Feeding Your Fish

First, there's food. And who doesn't love food? And then there's nutrition. And who likes nutrition? Let's be honest, nobody likes nutrition. Funny how that works. But nature offers a balance to fish in the wild, and so must you. In this section, food, nutrition, diet, and eating habits will all be covered.

Fish don't eat like us. While you're sitting there contemplating a Big Mac or a sumptuous, steaming plate of vodka-penne pasta, your fish dream at night about blood worms, white worms, insects, algae, larvae, and a host of other things we would usually consider the stuff of nightmares. While you're sitting there wrinkling your nose, saying, “No way, pal. Not me,” six months to a year from now you will have tried feeding your fish more than one of the above. And you will find it fascinating.

These things may be gross and slimy and crawly and gross, but they are nutritious. Your fish eat these things in the real world. These foods often offer more of the nutrients your fish need and crave than you can imagine. Look at it from their point of view. The fish must be sitting there saying, “Wait, let me get this straight. You get some root out of the dirt and submerge it in boiling animal or vegetable fats or oils, and then you sprinkle minerals on them and that's good? How about milk that's turned, gone solid, and turned blue with mold?” It's just a matter of perspective.

Definition Please: Community Fish

Community fish are generally considered the most peaceful of all the fish groups. Many of the most popular breeds are found in this group. They tend to be the least aggressive and the least territorial. Some popular community fish are catfish, angelfish, neons, gouramis, swordtails, mollies, and guppies.

There are many things you need to take into consideration when you start thinking about feeding fish. In their natural habitat, fish have evolved various feeding strategies to optimize their ability to get nourishment. With all the different kinds of fish and habitats, you can imagine the many kinds of feeding strategies that exist. Fish can be divided into general groups based on the type of feeding strategy that they have evolved.

  • Carnivores. These are basically the predators. They feed in nature mainly on smaller fishes or larger fishes that they incapacitate. When kept in the aquarium, many of these species (but not all) have been successfully fed prepared foods and commercially prepared pellets and flakes. Your carnivorous fish may eat pieces of fish, shrimp, and even bits of meat. Some species will simply not accept anything but live food. Common or feeder guppies and common or feeder goldfish are usually offered to these predators. None of the recommended community fish require such measures. However, many of the fish noted in the predator section fall into this category.


  • FROZEN: clams, crabmeat, fish, lobster, mussels, oysters, and shrimp

  • CANNED: clams, crabmeat, fish, lobster, mussels, oysters, and shrimp as well as beans and peas

  • RAW: clams, crabmeat, fish, lobster, mussels, oysters, and shrimp, plus ground beef, spinach and lettuce

  • COOKED: beans, broccoli, cauliflower, chicken, egg yolk, peas, and potatoes

Rules of feeding these foods:

  • Never season any of these foods! No salad dressings, no salt or pepper. No hot sauce or barbecue sauce. Nothing!

  • Mince the foods. Make sure you don't feed a whole bean to a fish that might choke to death on it. Cut it up. Most fish don't chew like humans. You have to cut the foods into sizes they can swallow without choking.

  • No leftovers—of any kind

  • Herbivores. These are plant eaters. This seems nice, unless you suddenly realized that you wanted to have live plants and herbivorous fish. Oops! However, if you feed these fish correctly, they will not wreak that much havoc among your plant community. The one good thing is that these fish love to feed on algae. They're looking better, aren't they? Herbivorous fish will consume commercially prepared vegetable flakes. Nonetheless, their diet should be augmented with household vegetables, including peas, lettuce, potatoes, beans, and cauliflower.

  • Insectivores. These fish eat insects. Like herbivores and many carnivores, these fish readily accept commercially prepared flakes and pellets. In addition to prepared foods, it's a good idea to include a variety of invertebrates, such as frozen brine shrimp and blood worms, in an insectivore's diet.

  • Omnivores. Basically, these fish will eat anything and everything. It's like inviting a football team to your house for dinner. Is there anything they won't eat? These fish will feed on a variety of foods and have no specific dietary preferences. You have probably noticed that most of the recommended species outlined above are omnivorous. The beginner aquarist should not have to worry about special feeding strategies when setting up a tank for the first time. These fish will accept commercially prepared flake and pellet foods, but providing a good variety of foods is necessary to meet all the dietary requirements of these fish.

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