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Updated September 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best fish food

If you’ve ever purchased fish food, you know that there are numerous options available. This can make the search for the best diet for your aquatic pets a bit challenging. However, understanding your fish’s nutrient requirements and having information about fish food will allow you to make an informed decision.

The best fish food depends on the type of fish you own, but this isn’t the only consideration when choosing food to sprinkle into your tank. The form of the food, nutrients, and amount you feed to your finned friends makes a difference when it comes to having healthy fish and an aquarium where they can grow and thrive.

BestReviews understands that people who love their fish want to feed them quality food. Our buying guide and fish food recommendations will put you on the right track to providing optimal nutrition for your beloved water dwellers.

a hand feeding the fishes
Consider the size of your fishes’ mouths before you choose fish food. While small fish can’t eat large pieces of food, larger fish enjoy grabbing bigger bites at mealtimes.

How to buy the best fish food

Dietary needs of your fish

Any aquarium hobbyist knows that there are thousands of types of fish available that can be kept as pets. What’s more, the nutritional requirements vary from species to species. Doing a little research about a specific fish’s dietary needs is a good starting point before you buy fish food.

Protein is vital to fish development, and quality fish food indicates the protein level on the packaging. On average, most fish foods contain between 35% and 55% protein. Pet fish fall into one of three categories — herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore. Carnivorous fish require the highest amounts of protein. Additionally, fish food with higher protein levels is important for young fish that are still developing.

Protein in fish food is sourced from shrimp, fish, and other marine life. Some fish foods contain plant-based protein derived from kelp or algae and are best for herbivorous fish. In addition to protein, fish food contains minerals, fats, vitamins, and other nutrients that fish require for healthy lives.

Number of fish you’ll be feeding

Whether you have one goldfish in a bowl or a school of tropical fish in a huge aquarium, fish food comes in various quantities to match your fish-feeding needs. This includes small and large canisters, jars, boxes, and packets made for feeding single to numerous fish.

Shelf life

Just like human food, most quality fish food has a shelf life date on the packaging. However, the vitamins that fish food is formulated with can lose their potency over time once a package has been opened. Therefore, if you don’t use opened food within six months, throw it out and start with a new package in order to provide optimal nutrition for your fish.

a hand feeding the fishes
DID YOU KNOW?
Fish food often has a fishy smell. However, if a package of food develops a strong, offensive odor, it’s time to discard it and buy new fish food.
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Features of fish food

Forms of fish food

Fish food comes in several forms. Keep in mind that fish are either surface, mid-level, or bottom-feeders. Lightweight forms of food that float on the surface of the water are best for surface-feeders but work well for all types of fish. However, heavier fish food that sinks is made for bottom-feeders.

Flakes: When you think of fish food, there’s a good chance that flakes come to mind. Arguably the most popular type of dried fish food, flakes are also affordable and easy to feed. They come in different varieties and are suitable for most types of fish. Because flakes are lightweight and don’t sink to the bottom of a tank quickly, they’re a good choice for surface and mid-level feeders. Crisps are a variation of flakes that are also suitable for fish that feed near the top and middle of a tank. However, they’re bigger than standard flakes and can be fed to larger species.

Pellets: Pelletized fish food is also a popular form. Rich in nutrients, pellets are a great choice for most types of fish. Because they sink to the bottom fairly quickly, bottom feeders and fish that dive for their food enjoy pellets.

Wafers: Because wafers sink quickly but dissolve slowly, they’re a good source of food for bottom-feeders. Chips are a similar form of food but are typically flat, thin, and easy for fish of various sizes to bite off pieces to consume.

Tablets: This unique type of fish food is designed to stick to the sides or bottom of a fish tank. This feature makes them suitable for almost any type of fish.

Freeze-dried: Freeze-dried food such as krill, shrimp, and bloodworms is intended to supplement other diets. It’s a good choice for larger carnivorous fish and isn't best for surface feeders.

Frozen: Similar to freeze-dried food, frozen food is also suitable for supplementing the diet of carnivorous fish. It typically comes in cubes and is a good choice as a treat for bottom feeders.

Sticks: Although not a common type of fish food, sticks are made to float. They’re larger than flakes and are best for medium or large fish that feed from the water’s surface.

Time-released blocks: This slow-dissolving food is made to be placed at the bottom of a tank and provides nutrients for fish when their owners can’t be at home to feed them. However, it’s best for bottom feeders. A time-released block may last for up to a week.

Live: Live fish food is typically served as an occasional treat for large, carnivorous species. Shrimp, daphnia, and various types of aquatic worms are common in this form and can be found in the aquarium section at some pet stores.

Versatile vs. species-specific

While fish food varieties such as those labeled tropical fish food are suitable to feed to numerous species of fish, some fish food is species-specific. For example, you’ll find a selection of fish food that’s formulated especially for goldfish, tetras, cichlids, koi, and more, which are made to meet the exact nutritional needs of a specific type of fish.

Packaging

Fish food comes in canisters, jars, boxes, and packets. Canisters and jars are the most common types of packaging and have lids that either snap securely in place or screw on tightly. Look for types of packaging that have closures to lock out air to maintain the freshness of the food.

Because freshness is vital when it comes to fish food, always close the package securely after feedings.

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Accessories to pair with fish food

Fish tank

Whether you’re setting up a new aquarium or want to update your current setup, you’ll need a quality fish tank. You can choose from a large selection of sizes to fit your pet fishes’ needs and your living space. Some tanks even come with essential accessories such as a pump, filter, and light so you won’t need to purchase extra items.

Aquarium gravel

Not only does aquarium gravel promote a healthy fish tank environment, it gives the aquascape an attractive appearance. It’s available in different shapes, colors, and sizes to match your aquarium decor.

Aquarium plants

Aquarium plants complete the look of your aquarium while providing areas for your fish to hide. Depending on your preference, you can choose from live and artificial plants that look great in your tank.

How much does fish food cost?

Inexpensive

Most flakes, pellets, wafers, and other forms of dried fish food are quite affordable. Some time-released feeding blocks and freeze-dried options such as small amounts of blood worms are also inexpensive. You’ll pay between $2 and $10 for canisters and packets containing up to seven ounces of food.

Mid-range

For $10 to $17, you’ll find a large variety of quality freeze-dried fish foods in various package sizes. Larger packages of dried food containing eight ounces or more also fall into this price range.

Expensive

Live and frozen foods that are suitable for large carnivorous fish are the most costly options. Freeze-dried foods such as plankton, krill, and shrimp can also be pricey. Small packages cost $18 and up, with large quantities costing as much as $100 or more for several pounds of food.

a man feeding the fishes
DID YOU KNOW?
If you notice food floating on the top of the water in your tank, you’re overfeeding your fish. Cutting back a bit on the amount you provide will improve your fish’s life as well as the quality of its watery environment.
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Tips

  • Research the types of fish you have in your aquarium. This will help you choose the best fish food for their needs.
  • Read the packaging. The labels of fish food have important information such as the types of fish it’s intended for, nutrient contents, and feeding recommendations.
  • Monitor the water in your tank. Some signs that you’re feeding your fish too much are cloudy water and changes in the water’s nitrate levels or pH balance.
  • Look at the substrate. If fish food is accumulating among the gravel, stones, or sand at the bottom of your tank, you may be overfeeding your fish.
  • Check your filters. Another sign that you’re feeding your fish too much is clogged filters.
  • Pay attention to the color of fish food. If it begins to look discolored, chances are it’s lost some of its nutritional value and should be replaced with new food.
a boy feeding the fishes
Allowing kids to help when it’s time to feed fish is a fun way to teach them about caring for pets.

FAQ

Q. How often should I feed my fish?

A. Once a day is adequate for most fish. However, if you choose to feed your fish twice a day, don’t overfeed. Consider the recommended daily amount and divide it into half. Give half portion to your pet fish once in the morning and once in the evening.

Q. How much fish food should I give my fish at each feeding?

A. As a general rule, only feed your fish an amount they’ll eat in five minutes. Otherwise, food that remains in the tank will cloud the water and affect oxygen, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, and pH levels.

Q. What will happen to my fish if I overfeed them?

A. Fish that consume too much food can become overweight. The extra weight results in lethargy and may even cause your fish to have difficulty swimming. For the health of your fish, it’s best to feed only as much as is recommended.

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