Feeding Fish

Like all living species, fish too need nutritious food. There are a number of varieties of fish food available in the stores today. Just like mammals, different fish species require different food types. That is why you should know your fish before you buy their food. The feeding of fish and their nutrition is one of the most important factors in keeping them healthy. Since fish are very diverse in their habits, there is a large diversity in their eating patterns too. Some fish, for instance, are bottom feeders, while others are mid-water feeders or surface feeders. Some fish species will even jump out of the water to catch insects! You will also notice that some fish enjoy eating your plants while others enjoy eating your other fish. So, how do you find out your fish’s favorite food; food that is nutritious as well as delicious? How much should you feed them, how often should you feed and what do you do if they do not eat? Are they just not hungry or are they showing signs of stress? It can sometimes be very confusing to interpret the signals your fish are giving off. As any successful aquarist will tell you, observing feeding patterns is one of the most enjoyable as well as important steps in aquarium keeping.

Obviously, a single type of food will not be enough to meet the requirements of the fish. That is why many of the exotic varieties of fish shouldn’t be maintained in an aquarium by anyone but an experienced aquarist. Their native food and the varieties that they need to survive and do well are to though for less experienced aquarists to provide. Most of the fish that have adapted to aquarium life can be trained and habituated to eat different kinds of food. The first step is that the fish has to be able to recognize food. Even the most nutritious of food goes to waste if the fish does not understand that it is to be eaten. Both instinct as well as training affects this recognition. Hunger is not the only thing that leads a fish to food. Security as well as good health is also necessary.

Upon introduction into its new home, a fish may not take to its food right away. If your aquarium does not resemble its natural habitat or is completely devoid of friendly objects like plants, the fish may feel insecure. Sometimes, the temperature in your aquarium is just not right, or the intensity of the glare coming from your lights can be too harsh. Dimming lights a bit until the fish get used to the lights is a good idea.

Various visual and chemical clues point out the food to the fish. Once the fish has located the food, it may taste it before it accepts the feed. Some fish may take in the food, and regurgitate it if they feel that it is not acceptable. Predatory fish have a different kind of feeding pattern. Generalizations about the sensory characteristics of diverse kinds of fish will therefore not be accurate or appropriate, but here are some general traits in food that can attract fish.

Flavor and taste

This characteristic of food is especially important in case of bottom feeders. Smell can be detected by the specific anatomical receptors in fish, but flavor has to be dissolved in water for the fish to locate it. Some fish have receptors in their mouths, or on the head or lips. Some even have taste receptors on their skin. These receptors carry messages to the brain and tell the fish to swim towards the food. Some kinds of food can strongly stimulate fish to feed by their flavor, but these stimuli need not be the same as in humans. Therefore, desist from giving your fish sweet and fatty food.


Through water, sound travels about four times faster than it does through air. So, a fish can actually “hear” sound through the vibrations that take place in water. By picking up these vibrations in water, the fish become aware of the feeding frenzies that cause many fish to conglomerate when the feeding begins. Also, there are fish that are so used to a routine in their feeding that they start grouping when they hear sounds that normally precede feeding.


The sense of smell is highly developed in fish. In nature, fish needs to be able to identify their food and also their mates through the sense of smell. So, many fish species have nostrils that help them to identify the various things they come across. These sensors thus help the fish to zero-in on their food.

Color and Buoyancy of food

Some fish that are used to feeding on floating food may not take to food that has sunk to the bottom. Similarly, bottom feeders rarely come to the top of the aquarium to eat food. A majority of the fish species in the tropical variety are however not very picky when it comes to the buoyancy of food.