How Long Do Feeder Fish Live? Interesting Insights About Feeder Fish

If you are an experienced aquarist, the term feeder fish should be no stranger to you. Feeder fish are tiny, cheap species used mostly as a stock of live food for bigger and more aggressive tank mates.

While they look inconsequential, having healthy feeder fish in a community tank ensures the well-being of the aquarium and prevents your main fish from getting hungry.

So, how long do feeder fish live? And what can you do to maximize their quantity without compromising the living conditions of other animals? Keep reading to find out!

How Long Do Feeder Fish Live?

feeder fish

Each type of feeder fish has a different lifespan.

If we are talking about small, tiny fish such as minnows or guppies, a duration of 1 to 3 years is to be expected.

Several other species such as bluegill or mollies can live between 3 to 6 years, and larger feeder fish – such as goldfish – can be as old as 40 years old.

How Big Do Feeder Fish Get?

The size of feeder fish depends heavily on their species. For example, a feeder goldfish can grow up to 12 inches in length if properly cared for. But if you are taking in guppies, expect them to be around 0.6 to 2.4 inches in length only.

Similarly, rosy red minnows tend not to exceed the length of 2 to 3 inches. A slightly bigger option is mollies, which reach 4 inches in length when they are fully mature.

Naturally, there are no definitive requirements regarding how big your feeder fish should be. But the general consensus is that feeder fish work best if they fall into the range of 2 to 4 inches.

This way, the fish remain small enough to be consumed effortlessly but are not too small to the point each bite feels useless.

How? Because most feeder fish this size travel in school. What they lack in length, they compensate for by the sheer number. Thus, rest assured that your bigger fish will be satisfied.

How To Keep Feeder Fish Alive?

It is true that feeder fish serve the purpose of being eaten only. That said, you are not excused from taking care of them.

After all, feeder fish still need to be healthy should you want them to be as nutritious for the predators as possible. Hence, the following tips are worth remembering.

  • Change the water regularly: A 20 to 30% change of water every two weeks is highly recommended. This helps to clean the tank, reduce the levels of nitrate and ammonia, as well as minimize the presence of fungus and bacteria.
  • Feed them constantly: Feeding feeder fish is one way to ensure the growth and well-being of your bigger fish. When it comes to these tiny animals, you do not need to care much about what to give them, as long as they are edible and can fit inside the mouth.
  • Keep them in their own tank: Before feeder fish reach adulthood, it is best that you separate them from the predators. Firstly, this gives the former enough time and space to grow, making them more delicious targets in the future.

Secondly, this prevents the chances of your predators eating all of the feeder fish in one go, sparing them no opportunity to recreate.

What Do Feeder Fish Eat?

Feeder fish are not picky eaters. Most of them are comfortable with insects, worms, and other types of plant matter. Either live or frozen food will be fine. Or, if you are more inclined to buy ready-made pellets, rest assured that feeder fish have no problem with those.

But still, remember to pay attention to the size! If the food is not crumbled enough, chances are your fry cannot stuff them into their mouth.

How To Breed Feeder Fish?

Common feeder fish do not need much to procreate. If the temperature is right and the food is abundant, they should be able to spawn once every month or so.

In case the spawning does not start after a few initial months, consider adding a bit of lukewarm water and raising the temperature by a few degrees. Check the fish for signs of illnesses or infections, then examine whether the ratio of male and female fish is balanced.

How To Set Up A Feeder Fish Tank?

What you need

Setting up a feeder fish tank requires the following items:

  • A 10-gallon tank: If you want to take in more fish, consider a 20-gallon tank. But in most cases, small tanks will suffice.
  • A filter: It does not have to be anything too expensive, just efficient enough to clean the water.
  • Some pieces of decor: Substrate, plants, driftwood, etc. are your best choices here.
  • A fish net: This helps you take out fish ready to be fed without causing much of a fuss.
  • A thermostat: As the temperature is central to both the livelihood and procreation of feeder fish, keeping a thermostat readily available minimizes your difficulties when perfecting the environment for the fish.

Step-by-step guidelines

  • Step 1: Clean the tank. Fill it up with water and put in a filter. Measure the necessary parameters and make sure they are suitable for your fish.
  • Step 2: Put in the inorganic decor. Keep the water flow steady so all of the caves and overhangs are properly submerged.
  • Step 3: Wait for a few days for the tank to stabilize. Then, proceed to place the plants inside and introduce your feeder fish to the water.


At this point, the question “How long do feeder fish live?” is no longer one of your concerns. Now that you have learned about not only the lifespan but also the habits of feeder fish, it is time you apply the knowledge to real-life and see what you can do about your own tank!