Keeping fish can be a rewarding experience, but it does require a lot of research. Different types of fish can have completely different needs. One of the vitally important areas to keeping your fish healthy and happy is what you feed them.
Diet can make all the difference to your fishes’ health, and the wrong diet can even cause them to die early. The right diet can even make the colors of your fish more vibrant! We will take you through everything you need to know about fish food, and we’ll be reviewing some of the best fish food available right now.
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Best Fish Food Reviewed
Below are the top fish foods currently available on the market! None of the fish food listed below contains the three dangerous ingredients you should avoid in fish food. We discuss the importance of ingredients further down.
Aqueon Tropical Flakes
Aqueon Tropical Flakes is a flake blend designed for tropical fish. It is high in protein and is fortified with vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. This means that it can be used as a complete diet for your fish.
This flake food floats along the surface of the water for your fish to enjoy. It includes a color enhancing formula to bring out the vibrant colors in your fish.
As long as you don’t dump a whole handful in one go, this won’t cloud your water. It is recommended to only add enough food that your fish can consume within two minutes.
Contains a lot more food than customers expected
Flakes are a good size to accommodate all sizes of fish
Does not cause discoloration or cloudy water
Can be used as a complete diet for your fish
Flakes are inconsistent in size, which work great if you have different sized fish, but might not be ideal if you only have one fish type in your tank
Some customers complained there are too many small flakes that make a mess in tanks
Hikari Algae Wafers
Hikari Algae Wafers sink to the bottom of the tank, making them perfect for bottom feeders. These wafers contain high levels of vegetable matter appealing to algae eaters.
They are rich in cultured spirulina and fortified with a variety of vitamins. High in stabilized Vitamin C helps to reduce the stress level in your fish and build their immunity to diseases. These wafers are a nutritionally balanced complete diet for your fish.
Including a non-dissolving makeup, these wafers will not cloud the water.
Wafers are a good size
They do not cloud the water
Can be used as a complete diet for your bottom feeders
Contain Vitamin C to reduce stress levels and build immunity
Customers comment that other fish in the tank seem to be interested in the tablets, which could create competition for the bottom feeders to get food
The wafers can break up a bit at the bottom
API Bottom Feeder Pellets With Shrimp
API Bottom Feeder Pellets includes optimal protein sources to support healthy fish and promote growth. Formulated with easy digestion, these pellets include shrimp, mussel, and seaweed. These are a complete and balanced diet for your fish.
These pellets product up to 30% less ammonia than competitor foods reducing the risk of ammonia toxicity in your tank.
Perfect for bottom feeders, it is recommended to feed twice a day and only put in as much as your fish can consume in 30 minutes.
Large bottle size with lots of food
Pellets sink right down and do not create dust or waste
Contain up to 30% less ammonia
Can be used as a complete diet for your bottom feeders
Some customers comment that pellets can make water cloudy from messy eaters
Pellets are on the smaller side
Repashy Super Gold Gel Food
Repashy Super Gold Gel fish food is perfect for goldfish and koi and is very different from other types of fish food. It comes in powder form, and you mix it with boiling water to form a gel-like substance which you then drop into the tank.
It is high in protein and is excellent for growth and color-enhancement. It also doesn’t cloud your tank. It can even help to reduce swim bladder issues.
High in protein
Helps with growth and color-enhancement
Does not cloud you tank
Can help reduce swim bladder issues
Takes some prep work before you can add it to your tank
Tints water a shade of green if fish don’t eat it
Omega One Freeze-Dried Blood Worms
Frozen blood worms can be expensive, and very often, freeze-dried blood worms can turn into mostly dust. The Omega One freeze-dried blood worms retain their structure, so there is very little waste at the bottom of the packet. They are high in protein and great for both freshwater and seawater fish.
While these blood worms are full of natural vitamins and minerals, they aren’t fortified, so they are not a complete diet. You should use these blood worms as a tasty treat. As with any treat, remember not to overfeed and make sure your fish have a balanced diet otherwise.
These retain their structure
They are high in protein
Very little waste left in bottom of food packet
There is a good amount of food in packet
They are not fortified, so they are not a complete diet
Water used to freeze worms can sometimes contain disease. Advised rinse worms with water before feeding them to your fish
Sequoia Freeze-Dried Brine Shrimp Cubes
Sequoia Freeze-Dried Brine Shrimp cubes are ideal for cold water and tropical fish. You can add a whole cube to your tank, or you can crumble the cube in for smaller fish.
It is a great alternative to live food and won’t contaminate your tank. It is high in protein, and essential fatty acids are excellent for boosting growth and color-enhancement.
These cubes aren’t fortified with vitamins and minerals, so they won’t work as a complete diet. But they are a tasty treat that your fish will love.
Ability to add whole cube or crumble into smaller pieces
High in protein and has growth boosting and color-enhancement qualities
Low bioload compared to other brands
Great quantity for the price
These are not fortified with vitamins and do not work as a complete diet
If you add the entire cube to your tank and your fish don’t finish it, it can leave behind a mess as it breaks down
Fluval Bug Bites Tropical Fish Food
Fluval Bug Bites Tropical fish food is slow-sinking, allowing any fish you have to eat at their preferred depth. It contains up to 40% black soldier fly larvae and salmon, so it is packed full of omega 3/6 and protein. It is also fortified with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, making it a complete diet.
The food is in a powdery form (some people liken it to fairy dust!) but, although it is fine, it doesn’t cloud up your tank. It is also easily digestible and low in waste.
Packed full of omega 3/6 and protein
Does not cloud up your tank
Easy to digest for your fish
Fortified with vitamins and minerals making it a complete meal
Varies in size and size is inconsistent
Some customers state that this food sinks quicker than advertised
The Importance of Ingredients In High-Quality Fish Food
Ingredients You Want
The ingredients you need to look out for, of course, vary depending on whether your fish is a carnivore or a herbivore. Carnivores will ideally need their protein sources to be animal-based, whereas herbivores will need their protein to be plant-based. It is important to remember that carnivores will need a plant-based food source to replace the plant sources they would naturally have obtained from their prey’s stomachs.
Another important thing to be aware of is how the ingredients list works. Like with human foods, the ingredients list on your fish food will be in a specific order. The ingredient with the highest percentage in the food is listed first, then the next highest, and so on. It is crucial to note what food is at the top of the list because that will be the main ingredient your fish will be getting. Generally, you will want this ingredient to be a high-quality source of protein.
Be aware of ingredient splitting. To get around the ingredient-list ordering, some lower-quality fish food companies will split their lower-quality ingredients. For example, if the highest ingredient is wheat, they will split it into different types of wheat – wheat germ, wheat flour, etc. This means that the top ingredient might show as a good food source, but if you add all the different kinds of wheat together from the rest of the list, they would be the highest percentage.
For carnivorous fish, the best source of protein will be aquatic animals. You ideally want it to be whole fish because this means that they won’t just be getting the scales and other indigestible materials leftover from fish production processes. They will be getting every part of the fish.
Spirulina is a type of algae that is an excellent source of protein for herbivores and carnivores alike. It is also a good source of natural vitamins and minerals.
Krill are small crustaceans that are a good source of protein for your carnivorous fish.
Algae meal isn’t quite as nutritionally dense as spirulina but is still a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
The main difference between whole fish and fish meal is that the entire fish has water included in its weight. This means that it isn’t quite as nutritionally dense as fish meal, but it still contains all of the same vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Worms such as blood worms, black worms, and earthworms are an excellent source of protein for carnivorous fish. They usually aren’t fortified with the vitamins and minerals necessary for your fish to get all of the nutrients they need, but they work well as part of a varied diet.
Black soldier fly larvae
These are another natural source of protein for carnivorous fish. They can even be used as a replacement for fish meal without any negative effects on your fish’s amount of nutrients. Just like with worms, however, these are usually given whole and not fortified, so your fish will need other sources of vitamins and minerals as well.
Ingredients To Avoid
There are two classes of ingredients to avoid when it comes to fish food: dangerous ingredients and ingredients that aren’t the best nutrition source. You should avoid the former at all costs, but you should still be mindful of the latter if you want to ensure that your fish is getting all of the nutrients it needs.
Ethoxyquin is a fat preservative found in a lot of pet food. It has been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, liver failure, and birth defects.
BHT is another preservative that has also been found to be carcinogenic. As well as this, it can interfere with liver and kidney function.
Synthetic Vitamin K
Synthetic Vitamin K can be challenging to avoid in commercially processed fish food and is usually labeled in the ingredients list as menadione. It can also cause damage to the liver and kidneys.
Ingredients That Aren’t The Best For Nutrition
When thinking about what ingredients might not be the best for your fish, a good rule of thumb is to think about whether they would come across them in the wild. If the ingredient is something they would be able to access in their natural environment, you can feel reasonably safe that it will be nutritionally beneficial. If the ingredient is something they would never come across in the wild, then there is a good chance that they will have difficulty digesting it and probably won’t get as much nutritional benefit.
Fish are unlikely to come across wheat in their natural environment, but they can digest it. It can be a good source of nutrients but isn’t as good as fish or algae meal.
Brewer’s dry yeast
Brewer’s dry yeast is nearly 50% protein and is a source of B vitamins, but fish have a hard time digesting it.
Rice bran is a good source of fiber, but it doesn’t contain many of the nutrients that your fish will need.
Corn gluten meal
Corn gluten meal is a plant-based protein. It isn’t digested very well by fish and is often used to bulk out cheaper fish food products.
Meat meal is made from the discarded parts of various land-based mammals after they have been processed. These animal parts aren’t usually of high nutritional value, and this type of meat isn’t something that fish are naturally able to digest very well. It is not a good substitute for fish meal.
Poultry meal isn’t a suitable replacement for the protein that your fish would get from aquatic-based protein sources and is usually very low-quality parts of the animal. For poultry, this can even include the feathers.
DL-methionine is an essential amino-acid. If it is listed as a supplement on the ingredient list, this is often an indication that the food is low in natural meat sources. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it can indicate that you need to look at the rest of the ingredients list more carefully.
Types Of Fish Food
Flakes are universal fish food that floats at the top and then sinks to the bottom. It is excellent for top and bottom feeders alike.
Pellets are optimal for mid and bottom feeders and can be regular or slow-sinking.
Sinking wafers sink quickly to the bottom of your tank and are suitable for bottom feeders.
Blocks release food slowly and can feed your fish for a few days/weeks at a time.
Gel food comes in powder form that is then mixed with water to form a gel that your fish can eat.
Freeze-dried fish food are whole creatures, such as larvae, insects, and crustaceans. They have been freeze-dried to retain all of their nutrients.
Frozen fish food are whole creatures that have been frozen and can be defrosted and given to your fish whole.
Live fish food are the closest to your fishes’ natural diet that you can get. For carnivores, these will be live creatures. For herbivores, they will be living plants.
Medicated fish food contains antibiotics to treat any bacterial infections that your fish may have.
What To Look For In Quality Fish Food
Size of pellets
Pellet size has been an area of great debate, but generally speaking, you want to avoid pellets that are too large as your fish could choke. Not only that, larger pellets force them to chew, which means that they lose nutrients.
You can give smaller pellets to large and small fish. Although, pellets can pass through larger fish bodies too quickly. If this happens, the nutrients don’t get absorbed easily. The ideal pellet size is around 50% of the fish’s mouth.
Some fish can be very adaptable to different types of foods, whereas other fish can be extremely sensitive. When choosing food, you need to make sure that you know whether your fish will be able to tolerate it without getting ill.
Nutritional requirements of fish
Similarly, different types of fish have varying nutritional requirements. As we mentioned, carnivores need meat-based proteins, whereas herbivores need plant-based proteins. But there are many individual breeds of fish that will have quite specific nutritional requirements.
It is no good choosing the perfect nutritionally balanced food for your fish if your fish won’t eat it. Thinking about where in the water your fish likes to feed, what sorts of flavors would be enjoyable for them, and whether they might prefer some whole-foods are a good place to start. Some trial-and-error is often required to find the right food that your fish will enjoy.
Ease of use
Some types of fish food can be quite fiddly to use, and you will have to feed your fish regularly. Choosing a low-hassle food and one that is right for your fish is the best combination for their well-being and stress levels!
Why You Shouldn’t Overfeed Your Fish
Cloudy and dirty water
When you overfeed your fish, you are left with a lot of decaying organic matter. This matter is what you see when your tank becomes cloudy and dirty.
Your tank’s filters are designed to deal with the average amount of waste that your fish produce. When you overfeed your fish, they create more waste than the filters can handle, blocking them and compounding the problem.
When you overfeed your fish, this leads to a build-up of organic material, nitrates, and phosphates, which is the perfect environment for excessive algae to grow.
Mold and fungus
This environment is also perfect for mold and fungus. You might notice this white fluffy material on the plants and decor inside your tank.
Low oxygen levels
The decay of the waste and leftover food is an aerobic process. This means that it uses oxygen and gives out CO2, leaving less oxygen available for your fish.
Ammonia and nitrates
When protein is broken down, it releases ammonia and nitrates. These are both toxic to your fish.
Low PH levels
Acids are also produced during the breakdown of organic material and can lower your tank’s PH levels. This can especially put stress on fish that prefer alkaline water.
Frequently asked questions
How do you know when fish are hungry?
Of course, your fish can’t tell you that it’s hungry, but there are some signs that you can look out for. If your fish is suddenly starting to dig around at the bottom of the tank or frequently coming up to the top and looking around, they may well be searching for food. This can be a good indication that they are hungry.
What is the best time to feed fish?
Some fish are nocturnal and prefer to feed at night, whereas other fish like to eat first thing in the morning. Other fish are happy to eat all day long! If you are worried about overfeeding your fish or forgetting to feed your fish, then sticking to a schedule is often a good idea.
How often should you feed your fish?
Once a day is generally often enough for most fish species. Some fish owners prefer to split the feed into half to give two feeds a day, but it is entirely up to you.
Do fish stop eating when they’re full?
Fish don’t know when to stop eating. They don’t have the same mechanism in their brains as ours that will tell them. So you need to be careful to make sure that you don’t overfeed them. There will be feeding recommendations for the type of fish you have, and you should always stick to that amount as much as possible.
How long can fish go without eating?
This varies depending on the type of fish. Most fish can go for a surprisingly long time without eating – between 3 days and 1 week on average. Other types of fish can even go for as long as 2 weeks. So don’t panic too much if you forget to feed them one day (but of course, make sure that you feed them as soon as you remember!).
Finding the right food for your fish is so important. It can seem quite daunting when you look at all of the different options available, but once you get to know the essential ingredients, the nutritional needs of your fish, and the best type of food to get, you will soon be able to feed your fish with confidence. And they will be happy and thriving!
Looking for more gear for your aquarium? Head over to our Aquarium Gear section to see more reviews.