What to Feed Fish When Out of Food (Goldfish, Betta & More)

Updated on by Patrice Alsteen | Affiliate links may be present.

In my house, we are always running out of things! The grocery list grows by the hour, and, when I do get to the store, I will most likely forget at least one important item. If you are like me, and ever forgot to pick up fish food, don’t panic!

What else can fish eat? If you need something to help tide over your fish friends until the next grocery run, keep reading!

What Does Your Fish Need to Eat?

Do you have an herbivore? Is your fish a carnivore? Or maybe your fish is an omnivore. It is important to know your fish’s dietary needs before you feed them!

Is it a Good Idea to Feed Fish Things Other Than Fish Food?

Even if you have fish food readily available, it is great to change up your fish’s diet every now and then! Fresh foods are really good for your fish and will be a tasty treat.

What if you have a picky fish? It is very important to clean up any uneaten bits of food immediately. Uneaten food can alter your aquarium’s environment by changing the pH balance of the water, and clogging the filter. If the food is still in the tank one hour after you fed the fish, remove it.

What Can I Feed My Fish Besides Fish Food?


Vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables, are a fish favorite. Cut lettuce and spinach into tiny pieces so that your fish can eat them easily. Try boiling or blanching the vegetables beforehand to make them easier to digest.

Herbivorous fish also enjoy cucumbers, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, and brussels sprouts. Most vegetables, except for spinach and zucchini should be cooked before they are fed to the fish.


Carnivorous fish normally eat other fish in the wild. Most fish have a hard time processing fat, so stick with low-fat, or fat-free fish, such as tilapia. Dice the food into small pieces for your fish.

Egg Yolks

Small fish and shrimp really enjoy egg yolks. Egg yolks are high in fat, so do not overdo it! Grate a hard-boiled egg yolk and add a few sprinkles to your tank as a special treat.

I will give you a word of warning! Egg yolks can make your tank cloudy and messy. You will probably need to clean the tank after feeding your fish egg yolks.


If you have access to earthworms, your carnivorous and omnivorous fish will gobble them up! Earthworms are high in protein and other important nutrients. Tackle stores sell mealworms and earthworms.


Most fish will eat boiled peas. In fact, some fish experts recommend feeding fish peas periodically to help prevent constipation. Remove the skins from the peas and break them into small pieces before feeding them to your fish.

Choose frozen peas over canned peas. Canned peas can contain salt and preservatives, which are not good for fish.


Who doesn’t enjoy fruit? Since fruit is high in naturally occurring sugar, you need to be careful to remove any uneaten pieces from the aquarium right away. Fish enjoy bananas, watermelon, strawberries, apples, and pears. Feed your fish small, thin slices of fruit.

What Can Different Types of Fish Eat?

What to Feed Goldfish When Out of Food?

Goldfish are omnivores. In the wild, they eat a wide variety of foods, including plants, insects, and small fish. If you are out of fish food, try feeding your goldfish small pieces of white fish and vegetables, like peas, zucchini, or spinach.

What to Feed Betta When Out of Food?

Betta fish are meat eaters! Try small pieces of fish or shrimp. These fighting fish will also enjoy bits of earthworms, or insect larvae if you can find them. Betta fish will also eat small pieces of shelled peas.

What to Feed Guppies When Out of Food?

Guppies love mosquito larvae, but that might not be the most practical option when you’re out of fish food. Instead, you can try feeding them bloodworms, daphnia or brine shrimp. You can also try feeding them fresh vegetables after cutting them into tiny pieces.

The good thing about guppies is that they’ll also eat the algae that grows within and often spreads on the sides of your fish tank. However, it’s not a good idea to rely completely on algae for the feeding of your guppies.

What Can Tropical Fish Eat?

Soft veggies are the best alternative food for tropical fish. Try tiny bits of lettuce or spinach. Cook other vegetables until they are soft, and break them into small pieces. You may have to experiment with different vegetables if your fish are picky.

What Foods Should I Not Feed to My Fish?


Bread will cause bloating, lethargy, and discomfort for your fish. In fact, bread could even kill the fish. It will also disintegrate in your tank, leaving a big mess.

Though some fish do enjoy small bits of rice or pasta, it is best to avoid grains in your fish’s diet. Grains are difficult for fish to digest and may cause your fish to become sluggish.


The fibers and fat in meat are difficult for fish to digest. Some fish may be able to digest beef hearts if they are cooked thoroughly and shredded.

Dog or Cat Food

Dog and cat food is formulated for our furry pets, not fish! It is usually high in fat, and difficult for fish to digest. They may enjoy eating it, but it will damage their digestive tracts in the long run.

Salt, Preservatives, and Chemicals

Salt and preservatives can harm your fish. Avoid feeding your aquarium fish any processed food.

How Often Should I Feed My Fish?

Your aquarium life can survive without food for longer than you realize. If you will not be able to get to the store for a day, your fish will most likely be just fine.

Carnivorous and omnivorous fish can go longer without eating. Their bodies are designed to fast depending on how often they can find prey.

Herbivorous fish are accustomed to nibbling on plants all day long. Though they can survive for a day or so without food, it is best to feed them daily.

Research your type of fish and find out their specific dietary needs. Make sure you feed them according to what they need. Remember fish will eat whenever they are fed, so make sure not to overfeed them!

Final Thoughts

If you are out of fish food, there is no need for your fish to go hungry! There are plenty of fish food alternatives in your refrigerator, and even in your backyard. Your fish may even enjoy a brief change in diet!

About Patrice Alsteen

Patrice has been an animal lover, right from her childhood. She's currently enjoying the company of her cat, dog, aquarium fishes, and a few small furry companions.

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