Feeding fish is one of the few times of the day when you can interact with them, so it’s tempting to think of feeding them every time you walk by. It doesn’t help that as soon as you walk by, they’re there at the top of the tank, waiting excitedly, looking at you lovingly. But you are strong, and you resist the urge because you know overfeeding fish can be harmful.
But is that really true? Or are people overstating the dangers associated with overfeeding fish?
What we can tell you is this: It’s probably not what you think.
How Overfeeding Fish Can Be Harmful
Fiction: Fish will gorge themselves if you feed them too much.
Fact: The fish usually know when to stop themselves. In fact, if they don’t eat all that you’ve given them within about five minutes, you’re probably giving them too much. If they do end up eating too much, however, they will produce more waste than the natural filtering processes or the manmade filters can handle, resulting in an unhealthy environment in the fish tank.
Fiction: If the fish are swimming at the top of the tank, it means they’re starving and waiting for me to come to their rescue.
Fact: Not necessarily. They know they might get food and that excites them, but it doesn’t mean they’re actually hungry. Think of it more as they’re simply as happy to see you as you are to see them.
Fiction: The fish won’t eat each other. They’ve lived together this long, after all!
Fact: Sadly, they might. If fish aren’t compatible in a tank, it’s all about the survival of the fittest.
Fiction: Fish food is good forever.
Fact: The flake food loses some of its nutrients about six months after you open the container. Some fish owners say you should use the food within one month. Frozen fish food should be used within about six months.
Fiction: Each and every one of the fish has to eat the food I give them.
Fact: Some fish are in the tank for the purpose of “cleaning” the waste, especially off the bottom. It’s a part of the natural cycle in the fish tank environment and in the wild.
And that brings us to the truths you really need to know about why overfeeding fish can be harmful.
When you feed the fish too much, they won’t eat it all. The leftover food then stays in the tank too long, leading to an unsanitary environment. Additionally, the bottom feeders might eat those leftovers, which means they won’t clean up the waste from the other fish as they are supposed to.
Concerns about Bloat
Improperly feeding or overfeeding fish can be harmful also due to the possibility of bloat, a condition that will likely lead to the death of a fish.
Also known as dropsy, bloat is caused by bacterial, viral, protozoal, or parasitical infections. Some bacteria are natural in every fish environment, but too much can be harmful, as noted above. That’s why it’s important to use proper filtration systems and filtered water in the tank to ensure the safest environment for the fish, depending on if it’s a saltwater tank or a freshwater tank.
When a fish is suffering from bloat, it will be clear that it is sick. Its abdominal cavity will fill with fluid, and the fish might lose its appetite, become lethargic, and have visible marks on its body. Other signs include bulging eyes, pale gills, and long, pale feces.
Unfortunately, usually the best solution is to remove that fish from the fish tank and euthanize it.
You can also try to place it in a quarantine tank for treatment if you catch the illness early enough and believe the fish will recover. In that case, you can place one teaspoon of salt per gallon of water into the sick fish’s bowl, and you should treat it with antibiotics and feed it only high-quality foods.
For more information about why overfeeding fish can be harmful or if you believe your fish are sick and you want to know how to best take care of them, call us at 602-628-7270 or contact us through our Seatech Aquariums website.