Q: Dear Robert,
I bought some fish food the other day that had a warning not to overfeed my fish. I have heard about fish being overfed, but haven’t given it much thought until now – I always feed as recommended. Can you tell me something about how much, and maybe what to feed my freshwater aquarium fish?
Just like any other living thing, the kind of diet that fish live on is a big factor in determining how long and how well they live. I’ll start with your second question on what and then we can talk about how much.
There is really no specific food that we can say is the best for freshwater aquarium fish – they need a combination so that they can get all the nutrients. There are some guidelines though:
1. Dietary Type
You need to familiarize yourself with fish diets – as they exist in nature. Once you understand them, you can replicate them for your fish tank. To give you a bit of guidance, human beings, for instance are omnivores so we have all the sets of teeth that are required to crush both meat and vegetables. Different fish have different dietary needs and have different teeth and digestive structures to help them digest what they eat. A piranha is built differently from a goldfish. The only way to know what the dietary needs of your fish are is to do some research.
2. When do they like to eat?
Again, just like any other animal, they have times when they prefer to eat. Some freshwater aquarium fish are night creatures and so would rather feed at night and sleep during the day. Also, check where they like to eat from. You’ve seen on TV that some fish prefer to catch food that’s at the top while others want to sink to the bottom and catch particles from there. You’ll have to know the species preferences; observation will also be helpful.
Vary the food occasionally to make things a bit more interesting for your fish, but make sure that whatever you give them is OK and will not cause any problems either to the fish or in the tank. There are frozen as well as fresh fish foods in the pet store and you can alternate these. It will also ensure a balanced diet. Whatever your pick, it must always be fresh. You want to pick freshwater aquarium fish food with a short shelf life – it means that it has little or no chemicals. Flake foods lose nutritional value after a while, so don’t make any bulk purchases.
On to the second (or rather first) part of your question. How much? It’s a common thing for beginners to overfeed fish – its understandable because they really have no idea how much is enough. It causes problems though. It will increase toxicity in the water and then clog filters so there is no cleaning going on within the tank – it won’t be long before the fish die. That’s why they put that little warning on the pack of fish food that you bought.
Fish are opportunistic and will eat whenever they get a chance. They are always preparing to go without food so they gorge themselves. They also learn pretty fast who brings the food. You don’t have to feed them each time they ask – develop a routine and stick to it. The routine will be based on the kind of fish you have – some eat more frequently than others. Once or twice will do for most freshwater aquarium fish, but always keep the feedings small.
Remember to watch out for the nocturnal ones and feed them too. If you have herbivorous fish, feed them more frequently. How much to give? It should all be eaten up in five minutes, that’s the rule of thumb. Better less than more, you can always give them another feed later.
All the best with feeding your freshwater aquarium fish!
Robert is an experienced aquarist, who owns and maintains his and other people’s aquariums. For loads of great tips on freshwater aquarium fish [http://www.freshwater-aquariumsecrets.com/freshwater-aquarium-fish/], visit [http://www.freshwater-aquariumsecrets.com]