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.
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.
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.
Thanks for reading and adding some great tips!!
What time of the day is best to feed your fish?
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!
i would like to lernt more on how to feed fish from the fish pond,am afarmer.
Thanks for reading the blog post. If I can answer any questions for you just let me know!!
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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?
I do not think that would be a good idea for you pond.
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
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
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 ?
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
Thank you Mike.
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?
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!
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!
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!
should I feed my fish on maizebran and cotton seed meal?
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
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
Feed daily when water temperatures allow for it, and adjust your feeding according to water temperatures, don’t feed during winter months! Enjoy!! 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.
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
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!!??
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!
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! https://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepondhunter/2016/05/01/the-pond-hunter-radio-broadcast-ep36–how-to-feed-koi-goldfish-and-pond-fish
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.
Yes, that could work, but I think they will eventually learn to take food from you on their own as well!! -Mike
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?
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
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?
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
Mike, my wife and I are having a disagreement. I think I read some years ago that I should feed my fish at about the same time each day. She thinks it makes no difference when I feed them. What do you think? We have channel catfish in a dirt pond and I like to feed them in the early evening. Thanks for your help.
Hi Greg. Thanks for reaching out. Us guys need to stick together but I’m siding with the wife on this one. The time of day is not very crucial when it comes to feeding your fish. Perhaps under some specific circumstances the time of day will matter, but for typical hobby level fish keeping just feed them when it suits you and your fish will readily adjust to most feeding schedules! -Mike
My pond is 1/2 acre. Max depth is 5′. I stocked with 150 hybrid bluegill and 15 large mouth bass, plus hundreds of minnows. I have been feeding everyday successfully. What if I leave for a week, do I need to be concerned about the fish feeding naturally, in other words do the fish become dependent on me feeding them . I don’t actually see any of the minnows so don’t know if they survived for the other fish to eat. The pond has been there for a couple of decades.
Hello Ivan. The fish may learn to enjoy and anticipate your feedings however, their “programming” will have them foraging and catching wild food again in no time. Enjoy your time away from the pond, no worries! -Mike
Hello. I bought a house with a pond There are approximately twenty goldfish in it. The previous owner did not feed them at all so they are very shy. I am told that this is good because they won’t get eaten by predators. I have had them for a year and have not fed them but I want to feed them occasionally. I don’t want them to depend on my feeding them because I want them to protect themselves. What do you think about occasional feeding? Should I just continue as I have or can I feed occasionally?
Hi Lorraine. As you have seen goldfish are very good foragers/scavengers. I see no problems with offering them additional food from time to time, and you may even find that you enjoy feeding the fish and checking out their feeding time antics. Feeding fish is half the fun of having them so go for it! -Mike
I constructed a fish pond and three weeks back I introduced mature cat fish into the pond then started feeding them.
Now I see many small cat fish swimming in groups with a side of about two middle human fingers joined together.
Could the cat fish have reproduced within two weeks or eggs of another cat fish species have flown along into the pond?
Hello Gerald. I could be wrong but it seems that the small fish you are describing would be much too large to have been born in the pond and developed that much in such a short period of time. -Mike
hello.. I have a pond n also feed them accordingly n the notice my presence whenever i want to feed dem but then som1 told me dat paw- paw leafes is gud for them too so I wanna b sure first.
Hello. Thanks for reaching out. I am not familiar with paw paw so I cannot give any advice on that! Good luck. -Mike
I have a backyard water feature (about 700 gal.) with a waterfall. The filter is in line with the waterfall so the waterfall must be on when the filter is working – the pump has an 1800gph rating. Do I need to run the filter all the time? Is constant waterfall good or bad for the fish? I have 4 five inch koi, one six inch comet, and about 15 very small mixed goldfish (comets, sarasas and shubunkins). Also, there are mosquito-eaters in the pond and they are impossible to count because they blend into the pond colors. It seem that there are always very small fry swimming with the mosquito fish and I’m afraid the fish population is getting too dense. How can I be sure the pond is still healthy?
Hello Ron. I would recommend running your filter/waterfall full-time, it is good for the pond and fish, unless there is a necessary reason to turn them off. The addition of mosquito fish is probably not necessary since koi, goldfish, and shubunkins also eat up any mosquito larvae which may occur in the pond. Your pond does not sound like a desirable place for a mosquito to try and reproduce given the high oxygen levels, water movement, and a stock of hungry fish. If you are worried about to high of a stock density I’d start with removing the mosquito fish. Good luck! -Mike
We have a garden pond and have raised a few sets of koi and goldfish. Different issues caused us to lose fish. One being Sand Hill cranes. We used to ut a heater on our pond but the elwctric bill was too high. We put in a pond in our basement and move our fish. The outside pond is less than 3′ deep and was afraid of freezing too solid. How should I feed inside?
Hello Connie. Thanks for reaching out. When feeding the fish while kept indoors the amount of feeding should be the same as when outdoors but without experiencing the changes in appetite level in the fish due to temperatures. Take some time to see how much your fish are responding to your feedings and you can determine how much they should be given on a daily basis. Good luck! -Mike
Just came across this post and its been a great read…we have just converted an outdoor pool (freshwater) into a pond and we have about 60 fish in different species and we seem to have an algae bloom that has turned it quite murky (we have got a couple of filters running through the old pump system and its slowly helping and some plants)….but I was wondering if there is anything further that can be done? We have started to set a feeding station as mentioned and it does seem to be enticing them to one area for food.
Hello Al. Murky water can typically be cleared through filtration, but if you need a little extra boost try using some beneficial bacteria cultures in your pond to aid in breaking down nutrients. Have a great pond season and check out this video of pool we converted to a pond!
All the best,
Hi Mike, first year with our pond, established 10year+ pond. Never had an issue. Had a bunch of cold rain yesterday, when I went to feed the fish this morning, at least 6 have died. Others are moving slowly and taking breaths out of the water. Put in a larger pump, will this be enough? Or is there something else I should be doing?
Hello Thomas. There is too much missing info for me to give any real good advice, but additional aeration can only be a good thing especially when fish are stressed. If you want to send me some more detailed information/photos of your pond I can give some better advice otherwise I have to keep it very general. Good luck. – Mike
Hi Mike I am looking to have my own fish farm to raise carp as business could you tell my how many fish I can keep in 300sm pond and how often do I need to feed them in a day one last thing ho long does it take for carp fish to grow from 4-6 inchs to 2-3 kg. I would appreciate in your reply. thanks
Hello Daniel. Due to the tremendous amount of factors and variables that go into such an operation as the one your are planning, that there really is not a good answer that I can give you to your question. Filtration, nutrition, local environment, and local/state/federal regulations regarding fish farming will all factor into your question. I do not have enough information to even begin to give an answer, but I wish you the very best of luck and thanks for reaching out. Cheers! -Mike
Hi Mike, my pond goldfish, about 15 in total with some young black fish growing, eat like gannets! I put loads down twice a day. I moved into the house 9 months ago and inherited them but the previous owner did not fed them at all. It’s summer here at the mo, but worry that now I’ve fed them up and they rely on my food I can’t stop, they’ve grown somewhat since I arrived! Is it ok to just stop overnight or best to graduate the stopping procedure for winter? Cheers, Dave
Hi Dave. When you say “stop feeding” do you mean permanently like the previous owner? If you enjoy feeding them, as many fish keepers do, myself included, then just keep feeding them until the seasons change and they will stop feeding on their own. If you want to no longer feed them, then you can really just stop, you don’t have to reduce quantities, and they will go back to foraging as they did with the previous owner. If you continue feeding however, you will get to enjoy seeing them grow, watching the feeding time antics, and having better colors. Good luck! -Mike
hello mike, pls how can i get the best and profitable harvest in catfish business as a starter, im about to start with 5000 fingerlings in my tapoulin fish tank. tanks Dele.
Hello Dele. I think we would need to have a conversation for any help I can give you. Feel free to email me or give me a call anytime! -Mike
Everyone: please chime in!
I installed a pond in my backyard that is reformed and under 200 gallons. I researched what I should do and told my wife not to get any fish yet until our set up was safe for fish. My wife and my son really wanted to stock the pond so I told them to get three .17 cent goldfish from the store but not to buy anything else like Koi fish until we completed a nitrogen cycle. The next day my wife and son bought five koi fish that we’re not small for a couple hundred dollars and put them in the pond. Amongst many problems with our set up including not having proper fill filtration yet, there are two things I need your advice with.
My son turns off the power to both filters so that he can see the fish better without the waterfall and sprinkler going. He always forgets to turn it back on so this fish go hours without any filter ration until I check the pond and turn it back on. If my wifi reached the backyard, I would take a smart plug and program it to turn on every 20 minutes on a 24 hour cycle so that it is constantly switching on. Because i cant do this here I am trying to figure out a solution. I found a switch that is meant to turn and appliance on like a fan on and off throughout the day but you can’t make it just keep switching on throughout the day. Any advice?
My wife and son over feed the fish to the point of absurdity. I sound like a broken record telling them anything not consumed in five minutes should be scooped out with the net but my directions are not followed. I thought about taking a pill box and feeling all seven boxes for the week each week so they can take out one days worth at a time and hiding the rest of the food. Now they just take four days worth at a time. I don’t think they are intentionally trying to disrespect me; they just have no idea about the chemistry of how this works.
I thought about just letting the fish die to show them what happens when day work against the fish but that is childish. I even asked my son if he cared if the fish died and he said he loves them. How do I educate them without nagging? Is there a kid friendly resource like a video that would explain pond care to my son? If he knew why things happened and how they happened he would work with me and not (unintentionally) against me.
-Barring advice on the dysfunctions Of our family dynamic, please give me any advice you have to help the situation and the koi fish. Thanks!!!!
Hey Porter, thanks for reaching out! I would suggest diving into the many Youtube videos on pond care and koi care to help lessen the learning curve on pond keeping. Don’t overfeed, and try not to turn off the filter since you will lose beneficial bacteria each time your filter is turned off. Good luck!! -Mike