Fish Feeding Schedule - The Aquarium Guide (2023)

When it comes to aquariums, some of the most commonly asked questions have to do with feeding.

How often should I feed my fish? What is overfeeding? How will I know if I’ve overfed?

Overfeeding is one of the most commonly committed mistakes made by first time fish owners.

Unfortunately, without paying attention to detail and keeping thorough records, it can also be a mistake made by alleged expert aquarium owners.

Overfeeding = Potentially Toxic Chemicals

Not only does overfeeding introduce additional debris into the environment that can clog filters and water lines, but it also introduces potentially toxic chemicals released when uneaten food breaks down.

Fish can also overeat, which can lead to poor health.

In the wild, fish will eat anytime food is available and when hungry.

When food is abundant, they might eat several meals in a given day.

Alternatively, when food is not readily available, they can go hours or even days without eating.

Table of Contents

What Schedule Should I Keep?

Fish Feeding Schedule - The Aquarium Guide (1)

The schedule that you feed your fish on will ultimately depend on the species of fish and what type of food you are feeding them.

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Generally speaking, most fish breeds can do quite nicely on a once per day feeding schedule.

Some aquarium owners like to split a single feeding amount into two separate meals, but that is completely up to the owner.

Again, in the broadest sense, adhering to a strict time of day is not of any great importance, save for some species that have special requirements.

Different preference for different fish type

Some fish, like catfish, prefer to eat after the lights go down, so if you have a night owl under the water, drop in some food just before bedtime.

Others may be early risers, so to speak, and will want a big “breakfast” when the lights come on.

A strict schedule may not matter to the fish, but eating daily does!

If you need a schedule to help you remember then by all means, keep your fish on a strict schedule.

Consider feeding them right before you eat, assuming you have a relatively fixed schedule.

If there are no daily activities you engage in that would help you remember, set an alarm on your phone.

If you plan on being out of town, remember to ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to drop by daily to check on your watery companions or invest in an automatic feeder.

I’ve written an excellent post on Automatic Fish Feeders.

Exceptions to the Rule

Just like anything in life, there are a few exceptions to the rules above.

One notable example would be herbivorous fish; as plant eaters, these fish would typically eat plants throughout the day, regardless of what time it was.

One reason for this is the typically small stomach these breeds have, limiting the amount of food they can hold.

They may eat frequently to satisfy their hunger in their natural environment.

These species should be given multiple small feedings per day.

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Additionally (or in place of some of the smaller feedings), consider adding live plants to your tank that the fish can nibble on between meals.

Live plants are also beneficial as they remove carbon dioxide from the water in your tank and provide life-giving oxygen.

How Much Food Should I Provide?

Fish Feeding Schedule - The Aquarium Guide (2)

Once again, all species and all fish are different; however, a good guide would be to provide only enough food that your fish will eat in about five minutes or less.

If you’re unsure, provide less than you think they’ll need, since you can always add more food later.

Overfeeding is not ideal since the uneaten food will collect at the bottom of the tank, lowering the water quality.

Uneaten food also poses issues with the potential to clog filters or to break down into harmful chemical components.

If you do happen to overfeed, don’t panic.

Once the fish have finished eating, simply remove the uneaten portion with a net or a spoon.

What is the Feeding Schedule for the Following Fish Species?

Now that you have a basic idea about the importance of a feeding schedule and why it is different for each fish species, let us focus on the subjective approach to each species. This ensures that you follow through the right steps of taking care of the fish and ensure a comfortable life.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the feeding schedule and frequency of a few common and popular fish species:


Although goldfish is one of the most common aquarium species, they are very easy to cause damage to. Overfeeding is one of the most common mistakes that hobbyists do with goldfish. They feed a little more than the other small freshwater fish species, but you need to practice caution.

Overfeeding can lead to digestive complications and result in more waste discharge. This, in turn, can dirty the tank quicker than you’d anticipate.

Experts suggest that you feed a goldfish the amount they can eat in under two minutes. Otherwise, you can assess the size of the goldfish’s eye and feed them the said amount.

Feeding frequency – 2 to 3 times daily. It should be spaced out 4-5 hours at least.

Rainbow Fish

Rainbowfish, in the wild, are omnivores. They rely on live feeds and aquatic plants, and zooplanktons to keep themselves fed. One unique trait of rainbow fish is that they can gobble down both aquatic animals and terrestrial creatures. Tropical flakes and even pellets and live food work great for their nutritional requirements.

As for the amount you should be feeding them, experts suggest sticking to the 3-5 minutes rule. So, you should feed them in minute quantity and as much as they can feed in 3-5 minutes. If your rainbow fish is smaller than average, bring the duration down to 2 minutes.

Typically, you can start the first feed early morning and then stop the same at dusk. This is what the fish do in the wild and is considered an ideal setup.

Feeding frequency – 2 to 3 times daily.

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Angel Fish

Another popular freshwater aquarium fish worth knowing is Angelfish. They are very easily sourced and a popular species in the commercial market. Like most other freshwater fish species, even angelfish has a varying diet with different elements. They are omnivores too.

However, the fish doesn’t rely much on plants, so you’d have to compensate for their food with live animals like brine shrimp, bloodworms, etc. These take care of their nutritional needs without any complications.

Angelfish also feed on dried flakes and pellets if you don’t want to give them live food. The young angelfish need more frequent feedings while the mature and adult ones gradually reduce their food intake. Also, angelfish don’t get satiated easily. So, if you overfeed them, they will eat it without any caution. So, be careful with the same.

Feeding frequency – 2 to 3 times for adult angelfish. 4-5 times for younger ones.


Guppies are ideal if you are away most of the day and don’t want to house a fish that requires frequent feeding. They don’t need to be fed multiple times in a day. However, they are picky with their food. You can’t stick to just live foods or just dry foods. It has to be a mix of both.

As for the quantity of food, guppies should be fed 1/8th of the size of their body. This prevents overfeeding and keeps them healthy and in their best shape. Also, if you have a community tank, make sure you feed them all in equal intervals so there is no excess food in the tank.

If you are timing their feed, always make sure you feed your guppies the amount of food they can consume in under a minute. This is primarily due to their small size. If all the pellets are gone within a minute, add a few more.

Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times a day.


Much like guppies, mollies don’t need frequent feedings throughout the day. However, they will let you know when they are hungry. Since they are bottom feeders, you will often find them digging through the substrate when hungry. Keep an eye on such behavior.

Also, if they are very hungry and haven’t been fed in a long time, they might exhibit aggression on their tankmates. Although they don’t require a lot of food at a time, they need to be fed well, so they are quiet and peaceful in the tank.

As for what you can feed them, mollies can eat various foods, including invertebrates, algae deposition and even plant matter. So, you can ensure a balance of nutrition for them.

Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times daily.

Neon Tetra

This type of tetra is one of the smallest. And, with their small body, their nutritional requirements are very limited too. Since they are so small, it is very easy to overfeed them, which is the last thing you want to do.

However, the young neon tetras need more attention and more frequent feeding sessions like other fish species. You can then limit or reduce their feeding once they are an adult. Also, you should feed the amount that your neon tetra can finish in under 3 minutes.

If you wonder how long they can go without food, it can range between 1-2 weeks. However, you also need to realize that the tetra should be fed well and regularly before that. Otherwise, they will starve or die due to malnourishment.

Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times a day for adults and 2-3 times for young neon tetra.

Zebra Danios

Like most of the other danios, even Zebra danios are omnivorous. They feed off of small flakes and pellets and can gobble down plants when they don’t get food and are hungry. The fish need more protein in their diets during spawning, so live and frozen foods work well then.

They don’t require very frequent feedings. And, you can easily overfeed them if you aren’t being careful. So, make sure you feed the fish as much as they can consume in under 3 minutes.

Overfeeding can lead to many complications in them, especially with bloating and excessive chemical buildup in the tank. These are the last things that you want to experience.

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Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times daily.


Another common fish species for home aquariums is a betta. They are quite understandable and often like to keep to themselves. However, you must avoid overfeeding them. Since they are so small in size, a few flakes or pellets are enough to keep them full throughout the day.

They work the best on a 12-hour feeding schedule. This means that you should feed them a few pellets or live food every 12 hours. Several labeled food types are available in the market that takes care of their feeding needs.

Like other freshwater fish species, Bettas can go up to 2 weeks without feeding. However, we’d recommend not doing so suddenly and without proper care.

Feeding frequency – 1 to 2 times daily.


Koi fish are quite exotic and have pretty specific needs for their food. They are omnivores and rely on a host of food categories, like plant and animal matter, to keep themselves fed. They are also one of the few aquarium fish that can be hand-fed.

When it comes to feeding a koi fish, you need to have a strict schedule, depending on the water temperature in the tank. If the water temperature is low (10-13 degrees Celsius), they can be fed 2-3 times a week.

Similarly, if the tank temperature is higher (22-25 degrees Celsius), they can be fed up to 3 times per day. So, familiarize yourself with their feeding habits before you end up adding them to your tank.

Feeding frequency – Depends on the tank’s water temperature.

Conclusion forfish feeding schedule

Just as all fish are different, so are their dietary needs and/or restrictions.

Some fish may require certain types of food or feeding schedules.

Others may have foods they simply cannot eat or times of day or night when they won’t eat.

When in doubt, ask!

Check with other aquarium enthusiasts that have the same types of fish.

If you don’t know anyone personally, ask at a your local aquarium supply store.

If you still can’t find someone, look online; you’re likely to find another tank owner that can answer your questions.

If not, research the particular fish you are considering.

Feeding is one of the most important aspects of caring for fish so be sure to research your fish and their feeding habits to have a healthy tankful of fish.


How often should aquarium fish be fed? ›

You should feed your fish two to three times daily. A few flakes per fish is sufficient. The fish should eat all the food in two minutes or less. Overfeeding can cloud your water and harm your fish.

How much food should I give my aquarium fish per day? ›

How Much Should I Feed My Fish? It's always best to underfeed, especially in new aquariums, as uneaten food can cloud your water and cause dangerous rises in ammonia and nitrite levels. A general rule of thumb is to feed only what your fish can consume in 2 to 3 minutes.

How often do you feed fish in aquarium coop? ›

Most fish are fine with being fed once a day, but you can also choose to feed them two smaller meals a day for more enjoyment.

How do I know if I'm feeding my fish enough? ›

A good rule of thumb when working out how much food to offer your fish is to see what they can dispose of per minute. If they finish all you offer in under a minute then you are giving the right amount of food. If it's taking more than a minute then you're definitely offering too much food.

Do fish need to be fed at the same time everyday? ›

Most fish will do well with two meals a day. The timing is not critical, with the exception of nocturnal feeders. If you have nocturnal fish in your tank, such as certain catfish, be sure to feed them just before turning the lights out at night.

Can aquarium fish go 2 days without food? ›

Most fish do well without food for up to three to five days, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily good for them. Depending on several factors, like your tank, how many fish you own, and what type of fish you have, you may be able to leave your fish without food for up to seven days.

Can you overfeed fish in a tank? ›

Overfeeding your fish is an extremely easy thing to do. Feeding your fish is the primary way of interacting with your fish. The only time your fish will be excited to see you is when you are going to feed them. It's more often that a fish will die from overfeeding rather than die from being starved.

Is it easy to overfeed fish? ›

In case you were wondering: yes, you can absolutely overfeed a fish. In fact, it's easier than you'd think! For starters, some fish food containers state to feed your fish as much as they can eat in as many as 10 minutes. That's way, way too much.

Can you put too much food in a fish tank? ›

Unfortunately, overfeeding is not only detrimental to your fish, but also to the overall health and well-being of your aquarium. Here are some negative effects uneaten food can have on your aquarium: Uneaten fish food releases toxic ammonia and nitrite as it decomposes.

Should you turn off filter when feeding fish? ›

If your filter is pushing water downwards then it can be a good idea to switch the filter off during feeding to prevent this — just be sure to switch it on again afterwards! Many fish foods have a mixture of densities in the one pack, so some will float, some sink rapidly and some slowly.

How many pellets should I feed my fish? ›

Larger fish will need more than smaller fish. Since fish metabolism is tied to the water temperature, warmer water will mean more pellets than colder water. The best method is to start slow and only offer 3-4 size-appropriate pellets pet fish. If your water temperature is between 65-75F (18-24C), feed once a day.

Why not feed fish on first day? ›

The thought is that a new fish will not be interested in food because it is still adjusting to its new surroundings. That may be true of the fish you just placed in the tank and this is a great example of where you have to make a judgement call vs. sticking to some black and white rule.

What is the golden rule for feeding fish? ›

However the golden rule of feeding them 2 – 3 times a day on as much as they will eat within 5 minutes is a good one to follow. This will certainly change throughout the season.

Is it worse to overfeed or underfeed fish? ›

Remember it's actually better to underfeed rather than overfeed because fish are more susceptible to poor water quality than a lack of food.

How do I know if my fish is hungry in my aquarium? ›

If your fish are digging around in the substrate, clearly searching for something, chances are that they are hungry. Fish that go to scavenge, but don't usually scavenge, or go inspect the top of the aquarium, something they wouldn't usually do, are both indications of hunger.

Is it OK to skip a day feeding fish? ›

Even without lots of aquatic plants, aquarium fish are fine without fish food for a week. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your aquarium fish is to not feed them one day a week. My aquarium fish often will go unfed two or even three days in a week.

How long can you leave fish without feeding? ›

Most cold water fish will be fine for one week without food, however tropical fish usually need to be fed more often.

What do fish do all day in a tank? ›

Diurnal Fish Behavior

That might involve scavenging around the tank bottom for scraps of food, eating whatever flakes or pellets you scatter on the water surface, or grazing on the colonies of algae that grow on tank surfaces. Depending on the species, foraging for food can take up most of the fish's day.

What happens if you put a fish in the tank before 24 hours? ›

Without beneficial bacteria in place inside an aquarium filter, fishkeeping as we know it is not possible as, as soon as you put fish in your tank, ammonia will be excreted and they will poison themselves and die.

Can I put fish in my tank after 48 hours? ›

Typically, you should wait at least 24 to 48 hours and even up to a week before adding fish to a new tank. Waiting ensures that all the set conditions for the ecosystem have had time to establish themselves. This also gives your fish enough time to acclimate to their new environment.

When should I empty my fish tank? ›

If you have a large, well established tank you should clean your tank on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. A water change should be done to the keep the tank clean and the fish happy. Depending on the type of filter you use for the tank, you may be able to get away with cleaning the tank once per month.

Can you over oxygenate a fish tank? ›

Too much oxygen in water can lead to the potentially lethal gas bubble disease, in which gas comes out of solution inside the fish, creating bubbles in its skin and around its eyes. (Excess nitrogen, however, is a far more common cause of this disease.)

Is there supposed to be bubbles on fish tank? ›

Even the most well-maintained fish tank will have some bubbles. Think of bubbles as a sign that your fish are getting enough oxygen. As a proud fish owner, you should always strive to provide them with an optimal living environment that utilizes proper aeration and bubblers.

Do fish grow the more you feed them? ›

If the quantity or quality of feed available is limited, fish may not grow, may lose weight, or may even die from food deficiency. Growth will occur only after maintenance needs are satisfied. These needs increase with water temperature, because the activity of the fish also increases.

Do fish grow bigger the more you feed them? ›

There are a few important things to consider when “growing” your fish, notably the fact that fish (unlike some other animals) don't get bigger by eating more. Overfeeding your fish is the leading cause of water contamination, fish disease, and death in an aquarium.

How much is too much fish per week? ›

Eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury. Shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish are low-mercury fish. Albacore (“white”) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. So limit your intake of albacore tuna to once a week.

Do I need to remove uneaten fish flakes? ›

Leaving uneaten food in the aquarium is never a good idea. Watching food fall to the bottom of the tank, with the thought that your fish to eat later, can lead to big problems. Many fish are kind of programmed to eat food at certain places in the tank.

Can fish eat food at bottom of tank? ›

Bottom feeders are fish that primarily live and eat…well…at the bottom of the aquarium. Instead of grabbing food from the surface or midwater, bottom feeders find their food along the substrate.

Why does my fish tank turn brown so fast? ›

High amounts of silica in the water may be a primary cause of brown algae. Silica is often found in tap water and water from wells. Note: Don't be discouraged if you see brown algae, it's quite common amongst new tanks! As the tank matures and maintenance is kept up, diatom growth will decline.

Does more filtration mean more fish? ›

If the aquarium has a more efficient filter, you can (although this is not recommended) keep more fish in the tank. The use of an external filter to remove waste is much more efficient than an internal filter. They also take up less space inside, which means more swimming space.

Does a filter help the fish live longer? ›

If you are looking for a way to make sure that your fish are getting the best possible care, then using filtered water is a great option. Not only will it help to keep your fish healthy, but it can also help to extend their life.

How long can fish go without a filter running? ›

It's possible for a fish to live without a filter for 7 days maximum and 3 days minimum. However, the length of time they can go without water purification depends on certain factors. These factors include the type of fish you have, how many fish are in your aquarium, and the acidic and bacterial level of the water.

Are flakes or pellets better for fish? ›

Pellets are better nutrition than flakes, unless you have very small fish. This comes down to simple physics and chemistry – spheres have a lower surface-to-mass ratio than a flat flake, allowing them to hold onto water-soluble vitamins, like vitamin C, longer.

Should I use floating or sinking pellets for fish? ›

Floating pellets are ideal for surface-dwelling fish while sinking pellets are better for bottom-feeders. Some fish food pellets also contain color enhancers to make your fish look more vibrant. These typically contain carotenoids, natural pigments found in plants that fish can absorb.

Do you soak pellets before feeding to fish? ›

A common error is to pre-soak pellets. This is based on the mistaken belief that it will aid in the digestion and prevent swelling inside the fish's gut. This is an urban myth. Fish digestive systems contain copious enzymes and gastric acids that turn the pellet into pulp in a short period.

Why do fish feed more at night? ›

This is because fish spend daylight hours in deeper water away from the shore, but feel less vulnerable during darkness and therefore swim and feed in shallower water, and small sea creatures which provide a source of food for larger fish will also start to emerge during darkness.

What time of day are fish hungry? ›

Generally speaking, the best time of day to catch fish is in the reduced daylight hours from dawn until 2 hours after sunrise and from 2 hours before sunset until dusk. During these windows, light is reduced, prey becomes more active, and water temperatures cool allowing fish to more freely hunt for food.

How long can fish tank go without feeding? ›

However, an adult, healthy aquarium fish can generally last for three to seven days without food. Some species of pet fish can even survive a lack of food for over two weeks!

How long can you leave aquarium fish without food? ›

Most cold water fish will be fine for one week without food, however tropical fish usually need to be fed more often.

Can you overfeed fish? ›

Overfeeding your fish is an extremely easy thing to do. Feeding your fish is the primary way of interacting with your fish. The only time your fish will be excited to see you is when you are going to feed them. It's more often that a fish will die from overfeeding rather than die from being starved.

Can you miss a day of feeding fish? ›

Even without lots of aquatic plants, aquarium fish are fine without fish food for a week. In fact, one of the best things you can do for your aquarium fish is to not feed them one day a week. My aquarium fish often will go unfed two or even three days in a week.

How long do you let a fish tank sit? ›

Wait until both the ammonia and nitrite levels have risen and then fallen to zero before adding more fish. It usually take about 3-6 weeks for a new aquarium to go through the initial nitrogen cycle, so fish should be added only a few per week during this time.

Should you remove uneaten food from fish tank? ›

Leaving uneaten food in the aquarium is never a good idea. Watching food fall to the bottom of the tank, with the thought that your fish to eat later, can lead to big problems. Many fish are kind of programmed to eat food at certain places in the tank.

What happens to uneaten fish food in aquarium? ›

Uneaten food can clog your filter, decreasing its efficiency and reducing circulation in the aquarium. This may result in a low dissolved oxygen content, a drop in pH, a rise in ammonia and nitrite levels, and general stress to your fish. Decomposing fish food also offers a place for mold and fungus to grow.

Do fish need air bubbles? ›

While air pumps are not always necessary, there are very few circumstances where they would not be beneficial to a tank. Some species of fish, such as bettas, prefer still water, and the presence of an air pump can agitate them. In most cases, however, air pumps benefit fish by allowing them more oxygen to breathe.

What does fish do at night? ›

While fish do not sleep in the same way that land mammals sleep, most fish do rest. Research shows that fish may reduce their activity and metabolism while remaining alert to danger. Some fish float in place, some wedge themselves into a secure spot in the mud or coral, and some even locate a suitable nest.

Will fish eat each other if hungry? ›

Fish are opportunistic, just like other living creatures. If food presents itself in any form, they will eat it. Sure, that food may have been their best swimming buddy the day before, but today he's lunch.

Do fish like empty tanks? ›

It is rare that a fish will thrive in a completely empty tank. It is common to have bare bottoms in quarantine tanks in order to make them easier to clean. Quarantine fish are usually not feeling great from either being in a new environment or disease, so make sure to give them places to take cover.

Do fish feel thirsty at all? ›

The answer is still no; as they live in water they probably don't take it in as a conscious response to seek out and drink water. Thirst is usually defined as a need or desire to drink water. It is unlikely that fish are responding to such a driving force.


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