates & Lipids

Carbohydrates provide energy to your fish which they can either use it immediately or store it for future use. Lipids are fatty acids that the fish deposit and use to develop vital cell structures. These are usually found in vegetable matters.

Vitamins and Minerals

We are becoming more conscious about our overall health, aren’t we? We switch to a balanced diet for deriving the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. If that’s not our jam, then we opt for supplements. It’s the same for your fish as well. Fish’s body absorbs vitamins and minerals for metabolic processes and well-being. So, Vitamins B, C, and E must be in the ingredients of fish food. Minerals like Riboflavin, Niacin, Biotin, Manganese, and Zinc are the core ingredients of fish food.

Basic Ingredients to Avoid in Fish Food

Of course, you want the best for your pet fish, and you want them to stay longer with you. Novice aquarists can unintentionally pick the wrong type of food or low-quality food for their fish. I can understand. I’ve been through the same phase too. Here is the list of ingredients to avoid in fish food so that you don’t repeat the same mistake.

  • Wheat flour
  • Starches
  • Potato protein
  • Sorbitol
  • Soybean meal

I wouldn’t say that these ingredients will affect your fish at once. These kinds of carbohydrates are fine to give in moderation. But, it can be a slow poison for your fish if you provide the fish food having these ingredients regularly.

Types of Fish Food

To be honest, when I went to the pet store for the first time, I was dumbfounded at the sight that met my eyes. And the sight was a fish section full of varieties of fish food. Since I had gone there without doing any research, I didn’t know which one to choose. It’s good to know that you all are doing some research, unlike me. This shows how deep your affection for the pet fish is, and you want to know about their nutrition. Discover the types of fish food and choose accordingly.

Dry Fish Food

The most common type of fish food is dry food. As the name suggests, it is dry and comes in the form of flakes, granules, sticks, and pellets. Depending on their eating habits, you can choose dry food that can either sink or float in the aquarium water for your fish. Although dry food can be stored for a long time, it is quite low in fiber. Dry food can cause constipation and swim bladder disorders in fish. Choose the one with a bit more high fiber and add some vegetables to enhance the nutrients of the dry food.

Freeze-Dried Fish Food

Freeze-Dried food is great for carnivorous fish. Krill, Mysis shrimp, tubifex worms, and other crawly blood worms are available in forms of freeze-dried cubes. Your fish will enjoy these treats that are incredibly nutritious at the same time. For your vegetarian friends, ask for dried spirulina or nori algae at the pet store.

Live Fish Food

I can understand what a sight of live insects and worms would make you feel. But, some carnivorous fish prefer live food only, and your fish might also be one of them. Take help from the aquarists to choose fresh live foods for your fish. Look for best-quality live brine, ghost shrimp, crickets, and worms in the pet store.

Frozen Fish Food

Frozen shrimp, bloodworms, krill, prawn, mussels, and planktons are good for your fish. Foods kept in the freezer have the best quality mild ingredients that are high in vitamins and minerals. Remember to defrost the food before feeding it to your fish. Vegetarians can also enjoy defrosted spirulina cubes that are available at the pet store.

Greens Veggies

If you see your fish grazing on aquarium plants, then you have got diet partners for you. You can feed your veggie-lover with lettuce, pea, zucchini, spinach, and cucumber. Boil some shrimps and chop them in small pieces. Slightly cook some veggies and let them cool for a few minutes. Mix them and Voila! You’ve got a delicious salad for you and your partners. You can also pin some greens to the side of the aquarium and replace them within 24 hours.

Medicated Fish Food

Do you have picky eaters in your home? Or are you a picky eater yourself? Fish can be picky as well. So, don’t get surprised when your fish gulp the food and spit it out immediately. There are fish foods that contain anti-bacterial properties and dewormers in them. The medicated fish foods are known for healing internal parasites and bacteria. These foods smell like lobster and are great for picky eaters, and fish that lacks appetite.

Feed Your Fish The Right Amount of Fish Food

The feeding portion for your fish shouldn’t be less or more. To find out the right amount of food to feed your fish, avoid adding a large amount of food at the same time. Sprinkle a tiny amount of food and see if your fish eat up all the food. If they do, add some more. Continues this for 4-5 minutes only. This will also lessen the chance of obesity in fish. Make sure to scoop up all the leftovers from the water before they get accumulated in the substrate.

Fish can be surface eaters or mid-water feeders or even bottom feeders depending on their nature. Some fish come right on the surface to eat food while some fish are patient enough to wait for the food to sink into their area. Help your shy fish to avoid the wait by soaking dry fish foods and then dropping in the aquarium water.

How Often Should You Feed Your Fish?

This depends on the fish species you have. Fish can digest the food completely in 16-24 hours. So, a lot of fish do well with just one serving in a day. However, that does not apply to all kinds of fish.

  • The newly hatched fries need very frequent servings of special fry foods per day.
  • Young, developing fish need 4-5 servings in a day.
  • Healthy adult fish require 1-2 servings in a day.
  • As I mentioned before, herbivorous fish need to be fed with small chunks of food or live plants frequently in a day.

When Should You Feed Your Fish?

Fish have the tendency to beg for food as soon as they see their owner, which you must resist anyhow. Create a time table to feed your fish and follow it strictly. This will stop your urge to feed your fish time and again.

  • For the adult fish, morning and evening feedings are best.
  • Feed your herbivorous fish in the morning, afternoon, evening, and just before you go to bed.
  • Fries need to be fed every 3-4 hours per day.
  • Nocturnal fish should be fed right before you go to bed.

Fish Feeding Methods

There are numerous methods of feeding fish for commercial ponds. But, for your home aquarium, two methods are more than enough.


Do you think that you can’t communicate with your fish? Of course, you can. Hand-feeding is the most intimate way of interacting with your fish. When you approach your fish, they expect you to shower them with love i.e., food. These vibrant creatures accept your love as soon as you drop it in the tank.

Automatic Feeder

It’s not practical to take your aquarium with you wherever you go. But, you don’t want to leave your beloved fish behind. I am not talking about going to work. Your fish can do well when you’re at the office for a couple of hours. What about the days when you’re spending a holiday away from home? Don’t worry; your fish can still do well in your absence. All you need to do is fix an automatic feeder in the aquarium. This is not an ordinary device but a life-saver. Enter the time that you want your fish to be fed, and it will drop the food in the aquarium at the predetermined time. How cool is that!

Fish Food Swaps

I agree that high-quality fish food can be quite expensive, considering all the wholesome ingredients it has. If you’re on a tight budget and still want to feed the best fish food for your fish, you can always opt for home-made fish foods. Store-bought fish foods contain chemicals to preserve them for a long period. The fish food swaps are highly nutritious and are readily available in your fridge. You can swap fish foods with the following list of food without any worries:

  • Boiled rice
  • Green peas
  • Lettuce and spinach
  • Sprouts
  • Earthworms
  • Raw eggs
  • Fruits
  • Broccoli and carrots
  • Fresh seafood

DIY Fish Food

Just imagine having one single dish for your entire life. Doesn’t it sound bland? Now, imagine yourself as a fish, and your owner is giving you the same boring, dry flakes every day. I know you’re scrunching your face just by the thought of it. Fish have emotions, but they don’t show. Maybe your water babies also want some change in their lives.

Why not try some DIYs? When it comes to your pets, you wouldn’t mind going extra miles for them, would you? The best part of DIY is that you can pick the ingredients of your choice. By doing this, you can save a lot of money. Plus, the joy of feeding your fish with the food that you made yourself is out of this world.

Fish Food Recipes To Try At Home

It doesn’t matter if you’re a chef or not; anyone can try these fish food recipes at home. Just take a few steps towards your kitchen, put an apron, and get started.

Oats Delight

It sounds like a healthy breakfast, doesn’t it? This recipe is for the veggie-lovers in your tank.

  • 100 gm oats
  • 150 gm spinach
  • 90 gm cucumber
  • 140 gm green peas
  • 296 gm unflavoured gelatin
How to Prepare

Boil all the vegetables and then plunge them into cold running water. Blend the vegetables and add the oats. Blend them to form a thick purée: mix unflavoured gelatin and hot water in a separate bowl. Add the gelatin mix into the purée and then store it in ice cube trays.

Meaty Fish Food

This protein-rich fish food is full of meat with a hint of vegetables.

  • 100 gm beef heart
  • 150 gm white fish
  • 150 gm shrimp
  • 296 gm unflavoured gelatin
  • 100 gm carrots
  • 130 gm broccoli
  • 150 gm cauliflower
How to Prepare

Boil the vegetables and cool them at room temperature. Blend the vegetables to form a purée. Mix unflavoured gelatin and hot water in a separate bowl. Blend the beef heart, shrimp, and whitefish. Add the vegetable purée and gelatin mix to the meat purée. Store it in the ice cube trays.

Seafood Delight

This recipe goes well for omnivorous fish.

  • 500 gm frozen peas
  • 544 gm unflavoured gelatin
  • 500 gm spinach
  • 300 gm carrots
  • 1000 gm shrimp (remove tail)
  • 200 gm salmon
  • Two cloves of garlic
How to Prepare

Blend the raw vegetables, shrimp, and salmon to form a purée. Mix the unflavoured gelatin with 2 liters of hot water in a pan. Add the purée in the pan and cook it on a low heat for about 30-45 minutes. Store it in the ice cube trays.

Vitamin-rich Fish Food

You can add supplements in this fish food and provide the much- needed vitamins to your fish.

  • 1 drop of Fish Vitamins
  • 1 cup of water
  • 70 gm garlic
  • 410 gm of mixed vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, spinach)
  • 70 gm seafood (shrimp, white fish, crab)
  • 270 gm unflavoured gelatin
How to Prepare

Blend the boiled vegetables, seafood, and garlic at once to form a purée—mix gelatin with hot water in a separate bowl. Add one drop of vitamin and gelatin mix to the purée and mix it well. Pour it in the ice cube trays and store it in the refrigerator.

No-cook Fish Food

Are you not feeling like washing all the dishes later? Here’s an easy recipe for you. This one is the easiest recipe among all.

    • 80 gm dozen peas
    • 100 gm spinach
    • 50 gm cucumber
  • 95 gm shrimp
  • 100 gm crab
  • 90 gm cod
  • 300 gm unflavoured gelatin
How to Prepare

Blend all the ingredients at once. If the purée is too thick, add some water—mix gelatin with hot water in a separate bowl. Add the gelatin mix to the purée, pour it in the ice cube trays, and store it in the refrigerator.

Medicated Fish Food

This is just adding medicines to the prepared fish food rather than making a recipe. Add 1 tablespoon of medicines like BiFuran+ or Metro+ to 113 gm of dry flakes, pellets, or granular feeds. These medications are powder-based formulations that treat microbial bacterial and protozoan disease conditions. So, use it in the dry feeds only.

Are You Overfeeding or Underfeeding Your Fish?

The diet you provide to your fish is the cause of obesity. It melts your heart seeing your darling fish jump and beg for food whenever you approach them. If you don’t walk away and sprinkle food every time you approach them, you’re overfeeding your fish.

Don’t ever think that all kinds of fish have an identical diet. Some require one serving while some require 6-7 servings per day. If you get confused about their diets, you might underfeed your fish unintentionally.

Read More: Obesity in Aquarium Fish: Are You Overfeeding Your Fish?

Signs That You Are Overfeeding Your Fish

There are more cases of overfeeding fish than underfeeding. Here are the signs that you’re overfeeding your fish.

  • Swollen belly
  • More leftover food floating on the water
  • Dirty green or brown algae layering on the surface of the aquarium
  • Excess stringy feces
  • The odor from the aquarium water
  • Residue decomposed on the substrate

Signs That You Are Underfeeding Your Fish

The signs of underfeeding your fish are pretty clear. Fish become skinny and tend to beg for food even more than a healthy fish. Also, an underfed fish that’s on the verge of dying lose appetite and is impossible to save.

More About Fish Food

How to Store Home-made Food?

After making the fish food purée, pour it in the ice cube trays and freeze it. Take out the cubes from the trays and transfer them in an airtight container. Store the container in the fridge and take it out only at the time of need.

How Long Can You Store Home-made Fish Food?

Fish food that you buy from the store has preservatives and chemical properties which help it to last longer. However, the fish food that you make at home contains natural ingredients only. So, you might be wondering whether you can keep it for a while or not. If you store it in a sealed bag or an airtight container properly, then the home-made fish food can remain fresh for one whole year.

Can You Feed Bread To Your Fish?

NO. You can’t feed bread to your fish. Although your fish enjoy eating bread, it contains yeast, which is suitable for our digestive system but, sadly, not for your pets. Bread causes constipation in fish. Feed them with juicy fruits, instead.

What Fruits Can You Feed Your Fish?

You can feed small chunks of any kind of fruit to your fish. Banana, apple, papaya, mango, grapes, pears, cantaloupe; you name it, your fish will devour it. However, you have to make sure that you don’t drop the fruits in the saltwater aquarium, which will increase the growth of algae on the surface.

Know More About Fish Food

A pretty aquarium with perfect lightings and filter is not enough to keep your fish healthy. The diet alone covers up a large percentage of the chances of survival of your fish. Buy the high-quality fish food and feed to your fish diligently. If not, try the recipes and feed your fish. Either way, you’ll find your companions doing well. So, love your fish, and the fish will love you more. I hope your fish stay with you for years and years to come. “Long live your fish.”


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