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The Consequences Of Fish Overfeeding and How To Prevent It
Before you own your own aquarium–perhaps even think about having one–you’ve probably heard the phrase “never overfeed the fish.” This is actually very good advice. Nothing contributes more to fish deaths in aquariums than overfeeding.
Popular belief is that fish can literally eat themselves to the point where their stomachs burst. This doesn’t happen in real life, but the consequences of eating too much fish can be just as serious.
Although in some fish species, overfeeding can cause fat tissue to exceed the threshold for healthy liver function leading to fish death, the dangers of overfeeding fish are more widespread in other ways. Chief among these is uneaten food directly contributing to elevated levels of ammonia and nitrates in water. Decaying uneaten food also lowers the pH level of the water. Since food decay is an aerobic process, it also reduces the oxygen level in the water. These changes in water chemistry pose the greatest threat to the fish in your aquarium. Physical signs of overfeeding can take the form of sudden and excessive algae growth, cloudy water, and even fungal infestations on the aquarium substrate.
Avoiding fish overfeeding problems can start with the simple task of removing any uneaten food from the tank. A basic guideline that can be followed is to remove any food that your fish has not eaten within a 5 minute period. Of course, you will need to modify this guideline to feed all your fish. Remember that surface feeders will be most obvious to you when they eat, but don’t neglect to consider bottom feeders. A good feeding time habit is to spread the food over a large surface within a 5 minute period. This gives all your fish a chance to eat at the same time without exhibiting aggressive behavior.
A more thorough approach to prevent fish from overeating is to spread your fish feedings over two or three sessions throughout the day. Create a feeding schedule based on the feeding behavior you have had with your fish in the past.
Many aquarium enthusiasts don’t experience the problem of fish overeating until they go on vacation. Many times, if one plans to get away from home for the weekend, the temptation is to make up for those days by not being able to feed the fish as much before going out. This is a terrible mistake and should be avoided. If you are only going away from home for less than 3 or 4 days, feed your fish as usual before leaving. If they are not fed for that short period of time, they will not have any side effects. Likewise, don’t try to overcompensate for missed feedings upon return. Resume with normal feeding amounts and schedule before you go.
Make sure other members of your household are aware of the feeding schedule for the aquarium to prevent duplicate feedings etc. If you have to be absent for more than 4 days, notify the person to whom you are handing over the responsibility. Care for your fish according to the proper feeding schedule you have established.
In short, the best axiom in fish care, “Don’t overfeed the fish,” is true. As an aquarium enthusiast, however, it is important to know the real reasons why this happens. Thus, the problem of fish overeating is easily avoided.
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