By Emily Gantt
Published: 01/07/2022, edited: 01/07/2022
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- What to look for in healthy fish foods
- Low or no carbs
- Low fat
- Low fiber
- High protein
- Vitamins and minerals
- Minimal soy, grains, and beans
- How often should you feed your fish?
- Top healthiest fish food of 2022
- Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Flake Fish Food
- San Francisco Bay Brand Freeze-Dried Krill
- Repashy SuperGreen Vegan Algae Gel Premix
- Amzey Bloodworms Freeze-Dried Fish Food
- Have questions about your fish's diet?
Whether you have a single betta or an aquarium full of tropical species, it's natural for fish parents to want to feed their fishies the best diet possible. A good diet will prolong your fish's life and keep them looking and feeling healthy. Let's explore the qualities of good fish food and our top picks for the healthiest fish food brands of 2022.
What to look for in healthy fish foods
The guaranteed analysis and the ingredients list will tell you everything you need to know about the quality of the fish food — if you know how to read it. Below are the things you should watch for and avoid when you're scanning fish food nutrition labels.
Low or no carbs
Fish require no carbs for survival, but still, we find them in most commercial fish foods. There are a few reasons why carbs like flour, legumes, and grains appear on the ingredients list.
For one, these foods are an effective (and cheap) way to stretch quality ingredients like whole fish meal. Secondly, these carb-heavy ingredients help with the texture of the food and prevent it from quickly dissolving in the tank. When shopping for fish food, try to find a formula that contains no more than 25% carbs for optimal digestibility.
Fat should only constitute 8% to 10% of a predatory fish's diet, and plant-eaters need about half as much, requiring only 3% to 5% fat in their diets.
Overdoing your fish's fat intake can be harsh on the liver and even decrease their lifespan. Look for fish foods made with polyunsaturated fats and omega fatty acids since these are much healthier than saturated fats.
While great for digestion in humans, fiber isn't beneficial or well tolerated by fish. Parents of herbivorous species should aim for foods with 5% to 10% fiber, whereas those caring for carnivorous species should choose a food with 4% fiber max.
For optimal health and development, make sure the food you choose contains adequate protein for your fish's species and life stage. Protein intake should constitute at least 45% of a meat-eating fish's diet. This percentage drops to 15% to 30% for herbivorous and increases to 50% for actively growing fish.
Vitamins and minerals
Fish need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy and looking their best. Here are the main vitamins and minerals you should look for in a quality fish food:
- Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant fish need for immune support and healthy development
- Calcium: Calcium strengthens the skeletal system and helps with egg production
- Vitamin K: Helps with wound healing and blood clotting
- Vitamin A: Encourages healthy development of the spine and bones
- B-complex vitamins: Promotes growth and nutrient absorption
- Folic acid: Necessary for the production of healthy blood cells
Minimal soy, grains, and beans
Soy, grains, and beans should be at the end of the ingredients list since fish cannot digest these foods. Unfortunately, avoiding these ingredients altogether is almost impossible.
Some of the best fish foods on the market still add small amounts of these ingredients to their products as a food binder and filler. Scan the nutrition label for these ingredients, and try to avoid foods that have these products in the top 3 ingredients.
How often should you feed your fish?
Many first-time fish parents wonder how often they should be feeding their fish. But the answer isn't a straightforward one. How often you need to feed your fish will depend on:
The type of food (fish flakes, gels, slow feeders, and live food all have different feeding instructions)
The species of fish
Due to their fast metabolisms and natural eating habits, plant-eaters, adolescent fish, and goldfish will need to eat several meals throughout the day to stay healthy. On the other hand, carnivorous species do great with a single meal a day. The feeding time is usually nothing to be concerned with unless you have a nocturnal species like the catfish in your tank. If you have a catfish or other nocturnal species, it's best to feed them at night.
Experts say you should only offer as much food as your fish can gobble up in a normal feeding period. Most fish food manufacturers recommend removing uneaten food after 3 minutes for freeze-dried food and after 5 minutes for flakes and pellets. Adding too much food can pollute the water with ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphorous, which can trigger algae growth and make the water acidic.
You may be wondering what the nutritional analysis has to do with the frequency of feeding. After all, a meal is a meal, right? Well, not exactly. Fish that eat high-quality fish foods don't need as much food since they're getting a nutritionally balanced and complete meal every time they eat. Always refer to the product packaging for detailed feeding instructions.
Top healthiest fish food of 2022
We've scoured the internet to find the best fish food on the market as of 2022. Below are our top picks based on the product's guaranteed analysis and ingredient quality. Please keep in mind that the type of food best for your fish will depend on your fish's species, eating patterns, and individual nutritional needs.
Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Flake Fish Food
Flake fish food is the most popular fish food on the market. It's easy to feed, available in big-box stores, and is less expensive than freeze-dried, gel, and live foods. What's more, since it's dried (and usually heavily processed), it lasts a long time.
Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Flake Fish Food is one of the best fish flakes on the market since it uses quality and color-boosting ingredients. The manufacturers of this food developed this formula especially for carnivorous top-feeders.
Why we like this food:
Salmon fish meal and spirulina algae meal are the primary ingredients
Great for improving fish coloration
Promotes reproductive health
Soy and wheat flours are the 3rd and 4th ingredients list
No artificial preservatives
San Francisco Bay Brand Freeze-Dried Krill
Freeze-dried krill fish food is a fantastic option for carnivorous fish since it contains minimal ingredients, is protein-packed, and has a long shelf life. San Francisco Bay Freeze-Dried Krill is a popular choice with fish enthusiasts since it's comprised entirely of minimally-processed krill.
This formula is best for larger species, but you can crumble the morsels to feed smaller fish. Manufacturers of this food suggest rehydrating this product before placing it into the aquarium and scooping out the leftover food after 3 minutes of feeding to prevent clouding, ammonia, and nitrate buildup.
Why we like this food:
Excellent protein source for carnivorous species
Suitable for both fresh and saltwater fish
Krill is the only ingredient
Long shelf life
Owners of smaller fish may have to crush the krill up before serving
Repashy SuperGreen Vegan Algae Gel Premix
Algae gels are a favorite food choice of parents of herbivorous fish, and Repashy SuperGreen Vegan Algae Gel is one of the most popular brands. This vitamin-rich formula is a terrific source of nutrition for bottom-feeding herbivores. Preparing gel premixes, like this one, is an involved process, so make sure you read the directions carefully when preparing this food.
Why we like this food:
The formula includes natural color-boosting additives like turmeric and hibiscus flower
Offers the vegetable-based protein that herbivores need
Packed with vitamins and carotenoids
It contains several types of algae
Completely vegan formula
More expensive than other brands and types of fish food
Preparation can be labor-intensive
Amzey Bloodworms Freeze-Dried Fish Food
Blood worms are an excellent food source for predatory species like bettas, angelfish, and guppies; however, live blood worms sometimes harbor microscopic bacteria and parasites that make fish sick. Amzey Freeze-Dried Bloodworms contain all the natural goodness of bloodworms without the risk of infection that can come with live feeding.
Why we like this food:
Since the worms are freeze-dried, there's no risk of bacterial or parasitic contamination
Bloodworms are the only ingredient
It’s free of artificial ingredients and fillers
Long shelf life
Doesn't require refrigeration
Since this food is not fortified with added vitamins and minerals, dietary supplements and other types of food may be necessary for a complete and balanced diet
Have questions about your fish's diet?
Are you concerned that your fish isn't getting the proper nutrients they need? Live chat with a vet now to discuss your fish's nutritional needs!