Why is my fish a picky eater?

If your fish seems to be "turning up his nose" at the food you offer, you may have a picky eater on your hands. Maybe he just nibbles a little when you feed him but is otherwise uninterested. Or maybe he's not eating enough to stay healthy. Sometimes fish can become picky eaters, and it's important for aquarium caretakers to figure out what's wrong so they can help. The reasons can vary from feeding the wrong type of food to having a sick fish on your hands.


Make Sure You're Feeding the Right Kind of Food

First, it's very important to make sure you're feeding your fish the right kind of food.

Fish may be herbivores (plant eaters), carnivores (meat eaters), or omnivores (eats both plants and meat). Your food should match their dietary preferences.

Note: If you have both herbivores and carnivores, alternate feedings of meat- and plant-based foods.

If your finned friends are surface feeders, like bettas or danios, make sure they have access to flakes or pellets that float. Bottom feeders, like  bristlenose plecos and corydoras catfish, need sinking pellets

Consider the size of the food too. Larger fish may be less interested in tiny flakes, while larger-sized pellets may be too big for neon tetras' small mouths.

New Fish or New Food Can Cause Problems

While variety is the spice of life, a sudden change can sometimes cause issues. Fish that are new additions to an aquarium are notorious for being pickier eaters because of the stress they've gone through. You may need to tempt them with extra tasty food at first, like brine shrimp or a tasty Stick'ems treat. After they've acclimated to the environment, they're more likely to transition to regular food.


Another change that fish may not like is suddenly switching the food they're getting. When switching to a different brand, try making the change gradual by slowly mixing higher percentages of the new food into their feedings.

Sick or Stressed Fish May Eat Less

Fish that aren't usually picky eaters may become choosier when stressed. In fact, not eating can be a sign that a fish is sick, and you need to contact your veterinarian.

Other circumstances that stress your fish can also lead to them becoming pickier eaters. Consider if you have poor water quality, the tank water is too cool or too warm, if there's too much competition from other fish, or if the food is stale.

Some Species of Fish Are Naturally Picky

Some species of fish are just naturally choosier about their food than others. The saltwater Moorish idol is so picky that they might starve themselves to death if they don't have the right food.

If you're newer to caring for fish, look for breeds that are less picky and easier to raise. For freshwater aquariums, examples include goldfish, betta, angelfish, livebearers, or tetras.

Try Treats That Can Entice Picky Fish

Adding a more enticing treat to your schedule can sometimes tempt picky fish into eating more.

Aqueon Stick'ems are known to be popular with even picky eaters, so the treats make a great addition to any diet — whether you're raising freshwater or saltwater fish. These freeze-dried treats are made with natural ingredients that picky fish find compelling, like brine and Mysis shrimp. The palatability and high protein content make them a good choice when your finicky finned pets turn their noses up at everything else.These new fish treats are available online and on your favorite pet store shelves and come in three varieties.

Stick'ems aren't just fun for your fish — they're fun for you too. When you stick these to the side of the tank, you get an up-close look at feeding time and more interaction with your pet fish. (And it helps for great photo ops!)

If you find yourself with picky fish, a tasty treat can be a great choice after you've ruled out illnesses or poor water quality. Treat time can entice your fish to start eating again, which can lead to positive habits that last through other mealtimes too.