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Feeding Aquarium Fish

Do Not Over Feed

This is something told to most people who are planning to keep fish.  It is good advice, but is often misunderstood.  Fish usually do not over eat; overfeeding means that the aquarium cannot cope with all the food.  This situation is made much worse if some of the food is uneaten.

Signs and Effects of Overfeeding

People often ask me why their aquarium is cloudy.  Of course there are several possible causes.  The first question is whether the cloudiness is white cloudiness or green. If it is green, the cause is probably algae. 

White cloudiness can also be caused by several things, but the most common one is overfeeding. The cloudiness is bacteria which are feeding off the excessive food.  Although most of the bacteria are not disease causing ones, these conditions are not good for your fish.


Over feeding can cause a rapid build up of Ammonia in the water.  Ammonia can kill your fish.


A healthy aquarium has a pleasant smell.  If it becomes unpleasant, this could be a sign of overfeeding, but also check to make sure there are no dead fish, snails or plants, etc.

How much Food to Give?

This is a question I'm asked a lot.  If you are feeding flakes to your fish, generally they should have finished eating them in about two minutes.  However, some fish eat faster than others, but if there is any left over after five minutes your have probably given too much.

With bigger food like algae wafers, the fish cannot completely eat them until they have softened a bit in the water.  The same applies to larger pellets.

Live food is different.  As long as it is of a type that stays alive in the aquarium, the fish can continue eating the live food for some time.  If the food stays alive, it should not foul the water.

How Often Should I Feed my Fish?

This is another question a lot of people ask.  In our shop the usual answer I give is once a day.  This is not necessarily the ideal, but it is easy for most people to do. From the point of view of the fish, more frequent feeding is preferable, and I feed our fish more often.  But if you do feed more frequently, it increases the chance of overfeeding.

What Sort of Food Should I Use?

When people ask me this, my answer has to depend on the type of fish.  Generally, fish benefit from a variety of food.  Do not just get one type of food and stick to it.  Apart from making sure your fish get all the different nutrients they need, a variety of different forms of food is a good idea because the different fish are adapted differently for eating different types of food.

Types of Food

There are many different forms that fish food can take.  Here are a few of them.


When fish food is mentioned, some people think of flakes.  They are a convenient way of feeding your fish.  A good quality flake can be a good basic food.  Good quality fish food will normally have many different ingredients, not just a few. 


There are a number of types of sinking wafer.  Although these are mainly for bottom feeding fish, most fish like them.


Pellets are another form food can be given to your fish.  In some cases, they have the advantage that it is possible to count how many you are giving your fish. 

When my young daughter was at primary school, we gave the school an aquarium.  It moved from one room to another each year so my daughter could help supervise the feeding of the fish.  A different child fed them each day, carefully counting out the correct number of pellets.  We also gave the fish other food occasionally for variety.

Weekend and Vacation Feeders

These come in different forms, but the most common one is a plaster block with food embedded in it. In the classroom tank I mentioned above, each Friday a weekend feeder was put in. 

For each two week holiday, a vacation feeder was used.  The only time we had any trouble with this system was once when someone else thought the fish were hungry and put extra food in during one of the holidays. The fish survived, but the tank needed an extra cleaning after school resumed.

Frozen Food

There are many types of frozen fish food.  The make we use and sell is the Fish Fuel Co brand.  This is the most popular one in Australia and, I think, New Zealand.  Unfortunately, this brand is not available in most countries.  Of course there are many other brands of frozen food and I do not doubt that many of them are also excellent brands.

We are very lucky in South Australia because the Fish Fuel Co. is local.

There are different frozen foods for different groups of fish.  For example, one food is for Discus, and there is a Frozen Goldfish Food.

The most popular frozen food in our shop is frozen bloodworm.

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