5 Best Automatic Fish Feeders: Product Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

Alison Page

Alison Page

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If you’re planning a trip out of town, you might be considering an automatic fish feeder. However, these devices can also be convenient for the busy fish keeper.

What are the benefits of having an automatic fish feeder in your aquarium? What features should you look out for in a high-quality fish feeder? And can you make a DIY homemade fish feeder?

Read our guide for the answers to those questions and our reviews of the best automatic fish feeders to see how one could benefit your fish care!

We’ve found auto feeders that suit almost any setup, from a large saltwater reef tank to a nano betta aquarium.

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Barkmew Automatic Fish Feeder

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Product Features

  • Type: Barrel
  • Power Source: Battery
  • Capacity: 200 milliliters
  • Food types: Flake, pellets, powder, sticks

The Barkmew Moisture-Proof Dispenser is an excellent choice if you want a very large capacity feeder.

The feeder has a large door to make refilling the device super easy and convenient. This versatile feeder can handle bar, powdered, pellet, and flake foods. The device is simple to program, and you can mount it on the top of your aquarium with the bracket supplied. If you prefer, the feeder can live on the side of the tank with a strong double-sided tape.

You can give your fish three feedings per day in single, double, or even triple portions, making this a fantastic option for a saltwater or freshwater tank. We think this feeder would also work well in an aquatic turtle tank.

What we like

  • Extra-large capacity
  • Works with multiple food types
  • Digital screen and simple programming
  • Easy to refill with a top hatch for pouring food in

Room for improvement

  • No low battery alert
  • Must be mounted on the tank to function
  • Unsuitable for smaller tanks
  • Moisture in the food chamber can cause food clumping, so it needs regular maintenance

Eheim Everyday Feeder

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Product Features

  • Type: Barrel
  • Power Source: Battery
  • Capacity: 100 milliliters
  • Food types: Flake or pellet

The Everyday Feeder from Eheim is one of the most popular models on the market.

It is an old-style design barrel feeder, but it still delivers and has plenty of appealing features. The feeder is programmable to dispense double-portioned or up to four meals per day, can be used with betta pellets or flakes, and doesn’t need to be mounted on your tank with the included bracket. If you prefer, you can have the feeder sit on top of your tank.

You can also use the Eheim Everyday fish feeder for manual feedings, and it’s ideal for large or mid-sized community tanks. The feeder can be mounted on any aquarium rim up to ¾-inch wide, and there’s an aerated chamber to prevent food clumping.

What we like

  • Simple to set up and use
  • Low battery alert feature
  • Manual feeding bypass
  • Integrated ventilation system
  • Can feed up to four meals per day and offers single and double portions

Room for improvement

  • Only handles flake and pellet foods
  • Needs modifications to dispense very small amounts of food
  • Food tends to collect moisture in the chamber

Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Feeder

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Product Features

  • Feeder: Portion Control
  • Power Source: Battery
  • Capacity: 14 food slots
  • Food types: All

If you have a small fish tank and want a feeder that can dispense different foods with each meal, this offering from Fish Mate could be exactly what you need.

The portion-controlled F14 Feeder is modeled on their popular range of automatic cat feeders. The feeder has 14 separate food slots that gradually dispense every meal over a one-hour period. The feeder doesn’t have a digital display, but the pins can be set to dispense up to eight meals per day, and you can link the device to an air pump to keep the food dry.

This feeder’s main issue is that you need to refill it frequently. For example, if you’re feeding your fish eight times a day, you’ll only be able to use the feeder for just over 24 hours before you need to refill it.

However, this feeder is perfect if you want a precise device that prevents overfeeding and can simultaneously dispense several different food types.

What we like

  • Portion controlled feeder is perfect for drip-feeding small tanks, goldfish, and bettas
  • Works with most types of fish food and can dispense a mixture of foods
  • Can be bracket-mounted or freestanding on top of your tank

Room for improvement

  • Analog operation uses pins to trigger the device’s timer
  • Only has 14 slots for food
  • You need to break up large foods to fit the dispensing slots

Noodoky USB Fish Feeder

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Product Features

  • Type: Barrel
  • Power Source: Battery (USB rechargeable)
  • Capacity: 200 milliliters
  • Food types: Pellet, flakes, stick, tablet

This excellent battery-operated fish feeder is one of the best sellers on Amazon.

The battery feeder has been upgraded for USB charging, and the manufacturer claims that a single charge lasts for three to six months! The feeder has four feeding time period settings, and you can choose three different portion sizes.

Feeding frequency times can be set for eight or 12 hours, and there’s a manual override feature if you want to bypass the automatic feeding options. The unit can be affixed to your aquarium using an adjustable clamp or attached to a flat surface with double-sided tape.

What we like

  • Generous barrel size makes the unit ideal for larger tanks
  • Random feeding settings and manual feeding bypass feature
  • Can be mounted on your tank or set on a flat surface with the fixings supplied
  • Takes flakes, pellets, sticks, and tablet foods

Room for improvement

  • Setting the timer can be tricky
  • Portion sizes delivered by the device are somewhat random

Eheim Twin Battery Powered Feeder

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Product Features

  • Type: Double Barrel
  • Power Source: Battery
  • Capacity: 60 milliliters per barrel
  • Types of food: Flake, stick, tablet, pellet

The Twin Battery Powered Feeder from Eheim has two separate barrels to hold your fish food and can be set to dispense the different diets independently. That means you can feed your nocturnal fish after lights out and your schooling fish during the daytime, which is an incredibly useful feature in a mixed community tank.

The fully programmable feeder has an LCD screen, and each barrel can dispense up to three feeds per day in single or double portions. The unit features a handy manual feeding bypass and a low battery warning. You can mount the feeder on your tank or set it on the top if you prefer.

Unlike the other Eheim feeder we featured earlier, the Twin can take pellet, flake, tablet, and stick foods, making it suitable for most community setups.

What we like

  • Twin barrels take two different types of food and can dispense multiple diets
  • Both barrels operate independently of each other and can dispense up to three daily meals
  • Has an LCD screen, random feeding settings, and manual feeding bypass features

Room for improvement

  • Each barrel only holds about 60 milliliters of food
  • It can’t be programmed to skip meals
  • Complicated to set up and not the most user-friendly device we found

What Is An Automatic Fish Feeder?

An automatic fish feeder is a device designed to dispense precise quantities of food at predetermined times into your aquarium when you’re away. They can also be used to manage daily feeding schedules, taking the burden off of busy fish keepers.

Auto feeders take various types of food, including freeze-dried food, flakes, pellets, granules, sticks, and wafers.

Do I Need an Automatic Fish Feeder?

Although an automatic fish feeder might seem to be a luxury item, many of these devices are pretty inexpensive and can be incredibly handy for some fish keepers and certain types of aquatic communities.

An auto fish feeder is equally helpful for the day-to-day care and management of your aquarium as for covering you for vacations and weekends away.

How so?

Well, consider the following benefits of using an automatic feeder and see how beneficial one of these devices would be for you!

Food Management

In community tanks containing many different species, it can be tricky to ensure that all your livestock receive the right amounts of food at the right time. That’s especially true if you’re at work during the daytime or if you work staggered shifts.

Most experts recommend feeding your fish several times a day, but that’s not always possible if your schedule is extremely busy or erratic. An automatic feeder enables you to cater to all your pets’ nutritional requirements whenever they need to be fed.

Breeding Tanks

Although most adult fish can actually benefit from a couple of fasting days when they don’t eat, young livestock and those being conditioned for spawning need regular meals every day.

Reef Tanks

Providing for every creature in a marine reef tank can be challenging, and delicate corals, anemones, and other invertebrates need feeding at regular intervals to keep them healthy and thriving.

Tank Maintenance

Managing your monthly fish tank maintenance schedule is much easier if you can manage your fish feeding because the accumulations of sludge in your filter and toxins in the water are much more predictable than in a tank fed more erratically.

Nocturnal and Diurnal Fish

Many community setups contain both nocturnal fish that are most active at night and diurnal fish that are active in the daytime.

For example, if you feed your fish in the morning and afternoon, your nocturnal catfish and loaches will go hungry when darkness falls because the daytime feeders got there first.

Office Aquariums

Although fish feeders are handy for busy fish owners, students, and those who work odd hours or night shifts, a reliable fish food dispenser can be indispensable for office aquariums and huge reef tanks in restaurants and malls.

How Do Automatic Fish Feeders Work?

An automatic fish feeder saves you time and money by dispensing premeasured portions of fish food into your aquarium on a predetermined schedule. That ensures the food is eaten quickly by your fish, and there’s no leftover food that could get into your filter system or foul the water.

Once you’ve loaded and set the feeder, you don’t need to worry about feeding your fish, and you won’t need to spend money on a pet sitter to feed your fish if you go away on vacation.

  • Auto feeders enable you to control the size, number, and time of the meals you give your fish.
  • Electric feeders are generally attached to the side of the tank and have a central chamber filled with fish flakes, pellets, etc. Some feeders can sit on top of the tank if you prefer.
  • When the device’s timer activates, the dispenser door opens, and a portion of food drops into the aquarium, typically via an opening in the tank cover or hood.
  • Auto fish feeders can also be used with a feeding ring or station.

We’ve already discussed the benefits of using fish feeders. So, are there any downsides?

Disadvantages of Auto Fish Feeders

Fish feeders aren’t the perfect solution to every fish feeding problem, and they do have a few downsides. So, before you spend your cash on an automatic feeder for your fish, let’s find out if the downsides to these devices are a dealbreaker for you.

Limited Types of Diets

The main drawback to automatic fish feeders is that they don’t always work with every type of fish food, and many are limited to pellet or flake foods.

So, if you keep carnivorous aquarium fish that need an exclusively live or frozen diet, a fish feeder simply won’t work. Often, feeders can’t cope with odd-sized foods such as freeze-dried bloodworms, shrimp, and algae wafers.

Some feeders can only hold and dispense one type of food, which won’t work if you have a diverse community with different nutritional requirements. In that case, you’ll need to buy more than one feeder.

Aesthetics

Unlike most of your other aquarium kit, such as filter systems, an auto feeder sits on top of the fish tank hood or is fixed to the side.

So, the rather unattractive feeder is a lot more “in your face” than the rest of your equipment. And that can be a big downer if you’ve just spent a lot of money setting up a custom marine or reef aquarium.

Reliability

One major downside of auto feeders is that they can be unreliable.

If the feeder malfunctions or the disposable batteries die while you’re away on vacation, your fish could end up not eating for days or even weeks! In addition, many feeders harbor moisture in the dispenser, causing clumping. Clumped food can block the dispenser door or lead to smaller quantities of food being dispensed.

Variable Meal Portions

If you use a diet that varies in size, such as most flaked foods, an auto feeder might not dispense consistent portion sizes every time.

While that’s not necessarily a big deal for large community tanks, overfeeding can present a real danger to smaller communities or solitary bettas.

What Are The Different Types of Automatic Fish Feeders?

There are two primary types of commercially manufactured automatic fish feeders, and the one you choose depends on what you need.

Rotating Barrel Fish Feeders

Rotating barrel fish feeders are the most common auto fish feeders on the market today.

Barrel feeders are designed with a central food container that rotates, funneling portions of food into an opening over the top of the aquarium. When the timer activates, a door opens, and the portion of food drops into the tank.

Rotating barrel fish feeders are the most popular choice for many aquarists for several reasons:

  • You’ll find plenty of helpful information online that explains how to modify barrel feeders and troubleshoot problems.
  • Barrel feeders can hold more food than a portion control feeder. That makes a barrel feeder the best choice for large communities or occasions when you’re away for a few days or more.
  • A rotating barrel fish feeder is generally more flexible than a portion control feeder because you can program the feeder to dispense multiple meals daily. You can also set the feeder to dispense double or even triple portions.

Do Barrel Feeders Have Any Downsides?

Of course, barrel feeders do have a few disadvantages.

  • You can only use one type of food at a time. That means using several feeders if you want to provide your fish with a variety of foods at each meal.
  • Depending on the model you choose, barrel feeders tend to only work with a limited selection of food types. In addition, this style of feeder cannot dispense large or randomly shaped foods, such as dried shrimp or flat algae wafers.
  • Barrel feeders don’t provide the same performance for every diet. Generally, this style of feeder works best with pellets, and often those that work with powdered or flaked foods have issues with clumping, and portion sizes can vary.
  • One big issue with barrel feeders if you have a betta or goldfish is that these devices can fail to dispense very small amounts of food. So, you could easily overfeed your fish. Therefore, we recommend using barrel feeders for large tanks rather than nano setups.
  • Barrel feeders need cleaning once every month to prevent humid fish food from clumping inside the hopper and affecting the device’s operation.

Portion Control Fish Feeders

A portion control feeder is very similar in appearance and operation to an automatic cat feeder, except smaller.

This type of feeder has slots for each meal and a rotating base. You fill the slots with food and set the device’s timer. When the timer activates, the food is pushed from the slot into the tank. Portion control feeders can dispense a mix of different foods and more precise portions.

There are a few benefits to using a portion control fish feeder, including:

  • You can use pretty much any kind of fish food in a portion control feeder and set the device to deliver multiple food types every meal. Unlike a barrel feeder, the portion control feeder’s slots will take a mixture of bars, pellets, flakes, and wafers.
  • Portion control feeders are extremely precise. Every meal slot is hand-filled with exactly the amount of food you want your fish to receive. That makes this style of feeder perfect for betta fish and even Fancy goldfish that can suffer if overfed.

What Are The Downsides Of Portion Control Feeders?

Unfortunately, portion control feeders do have a few downsides:

  • There are typically fewer options available when choosing a portion control feeder.
  • Portion control feeders typically have much less capacity than barrel feeders, as most of these devices can only hold a limited number of portions, typically 14.
  • The meal slots on a portion control feeder are quite small. So, this feeder style is often unsuitable for use in a large tank. In addition, if you like to feed your fish large, dried foods, you might need to break them up to fit into the meal slots.
  • Portion control feeders have less flexible programming options than barrel feeders. So, you might find it challenging to auto-fast your fish or skip meals when you want to.
  • Unlike a barrel feeder, more effort is required when using a portion control feeder since you’ll need to refill the device every 14 days.

How To Choose The Best Automatic Fish Feeder

Now that you know more about auto fish feeders, you’ll want to know how to pick the best device for your needs.

Here are our top tips for choosing the best feeder for you and your fish!

Ease of Use

Automatic fish feeders vary tremendously in their ease of use. Some feeders are tricky to program and operate, whereas others are incredibly simple.

The highest quality models have digital displays, whereas the analog types usually work like an old-school light timer. Whether you choose the analog or digital route is a matter of personal choice, but selecting a model that’s easy to operate will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Capacity

If you have a large tank, you won’t want to have to refill your feeder every day, as that kind of defeats the object of having an auto feeder. So, you need to consider how much the feeder can hold.

Although barrel feeders hold more food, they do tend to clump. However, portion control feeders are more flexible but need refilling more often.

Power Source

Most electric fish feeders use batteries to power them, although a few can plug directly into an outlet.

Newer fish feeders use a USB cable, and a full battery charge lasts up to six months. However, the older models take regular batteries that you’ll need to swap out when they run down. That’s a pain if you’re away and the batteries in your feeder die, as your fish will go hungry.

Unfortunately, you can’t generally use rechargeable batteries in an auto fish feeder.

Low Power Alert Feature

Some better quality fish feeders have a power alert feature that warns you when the batteries begin to run down. That can literally be a lifesaver for your fish!

Portion Size and Number of Feeds

Automatic fish feeders vary widely in how many meals they can dispense in a day. Some models can also deliver double or even triple portions, making them ideal for large tanks housing big communities.

However, if you have a small tank, you might be better off with a portion control feeder to prevent overfeeding.

Manual Feeding Bypass

If your fish feeder has a manual feeding bypass, you can bypass the auto feature and feed your fish manually.

This handy feature allows you to dispense the meal into the tank without physically dropping the food into the water yourself.

Ventilation and Fans

One big issue with barrel feeders is that the food in the hopper can get damp. That causes the food to swell and clump, blocking the dispenser and leading to irregular portion sizes. In extreme cases, the dispenser might stop altogether, so your fish won’t get a meal at all.

A feeder with a fan or ventilation slots helps reduce the moisture in the feeder’s hopper. However, the fan typically only runs when the feeder is actually dispensing food. So, although they are a handy feature, a fan is not critical.

Setting Up An Automatic Feeder

Once you’ve chosen your auto feeder, you’ll need to get it set up and running. Here are a few tips on how to do that quickly and with minimal hassle!

Where To Locate The Feeder

Most auto feeders sit on top of the tank lid. If there’s no opening in your tank cover, you’ll need to cut an opening or modify the lid so that the food drops into the correct area.

Avoid putting the feeder right next to the light fixture, as the heat the light generates can degrade the food and cause condensation inside the food container. Similarly, don’t put the feeder near the filter system or bubbler, as that also exposes the device to evaporating water and can cause clumping.

Putting the feeder near the filter outflow helps to distribute the food throughout the tank, which can be a good tactic to prevent feeding frenzies where some fish might miss out. However, sometimes the food gets sucked into the filter, so you might want to use a feeding station or ring to prevent that.

Mounting The Feeder

Most automatic fish feeders have at least two options for placement of the device on your aquarium.

Typically, you can either sit the feeder on your tank lid or mount it on the rim or side viewing pane with the hardware and stickers provided. If you don’t want the feeder on display, choose a model with a side mount.

Testing, Testing!

Before you head off on an extended vacation, it’s a good idea to test the feeder for a few weeks to ensure it works reliably.

You might also want to set up a webcam to remotely monitor your fish tank and feeder. If the feeder malfunctions, you can ask a friend or neighbor to stop by and feed your fish.

How To Make A Homemade Automatic Fish Feeder

If you don’t want to buy an automatic fish feeder, you could save money by making one.

Here’s how to do it!

What You’ll Need

  • An empty plastic milk bottle
  • Plastic milk bottle top
  • Three wooden matches
  • Superglue
  • Pager or cell phone with a vibrate function

How To Do It

Here’s how to make a simple automatic fish feeder:

  1. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the bottom off the milk bottle and remove the top.
  2. Put the bottle top on a flat surface.
  3. Now, arrange the matchsticks on the bottle top on top of each other, using superglue to stick the matches together and to the bottle top.
  4. Next, put the plastic milk bottle upside down on top of the matches so that the bottle’s mouth is exactly on top of the matches. Glue the bottle in place.
  5. Fill the bottle with fish food pellets or flakes. Allow the food to spill over the matches, but the bottle top will stop the flow.
  6. Now, set the cell phone or pager to vibrate mode and put it inside the bottle.
  7. Put the feeder in position over your tank. You can use a plant hook to fix the feeder to the back of the tank or hang it from the ceiling.
  8. To use the feeder, simply call your pager or phone. When the device vibrates, the food will drop into the fish tank.

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy our buyer’s guide to automatic fish feeders and product reviews? If you did, please share the article!

Automatic fish feeders are convenient devices you can use to feed your fish while you’re not around. If you don’t want to buy a fish feeder, you could make one yourself. However, for reliability and flexibility, we recommend investing in a decent quality feeder, such as those we’ve reviewed for you in this guide.

Did you choose a barrel or portion control feeder? Perhaps you decided to make your own? Tell us about your feeder in the comments box below.

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