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The first morning of the long weekend holiday at the lake, and you thank your child for feeding the fish before you all left. They stare blankly back and tell you that they forgot to do it. You are several hours from home so going back is not really an option. Will the fish be okay, or do you need to call someone to go and feed them?

Most healthy adult pet fish can go several days without food. Some fish can go over a week between meals with no ill effects. Juvenile fish will need food more often.

Know What Your Fish Can Handle

Not all fish can handle the same length of time between feedings. Angelfish and Rasboras can only go a week without food. Many fish, like the Goldfish, African Cichlid, and Tetras can go ten days between feedings. Barbs, Gourami, and Koi can all go two weeks with no food.

Provided that your fish are healthy, a short fasting period can do some good for your tank. The fish will be encouraged to burn some fat reserves, and their digestive systems will clean out. The tank clarity will also improve due to the lack of ammonia from new fish waste.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Fish

Indoor fish have the luxury of a controlled climate, so their diet is affected very little by the change of the seasons. But what about fish kept outdoors like koi? The seasons play a huge role in how long a pond kept fish can go without food. 

Koi is traditionally an outdoor fish and will feed frequently during warmer months, putting on fat for the winter. As the temperature drops, the fish will need less and less food. When temperatures dip into the low forties, the fish will begin hibernation, and they will not need to feed again until spring.

Vacation Prep:

If leaving home for extended periods of time is your thing, then you will need to make preparations for your fish to be fed and happy while you are gone. Here are some options for making sure they don’t go hungry for too long.

Vacation Feeders

Vacation feeders are one of the simplest solutions to feed your fish in your absence. They come in sizes to cover from 2 days to two weeks, and work by either dissolving over time and releasing the food, or by being eaten by the residents of your tank. They are held together by calcium or gel, depending on the variety. It is a good idea to test one in your tank before leaving to make sure the fish will eat it (some won’t), and if using a calcium block, make sure that it does not dissolve too quickly and cloud the water.

Automatic Feeders

The set it and forget option! An electric feeder is programmed to dispense food at set times and in the desired quantity. These are nice just for day-to-day use, allowing you to see how well the feeder works, building enough confidence in it to leave for a week, and trust that your tank-dwellers will be fed while you are gone.

A Fish Sitter

As corny as this may sound, a fish sitter is a good option if you take an extended vacation or have many tanks. This way your aquariums can be getting cleaned and monitored in addition to the fish getting fed. Some peace of mind is also provided this way since the fish sitter can potentially take care of any problems that crop up in your absence.

Adjust Your Fish

It sounds weird but works. Hook your aquarium light to a timer and shorten the time that it is on to simulate shorter days. Then turn down the temperature in the tank a few degrees to slow your fish’s metabolism. These changes will reduce the amount of food needed and the quantity of waste produced.


Yes, your fish can go several days or more without food and not suffer any ill effects. For longer than a week, however, you will want to make a plan, and prepare so your fish stay healthy, well, and well-fed while you are away.

Brandon Tanis