Not all fish eat the same thing, so naturally, you will need to choose specific fish foods based on the type of fish you have. We are here to help you make the right choices when it comes to choosing those foods and be confident your fish are getting everything they need to thrive inside your tank.

Six Types Of Fish Food

This covers the basic types of fish food you're going to choose from.

  • Frozen Food
  • Flake Food
  • Pellet Food
  • Live Food
  • Seaweed
  • Freeze-Dried Food

The best choice is often a combination of foods, not only to provide a varied and balanced diet but also for accommodating the various species in your tank. Some fish have big mouths, some are much smaller. Some are vegetarians and some are predators. Some foods, like pellets, can deliver more nutrients per bite than others. Some foods, like flakes, can wind up making a mess in your tank if you feed them incorrectly.  Some fish eat once every other day, some fish eat all day long! 

Type Of Fish Determines The Type Of Food

There is no universal fish food. Different fish REQUIRE different foods. Research the particular feeding requirements and habits for the fish in your care, and make adjustments. Answer these questions when doing your research.

  • Are they carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
  • How often do they need to eat?
  • Are they finicky or aggressive eaters?
  • Are they relatively low energy or high energy?

Most Important Nutritional Facts

When choosing a fish food, look on the label for the Guaranteed Analysis. The following are the two most important components of fish food and help indicate the quality of said food. 

Protein: Necessary for muscle and tissue growth as well as metabolic functions

Fat: Provides and sustains energy

4 Key Considerations For Choosing The Right Foods

1) Nutrient Content - Use the protein and fat contents as described above to gauge the quality of the food. The following criteria can be used as benchmarks when shopping for food. Lower protein and fat content (below the benchmarks) indicate foods that are made with filler or low quality ingredients and will likely not provide total nutrition for your fish. 

Dry Food - Flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried foods:

  • Protein: Roughly 40-50%
  • Fat: Roughly 10 - 17%

Frozen Food:

  • Protein: Roughly 10-15%
  • Fat: Roughly 2%

2) Similarity To Natural Food - Choosing food that closely resembles a fish's natural diet is going to be more palatable and is often the best choice. On a broad scale, saltwater fish should get food that has ingredients sourced from the ocean or marine environments. Seaweed, shrimp, mysid, herring, clams, squid, etc.

When shopping for dry foods, look to the label for the list of ingredients. Avoid foods with fillers like generic "fish meal, corn, and wheat". The most prominent ingredient will be listed first. The same case applies for frozen foods whether it's a single ingredient or combo, choose things that would closely resemble that fish's natural diet.

This goes for particle size too (how big of a bite). Fish with big mouths eat big food, fish with small mouths eat tiny food. Predators are accustomed to eating larger chunks whereas planktonic feeders suck up tiny plankton suspended in the water column. 

3) Coloration - Look for the following ingredients that help promote coloration.

  • Astaxanthin - Promotes red-orange coloration.
  • Spirulina - Promotes green-blue coloration.

4) Nutrient Density - Pellet food is 5 - 10x denser by weight compared to flake foods. This means you can deliver more nutrition per bite, but you can also overfeed the tank just as easily with leftover food. Frozen food contains quite a bit of water, 75% or more, which means your essentially dosing nutrient-laden water into the tank. Rinsing and target feeding frozen food is the best approach to avoid that substantial waste whereas pellets and flakes make a better choice for broadcast feeding into the aquarium. 

Other Ingredients

  • Ash: Essentially pulverized bones, shells, and scales for calcium and phosphorous content along with a variety of other minerals.
  • Binders: Flour, corn starch, potato starch for holding food together.
  • Fiber: Non-digestible carbohydrates to aid in digestion.
  • Pigments: Astaxanthin and spirula as described above to promote coloration.
  • Vitamins and minerals: a variety can be added directly into fish food.

Typical Food Make-up

Food Type Frozen Pellet Flake
Water 70-80% 10% 6-10%
Fat 1-2% 8-12% 40-55%
Protein 5-15% 40-60% 7-17%

Pros & Cons

Food Type Frozen Pellet Flake
  • Less likely to overfeed
  • More palatable to fish
  • Stays in suspension longer
  • Sinks
  • Less nutrient-dense (pollutes less)
  • Easy to use
  • Nutrient-dense
  • Great for auto-feeders
  • Reaches shy, finicky fish easier
  • Nutrient-dense
  • Small size for small fish
  • Less nutrient-dense (not as much nutrition per bite)
  • Contains a lot of water
  • Hassle to use and gets messy
  • Doesn't absorb enrichment supplements efficiently
  • 5-10x more likely to overfeed and pollute
  • More waste
  • More fillers used
  • 5-10x more likely to overfeed and pollute
  • More waste and pollution