How much to feed and how often?

How much to feed and how often?

Overfeeding is the most common mistake fish owners make. Overfeeding clogs the filter, and breaks down into toxins that are harmful to fish. Hence the warnings on the packages. Over feeding will cause Nitrate & Phosphate Spikes that can kill your fish and corals and cause algae blooms. To prevent this we suggest testing your Nitrates & Phosphates a few times a week watching for jumps in these levels until your comfortable with your feeding schedule and amount. We suggest Elos Nitrate & Elso Phosphate test kits for ease of use and accurate results.

In nature, fish eat whenever they are hungry and food is available. If food sources are plentiful, they will eat several times a day. On the other hand, if food sources are scarce, they might go for days between meals. For this reason, fish are very opportunistic and will eat whenever they have a chance. That means that if you offer them food, they will usually gobble it up even if they aren’t starving. Keep that in mind the next time your fish ‘beg’ for food. Fish quickly learn who brings the food to the tank and will jump at the chance to be fed, even if they are not in dire need of food.

How Much

As for how much food to feed, a good rule of thumb is to feed no more than the fish will consume completely in less than five minutes. When in doubt, underfeed! You can always give them another small feeding if necessary. However, if you overfeed the uneaten food will produce by-products which can be harmful to the fish. In the event you do overfeed, promptly remove the uneaten food using a siphon or net.

As a final note, keep in mind that not only the amount but the type of food is important.

One mistake many amateur aquarium owners make in their community take is combining omnivore, herbivore and carnivorous fish. As most people tend to think of fish food as flakes from a bottle it’s not hard to see how these kinds of mistakes can be made. Unfortunately mixing the wrong fishes can have deadly consequences for some of your pets.

How Often

So how often, and how much should fish be fed? Frequency will vary based on the type of fish. In general, most fish do quite well on one feeding per day. However, some owners prefer to feed their fish twice a day. Regardless of one or two feedings, the key is to keep the feedings very small. The timing is not critical, with the exception of nocturnal feeders, such as certain catfish. If you have nocturnal fish in your tank, be sure to feed them just before turning the lights out at night.

There are some exceptions to the once per day feeding rule. Herbivores (vegetarians) need to eat frequently because they do not have large stomachs to hold a lot of food. In nature, they would graze all day long on plants. They should be given several small feedings a day or provided with live plants they can nibble. Newly hatched fry and young fish not fully grown, require more frequent feedings of special foods designed for fry.

At our store we feed twice a day with flake food in the morning and frozen food in the evening and algae eating fish get a strip of algae daily.

Feeding your coals and copepods is much different and we will add a page just for them here.

Fish Diets

Not all fish require the same diet. Like other organisms, a fish is designed with a mouth, teeth, and a digestive tract that is intended for certain types of food. It’s important to keep in mind that any living creature will eat virtually anything if they are hungry enough. In other words, don’t make broad assumptions about the dietary needs of a fish based on observation alone.

Do your homework and find out what the fish needs to eat to remain healthy. There are three basic categories that fish can be classified in, based on their dietary needs. Those are carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore.


These are meat eaters, and generally requiring live foods. They have a large mouth with sharp pointed teeth that allow them to grasp their prey and tear off large chunks of flesh, which is swallowed whole rather than ground or chewed first.

Carnivores have a short intestinal tract, and a relatively large stomach designed to hold an entire fish. Their digestive system lacks the ability to digest vegetable matter, so even though they might eat plants, they cannot derive nutrients from them as other types of fish do. Because they will chase down and eat other fish in the aquarium, carnivores are not suitable for a community tank.


On the opposite end of the dietary food chain from carnivores is the herbivore. Although herbivores can sometimes be seen eating live foods, the proper diet for an herbivore consists of plants, algae, and fruits.

They have no true stomach; instead, they possess a specialized intestine that is capable of breaking down plant matter. Their teeth are flat, which allows them to grind food before swallowing it. Because they lack a stomach for holding large volumes of food, the herbivore must eat frequently – at least several times per day. Because herbivores require frequent feedings of vegetables and fruits, they are often not the best choice for a community tank.


An omnivore will eat a variety of meat and vegetable matter. Although omnivores can and will eat vegetable matter, they cannot digest some types of grains and plants. Their teeth and digestive tract possess some of the traits of both the carnivore and the herbivore.

Omnivores are the easiest of all fish to feed, as they eat flake foods as well as live foods, and everything in between. For that reason, omnivores are an excellent choice for a community tank.

As you can see, it’s important to feed your fish the proper diet, as their bodies are designed for certain types of food. If you aren’t sure what type of food your fish needs, use the dietary type chart.

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