Different Types of Fish Food: Which one to Choose?

Fish come in different types, and so does their food. Branded or homemade, fish food is varied, complex, and specific to each species. 

You cannot make the most of these choices unless you understand each fish food type and know what’s best for your fish.  

So what are the different types of fish food?

Fish foods are broadly classified into processed foods (flakes, pellets, etc.), homemade fish food, frozen food (or freeze-dried), live food (a favorite of fish in their natural habitats), and micro fish food (like algae). 

In this blog, we’ll talk about the extensive types of fish food in detail and understand their role in maintaining the fish’s health and energy levels. 

Nutritional Classification of Fish

The fish species are broadly classified into four types based on their dietary habits. Each category has different nutritional requirements. 

  • Herbivorous Fish

Herbivore fish have a plant-based diet. Freshwater fish like plecos and otocinclus catfish, and saltwater fish like rabbitfish and parrotfish are considered herbivorous. These fish are bottom feeders and consume algae, aquatic plants, etc. Algae wafers are a great choice for processed fish food. 

  • Carnivorous Fish

Carnivore fish need a high-protein diet and are predators by nature. They eat aquatic insects, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, snails, brine shrimp, and other fish in the wild. Invertebrates are their favorite food. 

Betta fish, piranha, and cichlids are some examples of carnivore fish. You can feed them frozen or live fish food found in your local pet store. You can also provide them with home-cooked food to ensure a balanced diet. 

  • Omnivorous Fish

Most fish are omnivores and consume plant-based and animal-based foods. However, the dietary requirements of omnivore fish are based on their species and natural habitat. They need protein from animal matter as well as nutrients from plants. 

For example, guppies, Oscar fish, zebra danio, and goldfish are omnivores. You can feed them fish flakes, pellets, and frozen fish food bought from a fish store. Human food like vegetables and fruits is also beneficial for omnivorous fish.

  • Limnivore Fish

Limnivore fish are mud-eaters. They are also called bio-film grazers because the fish eat microorganisms, algae, and many other things found at the bottom of the habitat. You will find them eating almost all the time. 

The fish have a smaller stomach and a longer digestive tract. They enjoy pellets and algae wafers in aquariums.

Types of Fish Food to Feed Your Aquarium Fish

Types of Fish Food to Feed Your Aquarium Fish

Marine fish are used to having a varied diet in the wild. Some are predatory fish that consume smaller species, and some fish survive on aquatic plants, seaweed, algae, etc. Fish’s food requirements are as diverse as this world. 

A single type of fish food cannot satisfy the needs of a single species, nor can it be fed to every fish in your tank. 

You should be aware of the various types of fish foods, their ingredients, and how to choose the right one for your pet. That way, you can mix and match the food types to create a complete diet for your pet fish. 

  1. Processed Fish Food

Processed fish food is also known as commercial or manufactured food made in factories. Brands produce processed food for farmed and ornamental fish. Commercial fish food became famous for its convenience. 

Processed fish food has a long shelf life and is suitable for most fish. It is available in the following types: 

  • Fish Flakes (for midwater)

Fish flakes are the most common type of processed fish food. They are inexpensive and provide a portion of nutrients to your fish. However, flake food is suitable for feeding smaller fish that don’t need too much food and nutrients. 

Midwater fish gobble the flakes as they begin to sink into the aquarium water. For larger fish, flake foods are akin to a snack or treat. They need more substantial food to maintain a healthy diet. 

  • Fish Pellets and Sticks

Pellets and sticks are made from dried ingredients baked into different sizes and shapes. They are usually tiny in size for fish to easily catch in the aquarium. Fish pellets come in two types- floating pellets for top feeders and sinking pellets for bottom feeders. 

Fish pellets are considered dried foods and contain a decent amount of nutrients. They are made of fish meals, shrimp meals, added vitamins, minerals, spirulina, binding agents, and preservatives. Pellets are expensive compared to flaked foods but are less messy. 

  • Powdered Fish Food

Powered fish food is used to feed juvenile and young fish in hatcheries. The dry powder is mixed with aquarium water or directly fed to the fish. Many ornamental fish keepers don’t prefer fish food powder as it dirties the tank quickly. 

  • Color-Enhancing Fish Food

Processed fish food with color enhancers contains additives and synthetic ingredients to provide the necessary color to the fish. The aquaculture feed for salmon is supplemented with carotenoids to highlight the pinkish shade of the fish. 

Color enhancers are added to tropical fish food. It ensures that the fish retain their vibrant colors and look attractive in the aquarium. In their natural habitat, fish eat insects and plants to get all the nutrients that make them colorful. 

  • Fish Species-Based Food

Fish stores sell special fish food manufactured for your fish species. This type of processed fish food is expensive as it is produced and marketed only by some brands that claim to use high-quality ingredients. 

  • Medicated Fish Food

Medicated fish food should be used when your pet fish is sick or unhealthy. We recommend consulting a vet before using medicated fish food. Choosing the wrong kind can further affect your fish’s health and even lead to its death.

  • Fish Food for Vacations

Fish food manufacturers have come up with stick-on tablets and other types of fish food that are slowly released into the aquarium water. You can provide vacation food to your fish so that they can survive for a week or two in your absence. 

However, vacation fish food is not recommended for all types of fish. Consult your vet before making the final decision. It may be safer to install an automatic fish feeder to release food gradually into the fish tank. 

Common Ingredients Used in Processed Fish Food

Fish food is made using many ingredients. The list of ingredients used depends on the manufacturer and type of fish food. 

  • Fish Meal (protein, vitamin B12, and energy) 
  • Shrimp Meal (protein and natural laxative) 
  • Earthworms (carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals) 
  • Squid Meal (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and good cholesterol) 
  • Added Vitamins & Minerals (zinc, biotin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins B, C, and E, and manganese) 
  • Spirulina (beta carotene, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, and E) 
  • Fillers (binders like wheat, soy, food coloring, paprika, preservatives, and attractants)

Homemade Fish Food

Homemade fish food has gained popularity over the years. It is considered a cost-effective and nutritional option for some types of fish. Simply put, you prepare fish food at home using vegetables and animal meat. Homemade fish food is classified into the following types:  

  • Cooked Fish Food 

Ingredients like ghost shrimp, mysis shrimp, cod, whitefish, romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, cucumber, etc., are cooked until soft and blended into a smooth puree. Binding agents like gelatin or agar are added to the puree to hold shape. 

  • No-cook Food

As the name suggests, raw ingredients like shrimp, salmon, spinach, carrots, etc., are blended and mixed with binding agents. Wild-caught fish may enjoy no-cook homemade fish food as it tastes familiar. 

Cooked and uncooked homemade fish food is frozen in airtight containers. Though processed fish food has a longer shelf life, homemade foods can also last for up to twelve months when stored properly. 

2. Freeze-Dried or Frozen Fish Food

Frozen fish food is live food with moisture removed to increase its shelf life. Carnivorous and omnivorous fish love to consume freeze-dried food as much as they enjoy catching live fish in the wild. 

    Frozen foods retain most of the nutritional value and help provide a balanced diet for your pet fish. Freeze-drying the food removes harmful pathogens found in live fish foods. This makes it safer for consumption. Make sure to refreeze the leftovers. 

    • Frozen Worms

    Quite a few brands sell freeze-dried bloodworms as a part of betta fish and tropical fish diets. Frozen fish food is also suitable for cold water fish but make sure to read the label and instructions on the package. 

    • Plankton

    Plankton and seaweed are freeze-dried and sold for feeding fish that prefer an herbivorous diet. The aquatic plants are dehydrated at low temperatures to remove moisture. This allows them to retain the original cell structure and nutrients. 

    • Krill, etc

    Krill are tiny saltwater fish and a staple diet of many marine fish species. They are collected from the oceans and processed at very low temperatures before being packaged as frozen fish food.

    Live Fish Food

    3. Live Fish Food

    Live foods are the best source of nutrients for your fish as they are least likely to contain excessive fat or filler ingredients. Many fish enjoy fresh food compared to processed dry foods like tropical flakes, pellets, etc. 

      Even though feeding live food can make the tank messy, it is a good choice to include them once in a while (maybe closer to the aquarium cleaning date). Live fish food can be hard to find in some areas. You can grow them in hygienic conditions at home. 

      • Crustaceans

      Brine shrimp, river shrimp, krill, mysis shrimp, etc., are some tasty options for fresh food for your fish. Brine shrimp is safe as it doesn’t attract the diseases that commonly affect freshwater fish. 

      • Worms

      Bloodworms, earthworms, and black worms are some well-known live fish foods to feed your pet fish. White worms have excessive fat and should not be fed regularly. Bloodworms are a perfectly tasty meal for many fish species. 

      • Insects

      Water flies, fruit flies, daphnia, and aquatic insects are natural food for many fish species. However, you should feed your fish non-flying or short-winged flies at home. Store-bought crickets are good as special treats for large carnivores. 

      • Snails and Vertebrates

      Some species of catfish and pufferfish eat (water snails) and their eggs. Similarly, guppies and smaller fish are also food for large carnivores. However, such live foods should not be fed in regular fish tanks or aquariums.

      Human Food as Fish Food

      4. Human Food as Fish Food

      Many people wonder if human food works as fish feed. The answer is yes. Though you cannot feed them everything we eat, fish do benefit from certain types of vegetables, fruits, and greens. However, don’t replace fish food with human food. 

        • Vegetables

        Veggies have plant protein and natural pigmentation that can provide nutrients to fish without the risk of added additives. If you are worried about pesticides, switch to organic vegetables or soak, wash, and peel the veggies before feeding the fish.

        Cucumbers, carrots, shelled peas, broccoli (not suitable for all types of fish), sweet potatoes, etc., are some good options to include in your fish’s diet.

        • Fruits

        Melons, bananas, strawberries, apples, pears, grapes, mangoes, and raspberries have many vital vitamins and minerals that benefit fish. You don’t need to cook or steam fruits but make sure to thoroughly wash and cut them into tiny pieces for the fish to consume easily. 

        • Leafy Greens

        Spinach, romaine lettuce, and kale are common greens used for fish feeding. Wash and blanch the leaves to soften them. Make puree or chop into small pieces to feed your fish. Some fish don’t like leafy greens, so you may have to combine them with other food. 

        • Eggs and Meat

        Hard boiled egg yolk is a favorite for many fish. Fish keepers use it as an occasional food for fish fry and baby livebearers. Small fish, especially, love the taste of hard boiled egg yolk. However, it makes the water cloudy and should be fed in small portions. 

        Animal or farm meat is a big no for fish. Chicken, pork, beef, etc., contain too much fat and should be avoided. Mussels and prawns are also not recommended for your fish. Cod, salmon, whitefish, squid, and shrimp are better choices. 

        5. Micro Fish Food 

        Micro fish food is more suited for smaller fish and fish fry. These are easier to collect or culture at home (or farm) than buying from local fish stores. 

          • Algae 

          Your aquarium will naturally have algae if it has decorations at the bottom. Snails and some fish species like to feed on the algae that grow in the fish tank. They keep your aquarium clean too. 

          • Tiny Aquatic Plants

          Buy real aquatic plants for your fish tank. You’ll notice that your fish will slowly start to nibble the leaves (once they get used to the plants’ presence in their ecosystem). 

          • Microorganisms

          Rotifer eggs can be purchased from fish stores. Other microorganisms can be cultured at home and fed to your fish. However, some of these can be harmful. Talk to a vet before feeding microorganisms like infusoria, protists, etc., to your fish.

          Choose the Right Feed for Your Pet Fish

          How to Choose the Right Feed for Your Pet Fish?

          Even with commonly fed foods, you should make it a point to choose the right combination of dry and wet food, commercial and home-cooked, so that your fish can enjoy varied foods while getting all the nutrients necessary for their growth. 

          Fish Type and Age

          Is the fish carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore? Is it a bottom feeder or a midwater fish? The feed changes for each type of fish. Even with the same species, the age of your fish can affect its dietary requirements. Older fish need less food than young fish. 

          Product Label

          You will come across various processed fish foods when you walk down the food aisle. Read the ingredients label thoroughly. Fish food with excessive fillers, like wheat, potato starch, etc., should be avoided. 

          Size of Fish Food

          Fish tend to gobble up food in the aquarium. They can choke on bigger pieces of food or suffer from digestive issues. The size of fish food should be proportional to the size of their mouth. As a rule of thumb, go for teeny-sized fish food. 

          Aquarium Ecosystem

          What types of fish do you have in the same aquarium? What are their feeding habits and preferences? Have you replicated their natural habitats in the fish tank? These questions play a role in choosing the types of fish food for your pets. 

          Aggressive fish like to hunt for their food and have to be kept in separate tanks. You can provide them with more live foods without worrying about other fish being harmed in the process. 

          Health Issues

          If your fish have any health concerns, you need to take special care about their diet. Ask the vet to recommend foods and follow the instructions without fail.

          Aquarium Ecosystem


          Fish food is available in different types and flavors. You can buy processed fish food or make it at home using quality ingredients. The types of fish food depend on the species and natural nutritional requirements of your fish. 

          Read about your fish type and its dietary preferences before finalizing its food. Fish enjoy variety, so make sure to add a combination of suitable foods to their diet chart. 


          Which fish food is best?

          The best fish food depends on its type and species. It is highly case-sensitive. What suits a freshwater fish is not the best for a saltwater fish and vice versa. Fish breeders prefer live food as it is closest to what fish find in the wild.

          What happens when one species eats another’s food?

          The foods of some species overlap and can be consumed by different types of fish. There shouldn’t be any adverse effects if a fish eats food specific for another species. However, regularly feeding it wrong or unsuitable food can lead to health issues. 

           How long can fish survive without food?

          Most fish can survive for a week or two without food. However, they need clean water and a hygienic environment to stay healthy without food for prolonged periods. Starving fish will become weak and be more prone to diseases.

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