How To Choose A Fish Feeder

You have fish. A lot of fish. But you aren’t home sometimes and that has you worrying about if the fish are getting enough food or not. Sometimes you give them more than you should to make sure that they will have enough to eat while you are away and that has you concerned about potential health issues of over feeding your aquatic friends. You decide a fish feeder will set your mind at ease, but how do you know which feeder to get?

When it comes to choosing a fish feeder you have to take into account the type of fish you have in your tank, the size of your tank, how often to feed your fish and if the feeder is easy to set up and operate.

Selecting a fish feeder

Let us show you everything you need to know when deciding on a fish feeder and by the end of this article you will be all set to go out and confidently buy the feeder that suits your needs. 

Which type of feeder shall I get?

In the automatic fish feeder market, there are two styles of feeder available: rotating barrel feeders and portion control feeders. Each has their pluses and minuses and we will show you which one is the most appropriate for your needs.

Rotating barrel feeders

This is the most widely available type of feeder on the market. They operate by the barrel rotating and dispensing the food through a hole (which can be adjusted for size) in the unit. Rotating barrel feeders hold more food than a portion control feeder which means you can have more time away from home without having to be concerned about your fish being fed. The downside with this type of feeder is that they aren’t suitable if you have mixed breeds of fish in your tank. 

Portion controlled feeders

This style of feeder is better suited for mixed-breed aquariums as you can individualise the fish food in the separate feed compartments that portion controlled feeders have. However, that is also the issue with this kind of feeder. As most models have 10 to 14 compartments you can only be away from home for two weeks maximum. Portion control feeders are also more suited for larger type food as there isn’t the chance of a blockage occurring (which can happen if you have large food in rotating barrel feeders). 

How do I choose the right feeder?

You have decided which style of feeder will suit your situation but now you have to think about what else you need to look for in a feeder that will make it the best one for your tank and you. Here we will run you through the other factors to consider when selecting the appropriate feeder for you.


The size of your feeder depends on how long you are away from home, how big your tank is and the amount of fish you have in your tank, plus future-proofing. 

As you have seen portion controlled feeders are a great choice if you have to travel for up to two weeks at a time, any longer means that you need to grab yourself a rotating barrel feeder. 

How many fish do you have and how many times do you feed them? How much feed do you provide them with each feeding time? These all factor into how big you want the reservoir of your feeder to be. Another consideration to take into account is if you are planning on getting more fish in the future. If you are planning on adding to your stock then buy a bigger capacity feeder from the outset. This prevents you having to go out and buy a new feeder down the track. 


With the timer you have two options: the old pin type or digital. Whichever you choose all depends on which one you prefer. It all is a matter of how easy the timer is to use and set up. Also, how many feedings you can set for each day. 

The advantage of digital timers is that they give you better programming control and are able to monitor feed times. 

Quantity of feed

Some automatic feeders will only feed your fish twice per day whereas other models can be programmed to dispense food eight times a day. The issue is that the fewer times you feed your fish, the greater the portion size you need to provide each time. This can lead to overfeeding of your fish each mealtime, which can be fatal to your fish through the excess uneaten food resting at the bottom of the tank, rotting and then polluting the aquarium water. Underfeeding can lead to skinny and dead fish.

Another thing to be wary about is that feeders can be inconsistent with feed portions. Dispensing a little amount at one feeding and a bigger portion size in the next. Quality feeders will have a consistent feeding portion. 

Overall it’s better to feed your fish small meals several times a day rather than a couple of large ones twice a day, so look for a feeder that can provide food to your fish a few times each day. 

Powering your unit 

A lot of feeders on the market are battery-powered. That’s convenient if you don’t want to have a power cord getting in the way. However, batteries run out of power and that can mean major trouble for your fish if you are away.  Look for a feeder that has a battery level indicator on the LED display so you can check at a glance if it’s time to replace the batteries. Some models have an alarm that sounds to alert you that the batteries are running low. 

You will find that you may have to reprogram your feeder when you have to change out the batteries which could lead to frustration in your part. 

Electrically powered feeders alleviate the battery replacement issue, but then have the possibility of an electric shock or failure if the power goes out while you are away. 

Keeping the food from going soggy

Fish feeders sit above your aquarium and your aquarium is full of what? Water! That water will evaporate and more so if you have a heated type of aquarium. Where will some of the evaporated water go? Yep! Into your fish feeder through the dispensing hole and that means that the food inside the feeder will get soggy. Wet food will clog up your feeder and cause little food to no food being dispensed as it is stuck in the unit. Also, the food that may get distributed to your fish could have rotted which means an unappetising meal for your fish.

There are automatic fish feeders that have built-in humidity controls that will keep the food in the reservoir fresh. You can also use pellets instead of flakes to feed your fish. Flakes are more moisture absorbent than pellets so flakes will deteriorate and go off quicker. 

How often do you want your fish fed?

We have already mentioned you can get feeders that will only give out meals twice a day and others that will feed your fish up to eight times a day. Some feeders will give out food  two to four times per feeding time. It all depends on how many fish you have and if you have mixed breeds in your tank that need different feed types.

Different feed types

You may have a variety of fish and each one can have a particular food type that they need. Look at feeders that allow you to mix feed or that can issue out set portions of feed. Also, look at the size of your food as some feeders struggle to accommodate bigger feed. 

How easy is it to set up the feeder?

You don’t want to have to spend a considerable amount of time setting up your feeder. Things contemplate are how long it will take to mount to your aquarium and how easy is it to operate the unit. Have a look at the timer and see how user-friendly it is. It’s all about trying to keep things as simple and as easy as possible. Is everything you need included in the box or do you have to buy extra accessories in order to use your feeder.

Is it simple maintain

Fish feeders will require cleaning and maintenance. Look at the feeding chamber to see how accessible it is and how easy it would be to clean out. Also, look at the battery compartment to see how simple it will be to swap out the batteries. You don’t want to get frustrated with your feeder because it’s near on impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies that you need to to keep your unit clean and functional.

Time to get your feeder

Not all feeders are created equal, but now you have a list of things to look for when you want to get your fish feeder. Whichever one it is just depends on whatever type and model ticks all your boxes. 

Remember, it’s all about convenience for you and ensuring that your fish are well taken care of whilst you go on vacation. 

Bon voyage! 

Related Article

Benefits of Automatic Animal Feeders

Recent Posts