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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Feeding Your Fish

Feeding Your Fish

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How do your fish like to be fed? Did you know they have a preference?

Feeding Groups
Fish can be placed into one of three groups, depending on the food they prefer to eat. They can be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores.

Carnivores, such as Needle fish, Jack Dempseys, and Bettas, are meat eaters. These predatory fish may only eat meaty foods such as brine shrimp, freeze-dried tubifex worms, bloodworms, and small feeder fish.

Herbivores, such as Plecos, African Cichlids, Pacus, and Silver Dollars, are plant eaters. They do well with staple flake foods and algae wafers. They can also be supplemented with finely chopped lettuce, spinach, zucchini, or green peas.

Omnivores are both plant and meat eaters. Almost all aquarium fish are omnivorous; even herbivorous fish are not strict vegetarians. Good examples of omnivorous fish would be mollies, catfish, crayfish, and goldfish. Their diet should consist of a staple flake food. Goldfish will benefit from specially formulated Goldfish flakes and pelleted foods.

Fish foods are designed around the way fish eat, which is why you should know about the shape and placement of the fish's mouth.

Top-feeders have an upturned, scoop-like mouth for gathering floating food. They like to feed off the surface. These fish include Mollies and Platys.

Midwater-feeders have mouths at the very tip of their snouts to gather food as it falls through the water. These include Tetras and Danios.

Bottom-feeders have mouths on the underside of their snouts to come in close contact with the bottom. These fish include Catfish and Corys.

Fish foods are designed for these three different feeding levels of fish, although many fish will feed outside their preferred area when hungry. Food is designed to either float for top feeders, sink slowly for mid-feeders, or sink quickly to the bottom for bottom feeders.

How often should a fish be fed?
Most fish should be fed two or three times a day, or at least once in the morning and once in the evening. Some fish need more than others; for example, Goldfish have slow metabolisms and can be fed once a day. (Active fish such as Danios, fish being kept outside during the summer [koi], fry and juvenile fish, and fish preparing for breeding should be fed more often.)

How much food should be fed to fish?
Place only enough food in the aquarium that the fish can eat in a few minutes. If all of this food is consumed quickly, more food can be added as long as the fish are watched to see that they are no longer hungry. Fish will stop eating when they've had enough. Do not overfeed!

What will happen if fish are overfed?
Fish will stop eating when they've had enough, and any uneaten food will only decompose and pollute the water. This will put more demand on your biological filtration and can also cause your water to be cloudy. If you think you may be overfeeding, test your water to make sure there isn't an ammonia build-up.

How do I feed my nocturnal fish?
Fish who are nocturnal (active at night, such as many catfish) may only eat when the lights are out. They tend to find a hiding spot when there is light and they are able to see movement. This means you may see very little of a nocturnal fish during the daylight hours, or when the aquarium is lit. These fish may only eat at night, and are best fed in the evening.

What's the best method of feeding my fish?
People tend to "shake" the food into the aquarium when feeding. This practice is not recommended because doing this will give you less control over the amount that goes in the water. Often, much more gets poured in than intended. Instead, take a pinch of food between the index finger and thumb, and sprinkle it across the top of the water. If you have a lot of mid-water feeders you may want to wet the flakes in your fingers and then release them.

Can fish be fed human food or "table scraps?"
Ideally, no. This could potentially throw off a balanced diet a fish should be fed. It also tends to cloud the water and make for a messier aquarium. However, zucchini, spinach, and romaine lettuce can be given to herbivores, such as Plecos, African Cichlids, Pacus and Silver Dollars. When feeding leafy vegetables use a veggie clip to hold the vegetables in place and let your fish graze. If you feed zucchini, cut the zucchini into quarters lengthwise and feed 3 to 4 inch pieces. Leave the vegetables in the aquarium only as long as they appear fresh and you fish show interest in them. Remember that fresh vegetables will decay quickly and produce ammonia.

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