The 20 most popular fish and how to feed them

The 20 most popular fish and their favorite foods

Suggested beginner fish groups

Fish foods

daphnia swarm
a swarm of daphnia

Fish are just like any other pet when it comes feeding—they need to be fed regularly, and different specimens will assuredly have different tastes and preferences. Your choice of fish food will readily affect the health and wellbeing of your fish, so you want to make sure that you make the correct choice concerning your particular species of fish.

It should be noted that in some cases, certain combinations of fish foods will help encourage breeding. That is normal day to day feeding needs to be enhanced when you need to prepare your fish for breeding. In most cases, live foods such as brine shrimp are best, since their presence gives some fish species a cue that the environment is ripe for breeding. In the list that follows below, you will see breeding options added on where appropriate.

Food options and feeding for the most popular fish.

There are two broad categories when it comes to fish food: processed foods and live foods. Of these two choices, live foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms are generally superior, but often require cultivation. Processed foods, on the other hand, are inexpensive and easily obtained at any aquarium supply store. Among the processed choices, there are further options, including:

  • Fresh foods
  • Frozen and freeze-dried foods
  • Canned flakes or pellets
  • Sinking Food Tablets

Flake food is generally the most popular of these options, but the list below will show that certain species have much to offer the enterprising aquarist who invests in a supply of specialty foods.

The favorite foods of the 20 most popular freshwater aquarium fish

  • Angelfish—This tall community-friendly fish is not a fussy eater. Angelfish will gladly live off of a variety of commercially available flake foods and freeze-dried options. For the best results, supplement its diet with some fresh bloodworms, brine shrimp, or even leftover vegetables like peas.

    Blue and pink marble plakat style betta
    Blue and pink marble plakat style betta
  • Bettas—These extremely popular fish are easy to take care of. They will accept canned flake and freeze-dried foods, but they do their best with small fresh worms. Specialized Betta foods are widely available at pet stores, and breeding can be encouraged using live foods.
  • Barbs—The barb family of fish consists of numerous species that share, among other attributes, a major appetite for just about anything they can fit in their mouths. Barbs love flake, they love frozen foods, they love worms, and they love your aquarium plants. Make sure your barbs are getting a dose of vegetable fiber so they’ll leave your plants alone.
  • Guppies—Live-bearing fish that are commonly seen in a wide variety of community tanks, guppies have a great appetite for small live foods. They will also eat frozen worms and flakes, and have a particular fondness for variety. Try feeding them the occasional slice of zucchini or other vegetables.
  • dalmation molly male
    pedigree dalmation molly

    Black Molly—These beautiful black fish are useful algae-eaters for your tank. However, they will need to supplement that food source with flake food or blanched vegetables. The black molly feeds at the surface of the tank, so make sure your food floats, or the fish may not find it.

  • Serpae Tetras—These small and very popular fish are known to nip away at their neighbors fins. They are not picky eaters, but extra care should be taken to make sure that their tank mates also get to eat. These fast-moving fish can quickly consume more than their fair share of food, leaving slower fish unfed.
  • Rummynose Tetras—Your red Rummynose tetras will survive on a diet that consists of commercially prepared flake foods without issue. They are perfectly fine with dry and frozen foods, but prefer live brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and brown worms.
  • Rosy Tetras—The abundantly seen Rosy Tetra prefers a diet that consists of flakes and worms. These fish will eat very small fish if given the chance, so care should be taken if you choose to combine them with juveniles or fry.

Pristella_tetra

  • Black Tetras—Very popular fish for beginners, Tetras are not picky about what they eat, and will even breed on a diet of dry flake food. Your black tetras will be perfectly happy with anything even remotely resembling fish food. Give them a good quality flake-and-vegetable diet to ensure their best health.
  • Blue Gourami—This species of fish, like most of its Gourami cousins, will exhibit its best coloring and behavior when given a diet of small live foods with leftover vegetable matter such as zucchini or peas. They will eat flake and freeze-dried foods, as well, but higher quality options are recommended.
  • Kribensis—These undemanding fish are perfect for beginners. They are tolerant of most water conditions and food sources. They will eat nearly anything, but offer the best results when fed a combination of flake food and frozen bloodworms or brine shrimp. Being middle to bottom feeders, you can try sinking pellets.
  • Discus—These cichlids are peaceful, tall fish that are very popular for larger community tanks. They will accept flake food, but should be given more in order to encourage the best health: frozen or live worms, shrimp meat, and Spirulina to enhance their coloration. Discus fish will happily eat chopped up beef heart.
  • oscar2
    Oscars are popular but can grow very large and eat a lot of meaty foods

    Oscars—The oscar is an intelligent fish that will learn to recognize its owner. It is also a characteristically aggressive fish, and it will eat its tank mates if given the opportunity. Naturally, this fish does best with a meat-based diet. Live worms are ideal, but frozen ones are acceptable as well. Do not feed your oscar guppies or other fish.

  • Catfish—Corydoras and related species of catfish are bottom-dwellers that will gladly eat any food that falls to the bottom of your tank. In order to make sure that enough food reaches your catfish, purchase some sinking tablets. Corydoras will only breed if worms, with blackworms being a particular favorite.
  • Zebra danios—This very popular fish prefers a diet consisting of a wide variety of small live food choices: bloodworms, brine shrimp, Tubifex worms, and insect larvae are favorites. They will also accept frozen and flake foods, but you should take care to supplement the diet of this fish with romaine lettuce or other green leafy vegetables.
  • Frontosa cichlids—Possibly the most popular fish from Lake Tanganyika, the frontosa cichlid likes meat. Some specimens will ignore flake food, requiring you to provide a steady, varied diet of krill, worms, or daphnia. This fish is one of the few that can be trained to eat directly out your hand.
  • Jack Dempseys—These aggressive fish are popular pets since, like Oscars, they will identify and develop a relationship with their owner. They are not picky eaters, and will gladly thrive off of a diet of flake foods or just about anything else.
  • white cloud mountain minnow pair
    white cloud mountain minnow male and female

    White Cloud—This popular beginner’s species is very happy to live on a diet of canned flake foods. Supplementing that diet with live foods such as brine shrimp or even frozen bloodworms can help: extra nutritional options like these will intensify its colors.

  • Platies—The live-bearing platy comes in an enormous variety of colors, sizes, and finnage types. These community-friendly fish will are content with commercially-prepared flake food, but will thrive if given an extra boost of vegetable matter in their diet. With a vegetable-heavy diet and some aquarium plants, they will readily breed.
  • Goldfish—Last, but not least, the ever-popular goldfish is happiest when presented with live worms, but will feel perfectly fine when provided with flake and sinking pellet foods. The key with goldfish is recognizing that they look for food either at the surface of the tank or at the bottom. Choose a food that sinks or floats to make feeding easy.

14 best fish from Lake Tanganyika

Cyphotilapia frontosa male

14 best fish from lake Tanganyika

I will assume that you know how to set up a typical lake Tanganyika aquarium with the correct hard water and high ph paramaters with typically a sandy substrate and some rocky areas with cave like structures. And that you need over filtration and many small water changes to maintain the Tanganyika aquarium.

Some of the following fish live in deeper waters so like less light and less water movement. While other species live in the shallows and like more light with plenty of water movement.

paracyprichromis nigripinnis - blue neon cichlid
paracyprichromis nigripinnis – blue neon cichlid

Paracyprichromis nigripinnis – blue neon cichlid

The blue neon cichlid is a very attractive shoaling fish. So there needs to be a group of over 6 fish. It has a salmon coloured body with thin blue lines and blue tinged fins. It is a long dart shaped fish.
It is a shy fish and prefers subdued lighting and rocky caves. the rock structure should be tall. The males hang upside down underneath rocks. Feed with daphnia, brine shrimp and small grained dried foods. Keep in a species tank or with other shy and peaceful fish.
It is a maternal mouthbrooder where the female will brood from 21-28 days. It is difficult to breed. But once bred, the fry are quite large and will eat baby brine shrimp

Julidochromis ornatus – golden julie

Julidochromis ornatus - golden julie
Julidochromis ornatus – golden julie

The golden julie is probably the most beautiful of the julidochromis species. It grows to around 3 inches. Keep in a typical Lake Tanganyika setup with sandy substrate and rock formations at both ends of the tank.
Needs a diet of live food and dried foods. Be careful of large water changes as this disturbs the fish.
Golden julies are cave spawner with both parents tending the spawn and fry. Golden julies form extended families where young fish from previous spawning help guard newer spawnings. The fish mate like typical cichlids forming definite marriages. So it is best to buy 6 or more youngsters and allow themselves to pair off naturally.

Tropheus kiriza

More about tropheus here

These fish are black with a wide belt of yellow around their middle from belly to dorsal fin. They are a maternal mouthbrooder. kiriza’s are aggressive between themselves but do not bother other fish too much. They eat algae and the lifeforms in the algae. So must be fed with mostly vegetable matter such as spirulina. They grow to about 5 inches in length. Aggression may be lessened by having 6 or more Kiriza’s. They like rocky formations and caves above sand. They live near the shore so a lot of water movement is appreciated by them.
Difficult to keep, so buy tank raised specimens and do frequent small water changes and over filter the water. Feed only once or twice a day.

Tropheus duboisi

tropheus kiriza male female spawning
tropheus kiriza male female spawning

The duboisi starts off as a spotty teenager, black in colour with white spots. But when he matures he will have a blue face, black body and a white band. They will grow to 5 inches. Feed spirulina and other vegetable matter and some veggie based dried foods. They are maternal mouthbrooders and the female will hold the eggs and fry for about 21-28 days before releasing them. Feed the fry on baby brine shrimp and microworms.

All tropheus are active and boisterous fish. They should not be kept with timid or smaller fish to reduce aggression. This is the easiest of the tropheus species to keep, but still not for the beginner.

Tropheus bemba

Similar in appearance to kiriza except it has a wide orange band on its black body. Feed in the same way. Spirulina, veggie matter and veggie based dried food. Grows to 6 inches long. Will breed at 2.5 inches. Best kept in larger aquariums. Feed only once or twice a day to prevent bloat.
Difficult to keep – see tropheus kiriza

Tropheus ikola

Similar in colour to the kiriza except the yellow band is a wider band that covers the mid half of the body and the head and body being black.
Difficult to keep – see tropheus kiriza

Cyphotilapia frontosa

Cyphotilapia frontosa male
Cyphotilapia frontosa male

Known as “fronts” by aquarists. They are the kings of the Tanganyika set up growing to 12 inches. They are tameable and will eat from your hand. But you do need a very large aquarium to succeed with them because they are gregarious and you need at least 6 fish for them to be happy. They are female mouthbrooders. They are fairly easy to care for. Keep in an open sandy aquarium with a few rocky shelters. They are gentle giants and can be kept with other not too small fish.

Cyprichromis leptosoma

They are a schooling fish that swim in open waters. It is recommended to keep at least 10 in an aquarium. They are an attractive fish with elongated blue bodies and fins and a yellowy orange tail. There are various colour morphs, all of which are attractive. They grow to 3-4 inches long. So, to keep 10 in an aquarium requires a large aquarium. There is a giant morph that grows to 5 inches or over.

Cyprichromis leptosoma male
Cyprichromis leptosoma male

They are a maternal mouthbrooder. But they breed mid water. The female lays some eggs. The male fertilises them and then the female backs up to catch her newly fertilised eggs in her mouth. They fry are released after 3 weeks into a cave or other secluded spot. The few fry are quite large.
They are peaceful and relatively easy to keep and will eat most foods offered to them. They can coexist with cave dwelling tankmates because they live mid-water.
lamprologus ocellatus – shell dweller – small 2″ – breed inside shell
This is called the frogface cichlid because of its bulging eyes and large head. It has a delicate beauty with a bluish silvery sheen on its sides. It is a small fish at just under 2 inches, quite lively but peaceful. It is a candidate for a nano aquarium but with hard water. The frogface makes an ideal Tanganyika community fish. it lives on the sandy floor of the aquarium and requires snails shells for territory and breeding. Always have more shells than frogface cichlids otherwise an individual without a shell will get bullied. The female will lay eggs inside her shell which the male will fertilise. The shells are usually buried in the sand with only the mouth exposed. They eat a mixed diet of small live food and high quality pellet food.

Lamprologus signatus

Lamprologus signatus live and guard their own shells. Breeding occurs in the female’s shell. The eggs hatch and the fry slowly leave the shell when they become free swimming. The adults do not eat the fry. Feed the fry with newly hatched brine shrimp.
They grow larger than their relatives ocellatus up to 3 inches. They have an attractive pattern of many vertical dark bars on their sides.

Neolamprologus Similis near snail shells
Neolamprologus Similis near snail shells

Neolamprologus Similis

Known as the zebra shell dweller. This is another nano species. It is even smaller than ocellatus. They have wonderful breeding behaviour. They breed in the female’s shell but also have extended families where young from previous spawnings will help guard the new fry. Less of a digger than the other shell dwellers.
Zebra shell dwellers can be included in a Tanganyika community aquarium alongside other Neolamprologus such as brichardi, or smaller Julidochromis species and even open water species such as the blue neon cichlid. It is easy to care for and readily breeds. Empty French escargot snail shells are ideal.

Neolamprologus leleupi

Neolamprologus leleupi lemon cichlid
Neolamprologus leleupi lemon cichlid

Commonly called the lemon cichlid. This is a long time favourite of aquarists because of its brilliant yellow colour. Both males and females are equally yellow. The lemon cichlid is a peaceful fish except when spawning. They can be community fish but note that they can grow up to 5 inches and they like good water conditions. They need to be kept in a light sandy aquarium otherwise they will darken and lose their brilliant yellow colouration.
The lemon cichlid is a solitary fish only coming together with the female when it is time to mate. Breeding occurs in caves. Both the male and female guard the young. The fry become quite large and are well guarded by the parents.
The lemon cichlid needs foods rich in carotene so that it can keep its brilliant yellow colour. Also, if not using a proprietory Tanganyikan salt mix for the water then use of iodine containing salt must be added to the water occasionally.

Xenotilapia flavipinnis

Known as the yellow sand cichlid. They swim in groups close to the sand. Keep a group of at least 6 fish together. They grow to 3.5 inches. They are peaceful and make a good community fish with other peaceful fish. They do like good water conditions so provide good filtration and water changes. The yellow sand cichlid heads to rocky areas when breeding. Both fish will mouthbrood. At first the mother takes all the eggs into her mouth. After 8-10 days the eggs are transferred to the father’s mouth. The father holds the fry for a further 10 days and releases the free swimming fry.nd microworms. You can feed the fry on baby brine shrimp a The parents keep protecting the young for a further 3 weeks. The fry will re-enter the male’s mouth when frightened.

Enantiopus kilesa

male enantiopus kilesa displaying passing females
male enantiopus kilesa displaying passing females

This is truly a beauty of a fish. Well, the male anyway. He has a blue sheen along his body and a turqoise forehead with a yellow throat that he expands for display. It is a long torpedo shaped fish, growing to 5 inches in the aquarium. But what is more remarkable is that the male builds sand mounds and ditches to impress passing females. Both male and female hover above the sand.
They breed as typical mouthbreeders with the male and female twirling round each with their mouth on the other’s vent area.
So it goes without saying, you need a fine sandy substrate.
They can eat good quality pellets and live or frozen foods. They are not aggressive. You need a large group of at least 8 to see the full range of behaviours. So, you need a 6 foot tank or even bigger. enantiopus is not a difficult fish to keep and breed but it is not a beginners fish either.
Do not overfeed. Feed only once or twice a day. It can be a community fish when kept with other peaceful Tanganyika species.

Lestradea perspicax

This is another peaceful sand loving mouthbrooder. It grows to 5 inches and should be kept in groups of 8 or more. It makes a good community fish with other peaceful Tanganyika species such as neolamprologus, julidochromis and xenotilapia species. Needs to be kept in a 48 inch tank or bigger with lots of sand and some rocky areas.
It is a maternal mouthbrooder. The males dig pits to attract the females. They breed in the pits with the typical mouthbrooder twirling. Not the most attractive fish but makes up for it in the behaviour department.