Have you ever wondered what can fish eat besides fish food? if you have this article has got you covered. We’ll go over some basic diet requirements, homemade fish food options, as well as human food options like vegetables and fruit.

As you read this please keep in mind this is not meant for one species of fish and covers a very general topic.

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If you are looking for the diet requirements of a specific fish you’ll need to do some research about that fish specifically.

So Let’s get into it.

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There are two primal instincts in every animal:

  1. Safety
  2. Sustenance

Most people who own pets try to keep them safe, healthy and happy. We are sure that your fish are quite safe in their well thought out fish tanks, so you have got the first part covered.

Now, let’s get to the second part: Sustenance. Food – The main pursuit of every animal from birth to death. 

There are various species of fish. From tiny Dwarf Puffers to foot-long Goldfish, there are thousands of species of freshwater and marine fish that you can keep as pets.

Fish have certain requirements like the optimum quality of water in the fish tank and good oxygen levels in the water among others.

The most important is, of course, the food. The right food is crucial for your fish to grow, stay healthy and happy.

But before diving into the right fish food, we have to understand the classification of fish by their diet.

Differences Between Meat-Eating vs. Vegetarian Fish

Like most other animals, fish are also classified based on their diet. Fish can be meat-eaters (carnivores), plant-eaters (herbivore) and everything in between (omnivore).

It is important to know what kind of fish you have before deciding on the right diet for them.

There are a few key differences between meat-eating fish and plant-eating fish.

  • Meat-eating fish need more protein intake their diets than vegetarian fish. 45-50% of the dietary intake of meat-eating fish needs to be protein-based while plant-eating fish do well with 24-32%.
  • Meat-eating fish may have teeth that are used to eat meat. Plant-eating fish may have flat teeth, used to grind food before ingesting.
  • Meat-eating fish have large, muscular and elastic stomachs and small intestines. These stomachs let them hold larger volumes of food. Most plant-eating fish don’t have stomachs at all, or if they have, the stomachs are usually very small. This is because the food goes directly to a special intestine to be digested.
  • Even if meat-eating fish eats plant or something similar, its body doesn’t have the capability to absorb any nutrition from it.
  • Some small meat-eating fish like Bettas or Tetras can be kept in communal tanks with bigger herbivore fish. They ideally do well with schools of their own species. Aggressive meat-eaters like Puffer or Red-bellied Piranha should always be kept alone. Plant-eating fish, on the other hand, generally do great in communal tanks.

Now let’s see what different types of fish want to eat.

What Do Carnivores Want to Eat?

To put it very simply, meat-eating fish (carnivores) want to eat meat. This can come from insects, worms, sea creatures like shrimp, or other fish.

These food sources are rich in protein. They are the perfect food source for the carnivores since their digestive system is suitable to extract nutrients from such high protein sources.

In their natural habitat, carnivores hunt on smaller fish and prey. As pets kept in fish tanks, their favorite meaty food is packaged and provided in forms of flake food, fresh or dried frozen.

What Do Herbivores Eat?

What Herbivore fish eat mostly depends upon their natural habitat. Most of the herbivores are algae eaters. Just like their natural habitat, they love to feed on algae that bloom in the fish tank. Otherwise, algae-based fish food is also easily available.

Their digestive tracts are designed to breakdown vegetation. So they are fed on a combination of vegetables, plant matter, and algae. The food of Herbivores is usually in the form of pellets, flakes, granules, and discs.

These feeds are made from the relevant plant matter and consist of all the necessary nutrients for the herbivores. Flakes are suitable for top feeder fishes that swim towards the surface to feed. Pellets and granules are preferred by bottom feeder fish.

What Can Omnivores Eat?

Omnivores combine the diets of both carnivores and herbivores. They can survive, sustain and grow on both plant matter and a high protein meat-based diet.

Most hardy and easy fish are omnivores. Which means they will happily munch on flake food or live worms, whichever you have available. It doesn’t just make them easier to feed, but having a lot of feeding options to choose from is economical and less of a chore as well.

Many fish keepers prefer to provide their omnivore fish with “supplementary” diets in addition to their regular food. So that they receive all the necessary nutrients and variety the fish need for proper growth.

What Do You Feed a Fish If You Have No Fish Food?

Some common fish feed alternatives are:

  • Algae in the fish tank. Either intentionally or unintentionally in the tank, the algae provide a great source of food for herbivores.
  • For herbivore and omnivore fish, the best vegetable alternates for fish food are lettuce, peas or lima beans. Fresh vegetables are preferable over canned or frozen. Canned vegetables have preservatives that are dangerous for fish.
  • Earthworms are also a good option for the fish. They are a good protein-based diet and have many necessary nutrients.
  • Fish fillets can also be fed to fish that are not herbivores. Cut into small pieces, fish will happily munch on them.
  • In small amounts, boiled rice is also a good option.

Can I Use Homemade Fish Food?

Yes. You definitely can. It even has certain benefits over store-bought fish food. But if you want to prepare your own fish food at home, make sure you understand your fish’s needs and do proper research on the preparation of fish feed.

Homemade fish food can have two major benefits over store-bought. First is that you can create a nutrient-rich feed for your fish’s specific needs and wants. Most store-bought feeds have all the necessary nutrients. Still, a homemade feed can be superior, containing nutrients from better sources.

The second benefit is cost. Making your own fish food will cost more for the first few times. But once you have refined the process and started buying the ingredients in larger quantities, it can cost much lesser to make your own feed.

What Vegetables Can Fish Eat?

Even though vegetables grown on land are no match for the aquatic plants or algae, there are still some vegetables that the fish can eat and survive on.

Whatever vegetables you decide to feed your fish, they need to be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Some vegetables are blanched, and some are steamed to make them softer and more desirable to fish. Very few vegetables can be fed raw to your fish.

Most commonly used vegetables for fish are peas, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, and carrots. Cucumber and zucchini are usually fed raw (after removing the seeds and the jelly bits). Peas, lettuce, and carrots should be boiled to soften them and then fed by cutting into tiny pieces.

Pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli are also good vegetable options for fish.

What Fruits Can Fish Eat?

Just like vegetables, some fruits are suitable for fish as well. Fruits should also be thoroughly washed. Many store-bought vegetables and fruits contain contaminants, like pesticides that can be deadly for the fish. This is also why many people prefer organic fruits for fish.

It should be noted that vegetables are generally preferred over fruits. Fruits tend to introduce acid and sugar in the fish’s digestive system and in the water. In saltwater, it can promote the growth of unwanted quantities of algae and bacteria.

Some common fruits that can be fed to pet fish are bananas, melons, apples, and pears.

With fruits and vegetables, it is important to remove any uneaten food as soon as possible or it will contaminate the water.

What Human Food Can Fish Eat?

If fish can eat vegetables and fruits, is it ok to feed them bread or pancakes? No. even though it sounds much tastier than vegetables, it’s not good for your fish to feed on human food.

Since fruits, vegetables have already been discussed; let’s classify human foods other than these two. Hardboiled egg yolk is one thing that can be fed safely to a variety of fish. Its white texture makes the water look milky, but many small omnivores love munching on it, and it’s soft and safe to be digested.

For carnivore and omnivores, fish fillets are an option. Beef heart too, though it is not usually fed raw, rather mixed in fish food. But due to its low-fat content, it is also safe for fish to feed on the shredded beef heart.

More obvious human food options like little chunks of bread or pancakes are not suitable for fish in the fish tank. Though many of the big fish kept in ponds eat bread happily, small tank fishes often get bloated and sick by eating bread.

How Much and How Often Should You Feed Your Fish?

How much you should feed your fish depends upon its species, size, and type. A general rule is feeding the fish as much as they can eat in 2-5 minutes. Underfeeding is always a safer option than overfeeding. Most fish can survive 4-7 days without any feed at all.

Uneaten food should be removed as soon as possible, so they don’t rot and produce unwanted ammonia.

As for how often you should feed? Pure herbivores do not have a stomach. Even when they do, it’s a very small one. Their small digestive tract means that they need to be fed more often than carnivores. They should be fed several times a day, using small portions.

Herbivores keep grazing all day long in their natural habitat, so providing live plants and algae production in the fish tank is also a smart option.

For carnivores and omnivores, once a day or two times a day with smaller portions is enough.

Avoid Overfeeding the Fish

Feeding for 2-5 minutes seems like it isn’t enough but it is. Many fish will keep on eating if you keep feeding them. But this overfeeding results in a lot of problems.

Overfeeding can over pollute the fish tank. This pollution causes sickness in the fish. Many fish can die directly from overfeeding. Many become bloated and too heavy to swim, lying at the base of the tank, and developing swimming-related problems.

What Should You Feed Your Fish?

The most common fish food comes in four different types; each with its own benefits.

Dry Food:

Omega One Freshwater Flakes, 5.3 oz

Dry food is usually best for herbivore and omnivore fish, as it contains dried algae and plant matter that they need to stay healthy and grow.

It contains a wide variety of nutrients and supplements (like Vitamin B1, B2, and B6), providing an overall healthy diet for your fish.

Flake food is the type of dry food used for herbivore and omnivore fish. It contains a number of high protein ingredients like plankton, shrimp meal, and kelp.

Freeze-Dried:

Hikari Bio-Pure Freeze Dried Blood Worms for Pets, 0.42-Ounce

Planktons, brine shrimps, bloodworms and krill are some of the favorites of omnivore and carnivore fish. They can be freeze-dried. Meaning completely dehydrated but still keeping the complete nutritional value. They are easy to keep and have the longest shelf life after the dry fish feed.

Fresh:

Just like us, fish prefer fresh food. Small fishes, clams and shrimps can be fed to your fish in fresh condition. They are usually cut into small pieces to be fed and fish prefer them over frozen food, though fresh meat is sometimes frozen too, to keep longer.

Live Food:

Especially for newly hatched fish or fry, live food is the best option. Brine shrimps and blood worms are the most common live foods for fish in tanks. Live food is not just good for its fresh nutritional value; it also resonates with the fish’s natural instincts of hunting and finding food.

Final Thoughts

Though live and fresh food would be welcomed most by your fish, feeding your fish on only these two can get pretty expensive. They will also be missing out on certain important nutrients.

A good feeding plan for your fish can comprise of a balance of all these options.

A staple diet, consisting of dry food, either flake food available from the store or homemade, with small portions of freeze-dried food.

Fresh and Live food can be made into a once-a-week or twice-a-month treat for the fish.

With this, your fish will be getting all the necessary nutrients, as well as the food they love.