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Overfeeding and Water Quality

Please welcome Sam Yost as a blogger on That Fish Blog.  Sam has recently been promoted to Fish Room Supervisor and will be graduating from Millersville University in December with a degree in Marine Biology. 

Hello, My name is Sam Yost.  Being a hobbyist and working with other hobbyists in the trade, I have grown to understand that  keeping good water quality is one of the most important parts of aquarium keeping. If your aquarium water quality is bad, and a regular maintenance schedule is not kept, your fish will not be healthy, or will not live to their full potential.

There are many things that can happen in a tank to degrade the water quality. One of the major problems in maintaining water quality is overfeeding.  By overfeeding, a lot of unused food ends up breaking down in the tank.  It can be difficult to tell when fish have had enough, especially if there are a lot of fish in the tank, but it may be best to underfeed instead of dumping copious amounts of food. When uneaten food breaks down in the tank, it can cause a spike in ammonia, nitrites or nitrates. This spike, even if it is small, can be deadly to fish.  It may also settle into the substrate, where it can break down and cause chemistry problems, fish illness and other problems down the line.

There are several things you can do to help alleviate these overfeeding/water quality issues.

Consider what your fish need. Different fish can require different types and sizes of food, and some may require more frequent feedings than others. Generally, fish should be fed food that is about the size of their eye or smaller, or foods that can be broken easily, like flakes, that they can easily take in.

The amount of food administered should be what they can consume with in a minute or so. It is better to feed your fish several small meals than one large meal. Generally in a community, small feedings in the morning, evening and night will work great!  By doing three small feedings, there is a smaller amount of food being wasted.

Small, frequent feedings are also more healthy for the fish.  They are not eating so much that they look bloated, and the food can be used more efficiently.

You can also minimize the amount of waste that is put in to the tank by rinsing frozen food. This action gets rid of excess preservatives that are used to keep the food fresh so they go down the drain instead of breaking down in the tank.

Finally, small frequent water changes to reduce nitrates and gravel siphoning after several days can remove any waste and decaying food from the substrate.  A good, regular maintenance schedule will allow you to keep the water pristine and give your fish the best possible water quality for long, happy, healthy lives!




  1. avatar

    i love the way the aquariums are setup. im currently a owner of cichlids.im very interested in knowing any information on them. my question is how can you tell if you have a male or female? and why do they push and move gravel in different places? and how can you tell if one is having babies?

  2. avatar

    Hi Debra, some cichlids are easily sexed as the females and the males show different colors (think of African Peacocks…the males are brilliant while females remain drab), while others show little or no outside physical differences at all like oscars for example. Often there are other minute differences like the shape of a fin or the robustness or size of the body. It depends largely on the species or type of cichlid you’re referring to. It is common for cichlids to dig and move substrate and other tank furnishings, usually it is to create a burrow or a nest, again depending on the kind you’re talking about…some move it just to get it out of their space. As far as babies, it depends again on the type of cichlid you’re talking about…they lay eggs, but some carry their babies in their mouths and others lay the eggs on a surface or scattered in a nest and tend the fry there after they hatch. This is a very diverse group of fish with many different behaviors…can you be more specific with the type you’re referring to?

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