What Do Small Fish Eat

Last Updated on September 17, 2021 by cmoarz

What Do Small Fish Eat? That’s an interesting question many people have wondered about. Some of the smallest fish and baby fish (fry) can’t possibly eat the things their larger and adult counterparts can. So how do they manage?

You might also be wondering yourself if your fish is about to give birth or some eggs are about to hatch and you’re wondering if you are prepared to feed the little guys in your aquarium.

Look no further, I’m easily going to answer the question “What do small fish eat” so you can be ready to feed your little fry, or just itch that curiosity.

This is what small fish eat

In a domestic setting

  • Fish eggs
  • brine shrimp
  • other fish
  • frozen foods
  • Feed fish
  • Fish pellets (and other dry foods for fry)
  • Blood worms
  • Shrimp Meal
  • Even smaller fish
  • Squid meal
  • insect larvae
  • Freeze-dried larvae and insects
  • plankton
  • Algae
  • Worms
  • Plants
  • Crustaceans (small, like dwarf ramshorn)
  • Flakes
  • flies
  • Krill

As you can see, the list is fairly varied between larger and smaller feeds, protein-rich diet, and plant-based diets. To narrow down the list you need to narrow down the type of small fish or fry you have.

If you have a baby betta or fry coming out of your fish, the easiest food to feed them is definitely baby brine shrimp. It’s simple to get and relatively inexpensive. This however can get expensive quickly for larger litters. If you are only getting one or two newborns then this should be fine. Personally, I like to use non-living food for fry and baby fish. This is typically the easiest method, and you can add it in with your staple feedings each day with little fuss. The frozen foods I found work quite well because they typically sink, and most small fish love them.

Frozen foods included bloodworms (which are a great source of protein), brine shrimp (again another good protein source), and my personal favorite: Cyclops (or TetraMin). It’s an algae pellet that sinks which also happens to be packed full of nutrients I’m sure your little guys will love.

For larger fish (that are still *small*) you are going to need to get more creative. Many brands will carry shrimp meal, insect larvae, or even squid meal. These are great ways to get more protein in your fish without having them eat up all of their plant matter.

The alternative option is dried food. This would include any flakes, crumbles, or pellets you can find for your fish that are the appropriate size.

Smaller species might also have different requirements depending on what type of fish you’ve got. Look up the specific requirements for your fish and see if there are any special feeds or food ideas available to you.

After this, it’s all about finding what works best for you and your fish. If they won’t take to one diet then try another! You might need to switch out their foods or try a different product entirely until you find something that works well with your small fish.

In a wild setting

In the wild, fish don’t have access to frozen food and commercially available pellets and flakes. But they do eat most of what’s on the list above as well depending on the species.

Fish can also eat a lot of different things. Smaller fish will most likely eat insects, crustaceans, and zooplankton. In the wild this is usually caught with their bare mouths or by using their fins to sweep through the water until they hit food.

For larger fish, you’ve got a few more options for what they can catch and eat:

Smaller fish (and babies)

Insects, larvae, etc. again. Much like our domestic small fish list above.

Plant matter – same as above really! Most plant matters didn’t make it onto our small fish list because most small fish don’t need as much as larger fish do. But some species still enjoy some plant matter in their diet depending on the environment they’re from.

Invertebrates – snails, slugs, crabs, crayfish, shrimp… you name it!

A fish’s diet is usually pretty easy to figure out and reach proper nutritional requirements. Especially for fry. It’s important not to overfeed as they do not have very large stomachs. But it’s important to feed them multiple times a day every single day. Just skipping 1 day of feeding can end up in belly up fry.


Owner of AquariumGravel.com and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!