Tropical Fish Food

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

If you want to give your school the brightest natural coloring possible, this premium option is worth investing in.

Affordable. First ingredients are krill, herring meal, and shrimp meal. Encourages brighter and more vibrant coloring. Rich in omega-3 and 6, as well as vitamins. Promotes healthy digestion and eyesight.

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Flakes near the bottom of the jar are crushed.

These inexpensive flakes are eagerly devoured by all species.

Fish meal is the first ingredient. Affordable. Complete diet for top and mid- feeding. Easy to digest. High-protein flakes and vitamin-enriched. Available in multiple sizes.

These flakes are a hit with most species, but they contain artificial colorings and wheat.

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A healthy and affordable pack of pellets that are loved by many species and will help them live their best, healthy life.

Packed with nutrients and proteins, including squid and shrimp. Helps growth and keeps pets healthy and strong. Loved by a large variety of species, including bettas, catfish, cichlids, guppies, and more.

Some reports of it causing the tank to fog up.

These sinking, algae-based wafers are a magnet for hungry plecos.

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Concentrated green algae center that plecos can’t resist. Wafers quickly sink to the bottom. Fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients. High-fiber diet. Vegetarian meal.

While these pleco wafers feature a large amount of delicious algae, they also contain wheat and artificial colorings.

A top pick for nano aquariums because it's nutrient-packed and a fine balance of meat and plant material.

Fish meal and krill meal are the first 2 ingredients. Pellet softens quickly in water for superior digestion. Perfect size for small species like tetras and tiger barbs. Colored for maximum visibility to ensure it is eaten. High-calorie and high-protein.

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Contains wheat and artificial coloring.

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

Buying guide for Best tropical fish food

A tank full of tropical fish not only adds beauty and color to a room, it also can bring about relaxation in owners who watch their fish swim to and fro. Perhaps that’s why fish are the third-most popular pet in the United States, after dogs and cats. Fish generally are far easier to care for than either of the more popular furred pets — no need for walks, litter box scooping, or a sitter if you go away overnight — but they do require proper housing and feeding not just to thrive but also to survive.

Just like any animal, tropical fish have certain dietary needs to be met if they are to stay healthy. Given the many different types of fish food, however, it can be a little overwhelming to scan the pet store shelves and find the right product.

What are tropical fish?

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Before getting started on the food requirements fish have, it helps to understand the three basic categories of fish commonly kept in home aquariums. Each group has its own food and care needs.

Tropical fish are native to freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams in tropical or warm climates. These fish require heated water to keep them healthy — typically between 75°F and 80°F. Some common tropical fish frequently kept as pets include guppies, platys, barbs, and danios.

Cold-water fish are also freshwater fish, but these species hail from chillier climates, and so they do best in water that’s between 60°F and 75°F. Goldfish are the most popular species of cold-water fish kept in home aquariums.

Saltwater fish are native to the oceans and require salty aquarium water to survive as well as careful attention to water temperature and condition. As a general rule, these fish are much more difficult — and expensive — to keep than freshwater fish.

Key considerations

Fish nutrition
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The majority of tropical fish kept in aquariums are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and meat. Tropical fish require a diet high in protein, low in fat, and very low in carbohydrates. Even fish that mainly eat plants require at least 15% to 30% of their diet to be protein.

Good tropical fish foods contain mostly high-quality protein sources such as fish, shrimp, or squid. Typically, there will also be plant ingredients, often green algae or kelp. And while grains are commonly used in tropical fish food, they shouldn’t be the main ingredient, as fish do not digest carbohydrates well. Finally, most balanced fish foods include vitamins and minerals for optimal health.

Types of tropical fish food

Flakes: Dried flakes tend to float on the surface of the water for a while before slowly sinking, making them an excellent choice for fish that feed at or near the top of the tank or in the middle of the tank. There are many specialty flakes designed for specific species of fish, or for various health benefits, such as to brighten the color of your fish. Most dried foods, especially flakes, are nutritionally balanced to serve as the sole or main part of your fishes’ diet.

Crisps: This style is slightly thicker than flakes. They float on the surface a little longer and dissolve more slowly. This is another excellent form of dried fish food for species that feed on the surface or towards the middle of the tank. Crisps can be too thick, however, for very small tropical fish such as neon tetras.

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Pellets: These sink fairly quickly to the bottom of the tank, where, naturally, bottom-feeders such as catfish, plecostomuses, and loaches eagerly devour them. Many pellets are made of algae, as bottom-feeders often prefer plant-based foods.

Stick-on tabs: While not as common, a few brands make these. Press the food on the inside front wall of your tank and enjoy the show! Fish smell the food and quickly gather to gobble it up. This is a fun way to feed species that tend to eat toward the upper level or middle of the tank.

Wafers: These large tablets don’t dissolve nearly as quickly as most other forms of dried tropical fish food, and they sink quickly to the bottom of the tank. They are intended for bottom feeders such as plecostomus and other algae eaters.

Frozen: This type of tropical fish food is generally used as supplemental feeding, not as the sole diet for your pets. These look like miniature ice cubes and can be dropped straight into the tank. Most frozen foods are single- ingredient — typically either bloodworm, brine shrimp, or daphnia. Most fish enjoy these foods, but they are especially liked by carnivorous species or omnivores that lean toward carnivorous, including angelfish, cichlids, and killifish.

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Freeze-dried: Another supplemental food that’s especially liked by carnivorous species, these likewise are single-ingredient protein sources. The most common are tubifex worms, bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and krill. Sprinkle freeze-dried food on the surface of the water and watch your fish come running.

Live: While definitely not the most convenient type of food, many species of tropical fish enjoy a treat of live food on occasion. Not all pet stores carry these, but those with a large aquarium department often do. The most common live foods for fish include tubifex worms, red worms, daphnia, and brine shrimp. You’ll want to serve these in a specially designed cone feeder to keep the live food contained while your fish nibble.

Tropical fish food prices

Inexpensive: Luckily, most tropical fish foods won’t break your budget. You’ll pay less than $5 for the majority of dried foods in 1- to 2-ounce containers.

Mid-range: The $5 to $10 category includes larger sizes of dried food, as much as eight ounces, as well as one to two ounces of freeze-dried food.

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Expensive: Typically, frozen foods are the costliest, so expect to pay up to $25 for a package of 30 cubes of fresh-frozen worms, brine shrimp, krill, or similar small seafood.

FAQ

Q. Can I feed my goldfish and tropical fish the same food?

A. While it won’t hurt your goldfish to occasionally eat the same food as your tropical fish, it’s not a good idea to feed it to them regularly. (Of course, these two types of fish should always be kept in separate tanks, due to their different water temperature requirements.) Goldfish, for instance, require a higher percentage of carbohydrates in their diet than most warm-water tropical fish, so they thrive on food formulated specifically for their needs.

Q. Can I feed my tropical fish fresh fruit or vegetables?

A. Many tropical fish enjoy an occasional treat of fresh fruit or vegetables. Before offering the treat, wash the produce very thoroughly, and then cut it into small bits that your fish will be able to nibble quickly. Remove any uneaten food after a few minutes. Fruits and vegetables that are especially good to offer fish include peas, broccoli, spinach, peeled grapes, cucumber, squash, apple, and banana.

Q. Does tropical fish food go bad?

A. Dried forms of tropical fish food won’t go moldy, but they can become stale and lose nutrients. It’s best to store your fish food where it won’t be exposed to high heat or freezing temperatures. Also, avoid getting any drops of water in the container. Check the “best by” date on the food and toss if it’s past its prime.

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