what can fish eat besides fish food?

What Do You Feed Fish If You Have No Fish Food?

Feeding your fish a nutritionally balanced diet is essential. But if you’ve ran out of fish food, you must find them something to eat to prevent them from going hungry. You might also want to mix their diet up to provide additional nutrients they need.

Fish can eat various foods, including hard-boiled egg yolks, seafood, rice, and pasta. Blanched vegetables such as peas, broccoli, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, and spinach, are filling and nutritious. You can also feed your fish a selection of fruits, including apples, bananas, pears, berries, pears, and oranges. You mustn’t feed your fish any dog or cat food. Bread’s also not a healthy fish food substitute. 

Fish can be omnivores, herbivores, or carnivores. This means that their nutritional requirements differ, and some need more specific foods than others to stay healthy. However, if you’re looking for a short-term replacement, you can be a bit more flexible with what you feed them.

What Can Fish Eat Besides Fish Food?

There’s plenty that fish can eat besides traditional flakes and pellets. But before you deviate from their everyday diet, double-check what nutrients your fish need so that you can provide them with the healthiest food for their requirements. Not all fish are the same, and they all need different vitamins and nutrients to survive.

If you’re wondering, what human food can fish eat, try feeding them the following things:

Vegetables

If you’re looking for alternative fish food that’s healthy and nutritious, you likely have a selection of vegetables lying around that you can use. Most fish can eat blanched vegetables as they provide several essential vitamins and minerals that fish need to thrive.

However, vegetables are high in carbohydrates, which some species need less of than others. As described by the MSD Veterinary Manual, carbs lead to fatty liver disease, so you should aim to replenish your fish food as soon as possible.

In the meantime, cook the following vegetables and offer small amounts to your fish to keep them from going hungry:

Peas

Peas are one of the best vegetables to feed fish. They’re higher in fiber than most, which keeps their digestive systems healthy and strong. They ease bloating and constipation by flushing out the system and can help treat dropsy and swim bladder disease.

Frozen organic peas contain the most nutrients without the chemicals, additives, and preservatives. Cook them first before giving them to your fish to provide the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron

Broccoli

As long as you blanch or boil broccoli before serving, it’s perfectly safe for fish to eat. Raw broccoli is far too tough for fish, so cooking it beforehand softens it up. It’s also easy to overfeed broccoli as the florets are quite large, so cut it up into small pieces first. Broccoli is an excellent source of:

  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Vitamins A, C, E, K
  • Iron
  • Folic acid
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Magnesium

In particular, selenium is a crucial nutrient. Animal Science Database describes how it protects cell membranes and tissues from oxidative stress. It also helps fish develop and grow, keeping their scales and skin healthy.

alternative fish food

Cucumber

Most fish take to cucumbers well. They’re soft and watery, so they’re easy for fish to eat. Cut them into tiny pieces so that your fish can scoop them up with their mouths. They’ll struggle to swallow the pieces otherwise.

Most of the nutrients are contained in the skin, so refrain from peeling cucumbers to get the full health benefits. Just remember to wash the cucumber first to remove any pesticides or chemicals. Also, remove the seeds as most fish won’t eat them. Cucumbers contain:

  • Fiber
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Manganese

Lettuce

Lettuce is another soft, easy-to-eat vegetable. Fish enjoy picking at the leaves so you can put relatively large ones into the tank for mental stimulation. Red leaf lettuce is the easiest kind for them to chew, but iceberg and romaine are also acceptable. Lettuce contains:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Fiber

Lettuce is notorious for harboring pesticides, so you must wash the leaves thoroughly before giving them to your fish.

Carrots

Carrots are good for fish, and they’re a vegetable most homes have. They’re also easy to grow in the garden, just in case you run out of fish food again in the future. Raw carrots are too hard, so boil them first to soften them. Slice them into thin pieces so that your fish can eat them easily.

Canned carrots aren’t suitable, as they contain preservatives and additives to prevent them from decomposing too quickly. Fresh carrots are okay, as long as you defrost them first. You can also put carrot leaves into the tank, as they’re just as healthy, and fish love leafy plants.

Zucchini

Zucchini is similar to cucumber and is widely accepted by most plant-eating fish. Before feeding it to your fish, cut it into thin slices, leaving the skin on, and blanch it to soften it. Similar to cucumber, remove the seeds, as they’ll remain in the tank uneaten otherwise. Zucchini contains several nutrients, including: 

  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Folate
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins A, C, and K

While zucchini’s healthy, It contains lots of water. Over time, this can cause diarrhea, which appears as a brown, murky tinge in the tank.

Spinach

Fish need protein for their growth. Spinach is an excellent source of plant-based protein and is one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables. This means you can use it as a healthy replacement for your usual fish food for a short while. As well as protein, spinach contains:

  • Vitamins A, B2, C, and K
  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Iron

Be mindful of spinach, though, as it contains oxalate, a chemical compound that restricts the body’s ability to absorb calcium and iron. This is why spinach is only a short-term replacement for fish food.

Fruits

As well as vegetables, fish can eat a small selection of fruits. Like vegetables, you must thoroughly wash them beforehand to remove any potential pesticides. Organic fruits are better for fish, but standard fruit bowl produce is okay if you’re desperate for replacement food. The following fruits are suitable for most fish:

Apples

Apples are an excellent fruit to feed fish, but they shouldn’t overeat them. Using apple as a supplement for your fish’s everyday food is safe, as long as you don’t do it for too long. To prepare the apple, peel the skin and cut it up into tiny chunks. You might also want to soak it in water for a little while beforehand to soften the pieces. Apple contains:

  • Fiber
  • Vitamins C and K
  • Potassium
  • Antioxidants
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium

Apple is acidic, which can cause stomach problems over time. It also contains water, which can lead to diarrhea if you overfeed it to your fish.

Banana

Banana is soft and protected by the peel, so it’s safe and healthy for fish to eat. Omnivores should accept the fruit, but carnivorous fish won’t be too keen. Bananas are good for digestive health, as they contain dietary fiber, pectin, and resistant starches that boost gut function.

They also contain antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of diseases and health conditions. Bananas make fish feel full, so they’re an excellent replacement food for flakes and pellets. As well as this, they contain:

  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins B6, B12, C, and A

Pears

Raw pears are another healthy fruit. Be careful, though, as they’re usually grown where pesticides are used. To be on the safe side, peel the skin and cut it up into small chunks. Boiled pears are more manageable for fish to eat than raw, but you can soften them in water beforehand. Pears are a rich source of:

  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K

Oranges

Oranges contain citric acid, which gives them their sour taste. It also has several health benefits. However, too much can cause pH spikes and the tank’s ammonia levels to rise, so be careful with how much orange you feed your fish. Oranges are also a good source of:

  • Flavonoids
  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants
  • Carotenoids
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C

Meat

Carnivorous fish need meat to survive and prefer to have protein over carb-heavy fruits and vegetables. Small slithers of cooked and unseasoned chicken, beef, or lamb are suitable – although not all fish will take to these flavors, especially if they’ve never eaten them before.

These meats also contain higher levels of saturated fat than fish are used to, so too much will make them ill. Also, bear in mind these meats are unfamiliar to wild fish, so you shouldn’t regularly add them to their diet.

Many fish enjoy eating worms and other insects, but it’s not a wise idea to dig some out from the yard, as they could be covered in pesticides and other chemicals.

feed fish without fish food

Seafood

Cooked prawns or other small pieces of seafood are enough to sustain carnivorous fish for a short while. Frozen seafood is suitable ­– just defrost it first, so it’s nice and soft and easy for fish to eat.

Rice or Pasta

Fish love to eat cooked pasta and rice. Most people have these items stored in a cupboard, so they’re a quick fix if you’ve run out of fish food. Uncooked pasta and rice expand in the stomach, so always cook it first. It’s also easy to overfeed fish, rice, and pasta, so be careful with how much you put into the tank.

Unfortunately, both pasta and rice have little nutritional value for fish and contain no vitamins. They’re also high in carbohydrates, which is unhealthy for prolonged periods, making these food items strictly a short-term replacement for fish flakes.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Many small fish enjoy hard-boiled eggs, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty encouraging them to eat the eggs you cook for them. They’re an excellent source of protein, keeping their nutrient levels adequately topped up while you look to replenish your usual fish food.

The particles can make the tank murky. Because eggs are high in protein, they can pollute the tank. But if you’re using eggs as a short-term supplement, it shouldn’t be a problem. Just be sure to siphon out any uneaten parts before they affect the water.

Can Fish Eat Cat or Dog Food?

If you have no food for your meat-eating fish, you may be wondering whether it’s a good idea to feed them some spare dog or cat food you have lying around. Unfortunately, this isn’t wise.

Commercial dog and cat food is specially formulated to cater to their needs, meaning they don’t contain the appropriate nutrients for fish. As a result, it could destroy their immune systems, make the fish sick while tainting the water.

Can Fish Eat Bread?

Bread is a pantry staple, but it’s not safe to feed to fish. Bread is low in protein and other essential nutrients but high in carbs. Too much can damage your fish’s digestive systems. Bread also expands in water and in the fish’s stomach, which can cause several health problems inside the gut. Bread might seem like a good choice if you have no fish food, but you should avoid it altogether.

Running out of fish food isn’t ideal, but it’s not too much of a problem if you have suitable foods in the house to use instead. Blanch vegetables and wash all foods before serving them to your fish to keep them safe. That way, they’ll get a selection of essential nutrients until you’re able to get hold of their usual flakes and pellets.