How to Feed Fish While on Vacation

Traveling is one of the coolest aspects of modern life, at least in theory, but maybe not sometimes in practice, like when you’ve been on a three hour flight next to a cranky toddler whose screams could drown out a Metallica concert.

But, I digress.

Getting out in the world is great, but how do you feed your fish while you’re on vacation?

Well, you have two main options for delivering meals to your hungry fish while you’re out of town. I’ll cover both of them in this article.

But, Real Quick, Here’s What NOT to Do

No matter what else you decide to do, please, do not drop one of those “vacation feeding blocks” into your tank.

I don’t think I can possibly describe to you all the ways in which those things are total garbage.

They’re filled with more preservatives than actual food. Some can break apart and cloud your water.

Just don’t use those things, they’re awful.

Have a Trusted Friend Feed Your Fish

Trusted friend feeding betta fish while owner on vacation

There are some major pros and cons about having a friend, roommate or family member feed your fish while you’re out of town. 

I want to address the biggest con, and its solution, right from the start: people tend to grossly overfeed fish that they’re babysitting, even to the point that they kill all of the fish in the tank.

You can go over exactly how you want the fish to be fed with someone, and you still might come home and to them saying, “The fish still looked hungry, so I gave them more food.”

The internet is filled with horror stories about this exact scenario.

So, here’s the solution: get a pill organizer that has the little flip up compartments on it. Carefully portion out daily rations into the compartments, and then hide the rest of the food!

You may come home to the babysitter saying, “It seemed like the fish didn’t get very much,” but you won’t come home to an overfeeding disaster.

I have gone out of town many times and had this trick work like a charm.

I got these cheap and easy to use med organizers and it’s been great. The compartments are really big; they have plenty of room for pellets or even algae wafers.

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EZY DOSE Push Button (7-Day) Pill Case, Medicine Planner, Vitamin Organizer, 2 Times a Day AM/PM, Large Compartments, Arthritis Friendly, Clear Lids, Purple/Blue
EZY DOSE Push Button (7-Day) Pill Case, Medicine Planner, Vitamin Organizer, 2 Times a Day AM/PM, Large Compartments, Arthritis Friendly, Clear Lids, Purple/Blue

    Last update on 2024-03-05 / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

    One of the benefits of having someone look after your tank is that they can keep an eye on things while you’re away. 

    Give your friend a small crash course in checking the aquarium’s equipment, like making sure the filter is running and that the heater is turned on.

    They don’t need to be an expert on it all; they just need to check that everything is running. They can call you for help, and hopefully rectify the situation, if something is amiss.

    Pros: 

    • Someone will be checking on your tank daily
    • You can set up controlled portions of food in a medicine organizer

    Cons: 

    • Untrained friends can overfeed fish

    Use an Automatic Feeder

    Automatic fish feeder on aquarium

    Another option is to set up an automatic feeder. There are many different feeders available on the market these days; they’re pretty great.

    But, they require quite a bit of prep before you leave town.

    You’ll need to go through a period of trial and error to make sure that the feeder dispenses the right amount of food.

    Do your first round of experiments with the feeder off your tank. You’ll need to adjust how much food gets dropped out. If you do it over your tank, and way too much food pours out into your tank, you’ll have a huge mess to clean up.

    Get your feeder adjusted and then let it run for at least a week, if you can. Make a point to watch when food is dispensed. Check to see if the fish can eat the food before it sinks to the bottom of the tank.

    If a lot of food is getting past the fish, adjust the portion size. Adding on an extra meal that the fish eat completely is preferable to most of a large meal going uneaten and fouling the water.

    There are some real pluses to using an automatic feeder. I like to be able to set the feeder to supply smaller meals several times a day, rather than one big one.

    It’s usually not reasonable to ask a friend to feed you fish two or three times a day, but it’s easy to set up a feeder to do it.

    Also, once the feeder has been installed for a few weeks, the fish will start to anticipate when the feeder will drop food.

    Yep, fish can tell time. You’ll see them start to gather around the feeder when it’s about to drop food.

    // Pro Tip: For a comparison of some of the top automatic feeders on the market, please see our in-depth article, here. //

    The downside to using an automatic feeder is that there won’t be a human to keep an eye on the tank. 

    If you’re going to travel frequently, I would recommend using a filter that will automatically start back up after a power failure. Canister filters are great for this, as well as hang-on-the-back filters with internal motors.

    For a comparison of some of the best filters on the market, please, see our in-depth article, here.

    Pros: 

    • Reliable once you’ve got it adjusted properly
    • Dispenses a set amount
    • Can feed fish several times a day

    Cons: 

    • Requires a lot of prep beforehand
    • Feeders can dump in more food than fish can eat at a time

    Final Thoughts

    Leaving home on a trip to have some fun is awesome. There’s nothing like a new adventure.

    But, it leaves you with the problem of how to feed your fish while you’re on vacation.

    Not to worry. I’ve laid out two solid plans for keeping your fish fed while you’re away.

    If you’re going to leave a friend in charge of your tank, make sure to emphasize to them that overfeeding can really hurt your fish and that portion control is essential.

    I highly recommend portioning out food into a pill organizer so there’s no confusion about how much should be given each day.

    Automatic feeders are also an excellent option, but they require a good deal of prep work. 

    Make sure that your feeder is dispensing the correct amount of food. It would be disastrous for an automatic feeder to just keep dumping huge amounts of food in your tank every day. 

    That would likely be worse than a human overfeeding the tank.

    But, once you get an automatic feeder set up and calibrated, it’s a very convenient way to keep your fish fed.

    I hope you find this article helpful.

    I wish you and your fish the very best!

    Katherine Morgan
    Katherine Morgan

    Hey, there! I'm Katherine from Northwest Florida. An aquarium specialist, I've kept tanks for over two decades, enjoy experimenting with low-tech planted setups and an avid South American cichlid enthusiast.

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