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Are you planning that next vacation? Are you going to be gone for a few days or more for work? Or maybe you have a hectic life and what to make sure your fish get fed on time every day?
Whatever the reason may be, automatic fish feeders can be a lifesaver. So let’s dive in and find the best automatic fish feeder for you!
In this article we will review the following auto feeders:
- EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder << Best Overall>>
- Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder <<Best For Betta Fish>>
- IntelliFeed Fish Feeder
- Resun Auto Feeder AF2009D
- 14-Day Pyramid Fish Feeders <<Best Low Cost/Low Tech>>
Benefits of an Automatic Fish Feeder?
The main benefit of an automatic fish feeder is that it can feed your fish for you without you being present. There are a couple of reasons that this may benefit you or someone you know. The biggest benefit is if you have to leave for more than a few days for work or a vacation.
With an automatic fish feeder, you could theoretically set it up to feed your aquarium fish for up to 6 weeks. I wouldn’t recommend leaving your fish unattended that long, however. They will still need their tank cleaned and water changed.
Another benefit is giving your fish a regular consistent feeding schedule. If you’re like me, your life gets busy and you miss a feeding every so often. With a quality automatic feeder, you can program it to feed your fish up to 4 times a day at the same times each day. No more missed feedings and hungry fish.
Do you need an automatic fish feeder?
I’m going to be honest with you. Even though this is a review for automatic fish feeders I am not going to try and convince everyone they need one. If you have a trusted friend or relative you may want to go that route instead.
Not all automatic fish feeders are created equal. And even the best ones have the possibility to malfunction. So an accountable fish sitter is the best option. If there are other issues with your aquarium a human can recognize and correct this. Make sure your fish sitter knows what and how much to feed your fish.
If you are going to be gone for less than one week you may not need to worry. Although it does depend on the type of fish you have, nearly all fish can safely go 3 days without food. Many fish can even go for a week without food.
Maybe you don’t have a trusted friend. Maybe your going to be gone for too long to miss feedings. Or maybe, you just want to automate your fish feeding. If so, an automatic fish feeder is just what you’re looking for.
How Does an Automatic Fish Feeder Work?
An automatic fish feeder is nothing more than a device with a timer and a container to hold food. The timer is either manually set or electronically set. There are three main types of automatic feeders for aquariums. These are the rotating barrel, rotating disk/portion control and the auger fish feeder.
Rotating Drum Automatic Fish Feeder
The rotating drum type feeder makes up about 90 percent of the automatic fish feeders out there. The hopper or “drum” rotates to dispense food out of a small opening on one side.
Rotating drum feeders have a portion control that lets you adjust the size of the opening. This will allow you to adjust the amount of food dispensed to a degree. You also have the option to program the drum to turn more than once to dispense more food per feeding. Multiple feeding times per day can also be set.
These feeders are all electronic and are usually battery powered. There are very few on the market that have the ability to be plugged into an outlet.
These feeders can also hold a large amount of food that can last up to six weeks. With only a single drum or container they work best with one type of food. You should use two or more feeders if you are feeding different types of fish food.
These don’t do well with large sized foods like large flakes and algae wafers. This type of food will likely get stuck in the small opening. Mixing of food types also doesn’t work very well.
Rotating Disk Automatic Fish Feeder
This type of fish feeder isn’t that common. There is only one model you will typically see at stores and that is the Fish Mate 14.
This type on aquarium fish feeder has a rotating disk that sits horizontally. It resembles a pill container with individual compartments. The great thing about this is that you have much better portion control. You simply cannot feed your fish more than you put in each compartment.
I have also tested this type of fish feeder on my Betta tank. I put 5 small pellets in each of the 14 compartments and have only had a few stick to the disk. This is the only type of feeder I know of that will work reliably for a single Betta.
You can also put different types of fish food into different slots. This is great if you have a mix of fish that have different food needs.
The downside to this type of design is that they generally hold less food than rotating barrel feeders.
Auger Automatic Fish Feeders
This type of feeder uses an auger or screw to dispense the food. The food is placed in a hopper or container and somewhere below sits the auger. During the designated feeding time the auger will turn to push out the food. Like all auto feeders this design is prone to failure it the food becomes soggy.
Food Type Considerations
I should mention here that the success of your fish feeder depends a lot on the type of food you use.
Simply put pellets by far work the best in any automatic feeder. Their dense round size makes them much less likely to clog up an opening. Flakes are prone to absorbing moisture. They may also need to be ground up into smaller sizes to flow correctly.
Choosing the Right Automatic Fish Feeder
Choosing the right automatic aquarium feeder can mean the difference between a happy vibrant aquarium and dead fish. So choose carefully and make sure to test it out beforehand.
What types of things should you consider when looking for a fish feeder? Important factors are size, timer, quantity control, humidity control, power supply, and reliability.
How big is your aquarium and how many fish do you have? This will certainly determine how much fish food your fish will need. Unless you just got your fish you should already have a pretty good idea how much to feed them.
The amount of food each feeder holds can vary somewhat. For instance, My EHEIM auto feeder holds three times more than my Resun auto feeder. So think about how much food your fish will need for the amount time you are gone.
You can adjust the output hole size on drum type feeders to dispense more food if needed. You can also set multiple feedings per day if a single serving isn’t enough. When you increase these two settings you will also decrease how long the food will last. So plan ahead.
Another option is to buy two or more. This is an especially good idea for those of you with different types of fish. You can fill one with small algae wafers and another with floating pellets for instance.
There are a few automatic aquarium fish feeders that still have the old school mechanical timers with pins. They are similar to the traditional outlet plug-in timers. Where you set the pins determines when the feeder is activated to dispense the fish food.
Most of the automatic fish feeders today now have a digitally set timer. They are similar to programming a digital clock. With most, you can set multiple feedings per day down to the minute. You can also set how many revolutions a rotating barrel feeder will make.
Digitally programmable timers will give you a greater deal of flexibility with feeding times. But, both types of timers are reliable as long as they have an adequate power supply.
Most feeders are battery operated but there are some that you can plug into an outlet.
They key with the battery operated ones is to make sure you put in fresh batteries before you go on a trip. Even if your current batteries have some life left. It’s just not worth the chance of the batteries dying.
One annoying feature of most digital feeders is that they will lose the programmed times when you switch the batteries out. So make sure you reprogram it afterward.
A plug-in automatic fish feeder may give you more peace of mind if you are worried about batteries. Unless you live somewhere where power outages can happen. Where I live the power goes out 2-3 times a year so it may be something you need to consider.
A good automatic aquarium fish feeder will have consistent quantity control. You don’t want a feeder that will sometimes feed only a little food and other times overfeed your fish. There are many feeders out there that are not very consistent. Even the best may have some variance in the amount of food dispensed.
Most automatic fish feeders are not good at dispensing the tiny amount of food needed for one Betta. The only one I can recommend for a Betta tank is the Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder.
This is one of the biggest issues with even the best automatic fish feeders. By design, the feeder needs to sit above the fish tank over an opening. As we all know aquariums are filled with water that gradually evaporates. This is even more true with heated tropical aquariums. All of that evaporation is going to exit the feed hole and go right in front of your feeder.
So what’s the big deal with this you may ask? The big deal is evaporation can make the food in your feeder damp and soggy. This is very true of fish flakes which soak up humidity.
Two things happen when the food becomes soggy. First and foremost, it starts to stick in the exit hole. This means your fish will get little to no food even if the automatic feeder is functioning correctly. Additionally, the food will start to degrade and go sour. Rotten food is no good for your fish and stinks!
So what can be done about this? Well, some manufacturers have designed their feeders with this in mind.
The Fish Mate F14 has a simple air pump hose attachment on the bottom. Others are more complex. The IntelliFeed Fish Feeder has a drum that sits inside a housing. To dispense food, it moves out, rotates, and then moves back in. This limits the amount of time the food drum is exposed over the water.
One way to minimize this problem is to use pellets instead of flakes. As I mentioned already, flakes soak up any humidity and quickly break down. Pellets are a little more resistant due to their round shape.
The Best Automatic Fish Feeders
You should now know all of the things you need to consider when selecting an automatic fish feeder. Let’s take a look at some of your options.
Best Automatic Fish Feeder Overall
Right out of the box the EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder feels higher quality than other feeders on the market. Beware of Chinese knock-offs! There are multiple copies of this feeder on Amazon manufactured in China and sold for less. The real deal is the EHEIM branded feeder manufactured in Germany.
It is a rotating drum feeder with a large-sized drum that can hold up to 6 weeks of fish food. It slides off with ease so you don’t have to force it and worry about breaking something. The output slot is also adjustable so you have a pretty wide selection of portion sizes.
The instructions that come with this unit are actually written in proper English! I had no problem understanding them and setting it up with the provided pictures. The unit requires 2 double AA batteries and is digitally programmable.
The EHEIM can be set for up to 4 different feedings at any time you choose. It can be set to 1 or 2 revolutions of the drum. Many other cheap feeders will lose their programming when replacing batteries. This one will hold on to them for 10 seconds. This doesn’t seem like a long time. Replacing the batteries is easy however, so 10 seconds is very reasonable.
One of the features that sets this feeder above other rotating drum feeders is the integrated fan and ventilation system. This fan turns on when the drum rotates providing fresh dry air to the food.
Overall this is a high-quality unit that works as it’s intended to. This is my go-to feeder and the best automatic fish feeder I’ve reviewed.
- Quality German design and construction (36-month EHEIM guarantee)
- Large capacity drum
- Programmed times saved during battery changes
- Integrated fan ventilation system
- Lowest portion control setting still too much for Betta fish
*Tip – If you have a Betta fish many people have had luck taping off part of the portion control hole. This limits amount dispensed more than factory setting.
Best Betta Automatic Fish Feeder
The Fish Mate F14 aquarium fish feeder is the only disk type automatic fish feeder that I am reviewing. It has a mechanical timer powered by one AA battery.
The clock is set manually by turning the dial and pins are inserted into the desired feed times. There are 8 possible feeding times in a 24 hour period. These are separated by 3-hour increments. This doesn’t give you the same flexibility of feeding times that a digital timer does. But, I think it is more than adequate. Most people will not need to feed their fish more often than every three hours.
I noticed another unique characteristic when testing the Fish Mate F14. It dispenses the food from each compartment extremely slowly. This is due to the way the mechanical timer engages the food disk. It only moves as fast as the timer. So it takes 1-2 hours for each compartment of food to be fully dispensed.
Not understanding this, some users assume the unit is defective. This is where some of the negative reviews are coming from that you may see.
I tested the F14 with a variety of food to include pellets, flakes, freeze dried bloodworms and small algae wafers. The feeder worked well with all types of food. I crushed up the flakes to make sure they fit and didn’t get stuck. Some flake material did slide under the disk as it moved and this made it a little messy.
When it comes to humidity control the F14 has the option to attach an airline from an aquarium pump. This will continuously blow dry air through the feeder to prevent the food from becoming moist.
- Can fill with different types of food
- Precise portion control will even work for Bettas
- No need to worry about overfeeding
- Option to add airline to keep food dry
- Not compact like some other auto feeders
- Precise feed times can be difficult to set up
- Slow feeding time for each compartment
Most Unique Design
The IntelliFeed Fish Feeder has a unique way of dealing with the common problem of humidity. When not dispensing food the drum sits inside the housing of the unit. When activated, the drum rotates out of the housing to dispense the food. After the rotation is complete it retracts back inside of the housing.
This minimizes the amount of time the exposed food drum sits over the water. This limits the possibility the food will become soggy.
This is also one of the only automatic fish feeders that can be plugged into an outlet. You won’t have to worry about batteries dying on you. You do still have the option to run on batteries if you choose. Be aware that this unit isn’t always sold with the 6V power adapter. You may need to buy it separately.
These neat features do come with a higher price tag though. It costs a fair amount more than other feeders on the market.
Like other digital units, you have the option of setting multiple feedings during the day with multiple rotations. It can be difficult to get a correct portion size each feeding. Make sure you test it out with different types of food and settings before you go on a trip.
- Unique design seals food from humidity
- Plug into an outlet, no need to worry about batteries
- More expensive than many other feeders
- Doesn’t work consistently with flakes
Best Low-Cost Automatic Fish Feeder
The Resun Auto Feeder is a rotating barrel type feeder. It is rebranded under a lot of different names on Amazon. I purchased my Resun under the brand name PROCHE.
This feeder is powered by 2 AAA batteries and is digitally programmable. It can be set for up to 4 different feeding times with one or two revolutions. When set for two revolutions the turns will be a minute apart and not consecutive.
The drum is a bit smaller than some of the other auto feeders available. So if capacity is a big concern for you this feeder may not be for you. If you only have a small number of fish I’m sure it would be just fine.
Like other drum auto feeders, this one doesn’t dispense a small enough portion size for Bettas. You may be able to modify the opening with tape or glue to limit portion size more.
This feeder does not have some type of humidity control built in. I haven’t had a problem with moisture in this feeder and I am using flakes. I do live in a dry area though and your environment may be different. So be sure to place it away from any agitated water like your pump outlet.
Since this is a re-branded Chinese design I am a little concerned about the long term reliability. The construction seems a bit on the cheap side when compared to higher quality automatic fish feeders. For instance, I had to work a little bit to remove the drum and I was worried that I might break something in the process.
Overall this seems like a good straight forward automatic fish feeder. I have had it on my 30-gallon tank for over a week at this point and haven’t had any problems. It should work fine for you on short trips but I worry about long term reliability.
- Digitally programmable for precision feeding times
- Compact design, well suited to small tanks
- Doesn’t dispense small enough portion size for Bettas
- Construction is not high quality
Best Low Tech Automatic Fish Feeder
Although most people are looking for some type of electric fish feeder I wanted to mention these as an option as well.
Many years ago I had to take an extended trip for an entire month. I didn’t even know automatic fish feeders existed at them time, and I didn’t have anyone I trusted that lived nearby. But, my local department store had some of these available.
I had a 30-gallon tank with about 10 fish in it. I put 2 of these in and hoped for the best. When I came back, all of my fish were still alive!
My story is just an illustration that these can work in a pinch. You shouldn’t rely on these for that long of an absence. They are advertised to feed your fish for 14 days but sometimes do work for a little longer.
The main downside to these is they can make your tank dirty. The pyramids contain time released spirulina algae and some type of binder. This leads to dirty water. When you get back you will want to change your water and clean the tank.
- Very affordable
- No setup required, just drop in
- Can make your tank very dirty
- Pyramids dissolve at different rates depending upon conditions
What’s the Best Automatic Fish Feeder for You?
Each person’s needs and expectations are a little different. In the right situation, any one of these automatic fish feeder options will serve you well. My personal choice is the EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder. This unit is user-friendly, well built, reliable, affordable and has some neat features.
Do you have a different experience with any of the auto feeders I have reviewed? Or maybe have a different recommendation? If so please let me know in the comments at the bottom!
Setting Up And Testing Your Automatic Fish Feeder
Regardless of the automatic fish feeder, you choose you will need to take some time to set it up and test it. I want you to avoid some of the issues others have had that lead them to swear off automatic fish feeders. So please read on to get the most out of your new feeder.
Before you put food in your feeder and program the feedings you should think about placement. Where an how will you mount the feeder on your tank?
Do you have an aquarium hood? Does it already have a hole or a space that can accommodate your fish feeder? How will you mount it over this opening?
If you have a hood and there isn’t a suitable opening you may have to cut a hole. For my Betta tank, I simply remove the access door and place my Fish Mate F14 in the corner.
If you have a sump on your aquarium make sure to put the feeder far enough away so the food doesn’t get sucked in. Other places to avoid are a filter outlet, above an air stone or anywhere that the water is churning or bubbling. Remember that humidity and moisture are one the biggest problems for fish feeders
Any automatic fish feeder you buy should come with mounting brackets. Some even come with a Velcro pad. If you are able to attach the feeder to the rim of your aquarium, use the provided clamps. This is generally the easiest and most secure way to mount the feeder.
Is attaching your unit to the rim of your aquarium not possible? Try using Velcro. Your feeder may even already come with a square of Velcro. To me, the Velcro provided is usually a bit suspect. If Velcro is your best option buy some quality Velcro and glue it on yourself.
It’s a good idea to play around with different types of food to see what will work best with your automatic fish feeder. Large wafers or flakes don’t work very well in virtually any auto feeder.
While large flakes don’t work well, flakes can still be used. What I do is break up the flakes with my fingers into smaller sizes. This seems to work fine and I haven’t had any issues with my feeders. The only downside is it gets a little messy.
If you have large algae wafers you can do the same thing but it’s best to buy smaller ones.
Do you have multiple species of fish that have different dietary needs? Maybe you have top feeders that do fine with pellets or flakes, but you also have bottom feeders that need algae wafers.
Rotating barrel fish feeders don’t work well with different types of food mixed together. So you have two options. First, you can purchase one fish feeder for each type of food your aquarium needs. Or you could use a disk feeder like the Fish Mate F14.
With the F14 you can mix different foods in a single compartment. Or you can alternate foods in separate compartments. The downside to this is you are limited to 14 total feedings. So if you are feeding two types of food a day that only gives you 7 days of feeding.
Before you rely on a fish feeder to do your feeding while you are away you need to test it out. This allows you to make sure the unit dispenses the correct amount of fish food at the correct times.
Does your automatic fish feeder have a manual dispense button? If so use it to dial in portion size. Play with the different feeding settings. Make sure that you can get the correct amount of fish food to dispense consistently.
When testing I make sure to program my feeders for a time that I will be able to observe the unit in operation. I set a reminder on my phone for 5 minutes before the programmed feeding time. Watch the feeder during dispensing. Pay attention to how much food is being dispensed and look for any clogging or food sticking in the feeder.
I like to test my feeders for at least a week before I trust them enough to take over the job. If your going away for more than a week test them for at least as long as you are gone. If nothing else this will ensure you know how much food you will need to put in the unit for that time period.
Even after you have used it a couple of times with success you still need to check on it or test it once in a while. They can breakdown or malfunction with time.
At this point, you should have a feeder and it should be all set up and ready to go. Sit back and relax knowing your fish are well fed!
Please let me know your experiences and what you think is the best automatic fish feeder in the comments below!