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How Much Should You Feed Your Fish?

Updated on February 3, 2010

One of the hardest things to get right as a new fish owner is feeding your fish. It sounds silly, because it really is the simplest thing you will do for your fish, but it is also the thing that can cause the most problems. Most new fish owners overfeed their fish. No big deal, you might think, but you'd be wrong. Overfeeding your fish causes many issues, not the least of which are fat fish.

Overfeeding can cause food to sink and decay rather than being eaten. Decaying food provides nutrients for bacteria and other pathogens that can cause sickness in your fish. Common illnesses like dropsy, which usually kills fish, can often be traced back to poor water quality that is the direct result of overfeeding. One of the easiest ways to keep your fish healthy and your water clean is not to over feed, and to remove any food that is not eaten after five minutes in the tank.

Feeding your fish too much also creates a lot more waste than is necessary in the form of fish poo and ammonia. By over feeding your fish, you make them foul their water more quickly, which means more work in the form of water changes for you.

Overfeeding your fish can also be the cause of constipation, an unpleasant and sometimes life threatening condition for fish. If your fish is constipated, stop feeding it fish food immediately and fast it for a few days. If that does not fix the problem, feed it a little piece of a shelled pea.

So how much should you feed your fish? Most experienced keepers fast their fish at least one day a week. That means no food at all on that day. This won't hurt your fish at all, on the contrary it will keep them healthy and lower their likelihood of constipation.

Live foods should be avoided for most fish, as feeder fish often cause diseases that can kill your fish.

On the days that you do feed them, feed them once or twice a day, depending on age. Younger fish may need very small feedings several times a day to grow well, up to three or four. The general rule of thumb is that you should feed as much as can be eaten entirely in a few minutes. The only fish this rule does not apply to are betta fish, which can stuff themselves in five minutes quite easily. Bettas have very small stomachs and should only be feed as much food as about the size of their eye.

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