Do Tropical Aquarium Fish Know When It's Feeding Time

By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise

Do Tropical Aquarium Fish Know When It's Feeding Time

My fish seems to know when it’s feeding time and will start gathering near the top of the tank, more so if I’m running late, though I’m not sure if they do this by association (knowing I’m the food person) or they perceive hunger the same way we do.

In all honesty, I believe they know this by association because they will come up anytime I hold food low enough in the water, even when it’s not their scheduled time to eat.

My finnies also seem to be looking for food all the time, more so my cories and plecos. They will endlessly scale the length of my substrate, nibbling on god knows what from the floor.

I’ve also heard from other fish owners that I should not leave too much food in the tank to keep my finnies from overfeeding (and water pristine). They will eat as long as a meal is available.

So, I essentially believe tropical aquarium fish know when it’s time to feed but not so much when they are hungry (or not).

Do Fish Know When They are Hungry

Fish are perhaps not a dumb as we like to think. That idiom about a goldfish memory is at best bizarre and far-fetched.

However, finnies are not smart enough to know when they are hungry because if they did, they would not continue eating anytime you add food in the tank.

It’s probably the reason why many fish keepers have a challenge knowing how often and how much to feed their fish.

I’ve also heard the story of a child overfeeding their pet goldfish to death more than enough times to know our adorable finnies can’t tell when hungry like dogs, cats, and humans do.

As such, the best way to make sure your fish have enough (but not excess) is to create a feeding schedule with a varied diet. Flake and pellets make a good staple for most fish, though algae wafers are best for herbivorous finnies.

Live and freeze-dried foods should only be fed as occasional treats.

How Do You Know You are Feeding Your Fish Enough

The fish in your tank will eat as much as you put in the fish tank and won’t stop just because they are satisfied. So, the only way to be sure you are feeding them enough is to observe them and create a feeding schedule that best fits their eating habits.

But how do you know what is enough and what’s not?

Well, feed your fish small food portions, increasing them over time to a point where you start to notice them leave uneaten food behind for a while before coming for a second serving.

Most times, the portion should be just enough for your fish to finish in 3 to 5 minutes.

However, some aquarium fish, such as Oscars, are hungry piggies and could devour a pretty large amount in 3 to 5 minutes.

As such, consider their eating in terms of how much they consume until they are disinterested and not how long or fast they eat the food you offer them.

Can Your Feed Tropical Fish Too Much

Yes, it is possible to feed your tropical fish too much.

It’s actually more common than you think, and quite a number of fish die from accidental overfeed in captivity.

Children pouring more than enough food in the tank is more common than adults overfeeding their fish, but even experience owners at times offer their fish more food than they need or feed them at so many intervals.

Usually, too much food in the tank would not be a problem if fish knew to stop feeding when there is enough in the tank, but they don’t.

If they did, the only challenge would be making sure you keep the water quality safe by cleaning off uneaten food.

Now, if you think you’ve overfed your fish, promptly remove the leftovers using a siphon or aquarium net and perform a 15 to 20 percent water change.

You’ll also want to starve your fish for several days, then start them off on fibrous foods like pre-boiled peas before moving back to their staple.

The pea diet (and other fibrous foods) help your fish recover from bloating and constipation that may result from overfeeding, more so from dry food.

Will Fish Stop Eating When They are Full

Since fish can’t quite tell when they are full (satisfied), they will probably keep eating as long as there is food available in the tank. Leftover may be more, but you’ll notice them nibble on scraps every once in a while.

So, it’s upon you to determine what is enough for your fish and to remove any leftovers to keep your water pristine and save your fish from stomach ailments, bloating, and constipation.

If you think your finnies have overfed, stop feeding them for a few days and offer them deshelled peas to help ease the bloating and constipation.

Only feed your finnies frozen-organic peas with no additives, and remember to pre-boil before placing them in your fish tank.

Do Tropical Fish Need to Be Fed Everyday

Feeding your fish every day only what is enough is recommended, but even if you fail to offer them any for a day or two, most tropical species will survive.

You do not need to worry if you have a one or two-day trip, just place just what you would offer them usually before you leave and as soon as you get back.

As well, remember to clean your fish tank and perform a water change immediately you get back (preferably before offering your fish more food) to remove leftovers that would otherwise cause water quality issues.

How Long Can Fish Be Left Without Feeding

Fish are hardy pets and can go for a lengthy period without food. Most tropical species will last up to a week, though starving them for not more than five days is best.

You are perhaps wondering why anyone would starve a fish on purpose.

Well, it turns out you may need to travel and do not have someone to feed your fish, or you need to help save a bloated finny in your tank, and the only option is to starve them.

Of course, while going on vacation, perhaps starving your fish should not be the first option. Try getting a friend or family member to come over and feed your fish while you’re away.

Alternatively, you can add an automatic fish feeder to release fish food at pre-set intervals. Then you will only need someone to come in every few days to remove the leftover, clean the substrate, and perform a water change.

In the case of a bloated fish, starve it for 3 to 4 days, then feed it pre-boiled peas for a soft start.

Adding aquarium salt in your fish tank (or an Epsom salt bath) also goes a long way in helping a bloated or constipated fish. Apply the salt during the three or four days your finny is without food.

That’s all for this post.

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Have fun keeping finnies🐠🐟.

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