How Often Do You Need to Feed Fish? A Meal Plan for Healthier Aquarium Fish

If you believe gluttony is a human vice, you probably haven’t tried a hand at fish keeping. Most fish keepers stand by the technique of “less is best” when it comes to the dilemma- how much and how often do you need to feed fish. In the quest to figure out how often to feed aquarium fish, most fishkeepers tend to shift towards overfeeding. Unfortunately, as you continue to overfeed your fish, the internal ecosystem begins to topple with spiked nitrogen levels, causing harm to your fish. You need to understand that your fish do not have a separate loo compartment. Without building an accurate idea of how often are you supposed to feed betta fish or any other fish species, your fish will soon be swimming in their own poop!

Once your fish realize that you are the one who feeds them, they will beg and use their adorable beady-eyed face to lure you in for another round of dinner. It might look like they are starving, even though you just fed them. The truth is they aren’t; fishes are opportunistic animals. In a natural setting, fish go grocery shopping only when they are hungry, but in a domestic environment such as an aquarium, food is readily available. Meaning, you should absolutely ignore your fish’s advances for more food when you did feed them before. This ability to decipher between real hunger and gluttony is achieved when you know how often and how much do you have to feed betta fish or any other breed of aquarium fish.

Of course, as a beginner fish keeper, you will spend days surfing the web for accurate counts on how often do you need to feed fish. To help you cut back on the time and effort, here is a detailed guide on how often to feed aquarium fish, along with other tips on maintaining a healthy and happy aquarium. Before we get to that, let us first touch upon some essential deliberations on everything that is fish food and feeding.

A Diet for Aquarium Fish

Perhaps the acquainted fish keeper would stand by the sentiment- ‘don’t let the fact get in the way of a good story.’ However, with fish keeping, facts are an undeniable channel for ensuring healthy fish and a happy fish keeper. Following this line of thought, to best unwind the dilemma of how often do you need to feed fish, we need first to unravel the quandary on what do fish eat.

The right acknowledgment of how often to feed aquarium fish is highly specific, as is the diet plan. There are several types of dietary items that come together to supplement the health of your fish.

A varied diet is the most recommended feeding plan by expert fish keepers. Why? Well, it simply comes down to the question- would you enjoy eating the same side of beans and a toast every single day of your life? Absolutely not; perhaps that would be the most subtle tortures in life when the world is brimming with so many delicacies that make your drool. Yes, your fish are opportunistic animals. Irrespective of the type of setting, natural or man-made, there always some hierarchy and competition among the tank’s inhabitants to gobble up the highest amount of nutrition in one cycle. This is essentially true in community tanks, with several different fish breeds. You see, quite similar to humans, you can categorize your fish’s dietary preferences into three categories – Herbivores, Carnivores, and Omnivores. 

The type of food your fish eats is not a choice for these animals; instead, it is a necessity. For instance, fish that don’t eat meat don’t choose to follow the dietary specifics, but their gut is built only to digest plants. As the general rule follows, aquarium fish, too, need a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats as well as some other minerals and vitamins. The ratio of each component that forms nutrition for your fish depends on the type of breed, dietary preferences, size of the fish, and the surrounding ecosystem. 

What Do Carnivorous Aquarium Fish Eat?

Carnivorous aquarium fish, including cichlids, killifish, and betta fish, require a protein-rich diet. One of the most striking characteristics of carnivorous aquarium fish is the size of their mouths. Meat-eating fish typically have a larger mouth with sharp teeth and larger stomachs. Most carnivorous fish are inherent predators in the wild, meaning they enjoy chasing their prey. At the same time, some others procure their dinner fixes by scavenging.  In a wild setting, most carnivorous fish feed on natural elements, including fish larvae, crustaceans, and insects.

Most fish keepers’ most imminent concern is replicating a natural diet in a domestic environment for their fish. To give you a better idea of the types of food you can feed your aquarium fish, then move on to the main deliberation of how often are you supposed to feed fish, here is a short diet table.


  • Blood worms
  • White worms
  • Micro worms
  • Tubifex Worms

Live Fish Food

  • Beef heart
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Daphnia

Other Dietary Supplements

  • Commercial fish food pellets
  • Fish food flakes

When you are feeding your fish insects, it is best to procure these from a high-quality seller, as they can carry certain diseases that can harm the fish. The most significant advantage of feeding live food to your aquarium fish is that all the nutrition is retained. If you are thinking of feeding small fish to your tank’s inhabitants, it is essential to note that such a diet is too high in fat. It is best to restrict how often should you feed live fish to cichlids or any other carnivorous aquarium breed. The best live food for your fish is brine shrimp. However, delicacy comes at a high price point. To cut back on your expenses, you can also use frozen brine shrimp as an excellent alternative to the fresh one.

Depending on the fish’s eating habits viz. top dwelling, middle swimmers, and bottom feeders, you can choose the types of commercial fish food you use. If you are maintaining a community tank, it is best to use a mix of floating and sinking fish food pellets or flakes.

Also read – An Aquarium Chiller Can Save Your Fish Tank in a Heatwave

What Do Herbivorous Aquarium Fish Eat?

If you have been wondering how often and how much to feed large pleco fish, perhaps knowing what herbivorous or plant-eating fish eat will help you in your fish keeping endeavors. Unlike carnivorous fish, aquarium herbivores have a smaller mouth opening but longer digestive tracts. The distinct gut biology of the herbivorous fish is long as the diet of these fish is considerably high in fiber. Fiber is much more difficult to digest when compared to meat sources.

For your community tank, understanding the needs of herbivorous fish such as how often and how much to feed large Plecostomus fish and how much you should feed them is critical for the overall well-being as they are quite essential for maintaining a stable ecosystem, especially in coral reef tanks.


  • Zucchini
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce


  • Apples
  • Pears

Other dietary Supplements

  • Fish food pellets
  • Fish flakes
  • Algae wafers

Planted aquariums are an excellent start to ensure ongoing nutrition for your aquarium fish. However, it is a temporary reprieve and does not form the main diet plan for your herbivorous aquarium fish. This is essentially true for fish spawns that are still growing. You can supplement their diet via fish food flakes or algae wafers. While not all vegetables and fruits are suitable for your aquarium fish, veggies such as spinach and zucchini and fruits, including apples and pears, can offer a fair amount of needed vitamins and minerals to your fish.

What Do Omnivorous Fish Eat?

Omnivorous fish have a rather versatile diet and prefer a mixed diet, including both plants and meat. Their digestive biology is equipped to process both carnivorous as well as herbivorous diets. Catfish, mollies, and goldfish are an excellent example of omnivorous aquarium fish. In fact, most aquarium fish at your local fish specialty store are omnivores. If you are wondering how often to feed goldfish and other fish, you need to take care of parameters including Vitamin C, B12, B1, and minerals such as manganese, phosphorous, and calcium.


  • Blood worms
  • White worms
  • Micro worms
  • Tubifex Worms

Live Fish Food

  • Beef heart
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Daphnia


  • Zucchini
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce


  • Apples
  • Pears

Other dietary Supplements

  • Fish food pellets
  • Fish flakes
  • Algae wafers

How often do you need to feed fish?

How often to feed aquarium fish is a significant finding for fish keepers. According to the experts, the best practice is to feed your fish once or twice per day. Generally, if you decide on one time feeding a day for your- how often are you supposed to feed fish dilemma, your fish will quickly adapt to the routine. In fact, ignoring the consensus on how often to feed fish a day, some fish keepers prefer to stop the feeding cycles for a few days to clear the digestive tracts of their fish. How often do you need to feed fish largely depends on the kind of fish species you are keeping. According to your fish-keeping preferences, you will be asking either of the two questions- how much how often to feed saltwater fish or how often to feed freshwater aquarium fish.

Before we touch on that, it is essential to note that the water temperature inside of the fish tank will affect the metabolic rates of your fish, invariably determining how often do you need to feed aquarium fish. Typically, warmer temperature conditions are seen to increase the appetite of your aquarium fish. Fishes that are larger in size can go longer on a one-time feeding approach on how often do you need to feed fish. On the other hand, if your fish is an active one, gliding in the tank’s water all day, they require more than one feeding cycle. Once again, our once per day feeding arrangement falters when it comes to the deliberation of how often to feed baby fish, fish fry, or fish spawns as they are still in their growing phase and need constant resupply of nutrition. The same rule applies to smaller fish such as danios, as they have a relatively higher metabolism rate.

Many fishkeepers worry about the timings of their fish feeding cycle. It is often noted that when it comes to aquarium nutrition, time is not a critical factor. However, this rule, too, has a few exceptions, including nocturnal fish breeds. Catfish, for instance, is nocturnal fish, which makes it essential to take note of the time of their feeding cycles. It is recommended to feed your catfish before you turn off the tank’s lighting during the night. After the lights die, your catfish will go food hunting using their incredibly powerful sense of smell.

Another big irregularity with the one-time feeding approach on how often do you need to feed fish are herbivorous fish species, including mollies, farowellas, and silver dollar fish. These fish require frequent feeding cycles in a day as they have relatively smaller gut biology. As a peace offering, when you are busy doing other chores, you can give your herbivorous fish live plants or algae wafers to munch on. The golden rule to multiple feeding cycles is to feed in smaller quantities instead of giving your fish one single large meal.

In order to give you a better idea of how often do you need to feed fish, here is a feeding schedule for some of the more famous aquarium fish species.

How Often Do I Need to Feed My Betta Fish?

Once or twice a day feeding schedule works well on our current deliberation of how often do you have to feed betta fish. Suppose you are feeding once a day; a full portion of 1.8 grams of any chosen food is the right way to betta fish nutrition. However, if you are feeding twice a day, we recommend splitting the original amount of 1.8 grams into two portions. A well-balanced take on how often are you supposed to feed a betta fish keeps your finny friend healthy and stimulated in the tank. Moreover, betta fish is one of the most intelligent fish breeds. Hence, after a while, they will quickly adapt and learn to function on the assigned feeding schedule. 

Here is a short video guide on how often do you need to feed fish

How Often to Feed Koi Fish?

Interestingly the dilemma of how often to feed my koi fish is closely related to the water temperature conditions. The estimation of how often do you have to feed koi fish is specifically different in cold as well as warm water conditions. How often to feed koi fish in pond in cold water is considerably a lower number, especially when the temperature reaches around 45-degree Fahrenheit. As their metabolism slogs, their appetite dims down to the point that you might experience somedays when your koi do not ask for their dinner. Hence, it is best to feed a food that is easily digestible to your koi fish. Finding specially customized nutrition for your koi fish would be difficult five years back. Today, however, things are different and convenient for fish keepers. You can easily procure soluble plant proteins that are effective as koi fish food during the winter seasons. Feeding your koi fish once per day or once every alternating day works well during the winter season.

How often you feed your koi fish in pond is an entirely different story when it comes to feeding in warm temperature conditions. The metabolism of your koi fish goes crazy active in the summer months. Your koi will need a higher frequency on how often to feed my koi fish as they burn a considerably higher number of calories. However, a few considerations can’t be ignored when it comes to feeding large quantities of fish food to your koi. Naturally, the warm water’s oxygen concentration is lower while you are providing a good amount of food to ensure good health and speedy growth for your koi fish; overfeeding can cause the oxygen levels to teeter dangerously. Feeding your koi fish no more than 2 or 3 times a day during warmer temperature conditions will keep them healthy while ensuring that the water chemistry remains under optimal levels.

Also read – Everything You Need to Know About Aquarium Silicone

How Often to Feed Tetra Fish?

Neon tetras are one of the most popular fish breeds for freshwater fish keepers. After you have worked your hardest to establish the perfect aqua home for your neon tetra, it is only fair to hope that the fish lives a long life. The longevity of your tetra fish is directly linked to asking how often to feed neon tetra fish. The best feeding plan for your tetra fish is twice a day. As we mentioned before, timing is not a critical factor when it comes to how often do you need to feed fish. However, following the two meal a day plan for your tetra fish works only when you stick to a specific routine, straying from which will cause your tetras stress.

How Often to Feed Angel Fish?

Sometimes figuring out the perfect number on how often to feed freshwater aquarium fish is achieved with a lot of experimentation. The only painful thing about this route is that your aquarium and its inhabitants are constantly at risk of overfeeding, underfeeding, and toppling nitrogen cycles. However, reports and recommendations of several expert fish keepers on how often to feed angelfish suggest the twice per day feeding plan. As the young angelfish spawns are still young and growing, they require a more nutritious diet and perhaps will need to be fed at least 3 to 4 times every day.

Popular Freshwater FishHow Often to Feed Freshwater Aquarium Fish?  
GuppiesOnce or twice a day
MolliesOnce or twice a day
Golden Dwarf BarbsOnce or twice a day
RainbowfishTwo to three times a day
Plecostomus FishOnce-daily during nighttime
GoldfishTwo to three times a day
Zebra DaniosOnce or twice a day
PlatiesOnce or twice a day
Oscar FishOnce a day or four days a week.
Pearl GouramiTwo times a day
Popular Saltwater FishHow Often to Feed Saltwater Aquarium Fish?  
ClownfishOnce or twice a day
Green ChromisThree times a day
Pajama CardinalfishTwo to three times a day
DamselfishOnce or twice a day
Coral BeautiesOnce or twice a day
TangsThree or four times a day
Diamond Watchman GobyThree times a day
ButterflyfishThree times a day

Factoring the Right Amount of Food for your Fish

The two dilemmas of how much and how often to feed fish always go hand in hand for fish keepers. However, if you have ever typed in the plight on the internet, you will be bombarded with several opinions. While some guides suggest feeding your fish the exact amount of food they can finish in 5 minutes, others suggest 2 or 3 minutes. Determining the factor of how often to feed fish is quite specific, making it easier to offer answers. For the question of how much food you are better off with a bit of experimentation. Try to feed your fish a small amount of food, and see how quick they gobble it up; note the time. The best quantity of food to feed your fish is to offer no more food that your fish eats in under 2 minutes. Of course, there is a need for better research and guidance on how much and how often to feed fish. Until then, the 2-3-minute rule seems to be working just fine. Observation is vital when it comes to aquarium fish nutrition as a fish keeper.

The Crux of the matter on How Often Do You Need to Feed Fish- Overfeeding.

One of the most significant associations with how often do you have to feed fish is overfeeding. Overfeeding is directly responsible for the production and accumulation of excessive waste within the aquarium. Both uneaten food and the poop of your little finny friends can quickly tip off the intrinsic balance of the tank that you worked so hard to maintain. Do you want to keep your fish healthy with appropriate nutrition? But also fear the disaster that overfeeding havocs within the aquarium?

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We hear you, and it is for the same reason we stress that limiting the number on how often you are supposed to feed fish is not going to harm your fish’s growth or general health. Aquarium fish are intelligent animals and the biggest gluttons you will ever encounter. Once they learn that you are the butler who brings their dinner fixes, they will beg to the depths of hell whenever you walk past by the fish tank. Hence, it is a clear test of your will. How well you can stand their beady hungry eyes staring straight into your soul. And if you are a little soft on the inside, these consequences of overfeeding or going overboard with how often do you need to feed fish can help keep your resolve.

11 Disasters of Overfeeding Your Fish

Overfeeding creeps slowly and often remains undetected by most fish keepers. Moderation is the best covenant for all forms of life, and your fish is no exception to that rule. Here is a list of consequences that become a fish keeper’s remorse when the equation of how often to feed fish in an aquarium remains unchecked.

·         Spiked Ammonia and Nitrites

The uneaten or leftover food that settles at the bottom of your fish tank is rich in protein. The same protein is converted into ammonia and nitrites, which is highly toxic for your fish tank’s inhabitants.

·         Teetering Oxygen levels

Uneaten food and the waste produced by your fish is organic. The breakdown of organic material requires oxygen consumption, as it is an aerobic process. As a result, there is a deficit of oxygen in your aquarium, while carbon dioxide is produced in excess, meaning your fish literally have little to no room for breathing.

·         Acidic Fish Tank water

The presence of excessive organic material from overfeeding causes a sharp decrease in the water’s pH within the fish tank. As a result, the aquarium becomes more and more acidic. Every fish species has a particular pH parameter in which they thrive well. When this condition tips off due to unregulated measure on how often do you have to feed fish, it causes stress to your finny friends.

·         Fish experience health issues

The unchecked number on how often you need to feed fish results in several health complications for your fish tank’s inhabitants. Aquatic ailments such as fin rot, fatty liver, improper digestion cause stress to your fish and their health, eventually leading to their demise.

·         Algal bloom and cloudy fish tank

Algae is amazing for your fish tank as it supplements the biological sustenance of the domestic environment. However, an unchecked level of how often to feed community fish or a single fish tank can cause excessive algal bloom. As the uneaten food and fish waste decay in the tank, it supplements all the above disastrous consequences and algal bloom, leading to an unsightly appearance in your fish tank known as a cloudy fish tank. A cloudy fish tank not only looks bad but also supplements the stumbling of the nitrogen cycle in the tank.

·         Mold and planaria

When the water chemistry and other related parameters sway from their optimal levels, you will notice the formation of planaria and mold in your fish tank. Planaria are tiny white worms that only appear when your fish tank is experiencing the numerous consequences of an unchecked number on how often to feed goldfish and other fish. Both planaria and mold are strong indicators that you are overfeeding your fish.

·         Clogged filters

Your fish tank’s filtration system is structured to rid the aquarium of all excessive waste materials in the tank. When the fish waste and uneaten food, as well as other aquarium debris, proliferate beyond control, your filter system begins to clog. As the filters stop working, there is nothing within the tank that is working towards removing all the toxic elements, leading to a disastrous vicious cycle of overfeeding and bad fish keeping.

As a fish keeper, knowing how often do you need to feed fish is an important consideration. Although overfeeding is an easy mistake to make, disaster management is not yet a lost cause.

Watch this short video on the best ways to avoid overfeeding your fish

Prevention is Cure- Ways to Avoid Overfeeding Your Fish

Maintaining good habits is a foolproof method of ensuring a successful fish keeping endeavor. Observation and keeping records of all the important events occurring within the tank can also help you stay motivated and alert when your aquarium’s ecosystem is in jeopardy. Here are a few critical tips on controlling the overfeeding catastrophe.

·         Stick to your feeding schedule

Asking the question of how often to feed fish can help you figure out the number of times your fish need nutrition in a day. Say, for instance, the answer to how often to feed a guppy fish is twice a day. You can take the same amount of food and divide it into two portions. The practice will help you keep the feeding amount under moderation while also keeping your fish satiated and happy.

·         Keep the amount of fish food proper and balanced.

How much and how often to feed fish are two sides of one coin. The most foolproof method of figuring the right amount of food to feed your fish, you need to observe how much your fish eats within a span of 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat this a few times. Both underfeeding and overfeeding can be avoided when you have the right number on how often and how much do you have to feed betta fish or any other fish you have in your tank. Coming to proper nutrition, expert fish keepers swear by incorporating a varied diet to your fish. It is also important to consider the levels of feeding, such as bottom-feeding, mid feeding, or top feeding fish. If you have a community tank, it is important to purchase both sinking and floating type of fish food. 

·         Siphon out uneaten food from the tank

Removing uneaten food after your fish are done with their dinner time is an effortless measure for ensuring a healthy fish tank. You can remove excess, uneaten food using a fishnet or a siphon. 

Ways to Take Care of How Much and How Often to Feed Fish When You Are on Vacation

As a fish keeper, going on vacations can be quite a worry for you, especially when it comes to taking care of your fish feeding cycles. However, certain advances in the fish keeping world, such as automatic fish feeders, are fantastic solutions to ensure optimal fish nutrition while enjoying some me-time with your buddies. If you are merely leaving for a short span of time, such as one or two days, your fish will not starve. In fact, some fish keepers prefer fasting their fish for a day or two to detoxify their digestive tracts. It is also crucial to install a robust filtration unit to keep the proper water parameters in line when you are on vacation.

How Often Do You Need to Feed Fish? – FAQs

How often to feed fish when cycling? During the cycling of the aquarium, it is crucial to keep the feeding frequency once a day. Reduce the amount of food you offer. It is important to ensure light feeding. When the nitrogen levels are not optimal, there are higher chances that your fish is stressed. In such a scenario, the fish will not eat much, and giving more often will lead to further contamination of the tank. Uneaten food and fish waste are the two most notorious factors that lead to spiked nitrogen and ammonia levels in the fish tank. You can bring back the number of times on how often do you need to feed fish back to normal after a week of cycling.

How often to feed brine shrimp to fish? Irrespective of the type of fish food you use to feed your fish, it is vital to keep a check on overfeeding. Brine shrimp is a fantastic source of nutrition for both carnivorous and omnivorous fish. Using a mixed diet is the perfect way to ensure your fish is getting all the essential nutrition to stay healthy and live longer. Feeding brine shrimp once or twice every week is a good measure.

How often do you feed fish peas to treat swim bladder? Peas are a fantastic form of home remedy to treat your fish of a swim bladder ailment. Green peas are naturally rich in protein, which is sufficient for your fish when compared to commercial fish food, which is heavy on your fish’s digestion and may not sit well when it is suffering from a swim bladder problem. Moreover, green peas sink at the bottom of the tank, preventing the fish from swimming up to grab their food and get more air in their gut, which can worsen the problem. Feeding 2 or 3 peas to your adult fish and half the amount to baby fish can be an excellent remedy to treat swim bladder.

How often to feed blood worms to fish? The high protein content in bloodworms is an effective way of ensuring a healthy fish. This is essentially true for breeding fishes. However, it is important to note that feeding too many bloodworms to your fish can result in overfeeding and its consequences, including spiked nitrogen and ammonia levels, fish fin rot disease, bad digestion, algal bloom, and so much more. Bloodworms should be used as a treat for your fish, not as the primary dietary source. Feeding bloodworms once or twice a week is the right amount to ensure proper nutrition while also preventing overfeeding.


For the ideal fish keeping experience, it is best to pay extra attention to your fish’s dietary requirements, how much and how often you need to feed fish. Nutrition is the only golden elixir that will not only keep your fish healthy but also enhance their life expectancy. If you are doubtful about how often do you need to feed fish, it is best to get expert advice or skim the internet, or you can hit us up. The key take away from this post is to understand that proper nutrition for your fish will always pay you back as a fish keeper, but moderation will always keep you and your finny friend right on track.

Also read – The Battle Between Saltwater vs. Freshwater Fish Tanks is Over

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