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FAQs on Foods/Feeding/Nutrition, Amounts

Related Articles: Foods/Feeding/Nutrition By Bob Fenner & Marine Nutrition, Probably the most overlooked component of proper fish keeping By Aaron Loboda, Feeding a Reef Tank: A Progressive Recipe by Adam Blundell, Making Vegetarian Gel Food for Fish: Five Minutes, Five Easy Steps by Nicole Putnam, Culturing Food Organisms

Related FAQs: Foods/Feeding/Nutrition 1, Foods/Feeding/Nutrition 2, Foods/Feeding/Nutrition 3Foods/Feeding/Nutrition 4, Foods/Feeding/Nutrition 5, Foods/Feeding/Nutrition 6, & FAQs on Foods/Feeding/Nutrition: Kinds, Frequency, Feeding Methods/Techniques/Tools, Automated Feeding, Holiday/Vacation Feeding, Medicated/Augmented Foods/Feeding, Feeding/Food Problems, Products by Brand Names/Manufacturers... & Brine ShrimpAlgae as Food, VitaminsNutritional DiseaseFrozen Foods, Coral Feeding, Anemone Feeding, Growing Reef CoralsCulturing Food OrganismsButterflyfish Foods/Feeding/Nutrition

Again... some animals in the wild are out and about grazing during all night/day hours... other, predaceous types may only ingest a food item every few days to weeks... to in some cases (e.g. sharks) months.
Overfeeding is dangerous... shortening lifespans, polluting systems...  

Hi Bob, 

I've got a question on feeding. Is it best to go with guidelines offered in books and on the web on how much/how often to feed my fish, or is it better to use my own judgment? Whenever I feed my fish they are voracious, but part of me thinks that even if I fed them 20 times a day they would still behave the same. Is there a way to tell if a fish is sated? In fact, so long as I pay attention to my water quality, does it matter how much they eat



You've posited one of the 'great questions of all time' Martin'¦ It is my opinion that you, all should 'do a combination' here, of blending knowledge regarding the types of foods, frequency, mode of offering'¦ to all their aquatic charges, COUPLED with keen observation. It turns out that some fishes and invertebrates can, will, do overeat if and when food/s are plentiful. This gluttony should be guarded against; not only for the sake of the livestock itself, but for obvious system maintenance considerations.

          The very best assay, observation for satiation, health through feeding, or better put, nitrification, is the 'index of fitness' of your fishes'¦ Their 'fullness', and actually a fisheries biology measure'¦ a ratio of the length and circumference. Your fishes should be 'rounded', convex in profile, rather than concave, or 'sunken in' in the sides. In particular, the area above and behind the head should not be thin.

            Overfeeding livestock has more to do w/ keeping an eye on water quality. It turns out, akin to studies on laboratory mice and other species, keeping all a bit hungry, eager for food extends life times and improves apparent health. Better to feed most all small amounts at whatever interval (straight carnivores maybe once every few days, herbivores a few times a day, mixotrophic species in-between'¦) and have your entire system more active and interesting.

Feeding amount... SW     07/20/09
What is the proper amount of shrimp/clam/squid...etc to feed a 7-8" Spanish hogfish and 6-7" dogface puffer? My nitrates seem to be climbing and i think I'm overfeeding my fish.
<Better to feed a staple like Spectrum pelleted food daily and supplement such fatty foods on an every other or occasional basis... but the "amounts" of both are best arrived at by the apparent "fullness" of the fish
themselves... and best, better by far, to keep all a bit hungry. Bob Fenner>

Spartan feeding, Spartan 12/19/08 I have seen the term Spartan feeding, and Spartan a few times on Wet Web Media, but I can find no description of what it is. Can you please provide me with a definition? <Ah, yes... the word as an adjective: http://www.allwords.com/word-spartan.html Frugal, austere...> Thank you for the fantastic website and information contained within it, Jeffrey Castaldo <Welcome. BobF>

Re: Spartan feeding, Spartan 12/19/08 You know Bob, this is what I thought (after I clicked send). I'm sure it is based upon Spartan warriors and their frugal meals prior to long marches, battles, etc. Thank you for clarifying. Best regards, Jeffrey <A pleasure Jeffrey. BobF>

Feeding Guidelines   10/2/06 You guys have been a true help for the beginner.  Everywhere I go I've tried 3 LFS's and all have differing opinions so I once again come to you guys for a more definitive answer. <Glad to hear that! Scott F. here tonight!> I've searched the website for rough guidelines on how much food is enough for fishes.  I'm afraid I've been overfeeding.  I have a 30 gallon tank, 300 BioWheel power filter, Prism Protein skimmer, and a power compact light: Inhabitants 2 False Perculas (about 1") each 1 Flame Angel (2") 1 Green Chromis (1") soon to be going back to the fish store due to concerns of overstocking 2 Fire shrimp (2") 2 Peppermint shrimp (3/4") 1 Skunk Cleaner (3/4") 12-16 snails (top and Astrea) 1 small Open Brain 1 Fungia Plate Coral 1 Bubble Coral Various polyps, Zoanthids, and other soft corals and Frogspawn <A caution here- this is a pretty serious combination of noxious corals in a pretty confined space. Allelopathic issues will emerge, so be prepared to move some of these corals in due time.> I've been giving the fish a pinch of flake food (Formula 1) twice a day they eat all of it within a few minutes except for various pieces that float to the bottom that are dispatched by my shrimp.  I also feed pieces of frozen silverside (finely minced to less that 1/4", I have been reading your site) to my Open Brain, Bubble Coral, and Plate Coral 3-5 times a week.  I also feed the larger fire shrimp pieces of this fish at the same time. <Good that everyone is getting their fair share.> I also dose with a mixture of DT's phytoplankton with Cyclop-eeze every other day (1 pump).  Just typing this all out makes me realize it's too much huh? <Not in my opinion, actually. As long as the food is being consumed, this is not too much of a problem. Keep up regular water changes and stay at basic husbandry, and you can feed in good quantities.> I know from some of your other answers there are many factors on how much food to feed them but I'm just looking for some general guidelines. <To be honest, I think that you're doing fine. Better to keep you animals well fed, IMO. Too many of us tend to underfeed our animals in an attempt to keep our systems "nutrient poor." As long as you are doing frequent water changes, using chemical filtration media (i.e.; activated carbon or Poly Filter), and observing common sense husbandry rules, you should be fine.> On a completely different topic I have a 750 gpm powerhead in the upper corner of my tank to agitate the surface and provide oxygenation and some current to my tank. Is this necessary, or should I move it too the bottom and provide more circulation and less aeration? I like the idea of agitating the surface.> My fish and I thank you in advance. Paul <Glad to be of service! Regards, Scott F.> Topic 2 Overfeeding   4/11/07 I recently had an outbreak of Cyanobacteria in my 125 gallon tank. This was resolved by changing my RO/DI filters and phosphate reactor media. My nitrates were undetectable but I suspected that the undetectable phosphates were due to an old test kit. Anyway, despite the numerous references to overfeeding in the algae control FAQ's, I have never really seen a good approximation of the dietary requirements of fish. <You can very likely appreciate the difficulty of such a description... with variable quality foods... conditions... even simple temperature as a factor...> For instance, it seems like a 5 inch tang (any species) would eat a similar amount of food as any other 5 inch tang. <Mmm, okay...> Why aren't there recommended serving sizes for fish food? <Lack of valid information perhaps... More likely the apparent lack of heed it would generate... the "bio assay" of folks feeding, watching their livestock for "fullness" of appearance, behavior of satiation are likely the most important...> I assume that I probably overfeed but am not really sure. I feed twice a day and all food is rapidly consumed. My setup is as follows: 125 gallon display with 4-5 inch DSB 150+ lbs LR 20 gallon sump/refugium  5" crushed coral substrate and grape Caulerpa in refugium compartment 125 gallon refugium with 5" DSB, 75 lbs LR, Chaetomorpha reverse daylight ASM G3 skimmer in sump- empty 2x week AquaC Remora Pro w/ prefilter on big refugium- empty 1x week Mag7 return from refugium Tunze Wavebox in display <Sounds very nice> Livestock (overstocked I know-planning upgrade to 210g) Fish Scribbled rabbitfish 7" Purple tang 5" Hippo tang 5" Yellow mimic tang 4" Green chromis(5) 3" Yellow "Coris" wrasse 3" Canary blenny 3" Percula clown pair 3" & 4" Cherub pygmy angel 3" Firefish 4" Redheaded gobies(2) 2" Neon goby 2" Okinawa goby 2" High fin goby 3" Invertebrates White striped cleaner shrimp pair (Both always carry eggs) Scarlet cleaner shrimp pair Pistol shrimp Various snails, a few hermit crabs and one small emerald crab I feed 2 cubes of mysis and 1/6 sheet of Nori (big sheet from Asian food store) in AM, 1 cube of mysis and additional 1/6 sheet Nori in PM. I also substitute 1/10 of a block (the long bar type package) of Cyclop-Eeze instead of mysis and target feed corals 2-3 times/week. I think my big refugium minimizes the effects of the overfeeding, <Yes... to a large degree> but any recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks <I'd be upgrading to that 210... soon/er. Perhaps using a chemical filtrant (e.g. a unit of Chemipure) periodically... let's say, once a month. Considering adding an ozonizer ahead of getting a calcium reactor (which I would also use) for the new system. Bob Fenner>

Feeding and stocking questions 2/2/04  Have a few questions for you. I have a 105 gal. reef tank with the following 14 fish: Kole tang, yellow tang, hippo  tang, (3)antheis, cardinal, Clarkii clown, golden head goby, scissor tail goby, (2) green Chromis, yellow tail damsel, bi-color Pseudo, (2) cleaner shrimp, (2) peppermint shrimp and a fire shrimp. I feed them only once a day in the evening with 3 frozen cubes mixing them up daily with different food types and also throw in some dry food a few times a week. Most of my fish are medium in size. My question: Am I feeding them enough food? and is once a day enough? My fish buddies think I should feed them twice a day using 2 cubes at each feeding. I am starting to feel bad for my fish; I am beginning to think I am not feeding them enough and not frequent enough. What would you suggest?  <Two small feedings a day is probably better than one large on, but once a day is fine for most fish. The exception is certain highly active fish that only feed from the water column like Anthias, which do much better on multiple feedings, but even hardier Anthias like P. squamipinnis can get by on one. The ultimate judge of weather your feedings are adequate is how the fish look. If they aren't getting thin (look head on particularly along the back and the head just in front of the eyes), they are fine.>  Also, I would like to get a few more (colorful) fish for the tank. However, each time I visit a fish store, they tell me I have capped out my supply of more fish because anything left is either not reef safe or not compatible with my other fish. Any suggestions of what I can buy that has color and compatibility? I want a fairy wrasse, would this be okay? Some tell me the dwarf red angel would be okay, what do you  think in a reef tank?  <From that list, you have certainly indulged your addiction! With aggressive feeders like tangs and clowns, you will have to be careful that some of the other fish are getting their share of the food, particularly the cardinal and Anthias. Fairy wrasses are notoriously shy and would probably starve or rarely be seen in your tank if it wasn't outright beat to death. There are certainly plenty of other fish you could add, but I wouldn't recommend doing so in addition to your current fish. If you find other fish you really like, please consider giving up some of you current ones, paying special attention to choose fish that will hold their own at feeding time.> Thanks!!!!!!!! Rob <Best regards. Adam>

Overfeeding Results  Hi, <Hello, Ryan with you>  I have a 55 gal, hang on refugium, AquaC remora skimmer, Penguin 330 filter, LR, Sal 22.5, Nitrates 5, Nitrites .05, DKH 9, PH 8.3 with 2 gobies, 2 dragonets, 2 damsels, 1 filefish, 2 green Chromis, many crabs, a few margarita snails. I did have a problem with Cyano, but I am fighting it. I feed them two cubes a day, 1 brine shrimp with Spirulina, and one marine cuisine. <You could certainly benefit from a day off every week- There is no reason to have nitrites in your marine system.>  Anyways, I noted the fish (especially the gobies) either hid, or went near the top in the morning when the lights first came on, they also are scraping themselves against the gravel and rocks often. <Are they recent additions?> I also noted that if I turn off the flow from the Penguin 330 that everyone is much happier. <Perhaps for a moment- but turning the filters off isn't a great idea. You're lowering the levels of dissolved oxygen in your system, and therefore increasing the stress on your livestock.> It is clean.<OK> Apparently, the return water is churning up something. I am assuming that I have a major copepod problem. <Never heard of a problem with these guys- what leads you to this conclusion?> I originally started the refugium to create the beasties for the dragonets, but I think it worked to well. <A population is only as strong as it's food source. Cut back on the feeding, you'll cut back on the population.> As long as I keep the penguin filter off, it seems to help, but I can't since it has the BioWheels. The fish definitely come out of hiding when I turn it off.  Not that it is important, but the skimmer is really kicking out some produce lately. <It should produce always.>  Do you think my ideas are correct? If so, how do I balance out the problem? <I think you need to do a little more research about copepods in aquaria- and feed a little lighter. I hope I helped a bit, Ryan>

Feeding The Fallow Tank... Scott, thanks for the info.  One more question.  When I let the tank run fallow, what and how often do I feed the inverts in the tank? <I would continue your "normal" feeding schedule> I have a brittle star, sand sifter star, various hermits, cleaner and peppermint shrimp, sally lightfoot, colt, green star polyp and polyp rock.  Should I just add the phytoplankton? <As above- I'd feed the same foods/quantities to the inverts tat you were doing previously> I know the critters have been scavenging when I feed the fish, so should I continue to feed small amounts? <Yep...I'd try to "target" the feedings to the "cleanup crew"; as always, try to eliminate the possibility of excess food from hanging around the tank! Don't forget to carry out all regularly scheduled maintenance activities (water changes, media replacement, etc) during the "fallow" period> Thank you for your assistance, YET AGAIN!!!! Scott <My pleasure! Hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

Feeding (amounts, types, marine) Dear Mr. Fenner, <Steven Pro in this morning.> I have a simple question, I think, but it continues to plague me every time I think about it. <Ok> I have an 80 gallon, marine, fish only setup with a 20 gallon wet/dry filter/sump underneath. I have plenty of live rock and territory for the fish that I keep. I currently have a lion, an angelfish, two triggers, two tangs, and one damsel. My question, is everywhere I read on your website, you consistently state that overfeeding is a mistake that most fish keepers make. How much is enough? <There is no way to tell you something like a half teaspoon per day. Merely watch the fish and the food. If you see it getting sucked up into the filters, or falling to the ground, or the fish seem lazy in going after it, those are all signs of giving them too much.> How much is too much? I consistently vary their diet, which includes, frozen, flake, pellet, spinach, <I would switch from the spinach to Nori/Seaweed Selects. The terrestrial plants are not digestible, plus they are usually loaded with nitrates and phosphates to fuel nuisance algae.> and live feeders. <I would also get rid of the feeders. I have trained Lionfish, Groupers, Triggers, and others to eat prepared frozen formula foods.> Thank you for your advice, Mike B. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Feeding <<Hello, JasonC here.>> Bob, my clownfish seems to have a big belly especially after he eats. <<So do I... ;-) >> What can I look for to see if this is an internal problem? <<Nothing comes to mind short of an x-ray.>> He is an aggressive eater and goes nuts when I get close to the tank for feeding time. My Yellow Tang is about 4" long and he grazes all day off of LR and eats the food I give him. It seems that I can see his ribs. All of the stuff that he consumes in a day he should be fat. <<Fat fish aren't really what you are after... and in the tangs, a little rib showing is somewhat normal. Tangs typical expend a lot of energy scooting around all day.>> I mix the food up for him a little bit. <<A good plan.>> When I feed I will add some green veggie stuff( I forgot what it is called) one day then the next day add Omega One and then the next day add Mysis Shrimp. I alternate the food to give some balance, I try to spoil them. <<Well the balance part is good, spoiling is not. Quite likely you are already feeding more that they would ever see in a day in the wild.>> Is it normal for him to look this way? Am I not feeding him enough? What can I do? I don't want to overfeed and cause ammonia problems. <<Or other problems. No worries. Perhaps don't feed so much - once a day is usually plenty for the fish you list, and obviously the Tang is finding other things to eat.>> Thanks <<Cheers, J -- >>

Overfeeding You have a very informational site. I have spent hours on it. I've seen many references to "overfeeding" yet, I am not sure I have full understanding of what constitutes "overfeeding."  <Need fully subjective... any more than simple maintenance, minimal growth is overfeeding... poor nutrition from inappropriate foods, pollution from unpalatable ones as well...> I believe I have a lot of organics in my 55 gallon tank due to what I consider to be excessive algae growth on glass and rocks. 2 days ago obtained a remora skimmer to deal with excess organics. Before this addition I had a very small air driven "inside the tank" skimmer. New skimmer has been running two days and is returning lots of material.  But, I still have lots of algae returning on glass. Also have some red slimy over coating algae on my rocks. Think is because of my organics load. <This all takes time... the vast majority of algae and Cyanobacteria is water... and there are rapid rates of "recycling" of nutrients by these life forms... removal of rate limiting organics by skimming, chemical filtrants, biological means... all take time> Hopefully the skimmer will help me. But, how much food is too much? Give a little dry food in am and in evening supplemented with brine shrimp cube about every other day. <Best to measure as you've done... by test kits... and attack nutrient availability and pest algae on all fronts... chemical, biological, predation, competition...> Just recently put some snails and a few sea urchins in and they ARE cleaning the rockwork. However, the red stuff comes back pretty quickly. Even when blown off. Have no other symptoms and all animals do well and eat well. Have about 25lbs of live Fiji rock and the following: Smart light fluorescents HO on about 12 hours a day. small yellow tang clown long tentacle for clown 3 Condylactis cleaner shrimp scooter blenny large hermit, probably 21/2 inches across 2 blue damsels striped damsel 1 brain coral 1 rock with yellow polyps a leather coral a clam. Penguin filter system with 2 bio cartridges, 2 containers for carbon and two mechanical pads 2 powerheads at opposite sides blowing in criss cross direction. Have spent tons of money on this thing and while it is running OK, I think I'd like to see the algae disappear. This isn't the "turgid" kind of red algae", more like an over coating in certain places. Change 10 of water about every week. Don't measure Nitrate. Ammonia and Nitrite, OK. I await your scary verdict. (Overall, most people would think the tank looks just great, so I don't want to give you the idea the thing is trashed. Far from it.) Tank is about 8 months old in MY possession, having been given it from my parents who used it for a couple of years. I transferred it to my home intact. >> <Understand... do look into the use of macroalgae species (principally of the genera Caulerpa and Halimeda) as primary competitors for light, nutrients... Bob Fenner>

Feeding fish I have a 55 gallon cube tank with 7 fish. They include a Niger Trigger (about 3 inches long), a Pacific Sailfin Tang (about 3 inches long), a Bursa Trigger (small), a Dragon goby, a Lawnmower blenny (about 3 inches long), a Valentini Puffer, and a small Scooter blenny. I have been feeding them 2 cubes of frozen food in the morning and 2 cubes in the evening ( the larger size cubes) and sometimes some flake food. I feel after reading your articles that I am overfeeding but when I try to cut back, the fish start fighting with each other and become very disagreeable. However, my water looked better when I cut back. What should I do? Exactly how much should I be feeding??  <Hmm, this is too much in the way of incompatible livestock in too small a system... the lower living fishes will lose out food-wise to the upper, more aggressive ones... and ultimately be consumed by them... You need to choose between an "easy-going" system or a "predator" type one... and likely if the latter, plan on a larger system...> Also, my Valentini Puffer's beak is growing too long. What can I do for her?? <Periodically feed a small, complete shellfish (small, opened)... the Puffer will trim its own teeth. Bob Fenner> THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR HELP!!!!!!! Sandy

Re: Feeding fish (that are not compatible in the same system) I have a 55 gallon cube tank with 7 fish. They include a Niger Trigger (about 3 inches long), a Pacific Sailfin Tang (about 3 inches long), a Bursa Trigger (small), a Dragon goby, a Lawnmower blenny (about 3 inches long), a Valentini Puffer, and a small Scooter blenny. I have been feeding them 2 cubes of frozen food in the morning and 2 cubes in the evening ( the larger size cubes) and sometimes some flake food. I feel after reading your articles that I am overfeeding but when I try to cut back, the fish start fighting with each other and become very disagreeable.  <Yes... a disagreeable mix of species unfortunately> However, my water looked better when I cut back. What should I do? Exactly how much should I be feeding?? Also, my Valentini Puffer's beak is growing too long. What can I do for her?? THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR HELP!!!!!!! Sandy <Hmm, a good idea here to take a few steps back... and reconsider your stocking plan... the types of life you are trying to keep really are difficult to keep together in such a tank as yours... You have some very aggressive feeders that are very capable of outcompeting the smaller, slower bottom dwelling species... and consuming them as time goes on... I would likely trade in either the easier-going ones and/or invest in a larger system to move the "go-getters"... beefing up the filtration and circulation in the new system, and curtailing feedings to twice a day. Bob Fenner>

Can you feed fish too much? Hey Bob, Without effecting water quality of course... can we feed our fish too much? <Yes, with most species, cases> That is.... if a fish gets a little chubby it that bad? <Yes... hard on their metabolisms, organs... same as humans... shortens lifespans... a matter of science> This is the Naso story continued... a guy here is part of the Montreal aquatics society... He has been into FRESH water for 24 years... not salt.. but seems to know a lot.. Plants is his specialty.... <Much crossover knowledge, technique, mentality...> Anyway... his opinion is a chubby fish is not good ..... what do you think? <He's right> I had been feeding my fish about 5 times a day.... really tiny amounts.... really just hoping for Naso to get some. the water quality has remained perfect..... my regime is really a lot of work.... I don't like adding chemicals once every week or two... I prefer to add tiny bits EVERYDAY ( given compatibility of course) as apposed to shocking the residence with big doses..... DOH!!! back to the topic..... chubby fish :) Any opinion on the subject? Regards, Robert <Chubby is out, "fit" is in. Bob Fenner>

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