9 Best Tropical Fish Foods Compared & Reviewed 2020

In this guide, I’ll teach you how to choose quality fish food, review and compare the ingredients of the top 9 choices out there, and reveal what I believe to be the best tropical fish food.

Quick Overview: Top Pick

After looking at what is available, using my personal experience over the years, and looking at the ingredients, the best tropical fish food is Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical.

For bottom feeders, Omega One Veggie Rounds have been my go to, having kept my plecos happy for years.

Omega One Veggie Rounds, 14mm Rounds, Sinking, 8.1 oz Container
Omega One Veggie Rounds, 14mm Rounds, Sinking, 8.1 oz Container
    Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical Nano Bits Slow Sinking Pellets 6 oz.
    Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical Nano Bits Slow Sinking Pellets 6 oz.

      Last update on 2020-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

      Start By Checking the Ingredients List

      You really cannot trust the front of a package of fish food. All of them have glossy pictures of healthy fish and claim to be the world’s best food.

      But, there are major brands ― that you will see on the shelves in every store ― that are actually low quality foods that have fillers as their main ingredients.

      Always look at the ingredients list when deciding on a food. The company can say whatever they want on the front of the container, but they’re not allowed to lie to you on the ingredient list.

      Low Quality Ingredients to Avoid

      Fish Meal

      Stay away from the ingredient “fish meal.” More than likely, this is made from the waste products left over when processing plants harvest the fillets off a fish. 

      They take the scales, skin, guts, bones, etc, and then grind it all up into a paste.

      Mmmmm, doesn’t that sound… awesome? 

      So all the good stuff has already been used and then the literal trash has been put through a grinder. It’s a really low quality food source that’s missing key nutrients.

      Pro Tip: Instead of a brand that uses generic fish meal as an ingredient, look for things that list “whole salmon meal” or “whole krill.” These are made from the whole animal, not just garbage leftovers.

      Filler Grains

      You should also avoid foods where non-aquatic things like wheat are listed as one of the first few ingredients. 

      Fish aren’t meant to live off wheat or other grains. They’re adapted to eating things like other fish, aquatic plants and algae or insects and their larvae. 

      A lot of non-aquatic food sources just pass through their bodies as waste and don’t offer any real nutrition.

      Soy

      Again, just like wheat and grains, soy is added to fish food as a filler. It does increase the overall protein, but there’s some argument that fish raised on a diet of soy do not grow as large and produce more waste.

      Fish aren’t really adapted to digest soy protein, so it’s thought that much of it passes through their system unused.

      It’s best to pass by foods that contain high amounts of soy. It’s better to go with foods that use an aquatic source of protein.

      High Quality Ingredients You Want

      Whole Fish

      The absolute best thing to see as an ingredient is some kind of whole fish (or crustacean, like shrimp or krill).

      It will still be ground up so that it can be made into fish food, but the actual meat of the fish will be included.

      Pro Tip: You may also see whole fish listed as just the species, so the label might just say “salmon.” This still means that the meat of the fish is included.

      Spirulina 

      Spirulina is a blue-green algae (technically a cyanobacteria) that provides a nutritional punch of protein and vitamins. And fish can easily digest it and access all those beneficial nutrients.

      It’s the perfect food source for herbivorous and algae eating fish.

      Spirulina is also a great color booster for blue and green fish. In my own experience, it’s really brought out the color on my Boesemani rainbow fish.

      Worms 

      Either earthworms or California blackworms make a great source of food for fish. They’re mostly protein and easy to digest.

      Black Soldier Fly Larvae

      These little guys are especially good for fish who would normally be insectivores. Since the larvae don’t have a hard exoskeleton, they’re a perfect protein source.

      Insect exoskeletons really can’t be digested by fish so they just pass through as waste. But since black soldier fly larvae have no exoskeleton, the entire larvae is digestible, with much less waste.  

      Krill 

      Krill are tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that float in enormous schools in the ocean. They’re a favorite food for baleen whales, like humpback and blue whales.

      They’re so tiny that they’re just ground up whole and they make an excellent source of food for fish. The biggest sea creatures in the world eat a diet of mostly krill in nature, proving they’re a powerhouse of nutrients.  

      Krill also contain a high percentage of compounds called carotenoids, red, orange and yellow pigments that they get from their diet of algae. 

      Carotenoids bring out the colors of yellow, orange and red in the animals that eat them (eating shrimp rich in carotenoids is what makes a flamingo pink).

      So, krill isn’t just healthy, it makes your fish more beautiful.   

      9 best Tropical Fish Food Choices Reviewed

      1. Omega One Freshwater Flakes

      • Main ingredients: Salmon, Whole Herring, Wheat Flour, Whole Shrimp, Pea Protein, Kelp, Wheat Gluten, Spirulina
      • Diet: omnivore, carnivore
      • Water level: top

      These are a great overall staple diet for most tropical fish. Although it does contain some non-aquatic food sources, by far the high quality aquatic food sources make up most of the main ingredients. 

      I’ve found that even finicky little fish like tetras will readily gobble these flakes up.

      I also like that it contains marigold extract, an additive rich in carotenoids that’s known to help boost the color of red, orange and yellow fish.

      Omega One Freshwater Flakes, 5.3 oz
      Omega One Freshwater Flakes, 5.3 oz

        Last update on 2020-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

        2. Fluval Bug Bites Tropical Formula

        • Main ingredients: Black Soldier Fly Larvae, Salmon, Fish Protein Concentrate, Green Peas, Potato, Wheat
        • Diet: carnivore
        • Water level: top

        I really love Fluval Bug Bites. 

        I mean, my fish love it, and I like feeding it to them. 

        I haven’t tried it, but I’m pretty sure it would taste like super nasty Grape Nuts made of bugs. 

        Yuck. Glad we established that.

        Moving on, this really is a great food. Bug Bites are 40% insect larvae, the natural food of so many fish species.

        It can take a little bit of coaxing to get fish that are used to flakes to accept this food, but once they get used to it, they won’t want anything else.

        I’m not crazy about the fish protein concentrate and terrestrial ingredients, like wheat and potato, but the other ingredients are excellent. 

        I’ve seen great growth and coloration using this food.

        One thing I don’t like, the little granules sink fairly fast. So I have to really watch and make sure a bunch of uneaten ones aren’t getting past the fish and into the gravel.

        Fluval A6577 Bug Bites Tropical Fish Small Granules 1.59 oz, Small to Medium Fish
        Fluval A6577 Bug Bites Tropical Fish Small Granules 1.59 oz, Small to Medium Fish

          Last update on 2020-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

          3. Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical Nano Pellets (Top Pick)

          • Main ingredients: Prawns, Dried Spirulina Algae, Dried Kelp, Dried Seaweed, Whole Corn, Jumbo Squid Meal, Whole Anchovy, Whole Sardine
          • Diet: omnivore, herbivore, carnivore
          • Water level: top

          You really can’t find another product on the market that has the same variety of whole food ingredients as this Cobalt Aquatics food. 

          Seasoned aquarists always advise to give your fish a varied diet, and that’s exactly what this food does. Just a single pellet provides a wide range of protein sources and even some super healthy veggies from kelp, seaweed and spirulina.

          This is a smaller pellet meant for nano fish, but they have other pellet sizes for much larger fish.

          I’m not a huge fan of corn meal being the fourth ingredient, but all the other high quality ingredients on the list are outstanding.

          Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical Nano Bits Slow Sinking Pellets 6 oz.
          Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical Nano Bits Slow Sinking Pellets 6 oz.

            Last update on 2020-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

            4. Fluval Hagen Vegetarian Flakes

            • Main ingredients: Dried Spirulina Algae, Herring Meal, Dried Potato, Krill, Wheat Flour, Wheat Bran, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Dried Broccoli, Dried Cabbage, Dried Carrot, Dried Garlic, Dried Kelp
            • Diet: herbivore
            • Water level: top

            It can be hard to find a good veggie-based food for herbivorous fish. Many are made mostly out of fillers and generic fish meal with very little plant matter or algae included.

            So these Fluval Vegetarian Flakes are a welcome change. I don’t like that potato and wheat flour are fairly high on the ingredient list, but spirulina is the first ingredient and it comes with a huge variety of healthy veggies.

            This food would be a great choice for the staple diet of herbivorous fish, like Mbuna cichlids or livebearers.

            Sale
            140gm Fluval Vegetarian Flakes Fish Food, 4.94-Ounce
            140gm Fluval Vegetarian Flakes Fish Food, 4.94-Ounce

              Last update on 2020-06-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

              5. New Life Spectrum Naturox Optimum All Purpose Flakes

              • Main ingredients: Whole Antarctic Krill, Giant Squid, Whole Wheat Flour, Whole Menhaden Fish, Garlic, Omega-3 Fish Oil, Ulva Seaweed, Chlorella Seaweed, Wakame Seaweed, Kelp
              • Diet: carnivore, herbivore, omnivore 
              • Water level: top

              These New Life Spectrum flakes contain a great mix of protein and plant sources that would be perfect for omnivores. 

              I like that the flakes contain such a variety of seaweeds, the most I’ve found so far.

              These are also rather large flakes that are great for heavy hitters like large cichlids. (You can always crush flakes up if you have smaller fish.)

              Again, I’m not crazy about the whole wheat flour, but you can’t argue with the quality of the other ingredients.

              New Life Spectrum Naturox Optimum All Purpose Flakes 90g Fish Food
              New Life Spectrum Naturox Optimum All Purpose Flakes 90g Fish Food

                Last update on 2020-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

                6. Omega One Color Mini Pellets

                • Main ingredients: Salmon, Halibut, Whole Herring, Cod, Shrimp
                • Diet: carnivore, omnivore
                • Water level: top

                These Mini Pellets are a great food for tropical tanks with smaller fish. It can also be easily crushed up for even truly tiny tank inhabitants.

                The high protein from the main ingredients should help promote growth. And shrimp and salmon both can help enhance the coloration of yellow, red and orange fish. 

                This is a slow sinking pellet which gives fish more time to find it before it sinks to the bottom. 

                Omega One maintains their reputation of excellence with this food. The first five ingredients are all a high quality animal protein, making this food perfect for any carnivores or omnivores in your tank.

                Omega One Color Mini Pellets, Sinking, 3.5 oz
                Omega One Color Mini Pellets, Sinking, 3.5 oz

                  Last update on 2020-06-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

                  7. New Life Spectrum Thera+A Pellets

                  • Main ingredients: Whole Antarctic Krill, Whole Fish, Whole Wheat Flour, Ulva Seaweed, Chlorella Algae, Garlic, Beta Carotene, Spirulina
                  • Diet: carnivore, omnivore
                  • Water level: top

                  Thera+A pellets are a color enhancing food meant for small fish. And I do mean small fish, the pellets are tiny.

                  This food should help bring out blues and greens in fish because of the spirulina, chlorella and seaweed. The krill and beta carotene can help enhance yellow, red and orange coloration.

                  I don’t like that whole wheat flour is so high on the ingredients list, but whole krill as the main ingredient makes up for this. The mix of animal and plant-based ingredients should strike a healthy balance for omnivorous fish that need a little of everything.

                  Sale
                  New Life Spectrum Thera A Small 140g (Naturox Series)
                  New Life Spectrum Thera A Small 140g (Naturox Series)

                    Last update on 2020-06-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

                    8. Cobalt Aquatics Ultimate Shrimp & Vegi Sinking Wafers

                    • Main ingredients: Prawns, Dried Spirulina Algae, Jumbo Squid Meal, Dried Kelp, Dried Seaweed
                    • Diet: herbivore, omnivore                                     
                    • Water level: bottom

                    It can be really difficult to find a decent sinking wafer. So many brands feature main ingredients like wheat and soy meal. Some are listed as “algae wafers” but contain mostly fillers and almost no algae at all.

                    So I was really impressed by the ingredients list on these Cobalt Shrimp & Vegi wafers. I think these are the best I’ve ever found and this may become my new go-to for my bottom feeders.

                    These are a great mix of animal protein and algae that would make a great staple diet for catfish, plecos or any other bottom dwelling fish.                                                                                                                       

                    Cobalt Ultra Shrimp & Vegi 9.8 mm Grazer Sinking 2.8 oz
                    Cobalt Ultra Shrimp & Vegi 9.8 mm Grazer Sinking 2.8 oz

                      Last update on 2020-06-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

                      9. Omega One Veggie Rounds

                      • Main ingredients: Whole Kelp, Spirulina, Whole Salmon, Halibut, Krill, Whole Herring, Shrimp
                      • Diet: herbivore, omnivore
                      • Water level: bottom

                      Omega One Veggie Rounds are a great staple diet for plecos and other herbivorous bottom feeders. None of the main ingredients are a filler. 

                      I’ve raised many a pleco on these wafers. They’ve always thrived on this food. 

                      Apparently, fish must find these pretty darn tasty. I almost always see the top dwelling fish swim down to grab little mouthfuls of these wafers.

                      My school of tiger barbs especially like to steal these.

                      Omega One Veggie Rounds, 14mm Rounds, Sinking, 8.1 oz Container
                      Omega One Veggie Rounds, 14mm Rounds, Sinking, 8.1 oz Container

                        Last update on 2020-06-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

                        Which One is Best?

                        There are a lot of excellent foods on this list. All contain high quality ingredients that can really help improve overall fish health and color.

                        But, if I had to pick a single favorite, I think I’d have to go with the Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical food. It has an incredible array of animal proteins and plant-based ingredients. 

                        This makes it the ultimate staple diet for a tropical community tank. I think it does a good job of providing a varied diet for most species of fish.

                        For bottom feeders, I’ve relied on Omega One Veggie Rounds for years to keep my plecos fat and happy. I’ve never had a pleco turn its nose up at it and the top dwellers like to steal bites of it, too.

                        Omega One Veggie Rounds, 14mm Rounds, Sinking, 8.1 oz Container
                        Omega One Veggie Rounds, 14mm Rounds, Sinking, 8.1 oz Container
                          Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical Nano Bits Slow Sinking Pellets 6 oz.
                          Cobalt Aquatics Ultra Tropical Nano Bits Slow Sinking Pellets 6 oz.

                            Last update on 2020-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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