I bought an automatic feeder for my fish recently for an upcoming vacation. I tested it out for a few days, and I think it probably isn’t a good choice for my fish or my tank. The feeder I bought rotates a drum that dispenses a preset amount of food either every 12 hours or 24 hours. Controlling the amount of food dispensed is done by flipping a lever that controls how wide the food repository opening is. The mechanism is very simple and runs on batteries, but what doesn’t quite work out for me is the fish’s reaction to it.
The Convict cichlids in my tank have some sibling rivalry going on and are pretty territorial. One of them likes to bully the other two, chasing and sometimes biting the other two fish. One of the smaller fish also tends to chase the other smaller one too. This behavior has been going on forever though. I had five originally, and two died from what I believe to be starvation (since they were also the last ones to go for food). The current group of fish tend to get along somewhat (or co-exist peacefully). When I do feed, I have to spread the food out in certain spots so that they all get their own fill without going crazy.
I don’t know if they actually ate food dispensed from the feeder. They almost seemed to ignore it. The food was too concentrated in one area, and I don’t think any of them liked that. The excess of food resulted in my tank getting dirty in a few days to the point where I had to change a lot of the water. My fish have also seemed to have finally taken a liking to me (or at least associate my presence with food) such that they swim towards the front of the tank when they see/hear/feel me walk by. The fish have been acting crazy lately (like in full panic mode), and I suspect it’s because from refusing to eat food dispensed by the feeder and my thorough water change.
My small tank also didn’t have the space for the feeder to attach. It’s a simple screw-on mechanism, but there was no place in the back or side that I could leave it without making a few annoying adjustments. That left me with attaching to the front of the tank with the lid up, and even then it had just enough room for the drum to rotate. I didn’t want to risk the feeder falling off to due its weight (even though it was attached securely) or having the drum get stuck and not rotate which I tested this out too.
Instead of the feeder, I’m going to try using disks that dissolve and release food slowly over time. I’m hoping they’ll take better to that since it’s a little less intrusive. I’m planning on using them for at least a few weeks to see how they behave since I’ll be gone for a while. Having a Stack Exchange proposal for Pets or another related proposal launched would be awesome. I’d love to get all my pet fish and tank maintenance questions answered there by experts.