What do fish eat

It might seem a no-brainer when you’re asked about the meal of fishes. But, you would really feel excited to know the food habits of different species. Before going deep into the in-depth information, you should know about the types of fishes according to their food habit. There are four basic eating groups among fish: carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, and limnivores. Each group of fish needs to be fed in a particular way.

Carnivorous Fish

Carnivorous FishCarnivores are meat-eating fish. Whilst they will never damage your plant life, you will be lucky if you do not find any of the smaller fish disappearing mysteriously. If there are smaller fish in the aquarium with a carnivore, sooner or later the smaller fish will end up in the carnivore’s stomach. Carnivores need at least 45% of protein in their food, without which they become severely malnourished. Although many of the prepared foods are spiked with extra protein to help such fish, carnivores are happiest when they are fed live food like worms. An added benefit is that chasing their prey seems to whet their appetite even further.

Recommended food for the carnivores would be

  • Earthworms, Red worms, Tubifex worms and Daphnia.
  • Larvae of mosquitoes or fruit flies.
  • Oysters, shrimps, clams and other fish. If these are kept frozen, they need to be thawed and then sliced into slivers.
  • Lean chicken, turkey and salmon. These should be cooked, but never fried.
  • Supplements in the form of flakes or granules and pellets for added nutrition.

Herbivorous Fish

Herbivorous FishHerbivorous fish are those that will eat only plants. These fish need to graze very often, and whether they are fed regularly or not, they will nip at your plant life. Many aquarists who like herbivores keep plastic plants in their aquarium. If real plants are used, the aquarium runs a risk of having a badly mauled garden. It is a good idea to feed these fish with fresh veggies. Planting leafy vegetables like spinach into the substrate is a good trick. The fish will keep nipping at these. Care should be taken to remove the frayed plants before they start decaying and rotting in the water.

Recommended foods for this variety are

  • Cucumber, peas and potatoes. These can be kept frozen and be chopped into tiny pieces atmealtime.
  • Vegetable flakes come in a variety of flavors.
  • Algal flakes will also be a favorite among this kind of fish.

Omnivore Fish

Omnivorous fishOmnivore fish will eat pretty much anything, and that makes them dangerous to plants as well as to other smaller creatures in your aquarium. They are also voracious eaters and aquarists can sometimes mistake their eating frenzy for hunger. It is a common tendency to overfeed these species, and they do tend to pile on the fat very quickly if overfed.

Limnivorous Fish

Limnivorous fishLimnivorous Fish are also known as mud-eaters. Limnivore fish feed mainly on algae and on the microorganisms in your aquarium. These kinds of fish are constantly eating, and can be givenpellets and algae based foods. 

How Do Fish Eat?

In nature, fish eat whenever they are hungry and the food is available. If food sources are plentiful, they will eat several times a day. On the other hand, if food sources are scarce, they might go for days between meals. For this reason, fish are very opportunistic and will eat whenever they have a chance.

That means that if you offer them food, they will usually gobble it up, even if they aren’t starving. Keep that in mind the next time your fish “beg” for food. Fish quickly learn who brings the food to the tank and will jump at the chance to be fed, even if they are not in dire need of food.

How Often Should You Feed Fish?

Frequency will vary based on the type of fish. In general, most fish do quite well on one feeding per day. However, some owners prefer to feed their fish twice a day. Regardless of one or two feedings, the key is to keep each feeding very small.

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.

There are some exceptions to the once-per-day feeding rule. Herbivores (vegetarian fish) like Silver Dollars, Mollies, and Farowellas need to eat frequently because they have smaller stomachs that cannot hold a lot of food. In nature, they would graze all day on plants. They should be given several small feedings a day or be provided with live plants they can nibble on.

Newly hatched fry and young fish who are not fully grown require more frequent feedings of special foods designed for fry.

Determine the Right Amount of Food

A good rule of thumb is to give your fish no more than they will consume in less than five minutes. When in doubt, underfeed. You can always give them another small feeding if necessary.

Also, keep in mind that the type of food is just as important as the amount. You want to ensure your fish are getting the proper nutrition they need to stay healthy. Also, if you have a community of fish, you’ll need to consider every species’ dietary needs and find a food to balance that out.

Don’t Overfeed Your Fish

If you overfeed your fish, the effects may not be apparent at first. It’s a myth that fish will explode from eating too much, so you don’t have to worry about that. However, there are other health concerns associated with overfeeding.

It is possible for some fish species to develop a fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). Overfeeding can also stress fish and cause them to suffer from fin rot. More often, the negative effects on the aquatic environment itself will affect the health of your fish.

Uneaten food will produce by-products which can be harmful to fish. In the event that you do overfeed, promptly remove the uneaten food using a siphon or net.

If you do not remove the excess, you risk affecting the chemistry of the tank’s water. Nitrates and ammonia levels can rise and the oxygen and pH can drop to life-threatening levels. The by-products can also cloud the water, promote an algae bloom, or encourage mold or plan aria to grow out of control.


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