When it comes to aquariums, some of the most commonly asked questions have to do with feeding.
How often should I feed my fish? What is overfeeding? How will I know if I’ve overfed?
Overfeeding is one of the most commonly committed mistakes made by first time fish owners.
Unfortunately, without paying attention to detail and keeping thorough records, it can also be a mistake made by alleged expert aquarium owners.
Overfeeding = Potentially Toxic Chemicals
Not only does overfeeding introduce additional debris into the environment that can clog filters and water lines, but it also introduces potentially toxic chemicals released when uneaten food breaks down.
Fish can also overeat, which can lead to poor health.
In the wild, fish will eat anytime food is available and when hungry.
When food is abundant, they might eat several meals in a given day.
Alternatively, when food is not readily available, they can go hours or even days without eating.
Table of Contents
What Schedule Should I Keep?
The schedule that you feed your fish on will ultimately depend on the species of fish and what type of food you are feeding them.
Generally speaking, most fish breeds can do quite nicely on a once per day feeding schedule.
Some aquarium owners like to split a single feeding amount into two separate meals, but that is completely up to the owner.
Again, in the broadest sense, adhering to a strict time of day is not of any great importance, save for some species that have special requirements.
Different preference for different fish type
Some fish, like catfish, prefer to eat after the lights go down, so if you have a night owl under the water, drop in some food just before bedtime.
Others may be early risers, so to speak, and will want a big “breakfast” when the lights come on.
A strict schedule may not matter to the fish, but eating daily does!
If you need a schedule to help you remember then by all means, keep your fish on a strict schedule.
Consider feeding them right before you eat, assuming you have a relatively fixed schedule.
If there are no daily activities you engage in that would help you remember, set an alarm on your phone.
If you plan on being out of town, remember to ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to drop by daily to check on your watery companions or invest in an automatic feeder.
Exceptions to the Rule
Just like anything in life, there are a few exceptions to the rules above.
One notable example would be herbivorous fish; as plant eaters, these fish would typically eat plants throughout the day, regardless of what time it was.
One reason for this is the typically small stomach these breeds have, limiting the amount of food they can hold.
They may eat frequently to satisfy their hunger in their natural environment.
These species should be given multiple small feedings per day.
Additionally (or in place of some of the smaller feedings), consider adding live plants to your tank that the fish can nibble on between meals.
Live plants are also beneficial as they remove carbon dioxide from the water in your tank and provide life-giving oxygen.
How Much Food Should I Provide?
Once again, all species and all fish are different; however, a good guide would be to provide only enough food that your fish will eat in about five minutes or less.
If you’re unsure, provide less than you think they’ll need, since you can always add more food later.
Overfeeding is not ideal since the uneaten food will collect at the bottom of the tank, lowering the water quality.
Uneaten food also poses issues with the potential to clog filters or to break down into harmful chemical components.
If you do happen to overfeed, don’t panic.
Once the fish have finished eating, simply remove the uneaten portion with a net or a spoon.
What is the Feeding Schedule for the Following Fish Species?
Now that you have a basic idea about the importance of a feeding schedule and why it is different for each fish species, let us focus on the subjective approach to each species. This ensures that you follow through the right steps of taking care of the fish and ensure a comfortable life.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the feeding schedule and frequency of a few common and popular fish species:
Although goldfish is one of the most common aquarium species, they are very easy to cause damage to. Overfeeding is one of the most common mistakes that hobbyists do with goldfish. They feed a little more than the other small freshwater fish species, but you need to practice caution.
Overfeeding can lead to digestive complications and result in more waste discharge. This, in turn, can dirty the tank quicker than you’d anticipate.
Experts suggest that you feed a goldfish the amount they can eat in under two minutes. Otherwise, you can assess the size of the goldfish’s eye and feed them the said amount.
Feeding frequency – 2 to 3 times daily. It should be spaced out 4-5 hours at least.
Rainbowfish, in the wild, are omnivores. They rely on live feeds and aquatic plants, and zooplanktons to keep themselves fed. One unique trait of rainbow fish is that they can gobble down both aquatic animals and terrestrial creatures. Tropical flakes and even pellets and live food work great for their nutritional requirements.
As for the amount you should be feeding them, experts suggest sticking to the 3-5 minutes rule. So, you should feed them in minute quantity and as much as they can feed in 3-5 minutes. If your rainbow fish is smaller than average, bring the duration down to 2 minutes.
Typically, you can start the first feed early morning and then stop the same at dusk. This is what the fish do in the wild and is considered an ideal setup.
Feeding frequency – 2 to 3 times daily.
Another popular freshwater aquarium fish worth knowing is Angelfish. They are very easily sourced and a popular species in the commercial market. Like most other freshwater fish species, even angelfish has a varying diet with different elements. They are omnivores too.
However, the fish doesn’t rely much on plants, so you’d have to compensate for their food with live animals like brine shrimp, bloodworms, etc. These take care of their nutritional needs without any complications.
Angelfish also feed on dried flakes and pellets if you don’t want to give them live food. The young angelfish need more frequent feedings while the mature and adult ones gradually reduce their food intake. Also, angelfish don’t get satiated easily. So, if you overfeed them, they will eat it without any caution. So, be careful with the same.
Feeding frequency – 2 to 3 times for adult angelfish. 4-5 times for younger ones.
Guppies are ideal if you are away most of the day and don’t want to house a fish that requires frequent feeding. They don’t need to be fed multiple times in a day. However, they are picky with their food. You can’t stick to just live foods or just dry foods. It has to be a mix of both.
As for the quantity of food, guppies should be fed 1/8th of the size of their body. This prevents overfeeding and keeps them healthy and in their best shape. Also, if you have a community tank, make sure you feed them all in equal intervals so there is no excess food in the tank.
If you are timing their feed, always make sure you feed your guppies the amount of food they can consume in under a minute. This is primarily due to their small size. If all the pellets are gone within a minute, add a few more.
Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times a day.
Much like guppies, mollies don’t need frequent feedings throughout the day. However, they will let you know when they are hungry. Since they are bottom feeders, you will often find them digging through the substrate when hungry. Keep an eye on such behavior.
Also, if they are very hungry and haven’t been fed in a long time, they might exhibit aggression on their tankmates. Although they don’t require a lot of food at a time, they need to be fed well, so they are quiet and peaceful in the tank.
As for what you can feed them, mollies can eat various foods, including invertebrates, algae deposition and even plant matter. So, you can ensure a balance of nutrition for them.
Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times daily.
This type of tetra is one of the smallest. And, with their small body, their nutritional requirements are very limited too. Since they are so small, it is very easy to overfeed them, which is the last thing you want to do.
However, the young neon tetras need more attention and more frequent feeding sessions like other fish species. You can then limit or reduce their feeding once they are an adult. Also, you should feed the amount that your neon tetra can finish in under 3 minutes.
If you wonder how long they can go without food, it can range between 1-2 weeks. However, you also need to realize that the tetra should be fed well and regularly before that. Otherwise, they will starve or die due to malnourishment.
Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times a day for adults and 2-3 times for young neon tetra.
Like most of the other danios, even Zebra danios are omnivorous. They feed off of small flakes and pellets and can gobble down plants when they don’t get food and are hungry. The fish need more protein in their diets during spawning, so live and frozen foods work well then.
They don’t require very frequent feedings. And, you can easily overfeed them if you aren’t being careful. So, make sure you feed the fish as much as they can consume in under 3 minutes.
Overfeeding can lead to many complications in them, especially with bloating and excessive chemical buildup in the tank. These are the last things that you want to experience.
Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times daily.
Another common fish species for home aquariums is a betta. They are quite understandable and often like to keep to themselves. However, you must avoid overfeeding them. Since they are so small in size, a few flakes or pellets are enough to keep them full throughout the day.
They work the best on a 12-hour feeding schedule. This means that you should feed them a few pellets or live food every 12 hours. Several labeled food types are available in the market that takes care of their feeding needs.
Like other freshwater fish species, Bettas can go up to 2 weeks without feeding. However, we’d recommend not doing so suddenly and without proper care.
Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times daily.
Koi fish are quite exotic and have pretty specific needs for their food. They are omnivores and rely on a host of food categories, like plant and animal matter, to keep themselves fed. They are also one of the few aquarium fish that can be hand-fed.
When it comes to feeding a koi fish, you need to have a strict schedule, depending on the water temperature in the tank. If the water temperature is low (10-13 degrees Celsius), they can be fed 2-3 times a week.
Similarly, if the tank temperature is higher (22-25 degrees Celsius), they can be fed up to 3 times per day. So, familiarize yourself with their feeding habits before you end up adding them to your tank.
Feeding frequency – Depends on the tank’s water temperature.
Conclusion for fish feeding schedule
Just as all fish are different, so are their dietary needs and/or restrictions.
Some fish may require certain types of food or feeding schedules.
Others may have foods they simply cannot eat or times of day or night when they won’t eat.
When in doubt, ask!
Check with other aquarium enthusiasts that have the same types of fish.
If you don’t know anyone personally, ask at a your local aquarium supply store.
If you still can’t find someone, look online; you’re likely to find another tank owner that can answer your questions.
If not, research the particular fish you are considering.
Feeding is one of the most important aspects of caring for fish so be sure to research your fish and their feeding habits to have a healthy tankful of fish.