Feeding Your Fish Tank: What Are The Best Times?

Now you have some fish in your aquarium its time to start feeding them, and if you are like my mother-in-law you may feed them every time you walk past their aquarium and that just creates a whole load of trouble!

Correct feeding technique is paramount to any aquarium and even more so for a saltwater aquarium!

Fish are best fed in the morning and in the evening. Very active fish with high metabolism rates prefer mulitple small feedings thoughout the day and an automatic fish feeder can help automate this. All food should be eaten within 2 minutes of dispensing to prevent uneaten food decaying.

As part of your research into every fish you buy (Yes, you should be doing this BEFORE you buy the fish, not after it is in your aquarium!) you need to look at its diet and also the number of times it needs to feed each day.

I learned the hard way trying to keep Anthias for years before I realized the mistake I was making. Read on to find out when is the best time to feed your fish…

Which Is Better – Morning Fish Feeding Or Evening Fish Feeding?

Morning feeding Vs evening feeding usually comes down to convenience for the aquarium owner and how they can fit this job into their own daily routine.

If you are like myself, and many other aquarists, feeding your fish is one of the hobby’s great pleasures. Being up close to your fish and seeing them happy to see you is a wonderful experience and it also allows you to get a close look at each fish and inspect their health.

This is one of the main reasons why fish generally get fed in the evenings. This is the time we get to sit down and relax and watch our incredible pieces of the ocean and feeding time always brings everyone out – Even those critters you never knew you had!

However, evening feeding, especially just before lights out can create problems for your fish. Just like us humans, if we eat a large meal and then go straight to bed our bodies will begin to get fat. Fish are no different!

All fish have some fat stores within them and fish can get fat if they are fed too much, and just before they settle in for the night. Fish in the wild generally have very little fat deposits because food can be scarce, but the regular feeding ritual of an aquarium keeps this food coming and coming.

Careful monitoring of how much you feed in the evening will keep your fish healthy and less prone to infection or disease.

The best time to feed your fish is in the morning after the light has been on a short while or the sun is lighting the aquarium sufficiently to get everyone swimming. This will give the fish the food they need for the day which in turn gives them the energy to metabolize through the day ensuring minimal fat deposits form.

Ehiem AutoFeeder
A Typical Autofeeder Installation

This can be very difficult for most aquarium owners to achieve due to the time most of us head for work, especially in the winter, but installing one of today’s highly reliable automatic feeders will allow you to achieve this.

If you would like to see a great selection of Automatic feeders including the Eheim Feed Air Autofeeder shown above Click Here to go to Amazon.com

Pssst… I Use this Eheim Autofeeder and its awesome! Easy to set up, super reliable, and a great price too!

Which Is Better – Single Fish Feeding Or Mulitple Fish Feedings?

Most fish will benefit to a single feeding each day but if you have done your research you may have noticed that some of your fish require multiple feedings each day. This is what I learned with my Anthia’s.

Anthia’s, in particular, burn vast amounts of energy every day because their natural habitat is to socialize just above the reef. In your aquarium, this is where the flow is strongest, and swimming in this current all day requires large amounts of energy.

Anthia’s In Their Natural Habitat

Anthia’s need to be fed 3-4 times each day to ensure they get enough food. The permanent installation of an Automatic Feeder is essential. When I found out this bit of information I could finally keep Anthia’s and they are thriving! I was so happy!

A survey of over 500 saltwater aquarium owners on the Reef2Reef forum gave the following results of their feeding habits:

Tangs are another fish that are ALWAYS feeding. Luckily for us, Tangs are voracious herbivores and constantly scour our tanks looking for the next green to nibble on.

Tangs require a lot of plant matter to feed on in addition to the other feedings you give the rest of the fish – My Yellow Tang is a Pig and eats everything! Placing a sheet of Nori (Seaweed) or a leaf of lettuce in a Veggie Clip at the start of each day will help to keep them well fed.

Veggie Clip
Nori In Veggie Clip

Wrasse’s and Mandarin Dragonet’s are Pod hunting machines! Having a plentiful and constant supply of Copepods, Amphipods and Rotifers is a must to successfully keeping these fish.

Although some may eat your food, their main energy source will come from hunting out pods all day long. Mandarin Dragonet’s can consume a Pod every 5-10 seconds all day long. It does not take them very long to destroy your pod population if it is not self-populating in large quantities!

How Much Fish Food Should You Feed Your Aquarium?

Ensuring the dietary quantity for each fish is a must to long-term health but many aquarists are prone to overfeeding their fish which will cause the following:

  • Uneaten Food Breaking Down
  • Increased Fish Excrement
  • Increased Ammonia Level
  • Increased Nitrate Level
  • Increased Phosphate Level
  • Algae Blooms
  • Cloudy Water

Many aquarists, my mother-in-law included are under the impression that fish will starve if not fed regularly, and yes some species like the Anthia’s and Mandarin’s will. But for the vast majority of our finned friends, this is simply not true! Fish can survive weeks without food!

To get an idea of just how big each fish’s stomach is, just look at their eye.
This is usually about the size of their stomach! It does not take much to fill it!

The best way to ensure your fish are getting enough to eat is to feed a small amount and it should all be gone within one minute. Then feed the same again and watch it be consumed.

Overstocked Marine Aquarium

If you are setting up multiple feedings for fish like Anthia’s ensure the food is being added primarily to the top of the aquarium so they eat it before the rest of the bunch come to join in.

Flake food is good for the fish near the water surface as it tends to stay in the upper half of the aquarium for longer.


Automatic Feeders can be notorious for overfeeding, especially during setup. It can take many attempts to set the volume just right, but you don’t want all this food dumping into your water. Here is what to do…

  1. Get a small bowl and using your fingers place in a small pinch of food, the amount you would normally feed your fish. This is your quantity benchmark.
  2. Put the food back in the container
  3. Adjust the Autofeeder volume and dispense it into the bowl
  4. Return the food back to the food container
  5. Repeat this process until the food being dispensed matches your benchmark quantity
  6. Ensure the Autofeeder hopper is filled up

Tip Within The Tip:

If you are going on vacation, set up your autofeeder a week early so you can monitor its operation and volume consistency while you are home 😉

What Types of Food Should Feed Your Aquarium Fish?

A varied diet that meets the nutritional needs of all your inhabitants is one of the best ways to not only get healthy livestock but produce vivid coloration, growth, and reproduction. Here is a great quote from PetMD.com…

If the fish’s environment is low-stress, stable, free of disease and supplied with everything required, excess energy can be used for growth and reproduction.


Not only are you providing nutrition to your fish but also your invertebrates, coral and bacteria and variety is the key.

There are many, many food types available and in many different forms:

  • Pellets
  • Flakes
  • Tablets
  • Freeze-Dried
  • Liquid
  • Live
  • Frozen

Over the many, many years I have been keeping aquariums I find the best method to keeping healthy fish is to feed a small amount in the morning as I leave for work. I do not feed much as the lights are still off. Just a sprinkle of pellets for my inhabitants to find over the course of the day.

Then when I get home from work the tank gets a shot glass full of DIY frozen food (Defrosted) with additional food added depending on the day. One day ill add flakes and liquid, another day freeze-dried and pellets and so on.

I like to feed in the afternoon to allow the fish to burn off the energy before sleeping. There is no good way of automatically feeding frozen food yet, so until then ill feed it around 5pm.

By giving a variety of foods I ensure everyone gets fed well, but I also ensure all the food is eaten within 2 minutes. Each week I also use a turkey baster to blast all my rock and under my corals to help remove any uneaten food and allow it to be filtered out.

For a really good article on all the types of food available I highly recommend you Click our image link below:

Aquarium Feeding Essentials Header

To Finish

For the majority of aquarists feeding your fish once a day, preferably in the morning will ensure good health and allow for less uneaten food remaining in your aquarium.

Feeding sparingly and with a variety of foods will ensure all your livestock thrives and you get to enjoy the coral reef that is slowly growing in your home or office.

You can build up your variety of food sources over time and then it will last you a long time while providing excellent balance and nourishment. Just remember to research each intended inhabitant so that you can ensure its needs are met by the time it enters your glass box! Enjoy.

Further Reading

If you found this article interesting you may find these helpful too:


Hi, I'm Richard and I have been an avid aquarist for over 30 years with a passion for Saltwater Aquariums. I love to pass on my knowledge to help others get the same amount a pleasure out of this hobby as I do. View my About Me page to find out more about me & my mixed reef aquarium.

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