Feeding fish...

I got a 55-gallon aquarium for Christmas. Set up the tank with cheesy colored gravel and plants, filter, thermometer, and airstone. Let that run for a few weeks, then went and got me some fishies.

After the expected death of a few of them, I now have 10 Zebra Danios & 3 Leopard Danios, 3 Angelfish (which are growing VERY nicely! They’ve more than doubled in size since I bought them a month ago.), a few assorted tetras, a couple velvet swords, and 2 Chinese algae eaters.

Now, for a while, I’d feed them before I go to work in the morning, and then again just before I go to bed. But I think I was feeding them too much, because a greenish-brown algae substance began to cover the gravel and plants.

So, I stopped feeding them in the morning. They seemed to have cleaned up the algae themselves, but now I’m afraid I’m not feeding them enough.

Now, the food container couldn’t be any more vague on its feeding instructions:

“Use only enough food that your fish will consume in 2 to 4 minutes.”

Well, I don’t know what they can consume in 2 to 4 minutes! I can’t exactly ask the fish. I’m sure if I poured the whole thing in, they’d still be eating in 2 to 4 minutes, so this measurement doesn’t seem to work.

Does anyone have a better way to measure how much I should feed my fish? Like, one teaspoon per 4 fish or something? Something that’s actually measureable

Well, a tsp/4 fish would be way too much! Don’t you remember that story about the boy who didn’t follow the instructions to feed his goldfish “just a pinch”?

I’m no expert, but I have a 30 gal, with maybe 2/3 the fish you have. I feed a decent sized pinch once a day (early evening when I get home). The current population has been quite stable for quite some time, and the tank does not seem to get excessively dirty. IME, it is actually quite surprising how little food fish need.

Now all you icthyologists jump in and tell me how I am torturing my poor babies!

Allow me to point out the obvious that, even if they continued to eat for 30 minutes, they could ony consume a certain amount in 2-4 minutes.

IMO you should be very pleased that your set0up is doing so well so quickly. You could have run into some problems adding that many fish than quickly. Congrats. Do you have live plants? If so, great. They do wonders for your water quality.

Finally, make the most of the 'net. Search a bit and you will find some really nice forums with folk who are crazy smart about fish.

Just a small pinch (about the size of a fingernail)once a day (twice if you’re trying to get them to grow quicker).

Keep in mind that a tropical fish’s stomach is about the same size as its eye. It’s always better to underfeed than overfeed. When you overfeed you risk higher ammonia levels (depending on how good your filtration system is).

As far as the 2-4 minute “rule”, basically what they mean is that after that amount of time, there should be no food left floating around. Your fish will eat constantly if you let them.

Actually, when we started off, we did get a few too many fish, and we had some casualties. Lost all my Neon Tetras and a couple Head-Tail-Light Tetras. The tank got cloudy for a few days, but I added a couple of tablespoons of a “leveler”, which helps your tank find the bacteria/ammonia equalibrium, and it’s been going well since.

No, they’re fake plants, altho I’d like to get some live plants soon.

Anyways, I guess my confusion is that I use food “granules”. They’re kinda like little crumbs. They float for a little while, and then sink to the bottom, to allow all the fish to feed. I’ve probably been feedin them WAY too much. It’s just hard to judge, becuase all of my fish are pretty tiny, but there are so many.

Is there any way to tell that you’re underfeeding them, apart from the belly-up-syndrome?

Ummm. Lemme see if I have your tank population straight.

Zebra and leopard danios.
2 “Chinese algae eaters”, I’m assuming you mean “otocinclus”, those teeny little cigar-shaped ones?

Okay, these are all top-water swimmers and top-water feeders (except for the otocinclus). If you’re feeding them granules, you’re feeding them the wrong kind of food. They need flakes that will stay on top and swirl around so everybody can get some. The angelfish will take food in mid-water, but since they’re always gonna be first at the table when the food hits the water, you might as well go with what everybody else needs.

Granules are just wasting your money and making the tank turn green, as you already discovered. It’s the uneaten rotting food crumbs that fall into the gravel and hide under the decorations that’s making the algae grow.

In my experience, the Number One tool for feeding top-water swimmers the correct amount is a feeding ring. You can spend 3 bucks on a fancy injection-molded plastic one in your choice of decorator colors, or you can get a styrofoam coffee cup and a steak knife and carefully saw off the top reinforcing ring of the cup (that thicker part right at the top), being careful not to crack it. You want a perfect styrofoam circle, not a letter “C”. Then you float this in one corner of the tank and always deposit the (tiny) pinch of flakes right there. In three days, tops, you will see that your fish have figured out (a) where the food is and (b) they will have established a hierarchy of who gets to eat first (the angelfish, then the swordtails, then everybody else, I’m betting). This makes it much easier for you to tell how long it’s taking them to clean up the food you give them. If you just drop the flakes in the tank, they go all over the place and you can’t see who’s actually eating and who’s still waiting their turn.

Is this your first fish tank? Do a search here in GQ on “tropical”. :slight_smile:

Be aware of the :frowning: fact that in another month, your angelfish are going to eat your zebra danios. It’s just the way it goes. Also, if your swordtails do manage to produce young, the angelfish will eat them, too. I’m guessing that your angelfish ate your neon tetras. They’re notorious for that. Sorry. :frowning:

Oh, and they didn’t exactly “clean up the algae themselves”. The otocinclus of course ate a lot of it, but the classic Number One Algae Control solution is simply to stop feeding for a few days.

You don’t need to feed them twice a day. Once a day is fine. Don’t worry about starving them, they really only need tiny amounts of food. What Delta said was good–visualize one flake of food the size of its eye for each fish, and then put exactly that number of flakes into the feeding ring. And don’t worry about mixing and matching the red flakes and the white flakes and the light green flakes and the dark green flakes, 'cause it’s all the same stuff, with food coloring added so it looks nice for you. The fish don’t care.

More advice: I would strongly urge you to either skip the live plants altogether, or at least wait until you know a little more about fish and have your tank well-stabilized before you add live plants. In my experience the rotting plant parts which they shed throws the tank balance out of whack, not to mention clogging up the filter constantly. (You didn’t say what kind of filtration you have.) The worst is elodea, which is the big juicy 9 to 12-inch long dark green leaves, sold in bundles, usually with ramshorn snails attached. :rolleyes: It sheds big juicy dark green leaves constantly and is incredibly messy.

The other plants, the serious aquarist plants, the ones you have to plant in the gravel and fool around with, IMO are just too much trouble. For one thing, there usually isn’t enough light from the average aquarium lighting fixture to make them grow the way they’re supposed to, so they just sit there and die. There goes your fifteen bucks. Or else you go out and buy one of those fancy high-power lighting fixtures, and then you go crazy fiddling with it, trying to get everything balanced and working right.

If you ever find yourself being tempted to buy a Carbon Dioxide injection unit for your fish tank plants, come talk to us again–we have doctors who can help you. :smiley:

And congratulations for actually understocking your tank! Such self-discipline is rare in one so young… :smiley:

Okay, I get the idea that a Carbon Dioxide injection unit is a bad or unnecessary thing. Why?

screech-owl (whose tetras preferred swimming in the filter rather than in the tank itself)

Only if they can catch them!


This reminds me of my pleco Freddy that died over Christmas.

Before we left for New England, we’d forgotten to get a feeder for him. We’d done this before, and just pulled open a window shade near the tank. This would encourage algae growth, and he’d be sated.

Well, this time we’d also forgotten to open the shade. When I got home, I saw that in despiration for food he’d stuffed his head into an old plastic plant base that was still in his tank.

I felt like such a heel. I had had him nearly 5 years. I gave him a burial at the run (creek) behind my subdivision, as I had his older (and much larger) cousin.

Re carbon dioxide injection:

It’s just that it represents such an incredible hassle, such a quantum leap forward, from “fiddling around with your plants” to “obsessively tinkering with the setup 24/7”.


It’s geared towards somebody who wants to grow serious aquarium plants with a few fish swimming around in there, too, to look nice. It’s expensive, for one thing (well, what part of the aquarium hobby isn’t? :rolleyes: Not counting 25 cent goldfish from Wal-Mart.) You need expensive high-output lighting fixtures, and the CO[sub]2[/sub] unit itself, and all kinds of timers and gadgets and gizmos to measure the CO[sub]2[/sub], and you just generally make yourself crazy with equipment and tinkering and “maybe I should try this…”

Not to mention the $$$ you’re going to spend on the plants themselves, which aren’t cheap. You can get a bunch of elodea for a dollar anywhere, but the sort of plants that we’re talking about here go for $2.95 and up, per tiny little straggling cutting.

And of course, algae just looooves all those bright lights, and the fertilizer tablets you’re dropping in there…

And finally, when you’ve got it all set up and running, this weird thing happens where the plants are actually getting too much of a good thing, and they start getting these white calcified deposits on their leaves and stems. I never did understand the chemistry behind that, but it means it’s back to the drawing board, more tinkering and fiddling.

All in all, I just stick with plastic plants. It’s so much simpler.

[condolences to AWB on your loss. Seriously. I’ve had plecos and I love 'em. They’re just so–calm–all the time. No matter what else is happening in the tank, he’s down there under his rock. And nobody messes with him, either–he’s got those spines, you know. I once added one to a tank with some big goldfish, and it took them less than 30 seconds to figure out that they’d better not peck at him. Hah. So sorry to hear about your loss. :frowning: ]


We had had a pleco, Freddy I, in our 55 gallon tank that grew to about 10 inches long. When he died at about age 6, I decided on the outdoor “burial in the run”. My mom, who was visiting at the time, went with me, but got tired halfway there and suggested that I just ditch him in the woods. Besides seeming disrespectful, I’d really freak if some wandering animal dragged him out and back in front of our house.

Freddy II didn’t grow as big, probably because we kept him in a 10 gallon tank; maybe 6 inches long. Considering that we got him when he was barely visible (maybe 1/4"), it always seemed amazing that he grew so big.

The National Zoo in DC has an Amazonia exhibit with a large tank full of river life, plecos included. Now those suckers (no pun intended) get big, like about 24 inches. But they just look like scaled-up versions of our late Freddys.

Yes, Otocinclus…except they’re not very “teeny little” anymore. They’ve grown to almost 4 inches now.

Yeah, I did notice that they ignore the falling granules and take what’s floating.

I’m imagining this hierarchy thing and laughing. :smiley:

Will do! Anything specific I should look for?

Well, I have yet to see the angelfish act aggressive toward any other fish. They seem to keep to themselves. But you’re probably right. :frowning: Any suggestions on what other species behave well with Angelfish? One won’t eat the other? I really thought the Green Tiger Barbs I’ve seen are beautiful…but I’m sure they’d kill my Angelfish.

Well, yeah, that’s what I did. And the other fish began to pick food from the bottom.

Yeah, I’ve heard that they’re a pain…I’ll probly just stick with my ugly neon colored plants. :wink:


[qoute]And congratulations for actually understocking your tank! Such self-discipline is rare in one so young… :smiley:

Well, thanks. I was so tempted to buy a few hundred pirhana…but the fiancee talked me out of it somehow. :smiley:

Thanks everyone for the advice. The tank is looking so much better now, and everyone seems to be getting along! It’s so relaxing to sit and watch…what a wonderful present it was indeed! :smiley:

My experience with angels and live plants.

I’ve had a couple of decent sized angels the past 2-3 years or so. Always in a community tank with a variety of smaller fish and cats. The only problems I had was when introducing small tetras, such as neons. The angels ate them very efficiently. Also, they are not tolerant of new angels, nipping and harrassing to death (at least the smallish ones I tried to introduce.) I have been able to introduce larger tetras, such as serpae, with no difficulty. Had a lengthy discussion on Aquaman’s boards with someone who suggested angels get more aggressive as they age (they are cichlids, after all.) And a problem is that they have really long life spans, especially compare to littler fish. I am not a big fan of danios, tho I have had a few in my time. I would think those guys would be quick enough to take care of themselves. Make sure you provide plenty of nooks and crannies to hide and escape.

I recently switched over to (mostly) live plants. It has been no problem, and I like to think it makes the tank healthier for the fish. It seems reasonable to me that they would help filter some shit out, and add some beneficial stuff to the water. But I am far from an expert, and any benefit may well be minimal. To me, the tank looks healthier and more natural with live plants. Someone said to me once, to your fish, you are God. Which might be overdoing it a bit. But I personally feel good about having live plants.

Brazillian and Amazon swords seem to be pretty hardy, and are only $2-4. I recently put in an annubias plant. That was on the pricey side, about $7-10. But it is doing really well and looks neat. Actually, I accidently broke it when planting it, but both halves are doing well. You can also consider trading cuttings with other hobbyists. Caveat, if you get live plants, at some point you will get snails. You will have to deal with that when it happens.

I did not add any new lighting when I switched to live plants. I simply make a point of turning mine on earlier in the a.m. every day before I go to work. My tank also gets considerable non-direct sunlight where it is at. You can get full spectrum flourescent tubes at a hardware sore much cheaper than at a pet store. It is quite easy and cheap to mix and match tubes if you have a 2-tube hood. Or you can combine a standard flourescent with a nearby incandescent. As with most things, you can do a descent job with minimal investment and effort, or you can go whole hog. You just have to strike the balance that is best for you.


In my experience any kind of tiger barb is going to be very aggressive towards everything else in the tank, including other tiger barbs. Fish with long flowing fins, like angelfish, are especially at risk of having their fins totally nipped away, and of being simply harassed to death.

Angelfish will basically get along with anything that’s too big to fit in their mouth. :wink: