What Can I Feed My Fish If I Run Out Of Food?

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a fish feeding schedule, only to realize that your fish food supply has run out? You’re not alone; even seasoned aquarists face this challenge at times.

This blog post explores versatile alternatives to traditional fish food, from homemade recipes to every day household ingredients and more. Ready for an underwater adventure into your pet’s diet options? Let’s dive right in!

Key Takeaways

  • When you run out of fish food, there are several suitable alternatives you can feed your fish to ensure they stay healthy and well-nourished.
  • For omnivorous and herbivorous fish, vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, and boiled peas can be used as substitutes for commercial fish food.
  • Carnivorous fish can be fed meat options such as shrimp, earthworms, maggots, small insects like crickets and flies, daphnia, beef heart, chicken bits without seasoning or smaller live/frozen fish.
  • Homemade recipes using gelatin-based mixtures with pureed vegetables or a blend of cooked vegetables with crushed fish flakes/pellets or shrimp can be made to feed your fish when you don’t have commercial fish food available.

Suitable Alternatives to Fish Food

Vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, and zucchini are suitable alternatives for omnivores and herbivores, while carnivorous fish can be fed meat options such as beef heart, cod, or tilapia.

Vegetables for omnivores and herbivores

Understanding the dietary requirement of your fish is crucial. If you are left without fish food, various vegetables come handy to serve omnivorous and herbivorous fish species. Soft veggies often serve as safe alternatives for many tropical breeds. Consider feeding your aquatic pets boiled peas – an all-time favorite for many fish keepers during food scarcity moments. Besides, blanched vegetables such as broccoli and cucumber make a great meal too. Zucchini is another nutritious option that can easily substitute commercial fish food. Plus, courgettes work well especially for bottom feeders like plecos due to their soft texture after boiling. The idea here is not just to fill their bellies but also fulfill their nutritional needs by offering these healthy substitutes!

Meat options for carnivorous fish

Carnivorous fish have specific dietary needs that require a higher protein intake. When you run out of fish food, here are some suitable meat options you can give to your carnivorous fish:

  1. Shrimp: These small crustaceans are a favorite among many carnivorous fish species. They provide a good source of protein and can be easily obtained from seafood markets or fishing stores.
  2. Earthworms: Fresh earthworms are an excellent protein-rich food source for carnivorous fish. You can find them in your garden or purchase them from bait shops.
  3. Maggots: Although not the most appetizing option, maggots are highly nutritious for carnivorous fish. They can be found in compost bins or purchased from specialized suppliers.
  4. Small insects: Carnivorous fish love hunting and feasting on small insects like crickets, grasshoppers, and flies. Collecting them from your backyard or purchasing them from pet stores is an option if you’re comfortable handling live insects.
  5. Daphnia: These tiny crustaceans are commonly found in freshwater bodies and make an excellent food choice for carnivorous fish due to their high nutrient content.
  6. Beef heart: Rich in proteins and vitamins, beef heart is often used as a homemade alternative to commercial fish food for carnivorous species like piranhas and oscars. Cut it into small pieces before feeding it to your fish.
  7. Chicken bits: Cooked chicken bits without seasoning offer a good amount of protein for carnivorous fish. Ensure there are no bones or skin attached before feeding them to your fish.
  8. Smaller Fish: Feeding smaller live or frozen fish such as minnows or guppies can provide a natural diet for larger carnivorous species that prey on other fish in the wild.

Homemade fish food recipes

Want to make your own fish food at home? Here are some easy and nutritious homemade recipes for feeding your fish when you run out of commercial fish food:

  1. Gelatin-based recipe:
  • Mix gelatin powder with warm water according to the instructions on the packet.
  • Add pureed vegetables like peas, spinach, or carrots to the gelatin mixture.
  • Stir well and pour the mixture into ice cube trays or a shallow dish.
  • Allow it to cool and set in the refrigerator.
  • Cut the gelatin into small cubes or strips before feeding it to your fish.
  1. Vegetable medley recipe:
  • Blend together a variety of cooked vegetables like peas, carrots, broccoli, and zucchini.
  • Add a small amount of crushed fish flakes or pellets for added protein.
  • Form the mixture into small balls or patties and freeze them until needed.
  • Thaw a portion before feeding it to your fish.
  1. Frozen shrimp mix recipe:
  • Thaw frozen shrimp and remove any shells or tails.
  • Blend the shrimp with some boiled peas, spinach leaves, and a few drops of cod liver oil (optional).
  • Pour the mixture into ice cube trays or molds and freeze until solid.
  • Take out a cube or two as needed and thaw before giving it to your fish.
  1. Beef heart mix recipe:
  • Boil beef heart until fully cooked, then let it cool down.
  • Cut the beef heart into small pieces and blend them with blanched vegetables like peas or zucchini.
  • Add a multivitamin supplement specifically formulated for fish if desired.
  • Form the mixture into small cubes or patties and freeze until ready to use.

What Human Foods Can Fish Eat?

Fish can eat a variety of human foods such as rice, pasta, cooked vegetables, and live foods to supplement their diet when there is no fish food available.

Rice and pasta

Rice and pasta can be suitable alternatives for feeding your fish when you run out of fish food. Rice is a staple in many diets, and it can provide carbohydrates that fish need for energy.

Cooked rice should be soft enough for most types of fish to consume easily. Pasta, such as cooked spaghetti or macaroni, can also be given to fish as a temporary substitute. Just make sure the pasta is fully cooked and cut into small pieces to prevent choking hazards.

Remember to offer these options in moderation and alongside other nutritious foods to ensure your aquatic friends receive a balanced diet.

Cooked vegetables

A great alternative to fish food when you run out is cooked vegetables. These can provide essential nutrients for your fish, especially if they are omnivorous or herbivorous. Soft veggies like peas, broccoli, and cucumber are safe options that many tropical fish enjoy.

You can blanch these vegetables by boiling them lightly and then cooling them before feeding them to your fish. Not only will this help maintain the nutritional balance in their diet, but it also adds variety to their meals.

So next time you find yourself without fish food, remember that cooked vegetables can be a healthy and tasty substitute for your aquatic pets.

Live foods

Fish can also be fed live foods, which can provide them with essential nutrients and simulate their natural feeding habits. Live foods are a great option to consider when you run out of fish food. Here are some live food options that you can offer to your fish:

  1. Brine shrimp: Brine shrimp are tiny crustaceans that are rich in protein and highly nutritious for fish. They are available either as frozen or live eggs, which can hatch into baby brine shrimp.
  2. Daphnia: Daphnia are small aquatic organisms commonly known as water fleas. They are an excellent source of protein and can be found in both freshwater and saltwater environments.
  3. Bloodworms: Bloodworms are the larvae of non-biting midges and contain high levels of protein. They can be purchased frozen or live and are eagerly consumed by many types of fish.
  4. Mosquito larvae: Mosquito larvae, also known as wigglers, can be collected from stagnant water sources (avoid using larvae from areas treated with pesticides). They are a natural food source for many fish species.
  5. Blackworms: Blackworms are thin, threadlike worms that make for a nutritious meal for both freshwater and marine fish. They can be purchased alive or frozen.

Things to Avoid Feeding Your Fish

Avoid feeding your fish bread, dog food, and meat. These can cause digestive issues and harm your fish. Find out what safe alternatives you can give them instead!


Bread may seem like a convenient option when you run out of fish food, but it’s important to avoid feeding bread to your fish. Bread lacks the essential nutrients that fish need for their overall health and can cause digestive issues.

It also tends to pollute the water quickly, leading to poor water quality in your aquarium. Instead, opt for suitable alternatives like vegetables or meat options that provide the necessary nutrition for your aquatic pets.

Feeding them a balanced diet ensures their well-being even when traditional fish food is not available.

Dog food

Dog food is not suitable for feeding fish. While dog food may contain some ingredients that could potentially be consumed by fish, it is formulated specifically for the dietary needs of dogs and can lack the essential nutrients that fish require.

Feeding your fish dog food can lead to digestive issues and nutritional deficiencies, which can have a negative impact on their health. It’s best to stick with alternative options that are specifically designed for fish or use natural foods like vegetables or meats that are safe and beneficial for your aquatic pets.


Meat can be a suitable alternative for carnivorous fish when you run out of fish food. Options like beef heart, tilapia, and cod can provide the necessary protein and nutrients that these types of fish need.

You can also consider offering smaller fish, shrimp, earthworms, maggots, daphnia, or even small insects as supplemental sources of meat-based nutrition. Just make sure to offer them in appropriate sizes and quantities to prevent overfeeding and maintain the health of your aquatic pets.

Remember to avoid feeding your fish any type of dog food or processed meats as they may contain additives that could be harmful to their digestive systems.


In conclusion, when you run out of fish food, there are plenty of alternatives available to ensure your fish stay healthy and well-nourished. From vegetables like lettuce and zucchini to meat options such as beef heart or cod, there is a wide range of natural substitutes that can be used.

Additionally, human foods like rice, pasta, cooked vegetables, and live foods can also provide temporary nutrition for your fish. Just remember to avoid feeding them bread or dog food and always strive for a balanced diet that meets their dietary requirements.

With a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can feed your fish without traditional fish food in times of need.


1. Can I feed my fish something other than fish food when I run out?

Yes, there are alternative options you can consider feeding your fish when you run out of fish food. These include frozen or live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, or even small insects like fruit flies.

2. Are there household items that are safe to feed my fish in an emergency?

While it is not ideal to rely on household items as a long-term solution, certain foods that are safe for fish include boiled vegetables like peas or spinach (without seasoning), unsalted cooked rice or pasta, and small pieces of fresh fruits like melon or banana.

3. What should I avoid feeding my fish in case of running out of food?

It is important to avoid feeding your fish any processed human foods like bread, chips, cookies or anything high in salt, sugar or artificial additives. These can be harmful and may lead to digestive issues or even death for your pet fishes.

4. How often should I feed my fish when using alternative food sources?

When using alternative food sources for your fish, it is recommended to feed them very small portions once or twice a day until you can restock their regular diet. Be mindful not to overfeed and monitor their behavior and health closely during this temporary period.

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