Everything You Need to Know About Fish Food

To keep our fishy friends in good health, we must fulfill the two basic needs of our pets.  Providing a balanced diet with the correct type of fish food and keeping it at the right level in your aquarium for the fish to eat it.  There are different methods of doing this, depending on the type of food you are giving to them.

Options create choices, and to make an informed decision; you need to understand the types and benefits of the fish food in each of the categories.  Although dry fish food supplies all the things your fish need, some fish need live feed, and we will explore substitutes for fish food. 

If your tank has a combination of omnivores and carnivores, they will benefit from live fish food to keep them well fed. Today we have many options that include manufacturing, growing, or making your own food.  A mixture of these will provide pets with all the goodies they need and give them something new to feed their curiosity too.

Although you can buy live critter for your fish growing live food for your fish tank gives you peace of mind, know what you are adding to your aquarium.  Our step by step guide includes growing brine shrimps, keeping a live daphnia tank and raising bloodworm for fish. 

Top Picks for Manufactured Fish Food

Not all food is created equal; this list is the best-manufactured fish food on the market today.

  • Sera O-Nip Nature Food – This fish food attaches to the glass of your fish tank, allowing you to enjoy the feeding experience.  Ingredients include Bloodworms, Krill, and Tubifex, which fish love.
  • Bug bites fish food contains no artificial fillers, colors or preservatives.  The main ingredient is black soldier fly larvae and is rich in Omega 3 and 6.
  • Omega one fish food is made from shrimp filled with protein and has less starch.  Less starch makes us happy because it means less waste build-up in your aquarium.  Food that keeps your fish tank clean is healthier for your fish and keeps your habitat stable.
  • Repashy fish food is perfect for our omnivores.  It contains a mixture of protein, vegetable fiber and fat to keep our fish healthy and happy.

These top picks depending on who and what you are feeding.  The brands’ Bug Bites, Omega One, and Repashy fish food have their own variants for different fish with similar benefits for you to look and asses.

How to Make Fish Food?

Many hobbyists are curious about the revolution that changed this hobby, turning raw ingredients into the simple flake.  By making fish food readily available, making fish keeping accessible to more people.

The main ingredients include fish meal, flour, paprika oils, colorants, and thickening agents (on a side note, the elements differ between brands and the type of dried fish food being made). 

The main ingredients are mixed with water in vats before adding the rest of the prepared mix.  The process changes depending on the structure of the food being made.

To create flakes, this mixture is poured onto heated rollers that cook and dry it turning out thin sheets.  Blades cut the sheets into large flakes that are added to the tumbler.  The rotation breaks the fish food into smaller flakes, which are separated into size (small, medium, and large) by sieves.

The barrels containing the different sizes are taken to packaging by conveyor belts.  The fish food now packaged and boxed is shipped to local stores ready for use.  Today with just a pinch or two and your fish gets everything it needs, a far cry from the days when fish keepers had to catch food to feed their fish.

The three primary prepared forms of fish food include:

  • Dry fish food (flakes, pellets, and tablets)
  • Frozen dry fish food
  • Live fish food

The type of form is only one aspect to consider.  Like all animals, fish can be divided into herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores, each with different dietary requirements.  To keep them healthy, you need to meet the needs of each type of fish.

The ingredients of fish food:

  • Plant material
  • Animal material
  • A combination of the two

The Types of Fish Food and the Fish That Need It

Manufactured food that can be used by all hobbyists and contains macronutrients, trace elements, and vitamins to keep your fishy pet healthy.  Fish are picky eaters when feeding them; keep an eye to make sure the fish are enjoying their food.

The fish food form you select depends on where your fish spend time in your tank.  Fish that live in the top half of your aquarium need foods that float for a time.  Before descending slowly to the bottom of your tank, to give your fish time to eat the food as it passes through the water. 

The flakes lose nutrients quickly, and those that make it to the bottom may not have enough to feed your bottom dwellers.  Adding a range of fish food will provide your fish with a variety of textures and enhance their diet.

Larger and bottom-feeding fish will benefit from tablets and pellets as they sink to the bottom of the tank quickly and hold the nutrients longer.  A few granules will provide the larger fish with a substantial meal.  The bottom feeders have time to find and eat it between the substrate.

Dry Fish Foods Suitable for Omnivores and Herbivores

Dry fish food is dehydrated and lasts the longest.  It is suitable for most fish and invertebrates with unique formulas that include vegetables and high protein levels.  Remember to drop in frozen or live fish food from time to time.  Different forms add interest and ensure that the omnivores and carnivores have everything they need.

Different types of fish food have been created to fulfill the diverse needs of the inhabitants of your aquarium.  Dry fish food has made changes in buoyancy, texture, size, and color to feed and stimulate your fish.  Fish food is made using different ingredients to meet their dietary requirements.

Flakes the Common Fish Food

Flakes the Common Fish Food
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Flakes are small bits of colorful paper-thin fish food suitable for fish that stay between the mid to top half of your fish tank.  If you have any greedy guzzlers, this food may not make it to the bottom of your aquarium, and bottom feeders will lose out. 

Just because flakes are common doesn’t mean it’s not a good option, but it does make your fish tank dirty.  Select the fish food that is best suited for your fish like color enhancing, species-specific, and food that is suitable for herbivore, omnivore, and carnivore.  In this instance, size matters, check the flakes are not too big for small fish.  If the pieces are too big for their mouths, crush them with your fingers before adding them to your tank.

Your Fish Can Snack on Crisps Too

You like variety, and your fish do too, swop flakes for crisps.  They are much like flakes with the variety they come in but have loads of benefits too.  Crisps float longer and keep your fish tank cleaner.  If they are too large for smaller fish, crush them before adding them to your tank if you want the benefit of a cleaner aquarium.

Also read – How to Clean a Freshwater Fish Tank (A Step by Step Guide)

Wavers for Herbivore Bottom Feeding Fish

Wavers are an inexpensive food designed for your bottom feeders and shrimps.  Slow dissolving fish food for your herbivores to nibble on as they do bits will break off and float away, feeding your shy bottom feeders. 

Wavers have been designed for herbivores, and if you have any omnivores that live at the bottom of your fish tank, they will need another type of food like the fast-sinking pellet.

Pellets or Granules

Pellets or Granules
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Fish food pellets or granules look like dog food only tiny and gives your fish food with different textures and sizes.  Pellets have all the advantages of crisps and can be used throughout your fish tank.  Select the buoyancy that keeps the food in the area the fish like to hang out.

  • Floating pellets – These pellets are suitable for top feeding fish
  • Slow-sinking Pellets – These pellets are suitable for mid feeding fish who have time to nibble as these pellets slowly descend to the bottom of your fish tank.  (If you don’t have many guzzlers, they will feed the bottom dwellers too.
  • Fast-sinking Pellets – These pellets are suitable for your bottom dwellers as they speed to the lowest level of the aquarium and hide between the substrate rocks.

Tablets Are Not Just Medicine

Tablets are, by far, my favorite and most versatile of all the dried fish food you can get.  All you do is press the tablet to the glass, and the fish start a feeding frenzy for you to watch.

Tablets are filled with nutrients and food for every type of fish.  It dissolves into tiny traces even small fish will love.  The benefit to you is watching your fish eat this in front of the tank.  This one is a bit pricey but will enrich the diet of your fish even if you only use it every other day.

The placement of the tablet is essential you can press it against the glass near the top of your tank for your top feeders or near the middle for the mid feeders.  To feed the bottom dwellers drop it on the substrate.

Freeze Dried Fish Food for Omnivores and Carnivores

Freeze-dried fish food is whole critters that are dried and frozen to preserve them.  Critters that are turned into Freeze-dried fish food include brine shrimp, Daphnia, blackworms, tubifex and krill, and other types of microscopic zooplankton. 

High protein flakes are suitable for all your fish, but a lot of fresh and saltwater fish require a specialized diet and will only eat this type of food.  For your smaller inhabitants, all you need to do is crumble or cut the food into smaller pieces the same size as their mouths.

Also read – Popular Saltwater Fish for a 55 Gallon Tank

List of Fish That Need to Eat Brine Shrimp

  • Pajama Cardinalfish
  • Flame Hawkfish
  • Klein’s Butterflyfish
  • Longnose Hawkfish
  • Royal Gramma
  • Sunrise Dottyback
  • Bartlett’s Anthias

List of Fish That Need to Eat Worms

  • Yellowtail Blue Damselfish
  • Ocellaris Clownfish
  • Sunrise Dottyback

Even though other carnivores and omnivores will be healthy eating dried fish food feeding these foods periodically will enrich the lives and diet of the fish in your aquarium.

Frozen food

Frozen food is the live fish food that has been frozen, and it is the perfect way to add it to your fish’s diet.  The benefit is that you can keep it in the freezer for longer than keeping it live, and you can either defrost or add it to the aquarium frozen.

Live Fish food

Live fish food is the preferred type of food for fish, but it comes with one big problem.  Food that is filled with living critters, including worms, micro worms, and brine shrimp, can carry diseases.  The best way to get around it is to make your own, and it will save you money too.

Side note: Tubifex worms are a popular food source that has a few problems for consideration.  They can make your fish sick if they are not cleaned out correctly.  The fish devour them, and being high in fat can cause your fish to pick up weight.  Use this fish food with caution.

Also read – How to Build Your Own DIY Fish Tank – A Step by Step Guide

Growing Live Food for Your Fish Tank

Many fish will not eat manufactured food and prefer live food.  Growing your own food for your fish tank is simple and will provide the best food for your omnivores and carnivores.  Once you have set up your growing mediums, all you really have to do is feed them.  How to grow the three popular foods for your fish, Brine Shrimp, Bloodworms, and Daphnia are included here.

How to Raise Brine Shrimp

Flakes the Common Fish Food e1595353970364
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Brine shrimp are small leaf-shaped crustaceans, with hard shells, many legs, and stalked compound eyes.  These hardy little creatures can tolerate fluctuations in the salinity level of the water.  The female keeps her eggs in a pouch from which baby shrimps are released when conditions are favorable.

The baby Brine Shrimp is the perfect food for your fish as they are small and high in protein.  The movement of these creatures will draw the attention of your fish, and they survive for several hours after you have added them to your fish tank.

You can create your own hatchery or if you like you can buy one readymade Brine Shrimp Shrimpery Baby Fish and Reef Tanks.

What You Need to Create a Brine Shrimp Hatcher

How to Create a Brine Shrimp Hatcher

Step #1:  Pour enough water into a container to fill the three tanks and leave it to stand overnight

Step #2:  Convert the water into saltwater (the salinity level higher than a reef tank)

Step #3:  Heat the water to between 80 – 82°F

Step #4:  Blacken 2 thirds of the tank

Step #5:  Drill a 1 ½ inch hole in the sheet and divide your tank into two thirds and one third

Step #6:  Create a cover for the hole in the tank and cover the hole

Step #7:  Add the Airstone to the first tank

Hatching Brine Shrimp

Step #1:  Add a small portion of eggs into the darkened part of the tank (1/4 of a teaspoon)

Step #2:  Cover the tank and leave it for two days

Step #3: Heat the water in the second tank

Step #4:  Add an Airstone to it

Step #5: Turn off the hatching tanks Airstone (the dead brine shrimp and eggs will sink to the bottom of the tank)  

Step #6:  Keep the light on the other side of the tank and remove the cap from the hole, the live shrimp will pass through drawn towards the light.

Step #7:  Move the Brine to the growing tank keep it in the sunlight (they don’t eat for the first 24 hours.

 Step #8:  Remove the dead shrimp and eggs from the hatching tank and add more eggs

Feeding Your Fish Brine Shrimps

Step #1:  To feed your fish, all you do is catch them with a net.

Step #2:  Rinse off the Brine Shrimp with RODI or dechlorinated water.

Step #3:  Keep the Brine Shrimp in water from the fish tank for a while.

Step #4:  Add the Brine Shrimp to your fish tank.

The third tank

To manufacture your own eggs, you can grow Brine Shrimps to adulthood by keeping them in the third tank and feed the yeast, fry food, soybean powder, wheat flour, or fish meal.

How to Grow Daphnia

How to Grow Daphnia
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Daphnia is a tiny crustacean known as water fleas that grow to 3mm in length.  Live daphnia can be kept in large numbers in a shallow tank (wider than it is deep) filled with fresh water.

What You Need to Create a Daphnia Tank

Also read – The Best Freshwater Aquarium Fish for a 55 Gallon Tank

How to Create a Daphnia Tank

Step #1:  Add fresh dechlorinated or RODI water to a tank (if you have a freshwater fish tank you can use siphoned water

Step #2: Heat water to 68 °F

Step #3:  Add Duckweed and Wondershell

Step #4:  Add a light to your tank (24 hours)

Step #5:  Add an Airstone to one corner of the tank

Step #6:  Add daphnia to your tank (they breed quickly, and 100 can turn into 1000 in a week)

How to Care for Your Daphnia

Step #1:  Siphon 50% of the water monthly from the lower part of your tank as daphnia live at the top

Step #2: These creatures thrive with algae before your tank is clean add in spirulina powder, yeast mixed with water from the tank to activate it. 

Step #3:  Harvest frequently to stimulate growth and keep them healthy

Feeding Your Fish Daphnia

Step #1:  Drag a fine mesh aquarium strain slowly across the top of the aquarium a few times

Step #2:  Shake excess water from the net

Step #3:  Pour them into the fish tank, daphnia in aquarium will dart around and attract your fish’s attention.

How to Grow Bloodworms for Fish

How to Grow Bloodworms for Fish
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Blood worms are the larvae of the midge fly but grow these with caution.  Many people are allergic to their poisonous bite.  The larvae turn into flies after 10 – 30 days and must be destroyed before this happens.  Are bloodworms good for fish?  It is a good source of protein for omnivorous and carnivorous fish.

What You Need to Create a Blood Worm Habitat

How to Create a Blood Worm Habitat

Step #1:  Use a large clear container between 24 – 48-inch for 50 – 100 worms.

Step #2:  Make holes in the top for air or keep covered with cling film

Step #3:  Fill the bottom with 6 inches of soil 

Step #4:  Add 1 Oz of chicken and cow waste manure for food.

Step #5:  Mix enough natural water (rain, pond or lake) into the soil

Step #6:  Buy Chironomid or midge fly eggs and add them to the soil

Step #7:  Crunch Fall leaves over the soil

Step #8:  Leave the container in a sunny place covered with a net that will keep mosquitos out

Step #9:  Keep the container between 35–40 °F

Hatching and Storing Blood Worms

Step #1:  The worms will hatch in about a week looking pink and will curl up in loops or figure 8s.

Step #2:  Add manure and dead leaves weekly

Step #3:  Feed them to your fish as they turn into pupae, they will have a deep red coloring and curl into  a straighter hook-like shape

Step #4:  Use a cat-litter scoop or similar product to separate the worms from the soil (the bite of the worm)

Step #5:  Add them to an airtight bag and place them into the fridge

Step #6:  Discard once they turn into flies, if they are not naturally found in your environment destroy them

Feeding Your Fish Blood Worms

Step #1: Place your worms into the water from the tank for a minute

Step #2:  Scoop out using the cat-litter scoop

Step #3:  Feed your fish with small tongs or tweezers

Making Fish Food as a Substitute To Manufactured Fish Food

Making Fish Food as a Substitute To Manufactured Fish Food
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You can make your own fish food with the ingredients you have hanging around your house.  This food is an exciting alternative to manufactured food.  You can create a large amount and freeze it in cube portions to use as you need it.

To Keep Herbivores Happy

Plant food you can add to your aquarium with a veggie clip is leafy greens like spinach, kale, seaweed, and lettuce.   Or you can include live aquarium plants to your fish tank Cabomba Green Aquatica, Egeria Densa Freshwater, Limnophila aromatica.  These plants will not only feed your fish they will enhance your décor and help keep your fish tank clean too.  Apples, pears, broccoli, and peas are aquarium safe too.

For the Carnivores and Omnivores in Your Fish Tank

Fish eat other fish, and you can add small slices to your aquarium as a substitute for protein-based foods.  Make sure the fish you use is fresh or frozen.

For smaller fish, blend the food and freeze.  Cut a slice whenever you want to and add it to the tank.  Remove uneaten fresh food from the tank as soon as the fish lose interest, to prevent it from contaminating your aquarium.

What Fish Food Needs to Contain to Keep Our Fish Healthy

Surprising, but fish need the same essential nutrients we do.  All fish need protein and vegetables to varying degrees.  Check the labels of any fish food you buy and make sure it contains the following nutrients.

  • Fat – fish need this as a form of energy
  • Amino acids – which are the building blocks of all living beings
  • Carbohydrates (that include both sugars and starches)
  • Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Protein – which is used as both a building block and energy source
  • Spirulina – a plant material important for our carnivorous friends

Fish Food That Is More Than Food

Fish food has been enhanced with nutrients to provide for your aquarium pets.  This food includes species-specific and other additives you may need.

Best Color Enhancing Fish Food

To keep fish healthy and colorful, all they need is a well-balanced diet that includes all the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they need to build cells, including the pigmented ones that produce color.  Both colors enhancing and species-specific fish food will help increase these levels for each of your fish.

The table below lists the nutrient required to enhance a specific color of your fish if you see one color fading check that your fish food has that nutrient.

The Nutrient Requirements to Enhance the Color of Your Fish


Medicated fish food

Sometimes you need to treat fish for illness and parasites.  Medication is usually topical by adding treatment to the water.  Sometimes you may have to give the fish medicine, and Just like you put a pill in sausage to get a dog or cat to take it, you provide dose to your fish through its food in one of two ways.

The first is to buy medicated fish food for the illness you are treating.  The second option you have is to buy the medicine and a binding agent and add it to their food.

New Life Spectrum Hex Shield

FAQ on Fish Food

How Do I Feed My Fish Multiple Times a Day If I Am at Work?

Attaching a self-feeder to your tank will allow you to feed your fish multiple times a day when you are not there. Like the Zacro Automatic Fish Feeder.

This device is suitable for granules, flakes, and powders and can be set to feed your fish up to 4 times per day.  Test it out when you are home to make sure that it dispenses the correct amount of food.

Can Fish Food Go Bad?

Fish food goes bad faster, depending on the amount of water the food contains. 

  • If you keep dry fish food like flakes, crisps, wavers, Pellets or Granules and tablets dry, you can keep it for years. 
  • Freeze-dried fish food that is sealed will keep between 18 months and 4 years.
  • Frozen fish food kept frozen is fine for about six months.

The amount of time contained in the list above varies, check the date on the packages.  Dried food past the expire dates lose its nutrients and must be discarded.

Is Overfeeding Bad for Your fish?

Overfeeding your fish causes 2 problems.  The fish can become obese, placing stress on their internal organs, and uneaten food causes havoc to the environment of your aquarium, and both could kill the fish. 

Uneaten food decomposes and releases ammonia and nitrite into your tank; nitrifying bacteria help keep the nitrites in check.  As food rots, it uses oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, and this will change the PH level in your tank, which is harmful to sensitive fish. Good circulation adds oxygen, but the food can clog your aquarium filter.

Tips to prevent overfeeding:

  • Overfeeding is caused by the amount of food you give them and not how many times a day you feed.  Give them the amount of food that the fish can eat in 2 minutes or less once or twice a day
  • The correct food means two things, the right number of vitamins, minerals, and food and the position of the food in the tank.  Select the food appropriate for the inhabitants of your aquarium.
  • Siphon or use a fine mesh net to remove food
  • Try intermittent fasting
  • Schedule the feeding of your fish
  • Add a bottom-feeding clean-up crew
  • Perform weekly water changes
  • Don’t give extra food before you go away; the food will sit in your aquarium uneaten. 

Why is Fish Food Colorful?

There are two reasons why fish food comes in different colors.  The colors indicate the ingredients used to create fish food; green flakes are made for vegetables, whereas red flakes are protein-based.  The second reason is that fish are attracted to specific colors.  The different sizes and shapes are created for different size fish and have different buoyance to feed fish at different levels of the tank.

What Do Brine Shrimps Eat?

In captivity you feed Brine Shrimps yeast, wheat flour even egg yok, but in the wild they will eat microscopic plankton and algae.

Things to Remember When It Comes to Feeding Your Fish

You know everything you need to when it comes to fish food.  With this knowledge, you will be able to find food for even your most picky eaters.  Fish like dogs may bully others for food monitor your fish to see that each one looks fit, healthy, and well-fed.

If you have fat or underweight fish, you may have to move them to their own fish tank to prevent them from becoming obese or dying of starvation.  Add live plants to help feed your herbivores and keep your aquarium clean. Feeding times are the best time to interact with your fish.  Giving fish the correct food in the right manner will keep them happy and colorful.

Also read – Glass vs. Acrylic Aquariums – Which One is a Better Choice?

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