HOW TO FEED POND FISH

By: Mike Gannon | Posted On: June 2nd, 2011 | 38 Comments on HOW TO FEED POND FISH | In: POND FISH

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One of the first questions that new fish keepers ask is “how much do I feed my fish?”. The more appropriate question could be “how do I feed my fish?”. The part about quantity of food is best answered by the fish themselves, because they will let you know when they’ve had enough and lose interest in feeding time.
Feeding fish in your pond is different than feeding other types of pets, but most new fish keepers tend to treat feeding time for fish like they do other types of pets like birds, rabbits, cats, or dogs. For most of these pets you can fill a bowl and walk away, the animal will eat what it wants to eat, when it wants to eat, and you’re done. As a side note, even for those types of animals this is not the best feeding practice, nor one I recommend; but let’s face it, that is how many people handle the feeding of their pets.
One thing the fish will have in common with other pets is that they will eat what they need and then they are done. If you have thrown in too much food the fish will ignore it, but then this excess food has nowhere to go, it stays in the pond. Excess food quickly breaks down and begins to drag down water quality, raise nutrient levels (which is great for algae growth), discolor water, create odors, encourage pesky flies to hang around the pond, and create maintenance for the pond owner because this food clogs filters and pump intakes.
To toss in food to your fish and walk away is not good practice. Remember, fish do not over eat, we overfeed. Overfeeding a pond will only create poor, possibly deadly, conditions for your pond fish. So with the understanding that poor feeding practice can have possibly disastrous results, let’s bullet point some feeding tips:
• When feeding fish, take your time, at least several minutes. Do not toss food and walk away. This feeding time lets you connect with your fish, and observe them to see how they are doing health wise.
• Give small portions, let them clear ALL of it, and offer small portion again until they are slowing or not showing interest in feeding. Pay attention to how much it is they are eating so you can portion feedings if necessary.
• Do not throw food out to your fish, you are teaching them to stay away from you during feeding time. Offer food close to the edge of the pond where you are standing so they associate your presence with food. You are the FOOD GOD, so work it, be it.
• Try to have a “feeding station” for yourself and offer food from that area. This will also train the fish to associate your presence with the reward of food.
• If you have a skimmer system on your pond (like you should), try to choose a feeding station away from the draw of the skimmer, slow water is the best feeding area.
• Do not feed your fish twice as much before you go out of town, because they do not know you are going out of town and will not eat twice as much because they tomorrow they will not get fed.
• If you have someone coming by to feed your fish while you are away, make sure you pre-portion the feedings for the hired care taker, and make the portions smaller than typical.
• Keep in mind that fish eat different quantities of food at different times of year. How much a fish eats in May will be very different from how much they are eating in September. Adjust your feedings accordingly.
• In colder climates, do not feed your fish once water temperatures have settled around 52F, the fish will not properly metabolize/digest the food and this can lead to health issues.

Have A Question For Mike? Ask the Expert

Proper feeding habits for your pond fish will lead to happier and healthier fish with good growth rates and nicer coloration. Good feeding habits will also lead to a healthier nicer looking pond, cleaner water, and a lot less maintenance for the pond keeper. Do you have any feeding tips you want to add? Send them in!
All copyrights to this material belong to Mike Gannon.

Written by Mike Gannon

Mike Gannon

The LOVEYOURPOND Blog is written by Mike Gannon of Full Service Aquatics located in Summit, NJ. Mike is an award winning pond, water garden, and water feature builder. Always “In The Pursuit Of All Things Aquatic” Mike has been a lifelong hobbyist and providing professional services since 1995. Mike is the creator of The Pond Hunter video series seen on Youtube and has made several television appearances on Networks such as HGTV and the DIY Network. He also hosts the Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast, a show on everything aquatic, every other Wednesday at 8pm EST. You can see what else Mike is up to at the following sites:


    38 Comments on HOW TO FEED POND FISH

    Comments Feed
  1. cas Says:

    on March 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    If you have a skimmer system on your pond (like you should),………

    To avoid the feed to flow into your skimmer, an easy solution is to place an air-stone close to the skimmer and switch it on when feeding. The small waves of the air-stone avoid the feed to get in your skimmer and your fish have all the time to take it.

    In Holland you can buy a special plug which will be automatically switch of after 15, 30, 60 minutes or even after 2 hours.

  2. Mgannon Says:

    on March 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks for reading and adding some great tips!!

  3. Lori Smith Says:

    on May 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    What time of the day is best to feed your fish?

  4. Mgannon Says:

    on May 24, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Hey Lori, there is not necessarily a best time to feed your fish. I think whenever is a convenient time for you is a good time to feed!

  5. pila jackson Says:

    on May 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    i would like to lernt more on how to feed fish from the fish pond,am afarmer.

  6. Mgannon Says:

    on June 2, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for reading the blog post. If I can answer any questions for you just let me know!!

  7. Christine Pulido Says:

    on June 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I was wondering if you have a snail, two in fact, since they eat algae, do you think overfeeding would still be a problem? I will clean but do you think it will be less trouble?

  8. Mgannon Says:

    on July 2, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Snails are great to add to a pond to increase the diversity of organisms and the ecosystem, however; even though they eat algae I would not rely on them in any way to help keep the pond clean. If you keep them, keep them because they are fascinating creatures that will thrive in your pond.

  9. todd childrey Says:

    on August 19, 2013 at 2:09 am

    my dad has a backyard pond about 4 feet deep and 120 feet in diameter in it he has 12 rainbow trout. he lives in central oregon. how much should he feed these fish as they are all about 12 inches long. also the pond is a little green how do you clear that up

  10. Mgannon Says:

    on August 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Hello Todd. Thanks for commenting! I am not too sure of an exact quantity that I can recommend you feed your trout. I know that trout chow is a good food to use, and daily feeding is recommended; however I think the best amount to feed will need to be gauged by whoever does the feeding since the quantities will vary during different times of year. The green water condition your pond has can occur for various reasons and I would need more information on the pond to give any direct suggestions, but generally green water is caused by excess nutrients and those can typically be lowered through filtration, but I’d need more info to give you some real good advice.
    -Mike

  11. Bob Says:

    on June 26, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    I’ve had a pond for years and my fish fed fine . My fish died due to a very cold winter add I put in new fish but I can’t even find them. They must be hiding. How do I get them to start eating, I miss being able to feed them.

  12. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 1, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Hey Bob, sometimes new fish can take some time to acclimate to their new surroundings and owners, maybe many weeks (or more!). Patience is the best thing. Spend time by the pond so they can see you and get comfortable. When you feed them be sure to stay by the pond so they associate you with food. and then spend more time by the pond! Koi and goldfish are very social by nature and your fish will not be any different, BUT they all need time to develop trust, and soon enough they will be following you around the pond, begging for your attention! -Mike

  13. Mashauri Says:

    on July 10, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Halo,
    My friend told me about feeding fish in pond with chicken manure by building a chicken house on top of the pond so that the chicken manure will drop into the pond ready for fish food. How effective is this practice?

  14. Mike Gannon Says:

    on July 18, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Hello Mashauri,
    I do not think that would be a good idea for you pond.
    Mike

  15. Sarah Jane Says:

    on August 31, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Hi,
    We have just moved in the previous owner fed the fish every day of the year regardless of the temp, should I continue this routine or follow the winter rule, also if the pond freezes over do I break the ice. When I go on holiday is there a long life food I can put in the pond or best to ask a friend to feed them, also should I stick to the food she was using although I don’t know the name of it or are fish foods much the same thank you sj

  16. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Hello Sarah, I am not sure exactly where you live however if you live in an area where your pond freezes I would say that you would likely stop feeding in late October, and resume feedings in April (weather temperatures permitting on both counts). DO NOT feed your fish in freezing weather. When water temperatures are below 52F it is typically time to stop feeding, and commence again when temperature reach 52F-55F in spring. Thanks for reading and commenting!! -Mike

  17. Sarah Jane Says:

    on September 23, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you Mike I am south Coast England
    It looks like we have babies (goldfish) is there any extra care I need to give them ?

  18. Mike Gannon Says:

    on September 23, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Hi Sarah Jane, there is no real special care you need to offer your baby fish they will do just fine on their own. When they get a bit bigger they will begin to feed with your other fish. -Mike

  19. Sarah jane Says:

    on October 23, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you Mike.

  20. Chris Says:

    on May 30, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    Hi, I have just moved into a new house that has a pond. I have never kept fish before so am really new to this. I am worried that my fish are not eating. We lost 2 fish over the winter. I am not sure how the previous owner fed the fish but I have been using the same food that they left. Untill reading this post I must admit I have been feeding the fish the lazy way as in just throwing the food in and walking away. The food is still there the next day. I now know that this is bad and will start removing the excess food but if I remove the food after 5 – 10 minutes none of it will get eaten and my fish will starve? So after reading this blog I think I can summarise and deduct that as of tomorow I need to pick a feeding spot, slowly add a small amount of food and wait there for the fish to come to me? If they do not after 10 minutes I assume they are not hungry? How long can I do this for before my fish starve?

  21. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 17, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Chris. I can honestly tell you that in 20+ years of professional fish keeping and as a lifelong hobbyist I have NEVER seen a fish starve to death. I hope your fish will not be the first! Be patient with your feeding, it can take some time for fish to gain the trust they need to come out and eat in your presence but eventually they will, and eventually they will associate you with food and become very excited to see you! Remember that fish do not require alot of food so if they are not eating do not give more food to try to entice them into eating, just give them time, and give your self time, the fish will come around and the hobby will become much more fun and rewarding for you AND your fish!
    Mike

  22. Sue Says:

    on June 12, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Hi Mike,
    Interesting blog, thank you! Someone asked earlier, do you break up the ice when the pond freezes over? My pond is approx. 3 feet deep in the center. I lost two fish and a frog this past winter, it looks like the frog got stuck in the filter basket and couldn’t swim out because it was frozen near the filter. Any suggestions? Also, how many times per day do you feed? Thanks again for providing this blog!

  23. Mike Gannon Says:

    on June 17, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Hello Sue. I do not break up ice on a frozen pond because it will typically refreeze soon after, and the sound of breaking up ice is very stressful to fish when they are in their winter mode of torpor. I use a de-icer and an aerator (very effective!) to keep my pond oxygenated and degassed during winter months, and use this same method for the close to 200 ponds I manage with great success. I feed my fish daily during the feeding seasons, not winter, and sometimes even more often when they are in prime feeding mode. Thanks for reaching out!
    Mike

  24. julius Says:

    on July 22, 2015 at 11:17 am

    should I feed my fish on maizebran and cotton seed meal?

  25. Mike Gannon Says:

    on August 11, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Hey Julius. I’ve never heard of using those as foods, so I will say No, don’t use those. Try fish food for your fish! -Mike

  26. Yael Says:

    on August 25, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Hello,Mike,
    We just bought a 1/4 section property(BC,Canada) with a huge pond, more than 20′ deep and about 30′- 60′ diameter(maybe more), the pond freeze during the winter, for about 4-6 month, depends on severity of winter, there is a pipe that supplies oxygen, no any filters or cleaning systems, the water always brownish colour, there are hundreds or even thousands of gold and koi fishes,
    (when we’re feeding them, it’s an amazing sight to see!)
    i had never had any pets before, so i have no idea how many times to feed them, (especially when i know that they’re not fed during the winter) just recently notice much more baby fishes coming during the feeding time.
    Any advise for how often to feed them (how many times per day or week) before it freezes?
    Thank you very much

  27. Mike Gannon Says:

    on January 29, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Feed daily when water temperatures allow for it, and adjust your feeding according to water temperatures, don’t feed during winter months! Enjoy!! Mike

  28. Ben Lennon Says:

    on September 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Mike,
    I recently setup a raised quadrant pond in our patio area, I have 9 goldfish 2″ to 5″ aprox in length. I give them an egg-cup full of food in the morning and it stays on the surface all day and evening, when I come out in the mornings the food is gone. Is this usual behaviour.
    Ben.

  29. Mike Gannon Says:

    on January 29, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    The fish may not be comfortable feeding in front of you yet. If you don’t take the time to stick around to watch them eat they may always wait for you to leave before eating. It is “normal” to a degree, but you can get them to eat when you are there too! Mike

  30. Alison Says:

    on October 5, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Hi Mike, New pond owner and loving my fish!! I live in NJ and am concerned that some of
    My smaller koi and goldfish may not surrive the winter. I was told if they are not a certain size I should being them in?! We have several small and tiny ones. Your thoughts? Thanks! Great Blog!!??

  31. Lindy Says:

    on May 13, 2016 at 2:03 am

    Hi Mike, I recently purchased a property that used to be fish and water gardens business. I have several ponds on the property. According to the man that owned the business 4 years ago, there were not suppose to be any koi left behind when he moved. Well there were, and I rescued ten 7″-10″ Koi two and a half weeks ago from a stagnant pond. They are currently being housed in a 935 gallon tank with a pump, filtration and waterfall. Water temp 68 degrees, ammonia 0, PH 7.6. Water is being turned over at 12 gallons per hour, which equals to a complete water change every three days. Water conditions are holding well. My question is about feeding. These koi, I would consider wild juveniles, are bundling together around a stand pipe are start turning over and over themselves when they get frightened. I’m sure they are scared and this is why they are acting like this. I have put in a feeding ring to no avail. They will not surface. Some of the bigger ones have fed on sinking shrimp and watermelon. I am worried about the smaller ones, they don’t seem to be eating yet. Should I separate the smaller ones from the larger to give them a chance to eat? I don’t want to stress them further. Or, should I just keep feeding shrimp, watermelon, earthworms, sinking pellets? What do you suggest? I am not concerned about them eating from my hand, but I would like to see that all of them are eating. When I walk away it is impossible to tell who has eaten and the smaller ones are clearly not aggressive enough and seem to be getting thinner. Please help..Thank you!

  32. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 14, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Lindy, that sounds like my king of property you purchased!! I just happened to do a podcast on feeding fish. Why not take a listen to it and I am sure it will help very much. Here is the link! http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepondhunter/2016/05/01/the-pond-hunter-radio-broadcast-ep36–how-to-feed-koi-goldfish-and-pond-fish
    thanks! Mike

  33. Lindy Says:

    on May 13, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Mike, one more question please. Do you think that by me purchasing two or three trained koi that they will help teach these wild juveniles to feed more freely? I plan to relocate the entire group to a 16,000 gallon pond in the near future. I was told that the monkey see, monkey do scenario is usually successful. Thanks again.

  34. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 14, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Yes, that could work, but I think they will eventually learn to take food from you on their own as well!! -Mike

  35. Gordon Says:

    on May 24, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    The grand kids like to feed the pond fish here in So West Texas. We have been using bread for feed. Can you suggest anything more appetizing?

  36. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 27, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Hi Gordon, personally I like my bread with peanut butter, but the fish may not. What type of fish are they? Whatever type of fish they are you should be able to find a “chow” for them, for example “trout chow”. good luck. -Mike

  37. Dallas Says:

    on May 26, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    When keeping fish in a lotus pond, should you still use a skimmer or use water snails to pick up excess food? Also, wht is the best fish to keep to make sure a lotus garden is fertile?

  38. Mike Gannon Says:

    on May 27, 2016 at 1:54 am

    Hello Dallas. I think in some applications using a skimmer would be very helpful but maybe not all the time. Aquatic snails are a nice part of an ecosystem type of pond, but some snails are desirable, while others get invasive. I like trap door snails. I’m sure there can be some impact, but I am not sure that I have heard of any fish being particularly effective in regards to the fertility of a lotus garden that I can recommend. -Mike

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