Most of us have fed goldfish or koi bread at the park at one time or another. Since they ravenously consume it, it makes you wonder: can aquarium fish also eat bread?
Can Aquarium Fish Eat Bread?
The short, unfortunate answer is that bread is one of the worst things you can feed most aquarium fish. There are several important reasons why and we’ll get to them soon enough.
While not all terrestrial foods are bad (and some of them are great!) stick to prepared fish formulas and fresh versions of what they would find in nature. Bread and any other sort of prepared food for humans should be off-limits to your fish (and you probably shouldn’t be eating too much yourself!
What Makes Bread So Dangerous?
Bread is so familiar and we’ve probably fed it to fish dozens of times. How can bread be a danger to our pets?
Bread has Almost No Nutrition
Bread isn’t even particularly good for humans. While fish aren’t gluten intolerant they have little to no ability to digest the plant starches found in bread (with a few exceptions like seed-eating Pacus).
Typically fish can digest animal sugars like chitin (found in crustacean and insect shells). And omnivorous fish like Goldfish can handle some plant sugars. But the potato, wheat, corn, and other terrestrial starches are simply a waste of space in their digestive system.
What goes in one end goes right back out mostly unused. This undigested food then contributes directly to water quality issues, causing ammonia, nitrite, and other parameters to rise as the bacterial nutrient-rich feces decay.
It’s also difficult to say what the other additives in the bread will do to your fish. Yeast, honey, salt, seeds…Take a look at the nutritional label. There is a lot that goes into even the simplest bread recipe and there’s no guarantee that it’s all fish-safe.
Bread is Extremely Messy
Feeding fish in a pond thousands of gallons or more in volume is one thing. But giving your fish bread in a home aquarium or bowl is a recipe for an untidy mess. As the bread absorbs water it becomes quite soft.
And as your fish snap at it and chew (assuming they even recognize it as food) they will make a cloudy mess of it. These fine particles of bread go on to clog your filter mesh, preventing them from capturing feces and other particles.
The leftover bread also contributes to rises in decay byproducts because it is readily attacked by aquatic bacteria and fungi. Many of these microorganisms are very opportunistic as well and will gladly jump into a fish whose immune system is weakened by a spike in ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates.
Bread Continuously Absorbs Water
This last issue is probably the most dangerous. Not only is bread nutritionally worthless but it’s absorbent. The digestive system of your fish is significantly tighter than your own.
When bread absorbs water it expands to take up additional room. This can lead to stomach and intestinal bloating. This bloat can interfere with digestion, cause physical blockages, and even lead to rotting in the intestines (which can lead to diseases like Dropsy).
While fish do consume significant quantities of water when eating it’s still a very real risk factor. And with so many safe, nutritionally complete fresh and prepared foods available there’s no reason why you should be feeding your fish bread.
What Should I Feed My Aquarium Fish?
Here are some feeding tips for your fish:
The simplest and most convenient way to keep your fish fed is by using any one of the hundreds of food formulas available for pet fish. Tetra, Hikari, API, and many other brands have formulas for general community dwellers, specialists like predatory cichlids or algae eaters, and everything in between.
- TROPICAL FORMULATION: Highly digestible flake...
- PLUS COLOR ENHANCEMENT: Rich in carotene and other...
- HIGH-PROTEIN FORMULA: Specialized fish meal makes...
When shopping for prepared foods, keep an eye on both the nutritional information and size. Small fish with small mouths like Neon Tetras should be eating either micro pellets, flakes, or fresh foods.
Many formulas are also designed to sink or float, to meet the needs of both surface and bottom feeders!
Fresh Terrestrial Foods
Many of the fresh ingredients found in a typical grocery store are as good for your fish as they are for you. Lean chicken, fresh or frozen fish, and blanched vegetables like zucchini and peas will all be eaten by your pets. In fact, familiar meats and plants are important ingredients for DIY fish food recipes!
You’ll need to either cut your items to size, blend them into smoothies that you can freeze into cubes, or clip vegetables in place for grazers to enjoy.
Fresh Aquatic Foods
Fresh and frozen aquatic foods are the best things to feed your aquarium fish because they are identical to what they find in nature. There is an endless variety, with brine shrimp, tubifex worms, bloodworms, and other aquatic invertebrates being especially common.
Many blends also include Spirulina for omnivores and there are even specialist formulas for picky eaters like Angelfish (many feed exclusively on marine sponges).
- Ready-to-use nonliving baby brine shrimp includes...
- Contains 1.5 million-plus nauplii (baby brine...
- Excellent buoyancy that facilitates feeding
I highly recommend keeping live food on hand because they are the freshest, healthiest items you can offer (assuming the source is free of pollution and parasites). It’s quite easy to raise your own as well, which I explore further in my article on Live Fish Food: Common Types & When You Should Feed Them!
However if you don’t want additional bodies of water to maintain most pet stores carry frozen food, both plant and animal-based to keep your fish in tip-top condition.
With so many nutritious, convenient options available it makes little sense to feed your fish something as problematic as bread. Instead, provide foods that not only entertain you but ensure your fish will be around for years to come!