How Often to Feed Fish: Schedules by Type

Christy Caplan
Cute child is feeding his goldfish

New hobbyists want to know how often they need to feed fish. Wild fish are opportunistic eaters and chow down anytime they get the chance. Your pet fish are similar, and it is important not to overfeed even if they charge the tank's top during feeding time. Two small meals are better than adding a lot of food in at one time.

How Often to Feed Fish

If possible, feed adult fish two small meals per day. Halve the portion and feed them in the morning and afternoon. With that in mind, how often you feed depends on the type of fish in your tank. For example, juvenile fish need meals more often to ensure they grow properly.

Create a Schedule to Feed the Right Amount

Certain types of fish need a special schedule for mealtime. Remember that your fish's stomach isn't larger than an eye. The general rule is to feed only what your fish can eat in a period of three to five minutes per feeding. You don't need a stopwatch, but fish keepers need to keep an eye out as all the food should disappear in a few minutes. There are always exceptions to the schedule.

Nocturnal

These fish need their meals just before you turn the lights off. They are happy to search for and eat food while the others are sleeping.

Newly Hatched Fish

Young fish eat three times a day. Since these fish still need to grow properly, pet parents should provide a controlled amount of food in tiny portions.

Fast One Day a Week

Going 24 hours without food keeps a fish's dietary tract in good physical condition. Pick a day to fast your fish and work this into the schedule.

The Type of Eater Dictates the Schedule

The fish species dictates how often they need meals. Take the time to research each fish in your tank, as some fish have a high metabolism. Heavy eaters include tiger barb fish, swordtail fish, and oscar fish. Balloon mollies are known to be light eaters. Most fish fall into three groups.

Herbivores

Herbivores have smaller stomachs and need the opportunity to graze.

Omnivores

This type of fish eats meat, vegetables, algae, and even debris found in the aquarium.

Carnivores

Shrimp is always on the menu. Carnivores prefer a diet high in protein.

Feeding Best Practices for Popular Fish

There are three categories for the feeding schedule. For example, omnivores, herbivores, and carnivores need similar routines.

  • Goldfish are omnivores and don't have stomachs. They need two or more small meals a day.
  • Guppies need two meals a day in the morning or afternoon.
  • Angelfish enjoy natural foods to satisfy their carnivorous diet. Feed them three times a day.
  • Neon Tetras are omnivores and need meals in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
  • Mollies only need to be fed twice a day, and these omnivores prefer high-quality fish food.
woman looking at fish tank

Popular Exotic Tropical Fish

It isn't easy to find a good feeding schedule with a tropical aquarium. Some fish keepers feed their tropical fish up to five times per day to mirror a natural feeding pattern. These three popular fish are carnivores.

  • Discus fish love to swim at the bottom of the tank. Feed them twice a day.
  • Wolf cichlids are beautiful and competitive with other fish. Stick to feeding them five times a day.
  • Flowerhorn cichlids come in many colors and also need meals five times a day.

Popular Saltwater Aquarium Fish

Saltwater fish tanks are all the rage, but can you imagine feeding a shark?

  • Tangs are herbivores and need a constant food source available. Feed them twice a day.
  • Eels are carnivores and need to eat once a day in the evening.
  • Sharks are carnivores and need two small meals a day.

Symptoms of Overfeeding

If you notice a lot of food at the bottom of the tank and cloudy water, your portions may be too large. The symptoms will be subtle but observe your fish and watch for a rounded abdomen.

  • Swollen belly
  • Produced a lot of poop
  • Boycotts meals

Underfeeding Is Just as Bad

Fish keepers need to know if they're underfeeding. If your fish are suddenly dying off one by one, then they may require larger portion sizes. Also, symptoms may include sunken bellies and a paler color than normal.

A Feeding Schedule Makes Life Easier

New fish keepers need to research the type of fish in the tank to determine the best mealtime schedule. The general rule is to feed fish two small meals a day, but this schedule almost always needs to be tailored. The biggest problem pet lovers make is overfeeding their fish, so watch the signs. Enjoy your fish!

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How Often to Feed Fish: Schedules by Type