Top Tips on How to Feed Your Pet Fish

By PetcoBlogger on Jun. 28, 2016

One of the most frequently asked questions by people who are new to the aquarium hobby is how much and how often to feed their fish. This article outlines best feeding practices for maintaining a healthy vibrant aquarium. Proper feeding, along with a routine maintenance schedule, is your formula for success.

Feeding Frequency

In the wild, most fish eat small amounts of food continuously throughout the day. These fish live in established ecosystems that have evolved over millions of years where foods is readily available and nutrient export is handled naturally by flora and the flow of water. However, fish in an aquarium are in an enclosed environment, so knowing how much and how often to feed your fish is important to maintaining a healthy aquarium. Feeding the proper amount of food puts less stress on the filtration and aquatic environment. Most fish will do best if fed 1 or 2 times daily.

The best way to determine how much to feed your fish is to feed them small amounts and observe them eating. Fish should be able to eat all of the food they are offered within 3-5 minutes. If they do not eat all the food, remove any uneaten food by using an aquarium siphon or fish net. The addition of scavenger fish or invertebrates, such as catfish or shrimp, can assist in eliminating some of the uneaten food that sinks to the bottom of your aquarium, especially in those hard to reach places.

It is important to become familiar with basic aquarium water chemistry, as this can sometimes help determine whether or not you are overfeeding your aquarium. Petco offers free water testing or you can buy test kits for pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates to test your aquarium water at home.

Decomposing food in an aquarium can result in low pH, high ammonia, high nitrites, high nitrates or a combination of both. Also, uneaten decomposing food will result in cloudy or green water and can cause excess algae growth. Overfeeding may clog filters, decreasing their performance, leading to lower oxygen levels and dirtier water. It can also affect a fish’s health internally and externally. Internal health issues are usually not visibly detectable until it is too late, but external health issues can be present in the form of fin rot or fungus.


Food Types
There are many types of fish food available on the market. Some serve a specific purpose, such as foods for herbivores or bottom feeders. Others offer variety, so fish don’t become bored eating the same thing every day. Feeding a variety of foods helps enhance color, promotes health and vitality and supports a long life. Fish that eat a varied diet are healthier, less stressed and have stronger immune systems. (When purchasing fish, you should ask if they have any special feeding requirements.)

The more fish eat, the more they excrete waste. The quality of the food you feed has an impact on water quality. By feeding fish nutritious foods containing appropriate ingredients that are highly digestible, you will have better water quality in your aquarium due to a smaller amount of waste being excreted by the fish.

Foods that contain a high percentage of fillers and undergo heavy processing pass through fish without being completely digested, and end up as waste in the aquarium. Foods that contain ingredients originating from an aquatic environment are more natural and therefore easily digested by fish.

Frozen and freeze-dried foods are natural and undergo minimal processing, retaining their natural scent and appearance. The advantage to feeding frozen and freeze-dried foods is that they contain no preservatives, fillers or dyes and are free from harmful parasites and unwanted bacteria. Fish, including finicky eaters, readily accept them because they trigger an instinctive feeding response due to their natural appearance and scent. It is recommended to feed frozen and freeze-dried foods in combination with flaked or pelleted food to assure your fish are receiving optimal nutrition.

Best Feeding Practices

With such a large assortment of fish food available, sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. If you’re not sure which type is best for your fish, ask for advice from a Petco aquatics specialist. They can make recommendations based on the species of fish you have, as well as give advice on best feeding practices. The following list outlines commonly used varieties of fish food with a brief description and appropriate method for offering them to your fish.

  • Flake Foods: the best known and come in a wide variety to meet the needs of different types of fish. Flake foods float and are excellent for feeding surface feeders. Take the appropriate amount between your fingers and sprinkle on the aquarium surface.
  • Frozen Cube Foods: Drop a cube in the aquarium while still frozen. The cube will float for 6-8 seconds and then begin to break apart and sink, allowing fish to feed at their natural levels. Remove any uneaten food within 3-5 minutes. Never overfeed. Keep unused cubes in your freezer.
  • Frozen Flat Packs Foods: Break or cut small portions and thaw in cup, then pour into the aquarium. Never overfeed. Remove any uneaten food within 3-5 minutes. Keep unused portion in your freezer. (Important: Microwaving or thawing frozen foods in hot water is not recommended, as it breaks down the nutrients contained in frozen fish food will be compromised.)
  • Freeze-Dried Foods: Freeze-dried fish foods can be fed whole or crumbled between fingers. Because freeze-dried food floats, it is recommended to pre-soak them in water before using if you want the food to sink. Some freeze-dried foods such as Tubifex worms can be pressed firmly against the front glass below the waterline at desired feeding level.
  • Dry Seaweed: Tear or cut off a piece of dried seaweed approximately 3 inches by 3 inches inside your aquarium in an area easily accessible for your fish. Your fish will “graze” at their leisure. Always remove all uneaten seaweed after 6-8 hours.

The use of quality foods and good feeding practices will keep your fish healthy and happy, while keeping your tank maintenance to a minimum. This will allow you more time to enjoy the beauty and tranquility your aquarium adds to your home. Do you have tips on feeding your fish? Let us know in the comments below. Learn what happens if you don't keep your aquarium clean by reading this blog.

0 Kudos
by Dirk
‎05-14-2017 09:54 PM

You are so right, stating that health and happiness of the fish also depends on offering them high quality food.  An additional benefit is that one has to clean the filters less often and water parameters are more stable.

You are so right, stating that health and happiness of the fish also depends on offering them high quality food.  An additional benefit is that one has to clean the filters less often and water parameters are more stable.

Posted on May. 14, 2017
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