Do Angelfish Eat Fish Poop? (Common Misconceptions)

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A lot of people who have fish know that Angelfish eat both plant and animal matter. But does that mean they’ll eat anything they find in the fish tank?

Do they eat fish poop? Can you rely on Angelfish to help keep the tank clean by eating this waste? And do some fish do this more than others?

I’m going to explain all of this and more, so you’ll have all the knowledge you need by the time we’re done. Let’s dive in.

Do Angelfish Eat Fish Poop?

No, angelfish do not eat fish poop. They are not scavengers by nature and have a diet consisting of various other foods.

  • Natural Diet: Angelfish in the wild feed on insects, larvae, and small crustaceans, not waste, reflecting their preferences in an aquarium setting.
  • Health Risks: Consuming fecal matter could introduce parasites or harmful bacteria to angelfish, risking their health, which is why they avoid it.
  • Aquarium Care: Experienced aquarists ensure a balanced diet for angelfish, providing nutrition through specialized flakes, pellets, and live food.
  • Cleanliness Instinct: Like many fish, angelfish instinctively search for the cleanest environment and freshest food available, steering clear of waste products.

Also Read: What Do Angelfish Eat?

What’s the Usual Diet for Angelfish?

Angelfish exhibit a diverse diet within home aquariums. Let’s explore the primary items they typically consume:

1. Flake Food

Flake food is a common component of an angelfish diet due to its comprehensive nutrition and easy accessibility for aquarists.

  • Nutritional Content: Ensure the flake food contains about 45-50% protein content, which is ideal for angelfish growth and health.
  • Feeding Routine: Offer a pinch of flakes two to three times a day, making sure they consume it all within a couple of minutes to prevent overfeeding.
  • Product Selection: Choose flake food brands that cater to tropical fish, as they will likely have the correct nutrient mix for angelfish, including necessary vitamins.

My recommendation: TetraCichlid Cichlid Flakes (link to Amazon).

2. Bloodworms

Bloodworms serve as a high-protein treat for angelfish, which can enhance their diet and encourage natural foraging behaviors.

  • Serving Size: Feed a small portion of bloodworms, roughly the size of your angelfish’s eye, 2-3 times per week as a supplement to their main diet.
  • Preparation: Thaw frozen bloodworms before feeding; this ensures they’re easily digestible and safe for the angelfish to consume.
  • Source Variation: Alternate between live, frozen, or freeze-dried bloodworms to provide variety and prevent dependency on a single food source.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Eat Bloodworms?

3. Brine Shrimp

Brine shrimp are an excellent source of protein and can act as a stimulating live food that encourages the angelfish’s natural hunting instincts.

  • Feeding Frequency: Introduce brine shrimp to your angelfish’s diet a few times a week, using a feeding syringe or pipette for controlled portions.
  • Nutritional Boost: Use gut-loaded brine shrimp, which means they’ve been fed nutrient-rich foods before being offered to your fish, for an extra health benefit.
  • Live vs. Prepared: Live brine shrimp can encourage hunting behavior, while frozen or freeze-dried options are more convenient and have a longer shelf life.

4. Pellets

Pellets are a dense and nutritious food option for angelfish, designed to sink slowly and mimic natural feeding conditions.

  • Pellet Size: Choose small to medium-sized pellets that are easy for angelfish to ingest; typically, 1-2 mm pellets are suitable for adult angelfish.
  • Feeding Amount: Dispense enough pellets that your angelfish can consume within 30 seconds to avoid overfeeding and water quality issues.
  • Type Variety: Opt for slow-sinking pellets that contain spirulina or other plant matter to ensure a balanced diet, especially for omnivorous angelfish.

My recommendation: TetraCichlid Floating Cichlid Sticks (link to Amazon).

5. Tubifex Worms

Tubifex worms are another high-protein food source for angelfish that should be offered sparingly as a treat.

  • Portion Control: Feed a small cluster of Tubifex worms, roughly the size of a pea, once or twice a week to avoid fattening your angelfish.
  • Preparation Method: Rinse live Tubifex worms thoroughly or opt for freeze-dried worms to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
  • Enrichment Benefit: Using Tubifex worms can provide dietary enrichment, encouraging natural pecking and foraging behaviors in angelfish.

Are There Fish That Like to Eat Fish Poop?

Yes, there are fish known to sift through substrate and ingest matter that may include fish waste, but they do not specifically seek out poop as a food source.

These fish are typically known as bottom feeders and help keep the tank clean by consuming detritus.

  • Detritus Eaters: Corydoras catfish are excellent detritus eaters, often rummaging through the gravel, which can result in the incidental ingestion of fish waste.
  • Clean-up Crew: Plecostomus, or “plecos,” are often thought to eat fish waste, but they actually scrape algae and decaying plant material, indirectly consuming waste.
  • Sand Sifters: Malawi cichlids, especially those from the genus Labeotropheus, sift sand to extract edible matter, which may contain waste particles.
  • Natural Behaviors: Many loaches, particularly the Kuhli loach, burrow and scavenge in the substrate, where they inadvertently pick up waste along with other food.
  • Efficiency Variants: Some fish, like the Geophagus cichlids, are more efficient at sifting through the substrate than others, reducing waste by consuming leftovers.
Corydoras catfish

Will Snails Munch on Fish Poop?

Regarding snails, while they do consume detritus and decaying plant matter, they are not known to specifically target fish poop.

Their role in the tank often leads them to clean up excess food and algae, inadvertently ingesting some waste material in the process.

  • Malaysian Trumpet Snails: These snails are excellent for turning over substrate, which can mix fish poop with soil, making it less visible but not exactly eating it.
  • Nerite Snails: Renowned for their algae-eating ability, Nerite snails will clean surfaces spotless but generally do not consume fish waste directly.
  • Mystery Snails: While they are more interested in leftover food and decaying plants, Mystery snails may occasionally ingest fish waste during their scavenging.
  • Ramshorn Snails: Their broad diet includes detritus, but their impact on fish waste is minimal as they prefer softer, decaying organic materials.
  • Apple Snails: As one of the larger freshwater snails, Apple snails will eat a wide range of organic debris, potentially including fish waste, but it’s not a primary food source.

Do Shrimp Pick at Fish Waste?

For shrimp, it’s similar—they’re detritivores, meaning they eat dead plant material and other organic debris, but fish waste is not a significant part of their diet.

  • Amano Shrimp: Amano shrimp are voracious algae eaters and will consume detritus; they may pick at fish waste but primarily eat other organic matter.
  • Cherry Shrimp: Popular for their bright colors, Cherry shrimp are more likely to consume biofilm and algae than actively seek out fish poop.
  • Ghost Shrimp: These clear scavengers will eat just about anything, including detritus, but don’t particularly target fish waste.
  • Bamboo Shrimp: Filter feeders like Bamboo shrimp catch food particles from the water column, thus they don’t directly consume waste from the substrate.
  • Crystal and Bee Shrimp: Specialized in biofilm and microalgae, these shrimp are unlikely to help much with fish poop but will keep the tank clean in other ways.
Amano Shrimp

Why Would Your Fish Start Eating Poop?

If your fish start eating poop, it could be a sign that their nutritional needs are not being met or that their environment is not being maintained properly.

It’s unusual behavior as fish normally avoid waste, but when it does happen, it’s a red flag for aquarists to assess their tank’s conditions.

  • Inadequate Diet: Fish may eat poop if they’re not getting enough food or the right nutrients; ensure a balanced diet with sufficient protein and vitamins.
  • Foraging Instinct: Some fish nibble on anything, including waste, as a part of their natural foraging behavior; observe if it’s exploration or a consistent habit.
  • Insufficient Cleaning: Overfeeding can lead to excess waste; if your tank is not cleaned regularly, fish may accidentally ingest poop while searching for food remnants.
  • Stress Behavior: Stress can cause fish to exhibit abnormal behaviors such as eating waste; check for stressors like poor water quality or aggressive tank mates.

What Should You Do If Your Fish Is Eating Waste?

In the event that you notice your fish nibbling on waste, corrective actions are necessary to safeguard their health and maintain a clean tank environment.

  • Feeding Review: Confirm that you’re providing a balanced diet, possibly incorporating a fasting day each week to prevent overfeeding and reduce waste.
  • Diet Enrichment: Add live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms periodically to enhance their nutritional intake and satisfy their foraging nature.
  • Regular Clean-up: Commit to a cleaning schedule that includes siphoning the gravel to remove detritus and performing a 20-30% water change weekly.
  • Water Testing: Test water parameters every week, aiming for ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm, and nitrates less than 20 ppm, adjusting as necessary. I found the API Freshwater Master Test Kit (link to Amazon) to be extremely accurate.
API Freshwater Master Test

Can Fish Waste Be Bad for the Tank?

Yes, fish waste can indeed be bad for the tank.

It breaks down into ammonia, which is harmful to fish, and can lead to poor water quality and health problems if not managed properly.

  • Toxic Ammonia: When fish waste breaks down, it releases ammonia, which at levels as low as 0.25 ppm can stress and harm fish, leading to diseases or even death.
  • Nitrate Buildup: Over time, ammonia is converted to nitrite and then nitrate; nitrate levels over 40 ppm can be harmful, causing stress and lowering oxygen in the blood.
  • pH Fluctuation: Excess waste affects the pH balance; for example, a rising pH above 7.6 can make ammonia even more toxic to fish.

What in the Tank Helps Break Down Fish Poop?

To help break down fish poop in the tank, a combination of biological processes and tank inhabitants plays a crucial role.

  • Beneficial Bacteria: These bacteria, living in the filter and on the substrate, convert harmful ammonia from waste into nitrites, then nitrates, in a process known as the nitrogen cycle.
  • Aquatic Plants: Plants utilize nitrates produced from fish waste as fertilizers, effectively reducing the nitrate levels in the water.
  • Cleaning Inhabitants: Snails, shrimp, and certain fish species act as natural clean-up crews by eating debris and leftover food, which minimizes waste.
  • Proper Filtration: Adequate filtration systems mechanically remove solid waste and provide a home for beneficial bacteria that chemically break down the waste.

How Quickly Does Fish Waste Break Down?

The rate at which fish waste breaks down depends on various factors, including tank conditions and biological processes, but typically it begins to decompose within a few hours.

  • Bacterial Action: Beneficial bacteria start to break down waste immediately, converting ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate within hours to days.
  • Water Parameters: Warmer water and proper pH levels can accelerate bacterial activity, resulting in faster waste decomposition.
  • Aeration and Circulation: Good water movement ensures oxygen reaches bacteria, which is necessary for efficient waste breakdown.

What’s the Best Way to Get Rid of Fish Poop in Your Tank?

To effectively get rid of fish poop in your tank, regular maintenance combined with a balanced ecosystem is essential.

  • Regular Gravel Vacuuming: Use a siphon to vacuum the substrate weekly, removing fish poop before it fully decomposes and affects water quality. I found the Laifoo Aquarium Siphon (link to Amazon) to be unbelievably useful.
  • Consistent Water Changes: Perform 10-20% water changes weekly to dilute the nitrate concentration resulting from waste breakdown.
  • Adequate Filtration: Maintain a filter with sufficient mechanical, chemical, and biological media to continuously remove solid waste and process dissolved pollutants.
  • Natural Clean-Up Crew: Introduce detritus-eating organisms, like certain species of snails and shrimp, which will help break down and consume organic matter.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Eat Other Fish?


For quick readers, here’s a short summary:

  • Angelfish do not eat fish poop as they prefer a natural diet of insects, larvae, and small crustaceans and seek clean environments.
  • Angelfish diets in aquariums should include flake food, bloodworms, brine shrimp, pellets, and Tubifex worms, with careful attention to portion sizes and nutritional content.
  • Some bottom-dwelling fish and snails may inadvertently ingest waste while feeding on detritus, but do not specifically target fish poop.
  • Fish eating poop can indicate nutritional deficiencies or poor tank conditions, prompting a review of diet and tank maintenance routines.
  • Fish waste breakdown is crucial for tank health, requiring beneficial bacteria, adequate filtration, and clean-up crews to manage ammonia and nitrate levels.