Our aquarium fish depend on us to provide a healthy aquarium to live in. Stability and consistency are important characteristics of good aquarium care. Freshwater and marine fish require a good diet to grow, develop beautiful coloration and maintain good health. Most aquarists use high-quality prepared foods like flakes, crumbles and pellets as the main way to feed their fish.
Fish food manufacturers work hard to provide balanced, vitamin and mineral-rich diets. Proteins, fat and fiber are scientifically calculated and blended into the fish food recipe. Ingredients are carefully processed to protect the vitamin content in the final food products. Aquarists are fortunate that there are so many types of fish food products to choose from.
Dangers of over-feeding aquarium fish
Tropical, marine and goldfish like to forage for food throughout the day. In most cases, aquarium fish can be fed one or more times a day. If you feed several times a day, smaller, easily consumed portions are recommended. Excess food will simply decay in the aquarium, causing a surge in harmful ammonia and nitrite. The phosphorous in the food can also stimulate algae growth.
Gray, cloudy water, caused by bacterial blooms, are often caused by over-feeding the aquarium. The decomposing food is an energy source for naturally-occurring bacteria in the tank. Normally they are invisible and part of the aquarium’s ecosystem.
Over-feeding with fish foods stimulate the bacteria to feed and reproduce. The bacteria will continue to reproduce so much, a bacteria cloud forms in the water. All of these water quality problems will stress the fish, which can lead to a compromised immune system. Stressed fish become more susceptible to fish diseases that cause cloudy eyes, ragged fins, ulcers and gill damage.
Holidays, vacations and your aquarium
Many aquarists get stressed out when they have to leave their aquarium unattended. Going away on a fun vacation should be a relaxing event. You want to unwind and forget about life’s cares. But what about your aquarium? Who can you trust to feed the fish properly?
Most aquarists ask a neighbor or family member to feed the fish while they are away. Some people are very nervous about over-feeding. They worry that something they’ll do will cause the fish will die. Many “volunteer fishkeepers” confess that they only feed the fish once out of fear. On the other end of the spectrum, there are “helpers” who add too much food, believing the fish will starve without a huge scoop of food every day. What’s the answer to all of these fish-feeding concerns? The automatic fish feeder!
Automatic fish feeders to the rescue!
Automatic fish feeder is mechanical device that periodically add fish food to the aquarium. The devices have been popular in the hobby for over 30 years. Designs get updated every few years as improvements are developed.
Commercial automatic fish feeders are used at fish hatcheries, grow-out ponds and at feeding stations in outdoor lakes and ponds. These rugged devices are too large and expensive for aquarium use. They’re built for outdoor use and hold a very large amount of food pellets. The good news is engineers have developed aquarium-sized fish feeders that are designed to dispense small amounts of tropical fish foods. These devices are perfect for feeding your fish while you’re away on vacation, holidays, business trips or anytime you’re not at home.
How automatic fish feeders work
There are several designs but all automatic fish feeders have several features in common. Fish food is held in some kind of drum or chamber. A programmable timer controls when the food is added to the aquarium. Some automatic fish feeders offer more features, like the ability to feed multiple times a day.
Automatic fish feeders have become more refined over the years. The one problem that sometimes affects automatic feeders is moisture. The feeder is typically placed on top of the aquarium, just above the water surface. The food drops into the aquarium, from the food container. Moisture from the aquarium can collect on the feeder, especially where the food comes out. This is highly dependent on the feeder design.
Some feeders have a dedicated slot where the food must pass. This is where moisture can cause flake food to “gum up” and clog the slot. Other feeder designs use a rotating chamber that faces away from the water surface. The chamber rotates down toward the water only at feeding time. This reduces the chances that moisture can collect where the fish food comes out.
Most automatic fish feeders are battery powered. This makes it easy to place the feeder anywhere on the aquarium. It also ensures the feeder works even if there is a power outage.
Best automatic fish feeders
We’ve checked out a lot of automatic fish feeders to see which models offer the best features and value. Not all automatic fish feeders are the same. You’ll want to take a look at the different models and compare what they have to offer. Then you’ll be able to decide which automatic fish feeder is best for your aquarium!
Eheim is a German company famous for making high-quality aquarium equipment. The Every Day Fish Feeder is powered by batteries, which are included in the package. The feeder is designed primarily for flake foods. Flakes are loaded into the chamber. An adjustable slot is used to dial-in the amount of food added at each feeding. Through a push-button panel, you’ll be able to set when the food is added to the aquarium.
The Eheim Every Day Feeder also has a manual feed button that allows you to give the fish a snack anytime you want. The feeder is designed to be placed on top of the tank, over an open section of water. Velcro strips are included to keep the feeder in place while in use.
This automatic fish feeder has
- Integrated Fan and Ventilation System Keeps the Food Dry
- Easy to understand programming
- Function keys are splash resistant
- Warning system quickly indicates low battery level
- Including bracket for mounting on an open-top aquarium or terrarium
- Includes batteries
- Only works with flake foods
The British-made Fish Mate F14 automatic fish feeder is designed with a rotating “roulette wheel” style hopper. You determine how much is added into each feeding chamber on the wheel. There are 14 food chambers on the wheel. You can add pellets, flakes and crumbles or a combination of all three. This means you can feed sinking pellets and flakes all at the same time. You can set the feeder to add food from one to four times in a 24-hour period.
The Fish Mate F14 has a connection to attach an air pump to the feeder. The constant flow of air prevents clogging of the food slot. This feeder uses one AA battery. There is no mounting bracket for the feeder. You will have to place the Fish Mate F14 on top of the aquarium, near an opening in the lid.
- Feeds all types of fish foods
- Easy to use timer for 1 to 4 feedings per day
- Reliable and accurate quartz timer
- Battery condition indicator
- No mounting bracket
The ZooMed BettaMatic automatic fish feeder is designed especially for betta aquariums. The small size makes it easy to position over nano and beta tanks. The sliding legs adjust to the width of the top of the aquarium. You can also remove the legs and stick to the feeder to the aquarium with Velcro (not included).
The BettaMatic feeds once a day. This automatic feeder is designed to feed tiny betta pellets. It will not work with flakes, freeze dried foods, etc.
- Uses one AA size battery (battery included).
- Sample food included
- Small size fits in with betta aquariums
- Feeds pellets only
The Hydor automatic fish feeder is battery-operated. The Hydor feeder does not have a mounting bracket. It must be placed on a flat surface, over the aquarium water. It can feed up to three times a day. The Hydor automatic feeder will work with flakes, pellets and crumble fish foods. This feeder is not programmable. You can push the button on the panel to select how many times the fish are fed.
The LED lights indicate how many times a day the feeder will dispense food into the tank. When the batteries are first installed, you must select how many times a day the unit will feed. Whatever time you set it up, it will perform the first feeding 24 hours later. If you select two or three feedings, the Hydor feeder will feed after six hours and then again after another six hours. You cannot program the exact times you want to feed on the second and third feedings.
- Solid build quality
- Dependable operation
- At-a glance LEDs
- Not fully programable
- No mounting system
- No battery life indicator
The NICREW automatic fish feeder incorporates some new design features not found on other fish feeders. The NICREW uses a tiny fan to force a gentle stream of dry air through the food chamber. The air intake is positioned away from the aquarium and moisture A sliding door control the amount of food that drops into the aquarium. You have the option to program up to five feedings per day. You can also decide how many times the drum rotates and drops food into the tan at each feeding. Each feeding can be a single rotation or multiple rotations to add more food.
The LCD screen displays the time and functions of the feeder. You can suspend automatic feeding and it will keep the programming for next time.
The NICREW automatic fish feeder has a mounting bracket allowing the unit to be attached to the top lip of your aquarium. It runs on two AA batteries (included).
- Unique air system to keep food dry
- Works with flakes and pellets
- Programable for custom feeding
- Has a manual feed button for snacks
- LCD display
- Has an Off button to suspend feeding
- Appears to have reliability problems with some units
The Current USA Aquachef is an automatic feeder with a rotating food drum. Feeding cycles are programmable up to four feedings per day. The drum can rotate one or two times per feeding.
The feeder comes with a mounting bracket to attach it to the side of the tank. Flakes and pellets can be used in the Hydor Aquachef. The sealed food drum will work best with pellets. Flake food tends to get moist and cake up where the food comes out. The unit comes with two AA batteries.
- LCD screen for programming
- Manual feeding button
- Programming instructions are poorly written
- Metering the amount of food from the drum is difficult
- Does not work well with flake foods
- Bulky size
No matter which automatic fish feeder you choose, it will require some dialing-in to get the feeding amount correct. Drum-type automatic feeders are especially sensitive to different types and sizes of fish food. You will have to carefully adjust the “hatch door” that controls the opening of the food drum. Automatic fish feeders make it easy to leave your aquarium for days or weeks. Every aquarist should have an automatic fish feeder, juts for peace of mind knowing your fish will be fed no matter where you are.