Thinking of taking a vacation or just looking to free up some time in your busy schedule? Feeding your fish can end up feeling like a chore when you’ve got too much responsibility or are planning a trip, but it’s essential to maintain your fish’s well-being.
Fish are most often low-maintenance pets, but they are also living organisms that still need to be cared for. A clean tank, top-notch water quality, compatible tank mates, and of course, a consistent, well-chosen diet are all required to help keep your fish healthy and happy.
Any fish keeper can agree that staying on top of a quality fish feeding schedule can be a little too much sometimes. For example, when I took my vacation, I considered giving the responsibility of feeding my fish to someone else, like a neighbor or family member. I couldn’t help but worry if they would forget to feed my fish or if they would feed them too much.
Another example is when my feeding schedule used to be once before work and once after work. Eventually, my work schedule was changed, which caused me to have to skip the morning feeding, and then rush home after work to feed my fish. By the time I got back, I had aggressive, hungry fish and a feeding frenzy the moment the food entered the water!
That’s why I had to make sure to choose the best automatic fish food feeder I could find! Luckily, I did some research to help ease some of your pressures and to help guide you in choosing the best automatic fish feeder on the market.
Is an Automatic Vacation Fish Feeder Worth it?
Aquarists highly recommend getting an automatic fish feeder for several reasons, including if you often go on vacation, are taking an extended trip, don’t trust vacation block feeders, are rarely home, or tend to forget to feed the fish. They are also for people who just want one less responsibility.
Getting an automatic fish feeder, also known as a vacation feeder for fish, is the best decision if you fall into any of these categories. In this article, we will explore the buyer’s guide to choosing an automatic fish feeder, and then take a look at some excellent options for the best automatic fish feeders.
Be sure to read the whole article so you can walk away feeling confident about your decision.
What to Look for in an Automatic Fish Feeder
Automatic fish feeders have three main parts. These include the hopper, the programming device, and the attachment.
- Hopper: Also called a drum or barrel, the hopper holds the fish food. As mentioned before they are larger in rotating barrel feeders than portion-size feeders, but they both have a door to insert the food and an adjustable outlet to dispense the food. Portion-feeders most likely do not have adjustable outlets since you have already set the specific amount in the tray. The hopper will need to be cleaned about as much as you clean the tank, especially if it tends to collect humidity and cake the food.
- Programming device: The programming device, most often a splash-proof LCD screen, is essential to the automatic fish feeder in that it is used to program the feeding time and (in some feeders) the amount of food you want to be dispensed. Some programming devices are more confusing than others, which we will touch on in the product reviews section, but there are plenty of videos to help walk you through the process. The batteries, power cord, or USB plug-in is located on the programming device. Although some models can only be turned off by removing the batteries, other models have a ‘turn off’ button. Specific automatic fish feeders also have a ‘feed now’ button which allows you to deposit food from the feeder outside of scheduled times.
- Attachment: Most automatic fish feeders have screw clamps that you can use to attach the feeder to the edge of the aquarium. Many claims to fit any aquarium type, but some reviewers state otherwise. If you have a tank lid, you can use an automatic fish feeder that provides Velcro or stickers. These are used so that you can attach them to deposit the food right over the lid’s feeding hole. This is especially handy for aquariums that have awkward feeding hole locations.
Top 5 Best Automatic Fish Food Feeder
Now that you have a good grasp on what to look for when you’re searching for an automatic fish feeder let’s take a look at some products, so you know you’ve done all of your homework.
1. Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder
The Eheim is rated as one of the best-selling automatic fish feeders and comes recommended as an affordable, most reliable option by aquarists. Most reviews are positive, but as is with anything, there may be a few glitches depending on your luck of the draw. Here you can find the Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder.
- An integrated fan & ventilation system keeps fish food dry
- Comes with a 3-year guarantee from EHEIM
- Can be used in terrariums and aquariums
- Rated 5 stars for simplicity
- Rated #1 bestselling automatic fish feeder on Amazon
- Small and modest design
- Pellets may get stuck
The Eheim is battery operated and comes with 2 AA batteries. One of the pros, as listed below, is the 2-stage low battery indicator. This is pretty significant, especially for when you’re going out of town and need to make sure it has enough battery to function while you’re gone.
The drum, or food holder, has a volume of 100 ml or 3.3 fl. ounces, which allows it to last for about six weeks depending on what type and amount of food it’s dispensing. The drum is transparent, so it’s easy to see how much is left.
The Eheim is small, compact, and fits in most aquariums. It includes a universal clamp which makes it easier to set up on the side of the tank. It has an integrated fan and ventilation system that helps to keep food dry. However, according to many reviews if it’s next to a filter or air stone pump that splashes the food will still get moist and result in a cakey waste.
Digital LCD programming is one of the easiest to use. It has splash-proof buttons, and it offers a maximum of eight feedings per day. It also has an adjustable slider so you can set the size of the portions. The Eheim can be used to feed your fish, frogs, newts, and turtles.
2. PROCHE Digital Automatic Fish Feeder
The PROCHE Digital Automatic Fish Feeder comes in two different patterns: the PRO-E and the PRO-X. The most significant differences between the two are that the PRO-E uses AAA batteries, whereas the PRO-X uses AA. The PRO-E has a setting of 1 or 2 rotations per time, and the PRO-X has only one set. The Pro-E is more compact and smaller, while the PRO-X is larger and has a larger food container. Here you can find the PROCHE Digital Automatic Fish Feeder.
- Feeds all kinds of fish foods (flakes, pellets, powders, and strips)
- Can be used for fish, turtles, newts, and frogs
- 2-install methods (holder or sticker)
- Comes with a 12-month warranty
- Has four different feeding times
- Have to take the batteries out to turn it off
- Flakes may clump from extra moisture
This review is for the PRO-E.
The PROCHE PRO-E includes 2 – AAA batteries, which can last for three months. Keep in mind that the battery compartment is found once the holder is removed from the feeder. The body is black, and the drum is clear for easy viewing.
There are two installation methods to choose from, including a holder or a sticker. The holder is an adjustable clamp, so it sits on the edge of your aquarium wall. The double-sided sticker allows you to stick the feeder to the top of the tank cover, which is useful if you have an oddly positioned feeding slot.
The PROCHE PRO-E will feed up to four times per day with a 1-2 rotation per time. Like most other automatic feeders the slider is adjustable for the amount of food you want to be dispensed per rotation. Other reviews have mentioned that the feeder won’t work unless you follow the instructions precisely on how to set up for the rotation times per turn, so keep this in mind during the initial set-up.
The PROCHE PRO-E will feed your fish, frogs, newts, and turtles. It also has a warranty of 30-days money-back guarantee, a 12-month quality warranty, and PROCHE lifelong customer service.
3. Zacro Automatic Fish Feeder
The Zacro Automatic Fish Feeder is a highly regarded automatic fish feeder for a variety of reasons. Although it is slightly larger, it’s still attractive in shape and color. The body is cylindrical, is mostly black with a clear drum, and the front LCD screen is moss green in color. Here you can find the Zacro Automatic Fish Feeder!
- Has two types of power supply (USB or batteries), which makes it more environmentally friendly
- Can be used for 3-6 months on a single charge because of the large capacity lithium battery
- Has a battery life indicator
- Has an on/off power button
- Works well for koi and turtle food as well as regular fish food
- A little larger than most other automatic feeders
- Confusing instructions
The Zacro has two types of power supplies, which helps to separate it from many other automatic fish feeders. USB plug or AA batteries charge it. The battery life has rave reviews, as it boasts a large capacity lithium battery that helps it to last for 3-6 months on a single charge. To top it off, it has a battery life indicator, which is very useful to gauge right before going on vacation.
The drum capacity is large, holding 200ml worth of feed, and is suitable for granules, flakes, powders, and most other types of fish food. You can either use it to manually feed your fish or turtles, or set it for up to four feedings per day. You can also set the Zacro at 1-3 rotations instead of the usual 1-2 rotations.
The feed amount is adjustable, and there is an on/off power button. The only way to attach it to your tank is by adjusting the base clamp.
4. Current USA 3860 AquaChef Automatic Fish
The Current USA 3860 AquaChef Automatic Fish Feeder, or the AquaChef for sanity’s sake, is battery-operated and includes two AA batteries. This feeder is meant to be moisture-resistant, but you’ll still need to be mindful about putting it near another accessory that splashes the slightest bit of water. Here you can find the Current USA 3860 AquaChef Automatic.
- An adjustable clamp allows the feeder to be mounted on almost any style of aquarium
- Sleek, modern design
- Moisture-resistant, no clump feeder
- Up to eight feedings per day if fed on two rotations per feeding
- Can deliver two feedings within 60 seconds of each other, equaling eight feedings per day
- The clamp hardware doesn’t fit well on some tanks
- Documentation and programming are more confusing than others
The AquaChef has an LCD screen and an attractive, sleek contour with a black matted body. The drum is not as clear as other feeders. Instead, it’s matted enough to be consistent with the body’s texture, while still allowing you to see the amount of food that’s leftover.
Speaking of hoppers, the AquaChef has a capacity of 35 grams, which they boast to be “large enough to keep your fish fat while you’re away.” The feed door is adjustable, so it allows you to adjust how much food dispenses up to four times per day. The drum dispenses either a single or double feeding within 60 seconds of the first feeding. It also has a “feed now” button.
Programming the times has shown to be confusing to some users, but can easily be solved by first setting the current time, then setting the feed times. Users recommend following the instructions exactly or watching videos if you’re more of a visual learner.
5. Decdeal Automatic Fish Feeder
The Decdeal Automatic Fish Feeder is for aquarists who are more technologically friendly and may prefer an app. The most interesting point about the Decdeal is that it can be controlled via a smart app and voice control – as long as there’s wifi. Here you can find the Decdeal Automatic Fish Feeder!
- Has a remote control from an app
- Can use a voice control function that is multi-lingual
- Uses an “intelligent cloud” control
- Suitable for most fish foods (pellet, small strips, microbial feed, round)
- Also has a micro USB power supply
- May collect moisture, making the food wet
- A little noisy when it rotates
The free mobile app allows you to control the feeding process from where you are, including if you forget to feed the fish when you go out. With the app, you can set the feeding time and the ratio of fish food. The multi-lingual, sensitive voice control is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Echo, and you can control when and how much to feed just by your voice.
The Decdeal also has an intelligent memory function, so if the network is off, it will still dispense food using the previous settings. The power supply is through a micro USB interface, and it can be attached to the tank by way of a clamp or double-sided tape.
As with other feeders, the Decdeal is compatible with pellets, small strip feed, microbial feed, round feed, and flakes. The body is black, but the clear matte texture drum takes up the majority of the bulk.
Buyer’s Guide: Finding the Best Automatic Fish Feeders
Vacation Fish Food Blocks
Let’s talk about vacation blocks, the traditional way of feeding your fish while you’re on vacation.
Vacation blocks, also known as ‘slow-release fish food,’ come in different sizes with varying ingredients and are meant to last for extended periods (weekend feeders last for up to three days, while vacation feeders last for up to 14 days). There are different kinds of feeders for different types of fish, and they slowly start to dissolve once they come into contact with your tank’s water.
The great thing about slow-release blocks is that they’ll typically keep your fish fed while you’re out of town… IF your fish will eat from them.
However, there are some considerable downsides to using the slow-release blocks, and many professional aquarists swear that vacation blocks are the worst way to feed your fish.
Three main reasons to not use vacation food blocks:
- If you have bigger or a lot of fish, the blocks usually won’t be enough to feed them.
- The chemicals that the blocks are made of can devastate your water quality. If you don’t have proper filtration, this can be a death trap for your pet fish.
- The food content may not be what your fish are used to eating, and it’s most likely not very desirable.
This is why automatic fish feeders are the best option for feeding your fish, well, automatically.
Most people choose an automatic fish feeder because they are going out of town for an extended amount of time or they don’t want to forget to feed the fish. I’ve also known plenty of people to enjoy their automatic fish feeder because they are busy and looking to downsize on responsibility. Although this may sound a little lazy to some, automatic fish feeders allow you to maintain a busy lifestyle while also delighting in having a healthy aquarium.
Most feeders have a certain number of chambers in the drum where you can pre-fill the food. This ensures the fish are not overfed, and they are getting the correct amount of food at each scheduled feeding time.
In a nutshell, it’s a handy gadget that runs on a preset timer to feed your fish a pre-determined amount of your choice of food.
How Does an Automatic Fish Feeder Work
An automatic fish feeder is controlled by a timer that triggers a compartment, or ‘drum,’ to turn until the opening is above the tank water. Fish food drops into the aquarium, and the drum moves back into a position where the opening is facing away from the tank water. You are responsible for setting the timer and adjusting the amount of food dispensed at each feeding.
Many automatic fish feeders have varying instructions, so it’s essential to read them thoroughly to make sure you’re operating the feeder correctly. There are also plenty of videos available on practically every model of the automatic fish feeder.
Types of Automatic Fish Feeders
- Portion-size fish feeders are handy because they allow you to measure out each individual fish meal. The tray looks a lot like a circular pill container. This means you can also mix different types of fish food together. For example, if you have a pleco and several guppies, each portion spot can hold food for each and drop them in at the same time. Or you can set the timer and the trays so that each type of fish gets fed at different intervals.
- Rotating barrel fish feeders are very common, have less maintenance, and hold more food than the portion-size feeders. You only use one type of fish food in the barrel, sometimes called a drum, and when it’s time to be fed, the drum rolls around to drop the food into the tank. Sometimes, like for betta fish pellets, too many pellets may drop into the water resulting in overfeeding. Many aquarists have fixed this problem by using a piece of tape to block off most of the opening, so only a few pellets drop in at a time. Most reviewers also found that pretty much all of the automatic fish feeders couldn’t consistently drop large wafers without them getting stuck in the opening.
If you are only going to be away for a few days, then consider a portion-size fish feeder. If you are going away for a few weeks at a time, then a rotating barrel will be a better choice. Some people who are away for long periods and have a community of fish foods will purchase two rotating barrels to feed different types of food at different times of the day.
Frequently Asked Questions About Automatic Fish Feeders
1. Can an automatic fish feeder work in an outdoor pond?
If you need an automatic fish feeder for a pond, look for one that is specific to being outside. All of the feeders listed here are for indoor aquariums, and they do not recommend getting too wet.
2. How many fish can be fed with an automatic feeder over a weekend?
This depends on what size drum/hopper your fish feeder has, but most of them can feed at least 20 fish over a weekend. It’s also dependent on what type of fish you have and how much food they require in a day.
3. Should I get a vacation block feeder or an automatic fish feeder?
Some people choose to get a block feeder if they are only going away for a couple of days, but it’s best to get an automatic fish feeder if you frequently go out of town, are gone for long periods, or tend to forget to feed your fish. Blocks contain chemicals that require water changes, and they may not be able to supply enough food. Automatic fish feeders deposit just the feed and can be set to a specific amount per deposit.
4. What’s the best food to use with an automatic fish feeder?
Many people suggest using pellets for fish because even the most expensive and highest-ranked automatic feeder can be prone to humidity and moisture. Large wafers and sticks have also been known to get stuck in the opening. This doesn’t happen with everyone, so you may need to experiment before deciding.
5. Can I use frozen fish food in an automatic fish feeder?
This isn’t recommended because the frozen fish food will eventually melt and won’t dispose of properly. Plus, it will smell if the drum isn’t cleaned out immediately after use.
For many people who rely on an automatic fish feeder to keep their fish fed, it’s hard to imagine life without it. Automatic fish feeders are great for people who often go on vacation, are taking an extended trip, don’t trust vacation block feeders, are rarely home, or have a tendency to forget to feed the fish. If you fall into any of these categories, including just wanting one less responsibility, then an automatic fish feeder is the best decision.
Use this guide to help you make an informed decision on whether or not an automatic fish feeder is for you. If you decide to take the plunge, now you know what to look for in an automatic fish feeder. Your fish will thank you for it.
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