Fish and Coral Food FAQs - What To Feed, How Much, and When!

How much should I feed my fish?

In order to reduce waste and ensure all of your fish are getting the food they need, only feed what your fish can consume in under 1-2 minutes.  If there is leftover food after this time, you are probably adding too much at one time.

Remember fish are pretty small, with even smaller bellies so the appropriate amount of food is really not all that much. It is ok to feed in small increments but let the fish consume everything within 1-2 minutes, then add some more food if need be or feed again later in the day. It is better to have a few small feedings throughout the day as opposed to one large portion of food.  Fish are naturally "opportunistic" feeders meaning they eat whenever food is available to them, usually multiple times per day. 

In terms of frequency, you want to accommodate the particular fish in your care based on their natural feeding habits and energy level. Some fish require multiple feedings each and every day, as much as x5 times per day for high-energy fish like Anthias and Chromis. Most aquarists schedule 1-3 small feedings throughout the day, one in the AM and one in the PM but be sure to research the particular fish you have. You can adjust that frequency based on the particular nutritional requirements of your fish and the amount of waste your aquarium can handle. 

How do I know my fish are getting enough food?

The easiest way to tell is by looking at your fish's stomach. A skinny fish will have a concave belly and a well-fed fish will have a slightly round belly. In severe cases, you might also notice the definition of the lateral line which means the fat/muscle mass along the body is lacking. A malnourished fish may also act lethargic, show loss of coloration, and can be more susceptible to parasites, infections, and disease. 

If you have finicky fish or fish with specialized diets, it's important to accommodate those fish and visually ensure they are consuming the food offerings each and every day.  This simple observation of watching all your fish consume food is a great way to verify the health of the animals in your care. A fish that doesn't eat is likely unhealthy or stressed. 

How can I tell if I am feeding too much?

This is all about your aquarium's waste or nutrient levels. If nitrate and phosphate levels are constantly rising, you are likely feeding too much or feeding incorrectly. Always turn off your pumps and filtration while feeding your fish to reduce food waste. Be sure your fish are consuming everything you put into the tank in a reasonable amount of time. 

If you experience elevated waste levels, be sure to maintain your filtration regularly and perform your water changes to reduce those nutrient levels. Reduce the amount of food you are offering and/or the frequency while also ensuring your fish remain healthy. 

A fish will never overeat or "eat themselves to death", this is a silly rumor. The risk that comes with too much food is actually about poisoning the water with excess leftover food.  

What kind of food should I use to feed my fish?


High-quality food is the first rule. You want naturally sourced ingredients that are similar to what the fish would consume in the wild. Look to the ingredients list and avoid food with fillers like corn, soy, and wheat. Herbivorous fish need algae and seaweed while carnivorous fish need plenty of meat-based protein from things like shrimp, krill, fish, squid, clams, etc. Omnivorous fish should get a healthy portion of both protein sources. 

A reputable food will also provide nutritional analysis. High-quality dry food (flakes and pellets) should have 50% protein and fat content somewhere in the teens. Frozen foods contain a lot of water weight and high-quality frozen food will contain about 12% protein and 2+% fat content.

Particle Size

Ensure the food particles can fit inside your fish's mouth. Watch to ensure the fish are not capturing the food and then spitting it back out which is a sign the food is too big. It's always better to veer on the side of caution and buy smaller foods if you are just not sure. 

Food Type

Pellet food should be your #1 choice as a staple food type because you can deliver the most nutrients with each bite. Flake foods can work as well but tend to be messy.

Fresh and/or frozen food should also be used because it will carry additional nutrients and more closely mimic natural food sources. Keep in mind that frozen foods carry some water weight and may introduce additional waste. An aquarium that relies heavily on frozen food requires strong filtration and nutrient export methods to maintain optimal water quality.

Ultimately, variety is important to ensure balanced nutrition so using different types of food is the best possible approach to ensure a complete diet. Accommodating the fish's nutritional requirements is of utmost importance for longevity, color, and resistance to disease. 

Do my fish need a variety of foods?

Yes, it is best to offer a variety of foods to your fish. Multi-ingredient frozen foods made using fresh seafood are considered some of the best quality fish foods you can buy and when fed alongside high-quality pellet food, your fish should maintain optimal nutrition without a problem. It's okay to mix different pellet foods together or switch off between feedings so long as your fish are eating what you give them. 

You can also use "food soaks" which are liquid supplements that provide valuable vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Selcon is a popular choice and is used by soaking your fish food with the supplement before feeding. 

How do I increase the coloration in my fish?

In general, a healthy fish receiving the right nutrition should display the best possible colors. Astaxanthin is a common ingredient used in fish food that is scientifically proven to support red, yellow, and orange coloration among fish. Krill, crayfish, and certain algae species are also intentionally added for the purpose of supporting vibrant coloration. You can source "color-enhancing" foods and look to the ingredients to find out what exactly is being added to promote coloration. 

My fish isn't eating, what should I do? 

Fish will not eat when they are stressed which is the most common reason. Some fish are more voracious eaters than others but regardless, all your fish need to eat. You may need to train your finicky fish to use a feeding ring or feeding tube to successfully deliver food. Competition for food can be problematic too and you may need to deliver food into the particular area of the tank that different fish inhabit.  For example, fish that live on the bottom may only feed off the bottom so laying food on the sand bed is the only way to ensure they get what they need.  

It is common for brand new fish to take a couple of days to get used to your aquarium so they may not eat during this time. Exactly why observation and acclimation in a quarantine tank first is the best approach before introducing the fish into your main display. This way you can ensure the fish are eating and free of disease.  Ultimately, a fish that doesn't eat after repeated attempts may start to suffer and should be isolated in a quarantine tank. Sometimes removing a fish from the competition is all they need to start eating but it could also be a sign of illness or a parasite that needs treatment.  

Do I need to feed my corals?

Yes, you should feed your corals at least 2 - 3 times per week. While many corals do rely on photosynthesis for energy, they also naturally catch and consume prey to gather additional sources of nutrition. In captivity, it has been proved that feeding corals will improve growth rates and coloration among your corals. 

There are also certain types of Non-photosynthetic corals (NPS) that rely solely on manual feeding to survive in captivity. While these corals are more of a specialty and not commonplace in most reef aquaria, it is important to understand the needs of the animals in your care.   

How do I feed my corals?

The most common method is target feeding using a bulb syringe or coral feeder but you can also broadcast feed your corals. It is best to feed the corals after a feeding response has been witnessed to ensure maximum consumption. A feeding response happens naturally at night but can also be triggered manually. Adding a small amount of coral food into the water column or dosing amino acids will often trigger the corals to go into feeding mode. Corals sense the presence of available prey in the water and will attempt to collect it by sending out special feeding tentacles (LPS) or secreting a special web of slime (SPS) designed to capture prey so they can consume it.

Target Feeding

  1. In a separate container, mix some coral food with tank water. You can use a combination of foods in the container along with liquid foods like plankton and amino acids.
  2. Turn off your return pump and set a timer so you don't forget to turn it back on. Alternatively, use the feed mode feature.
  3. Keep your powerheads running to help distribute the food and keep it suspended. Ideally, you can just reduce the speed of the powerheads to a gentle current.  
  4. Feed your corals by squirting small amounts of the food mixture directly onto the coral's polyps.

Broadcast feeding

  • Broadcast feeding is when you simply dump the mixed or prepared food directly into your aquarium's water flow and allow the corals to collect that suspended/dissolved food themselves as it moves about the water column. Turn off your return pump while feeding but keep your powerhead running to push the food into your corals. 

What kind of food do my corals eat?

High-quality coral foods contain natural ingredients and should not contain fillers like wheat, corn, or soy. Bulk Reef Supply Reef Chili is one of those high-quality foods and has been proven to be among the most potent coral foods in the way of increasing coral growth. The use of amino acids like Brightwell Aquatics CoralAmino has also been proven to be very beneficial in the way of improving coral coloration and growth.  We like to mix the amino acids directly with the Reef Chili before target feeding.  

How much should I feed my corals?

This can be tricky because feeding corals will result in some leftover food no matter what you do. Corals cannot move so they are reliant upon water flow to bring food to them. Ideally, your fish and clean-up crew invertebrates will move about and clean up the leftover coral food. 

It's best to start with a minimal amount of food, most coral foods will instruct some kind of portion like a tiny spoonful or 1/2 tsp type measurement. Dilute the food with enough tank water so that you have enough to deliver one squirt of food to each of the various corals in your tank.  Monitor nutrient levels closely to ensure your tank can handle the excess nutrients without causing a spike in nitrates and phosphates. Adjust according to your tank's ability to handle the extra nutrients. 

How often should I feed my corals?

Start feeding corals just a couple of times each week. So long as your tank can handle the additional nutrients, you can increase the frequency of feeding to as much as once per day. Serious coral farmers often feed corals daily but also ensure that waste and nutrient levels do not rise beyond acceptable levels.