Feeder Fish - The Great Aquarium Controversy

Feeder Fish - One of the greatest controversies in the aquarium hobby is whether or not to use feeder fish. Hopefully this article will help you make this decision. Common arguments for use of feeder fish are that the fish need to eat other fish as part of their natural diet, the chasing of live feeders stimulates the fish, and that it's a cheap source of food if you breed your own livebearers.

Arguments against the use of feeder fish are that the feeders bought at the store are full of disease and otherwise improperly cared for, it's unethical and immoral, it teaches your fish to eat all other fish in your aquarium, and feeders do not supply the nutrition fish need.

Arguments for using feeder fish:

Using feeder fish is often a good way to get a new wild-caught fish to eat. Many new fish will refuse to eat when newly introduced to an aquarium for quite a while. Using feeders will often stimulate their hunting instincts and will entice them to eat more than any frozen food would. Also, many aquarium fish are at least partial piscivores and eat other fish as a substantial part of their diet. Setting up your own breeding tank is an easy and cheap way to provide food for your fish.

A small tank with a male and a few female guppies or mollies will provide you with many fry with which to feed your fish. This is also beneficial because you can watch the fish and make sure that they are free from disease and feed on highly nutritious foods, including lots of vegetable matter that carnivorous fish would normally get through their prey in the wild.

Arguments against using feeder fish:

One strong and personal argument against using feeder fish is from an ethical or moral standpoint. Many people find it disgusting to watch one fish consume another living creature, especially another fish. They feel that it is a horrible way for a fish to die, and fear that it is very painful and stressful for the fish to be dumped into an unfamiliar aquarium and then chased and bitten by a larger, aggressive fish. The feeder fish bought at stores are also kept in even poorer conditions than the ones meant for ornamental use. They are often riddled with disease and malnourished, thus passing on nothing but disease and poor nutrition to the fish that consume them.

Another argument is that feeder goldfish are very fatty and thus provide little more than fat and water to the consuming fish, being the equivalent of fish junk food. Also, with some fish, training them to eat feeder fish will also train them to eat all other fish in your aquarium. There are also very few, if any, fish that wouldn't be able to survive in aquaria without feeder fish in their diet.


The issue of using feeder fish is obviously not a simple choice. There are many pluses and minuses to each side. If you do decide to use feeder fish, be sure to do so responsibly. Respect the life that you are ending to benefit another fish, and see this as a part of the natural life cycle rather than as a way to entertain yourself. Raise the feeders with great care and to optimum health, and make sure that they are disease-free. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of using feeders or not, so it is up to the individual to decide if it would be the best source of nutrition for his or her fish.

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