Searching for food is one of the topmost prioritized activities on the to-do list of a reef tank fish, followed by staying alive and reproducing. So, when you adopt some reef babies, it is normal to get concerned regarding how often should I feed my reef tank. More importantly, what food should I feed?

You can feed your reef tank 4-5 times each day. However, the feeding schedule also depends on the species. Some need to eat only once or twice a week.

No, that is not all. I will not leave you high and dry without giving much information. From the rest of this article, you’ll know how, when and what to feed your reef tank.

So, let’s get started!

Feeding The Reef Animals

If you notice wild saltwater fish for some time, you will see that they are constantly searching for something to eat or are grazing. On the other hand, carnivores simply cruise around until they get their next meal.

Herbivores like Tangs possess a tract longer digestive than carnivores because it takes more time to break down algae and get the protein out of it. But carnivores take less time with their short digestive tracts to extract protein from fleshy food like shrimp, fish, and snails to stay healthy.

Ideally, herbivores need a constant source of food available. You will see algae growing in your tank, providing food for your reef pets. But if there is not much of it, the animals will need supplements. Prepared foods like flake foods can provide them with the nutrition they need, depending on their type.

Reef Tank Feeding Guide

How Often Should I Feed My Reef Tank?

You are to feed your fish several times each day. That will be closer to how they used to eat in their natural environment. But as I mentioned earlier, it varies within the species. In the cases of some fish, you will have to give them food only once a week.

Most fish eat only the amount they need for survival. If you watch them while feeding, you will notice them eating actively for several minutes at a stretch and ignoring the rest for hours. The remainder will be wasted, ending at the bottom and creating toxins while decaying.

However, that does not mean you can put a break of a couple of days between the feedings. That is not how it works in the wild. Plus, remember that you want to recreate the natural environment as best as possible.

In the experience of most reef parents, feeding twice each day has worked out the best. It will kill two birds with one stone for you. First, it fulfills what your fish requires to stay healthy. Secondly, it will not raise maintenance issues later. For example, the necessity of changing water to decrease nitrates from leftover food will not turn into a problem.

Again, things are different with carnivores. Eels would be a perfect example here. They can spend days with no feed, then suddenly stuff themselves with something to survive the coming days.

From what I gathered from other reefers’ experiences, if you diversify your tank with carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, they will look for and eat the food they need if you give them different foods twice a day.

What Do I Feed My Reef Tank?

When you grab fish foods from a store, examine them. You will see their three fundamental formulas: some containing algae, some seafood like krill, squid, shrimp, snails, etc., and some combined with the two. There are frozen fares, too, which are excellent protein sources.

Your herbivores will eat mostly pelleted or flake food prepared with algae as Dried Nori algae sheets. They will also check out frozen fish treats like Mysis, brine shrimp, etc.

Carnivorous fish eats meaty pellets and flakes. However, some will only receive meats like krill, chopped fish, or brine shrimp.

Live food, for example, mollies, guppies, or ghost shrimps, make good meals for predatory fish species. I also found that the newcomers in a tank tend to eat prepared meals when they see others in the tank eat them. They will eventually learn to adjust to prepared foods.

A Recommended Schedule For Weekly Feeding

Alternate between flakes or pellets and frozen food, adjusting the frequency each day, varying with the fish type. At the same time, remember to give your blennies, tangs, and the rest of the herbivores enough seaweed besides the daily feeding twice to thrice per week.


Many reefers make the mistake of feeding only a single kind of food for their entire aquarium. Do not forget that different fish species require different food types with diverse sources of nutrients to stay healthy.

Feeding Tools

There are feeding tools designed to deliver food efficiently and mitigate food waste. Although you will not need all the devices on this list below, you can surely use some of them to achieve success in feeding your reef tank.

They will smoothen the feeding process for you while ensuring all the pets in each area of your reef tank are getting the food they need.

  • Feeding Rings: A feeding ring helps contain frozen food in a particular area of your reef tank and prevents it from drifting on the water surface into the filtration or overflow.
  • Frozen Food Defrosting Tools: A defroster defrosts the frozen food and contains and delivers it to specific regions. It also contributes to waste reduction.
  • Pipettes: They work amazingly for dosing amino acids or vitamins. You can use them as bulb syringes to help you feed the finicky fish or access hard-to-reach places in the tank.
  • Baster Or Bulb Syringe: It allows you to go for target feeding as well as delivering liquid foods. It will enable you to reach your bottom feeders.
  • Grazers And Seaweed Chips: They contain dried seaweed sheets in a single area for your herbivorous pals to graze and eat.
  • Auto-Feeders: It is an electronic machine to automatically give your fish pellet food or dry flakes on a schedule of 24 hours. Reefers rely on it heavily when they are on vacation.

What Are Some Practices To Follow?

You can acquire some habits regarding feeding your reef tank and practice them regularly. They will help you understand your fish better and maintain them more efficiently.

  • Consider the demands of each of your fish to support their feeding habits and nutritional requirements.
  • Some foods will sink, and some will not. See that you do not let the food flow into the filtration instantly while supplying it where the fish look for it.
  • Pellet food is nutritionally denser than flake food. When the feeding is not correct, and there is much leftover food, it will pollute your tank quickly.
  • From the tools list I gave above, buy a defroster. If you do not want to, always perform target feeding to reduce food waste. Frozen food is quick at contaminating the tank water when used incorrectly.
  • Do not hurry while giving food to your fish. Always take time and let them take small portions. It secures two things. One, the food waste will be at a tolerable level. Two, all your fish will stay fed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to understand if I overfeed my reef tank?

If you notice phosphate and nitrate levels rising constantly, that is a sign that you are overfeeding your reef tank. But sometimes, it may also be that you have to maximize the filtration capacity.

How do I feed my herbivores?

You can use food formulas and seaweed sheets especially prepared for herbivores. You can clip seaweed sheets into your reef tank and leave them for your algae grazers. They can consume those for 30 minutes to an hour at once.
But if they do not eat the sheets, you will have to remove them before they can break down and enter the filters.

What can I feed the high-energy fish?

The high-energy fish in your tank need foods enriched with fat several times each day (3 to 5 times at least in small portions). You can use food soak such as Selcon. It helps to increase the fat in the food with each feeding.

Do tangs need both meaty foods and algae?

Yes, they do. You should supply your fish with all their required nutrition. Although they eat frozen food or pellets, you cannot skip regular treats of herbivorous foods like seaweed.

Is there any way to know if I underfeed my fish?

If they seem lethargic, lose color, become aggressive toward each other, or their bellies become concave, it indicates that they are not getting enough food. Well-fed fish have plump bellies and act spontaneously in the tank. You will know when the feeding is at fault once you gain experience in reefing.

What do you mean by target feeding?

It refers to the procedure of squirt feeding or using some bulb syringe when you want to deliver food to a particular tank region. It is effective for feeding fish and corals that will not leave the substrate or rocks to eat.
Fish also adjusts to taking food straight from the syringe tip, contributing to waste reduction. Since you have to select a target area in the tank, the term is target feeding.

Do I have to clean frozen food?

Yes, because you need to defrost the frozen food with RO/DI water to filter out the liquid portion before feeding. It will remove some waste (phosphate and nitrate) from the food before you drop it in your aquarium.

Is it possible to give a lot of food without raising the levels of nutrients?

No, it is not because more food means more waste. You have to fix the filtration capacity to battle the extra nutrients. And doing that will require a sturdier filtration system, more regular water changes, and more maintenance to back up the additional nutrient levels.
It is all about keeping a balance between keeping the tank water clean and ensuring the well-being of your fish.

Should I switch off the pumps while feeding my fish?

Yes, it is better if you do that. You can do with keeping the pumps turned on, but there will be less waste if you turn them off.
Leaving the powerhead running inside your display will help spread the food in the water if that is necessary.

Is it okay to get an auto-feeder for daily use?

An auto-feeder is useful when you are outside your residence or on vacation. But using it daily is not advisable as it can produce additional food waste.
You can use a trick here by setting up a feeding ring beneath the fish feeder. Do it so that the device contains the food when it gets out of the auto-feeder. The fish will gradually learn to look for food in the feeder ring and consume it quickly before it gets lost in the filtration.

What is a food soak?

A food soak is a liquid supplement that soaks the fish food while adding nutritional values like amino acids, vitamins, and fat.
Some popular food soaks available in local stores are Selcon, Boyd Vitachem, Brightwell Aquatics AminOmega, KZ Amino Acid Concentrate, etc.

How do I know when my fish are hungry?

There are some signs to figure that out.
– They will search for food by ferreting around the rocks or substrate.
– Sluggish or aggressive behavior
– Noticeable size or weight changes
– Waiting at the top of your tank around the feeding time

Final Words

Your question was, “How often should I feed my reef tank?” and I answered that with all the relevant topics I found to help you with it. (You are welcome!)

The drill is simple. You take note of your pets’ demands, feed them by maintaining time, and use different tools to facilitate the process while trying to control the food waste.

That would be all for now. All the best with feeding your reef tank!

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