How to Tell If Fish Are Hungry?

Fish act like they are starving every time they see you come near the tank, don’t they? It makes you feel bad, thinking: Am I underfeeding my pets? What sign can we use to know what the right amount and time are?

Let’s tackle how to tell if fish are hungry!

How Often Do Wild Fish Eat?

Wild fish may go days without eating at times. And other times, fish will gorge themselves on an abundance of plankton or other food. They have intermittent periods of going hungry and eating a lot!

How Often do Aquarium Fish Get Hungry?

Pet aquarium fish act hungry, but they don’t necessarily eat more than any other fish. And most aquarium fish have very small stomachs, much smaller than you think.

As a rough rule of thumb, a fish’s eye is around the same size as its stomach. While this is less true of both large and predatory fish, for smaller aquarium fish, it gives you an idea of how much to offer.

How to Tell If Fish Are Hungry?

If you keep goldfish or other animals, they pretty much always act like they are hungry! So what signs tell us when they are truly hungry?

fish koi in pond

Do Fish Always Act Hungry?

Like many other pets, fish will quickly learn to associate you with being hungry! But just because your fish are dancing around in front of the tank does not mean they are really hungry.

Any animal will eat as much as it can. Because in nature, there are no signs to clue them in that a fast is coming. So it’s smarter to gorge, hungry or not!

You need to be on the lookout for signs of actual hunger in your fish. And feed them just the right amount so that they eat well without overfeeding.

When they are swimming near the surface for the first meal of the day, your fish are probably going to be faster and more active. Even after they stop eating, they will come back if they see you.

Since they are not hungry, they will be less active when swimming.

Setting a Usual Feeding Time

It is a good idea to feed your fish around the same time every day and week. Once you know how much to feed your fish, setting a feeding time will ensure you don’t accidentally overfeed.

It makes it easier not to forget feeding your fish as well! Missing a feeding won’t kill your fish, but they won’t be happy about not getting any food. No happier than you would be if lunch were skipped at the usual time!

What Happens If I Underfeed My Fish?

Underfeeding is a sign that you do not fully understand their natural rhythm. Within a week or two, you should have a good idea of how much to give your fish.

But assuming you aren’t feeding your fish enough, they will survive, so long as you only under-feed occasionally. In fact, feeding a little less every so often is good for not just fish but also other animals. Fat fish are signs you are definitely not underfeeding!

A starving fish may even stop eating because it has too little energy to find food. This is extremely rare, though, and more a sign of neglect. A fish would have to be nearly skeletal not to eat the food you offer it.

If you have territorial or aggressive tank mates, keep an eye on fish that stop eating for seemingly no reason. A dominant fish will sometimes exclude other fish from getting to the food. This is very harmful over the long term since they get hungry regularly.

assorted type of fish foods

How Much Should I Feed My Fish?

When it comes to small fish, use the eye as signs of the amount. Make sure that each fish has enough food to fill that space per feeding. For goldfish and larger pets, offer a little more.

You may need to balance that out if you have fish that will scavenge along the substrate. If they are fully grown or have slow metabolisms, these are signs that you should back off some unless they are truly hungry.

You may see some scavenge along the substrate but try not to offer so much food that there are a lot of leftovers!

Wrapping Up

young woman feeding fish

How much to offer pet fish is one of the most common topics that come up in pet keeping! Finding the right sign can be challenging, especially if you have fish whose appetites aren’t in sync. It all comes down to observation – and naturally, reading the latest articles!

And even if you offer a little less on occasion, don’t fret! Your pets will survive a missed meal. And they can even scavenge for leftovers until you’re back with the food jar!


Kelly Stanley