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5 Best Automatic Fish Feeders in 2019 – Essential for Days Away!

Ah, automation! The ability to have things done for you so you don’t have to bother is one of the great perks of living in the modern era.

Robot vacuums keep homes tidy, robot lawnmowers trim the grass, and fleets of self-driving cars are hitting the streets.

Ok, most of us still vacuum and mow by hand, and the cars all belong to Google and Tesla.

The point is, there’s an automated solution for almost every task imaginable, and that includes aquarium maintenance as you’ll soon discover in our look at a few candidates for the best automatic fish feeder.

The best automatic fish feeder written beside a community of aquarium fish feeding on flakes
© Mirko Rosenau / Adobe Stock

You can automate just about every aspect of your tank, but right now we’re going to focus on one of the simplest, but most useful automatic gadgets – the automatic fish feeder.

In this article we take a look at what makes them tick, why you might want one, and what makes a good automatic feeder. We’ll finish with a roundup of five recommendations for the best feeders on the market.

Now, let me automatically dispense my wisdom.

At a Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Best Automatic Fish Feeder

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Best Automatic Fish Feeder – Product Roundup and Mini Reviews

Now that you know what to look for, you’re ready to make a decision. To help you out, we’ve narrowed down the field to the Top 5 contenders on the market right now and reviewed each of them.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Eheim Battery Operated Auto Fish Feeder

EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder Programmable Automatic Food Dispenser

You love your fish, but you’ve got a busy life, and you stress over remembering to feed them on time, every time.

A simple, easy-to-use feeder that can dispense multiple times a day for days on end is what you need to help you relax and enjoy your aquarium.

Specs at a glance:

  • Uses 2 AA batteries
  • LCD screen/digital timer
  • Built-in ventilation fan
  • 5” x 2.5” x 5.5”
  • 4 oz.

Eheim calls this the “everyday fish feeder.” Let’s assume they mean you can use it every day, and not that it’s ordinary, which is what “everyday” actually means. (Sorry – little writer’s rant there.) To call it ordinary is really selling it short, because this is a great little feeder.

The digital programming and display make it easy to set with precision, without wondering if you got it right or not. There are only three buttons, so it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out, either.

It’s been well designed for operation in a damp environment; the buttons are splash proof, and a built-in ventilation system keeps the food dry.

Speaking of food, the 3.3 fl. Oz. (100ml) feeder drum holds enough food to feed your tank for weeks. How many weeks depends on how many fish you’ve got. The size of each feeding is adjustable by changing the size of the feeder opening with a sliding panel.

The unit runs on two AA batteries, and there is a two-stage low battery indicator on the display to help prevent premature shutdown.

What we like:

  • Keeps food dry
  • Digital display is easy to read and understand
  • Large feeder drum keeps fish fed for several weeks
  • Works with flakes or pellets
  • Feeds up to 4 times a day
  • Override button for instant feeding
  • Low profile, and can sit anywhere on a tank

What we don’t like:

  • Can’t alternate between food types
  • Top-facing display could be a challenge for shorter users, or on tall setups

As you can see, there isn’t much to not like about this feeder.

While we wish you could alternate between food types, for many aquarists, a single food is just fine. The simplicity of a digital display and a single feeder drum makes this an excellent choice for most tank owners, especially for day-to-day feeding.

There are more pictures and a video available for your viewing pleasure at the link below.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

eBoTrade Direct Automatic Fish Feeder

Fish Feeder, Automatic Fish Feeder, eBoTrade Aquarium Tank Auto Fish Food Timer Batteries Included 800EB

Although the basics are essentially universal, there is no end of tank configurations in the aquarium world. That makes it tough to design an add-on device that works equally well on all aquariums.

If you’ve got an unusually laid out tank that seems custom-made to prevent you from adding cool gear, this might be the model for you.

Specs at a glance:

  • Uses 2 AAA batteries
  • LCD screen/digital timer
  • Built-in vent fan
  • 3” x 4” x 2.5”
  • 8 oz.

Unlike most rotating drum feeders, this unit features a large flap over the opening rather than a sliding door. Portion sizes are adjusted with an internal slider that controls the amount of food that gets to the final hopper. It’s an excellent system that may actually offer more precise feedings.

The side-facing LCD and buttons offer more options for placement than rear-facing units. Overall, the interface looks easy to use and understand. A low battery indicator lets you know if it’s time to swap out the AAAs – and you’ve got 3 days to do it before the whole thing shuts down. Can’t say you weren’t warned!

If you’ve had a few tanks over the years, you know that it’s easier to clamp items to the walls of some than others. The optional Velcro mounting system should make it simple to install this feeder on just about any aquarium. Of course, the clamp is the better choice if you can use it.

Although we have minor concerns about the large flap that opens to dispense food touching the water, there is a built-in fan to help keep food dry.

The feeder drum isn’t the biggest we’ve seen, but the manufacturer says you can get 14-20 feedings out of a full hopper, depending on the feeding size. Not enough for a month-long holiday, but plenty for a few days away, or for everyday use.

What we like:

  • Clear feeder drum
  • Easy-to-read LCD
  • Just 4 buttons for simple operation
  • Side-facing display
  • Attaches with clamp or Velcro
  • Up to 4 separate feedings per day

What we don’t like:

  • Slight concern about lateral force from pushing buttons dislodging the feeder
  • Feeder drum cover could make contact with water if the level is very high

The eBo Trade Direct digital automatic fish feeder has some nice features at a reasonable price.

Overall, this is best suited for aquarists who want a daily feeder to take over regular feedings while they’re still at home, but also want to know they can get away for a few days without worrying.

Got this one on your shortlist? Have another look at the following link.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

IntelliFeed Fish Feeder

IntelliFeed Fish Feeder

If you have a tank with a large community, you want to keep everyone happy and busy.

Well-fed, well-entertained fish are less likely to go looking for trouble. (Sounds a lot like teenage boys.) Lots of small feedings can keep the gang out of mischief, but is there an automated feeder that can take care of it for you?

Specs at a glance:

  • Uses 4AA batteries
  • Optional power adaptor
  • LCD screen/digital timer
  • Airtight feeding drum
  • 53” x 3.07” x 3.66”
  • 4 oz.

When it comes to daily feedings, the IntelliFeed feeder leads the pack (school?) with the option to program up to 12 feedings a day. You’d have to keep them pretty small, but what a great way to keep a tank full of fish busy!

You can, of course, run the unit on battery power. But, if you’re not the trusting type, you can opt to run it right from the wall. Assuming your home isn’t prone to frequent power outages, you might find this a more reassuring system while you’re on vacation.

The feeding mechanism on this unit is more complex than others we’ve seen. When dispensing, the feeder drum slides forwards, rotates one full turn, then returns into the feeder housing. This keeps the food away from the water between feedings and is designed to keep the food dry without a powered ventilation system.

If you don’t care for figuring out timer settings, you’ll love that the IntelliFeed comes pre-programmed to dispense twice a day, once at 8am and again at 6pm.

Programmable extra feedings should be simple to set; there are just three buttons to contend with, and you get a digital readout on an LCD. You can also trigger a feeding at any time with just one push of a button.

What we like:

  • Keeps fish fed and engaged with up to 12 daily feedings
  • Option to run on AC rather than trust to batteries
  • Food is kept away from tank opening between feedings
  • Pre-programmed for 2 daily feedings

What we don’t like:

  • Takes a lot of batteries
  • Pricier than most other options
  • Controls at the back may be hard to access

You’ll pay a bit extra for the IntelliFeed, but you get some great features for your money.

The convenience of factory preset feedings, the reliability of AC power, and the waterproof feeder drum all combine to make this an excellent choice for those who don’t mind paying extra for peace of mind.

Thinking this could be the one? Read more right here.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder

Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder

Some people enjoy mixing species in their tanks for a more colorful display. This may mean more than one kind of food is required to keep everyone happy. Is there an automated solution for a fish food buffet?

Specs at a glance:

  • Uses 1 AA battery
  • Analog quartz timer
  • Air hose-ready (for ventilation)
  • 6” x 5.5” x 1.5”
  • 6 oz.

At first glance, the Fish Mate F14 (no relation to the venerable jet fighter) looks somewhat like a pill caddy. In fact, it functions a lot like one, keeping each dose neatly compartmentalized and ready for dispensing.

If you need to feed your tank gang a mixture of food types (like flakes, chips, and pellets), a single, large feeding chamber won’t do. With 14 separate chambers, you can load them up any way you like.

Like most good dispensers, you can set it for up to 4 feedings per day. Here’s where we run into the major drawback of this product; it only has 14 chambers, so you’ll be empty in just a few days.

The analog timer is driven by a quartz mechanism (powered by a single AA battery) that’s precise and reliable. It’s not quite as user-friendly as a digital LCD, but if you’re not into buttons, maybe you’ll prefer this setup.

Unlike a lot of dispensers, this one cuts a very slim figure. You’ll hardly notice it at all on your tank, and we think that’s a good thing. The stuff on the outside of your tank shouldn’t distract you from what’s inside.

Speaking of what’s inside, the F14 does not have a built-in fan to keep food dry. It does, however, have a hookup for an air hose. You can run a tube from your pump, and the moving air will keep moisture at bay.

What we like:

  • Only requires a single battery
  • Low profile for better aesthetics
  • Individual food compartments for precise feedings
  • Battery level indicator

What we don’t like:

  • At the maximum setting (4 feedings/day) it will be empty in 3.5 days
  • Analog timer is less intuitive than digital
  • Ventilation system not built-in

The Fish Mate F14 might not be the best choice for going away on an extended holiday. However, if you want to automate and simplify your complex feeding schedule on a day-to-day basis, this may be the feeder for you.

To get a closer look, all you have to do is follow the link.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

NICREW AF-013 Automatic Fish Feeder with Ventilation System

NICREW Automatic Fish Feeder, Moisture-Proof Fish Food Dispenser for Fish Tank(Battery Included)

Even those who don’t have trouble programming timers (I’m sure “On Demand” TV was invented by a guy who got fed up with his VCR) don’t want to do it every time they install a feeder.

Wouldn’t it be nice for occasional users to be able just to put things on hold until next time?

Specs at a glance:

  • Uses 2 AA batteries
  • Built-in vent fan
  • LCD screen/digital timer
  • 3” x 3” x 3”
  • 4 oz.

There is no shortage of features on the AF-013. From the LCD screen (a relatively large one at that) to the ventilation fan, this one ticks almost all the boxes. In fact, it ticks one box that none of the other models we’ve reviewed do: it has an “On/Off” button. What a breakthrough!

All sarcasm aside, the easy-to-find, clearly labeled power button allows you to pause the program with one touch.

The clear labeling continues with the other four buttons: Manual, Set, +, and –. Even the most technically challenged aquarist should be able to program the AF-013 with minimal difficulty.

With the possibility of up to 5 feedings a day, you can be sure all your tank mates are getting their fair share of the grub. And with a 150ml capacity, you can load it up with plenty of flakes or pellets.

What we like:

  • Easy to read the LCD screen
  • Built-in ventilation system
  • Up to 5 daily feedings
  • Large feeding drum

What we don’t like:

  • Rear-facing display limits mounting options

If you’re looking for a fish feeder that won’t always live on your tank, the ability to pause and resume a program so simply makes this an appealing choice. Mind you, it’s perfectly suitable for regular daily feedings, too.

Go deep with the Nicrew AF-013 and hook one of your very own all in one spot. All you gotta do is click.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

What Is An Automatic Fish Feeder

What is it? It’s only the miracle device you’ve been waiting for all your fish-keeping life!

Sorry, what is it really? Ok…

It’s a mechanism for dispensing pre-measured doses of fish food at pre-set intervals. They’re usually battery-operated, allowing them to function even when the power goes out. Typical models clamp onto the side or back of your aquarium and extend out over the water.

Why Should I Get An Automatic Fish Feeder?

Anything that makes the life of an aquarium owner simpler is a good thing. The less you have to worry about, the more you can simply enjoy your fish.

A fish feeder takes all the guesswork out of feeding your fish. You can portion out precisely measured meals to ensure consistency and eliminate the risk of over- or underfeeding your water babies. It keeps feedings on schedule, and also removes the possibility of forgetting to feed your fish altogether.

Although you can use them for everyday feedings, many people buy them specifically for travel. If you’re going to be away overnight, or even for an extended vacation, a feeder will keep your fish happily fed.

How Does An Automatic Fish Food Dispenser Work?

Although functionality varies slightly from model to model, they all do essentially the same thing in much the same way.

Fish food goes into a rotating chamber. In some, the chamber is divided into sub-chambers, each representing a single meal.

Once loaded, you set the timer (either digital or mechanical) for when you want feedings to occur. Clamp the unit to the back or side of your tank, and you’re good to go!

At the set time or times, the dispenser will rotate and release a load of food into the tank.

Disadvantages of Automatic Fish Feeders

Automatic feeders are great, but they aren’t without limitations.

For example, they can potentially fail. Dead batteries can equal dead fish if the worst-case scenario comes to pass while you’re on vacation.

Likewise, the mechanism could jam, or the feeder mouth might clog up with food, preventing the device from doing its job.

These are unlikely situations, mind you, but not impossible. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, it’s always a good idea to ask someone to stop in on occasion to check on your tank, even if you have a feeder set up.

If you feed your fish or other aquatic critters frozen food regularly, an automatic feeder won’t work for you. As you might imagine, frozen food will simply defrost in the chamber.

The same goes for live food. While there are some DIYists out there who’ve rigged up live feeding systems that keep live food from becoming dead food, we haven’t seen a commercially available live food feeder.

Aesthetics are important to many aquarium keepers. Unlike equipment that goes inside the tank, there’s no way to disguise an automatic feeder, unfortunately, and they aren’t designed to be attractive.

This won’t matter if you only use one while you’re on vacation, but if you’re planning to set one up for everyday feeding, you might want to think about how it’s going to look.

Features to Look For In A Good Automatic Fish Feeder

At the end of this article, we’re going to review 5 of the best feeders on the market. Before we get there, here are some of the features to look for in a feeder, in case you decide to some additional comparison shopping.

Freshwater, Marine, or Both?

This is the easiest category, so we’ll dispense with it (sorry) immediately.

All feeders will work with both freshwater and marine aquariums. In fact, many also let you know they’re great for terrariums, too.

Types of Food it Can Dispense

What do you feed your fish? Maybe it’s flakes, maybe pellets, or maybe it’s chips? Whatever you use, make sure the feeder you buy can dispense it.

Have a look at the size of the opening. Make sure it’s wide enough to let the food out (especially important with chips), or consider whether you’d have to break down or crush the food.

On the other side of that coin, too large an opening might dispense too many tiny pellets.

Remember, live and frozen food cannot be dispensed from an automatic fish feeder.

Size of Food Chamber

A feeder with a tiny chamber won’t feed many fish for very long. Plus, you’ll always be refilling it.

If you only have a few small fish, a small feeder drum will be fine. But if you have a large community, you’ll need a bigger hopper.

Number of Daily Feedings

Most aquarists feed their fish twice a day. Some prefer more feedings, however. If your fish are in a routine of multiple feedings, make sure your new feeder can accommodate them.

How Many Days Total Will It Feed My Fish?

This may require some math involving the numbers from the previous two sections.

Unless your feeder is segmented into individual feeding chambers, you’ll need to calculate how many days a full load will last based on how much it dispenses and how often.

Some manufacturers give you an estimate, but you may have to work this out on your own. This is a crucial bit of information if you’re planning on using an automatic fish food dispenser while you’re away.

Power Source / Battery Life

Most automatic feeders are powered by batteries. Before buying one, check to see if there is a battery level indicator. Without that, you may have no prior warning that your feeder is about to conk out on you.

If you don’t trust batteries, some models run on AC power, and those that allow you to choose.

Ventilation System

Moisture is the enemy when it comes to fish food. Wet flakes clump and won’t dispense properly, and wet pellets or chips will just dissolve.

Either scenario is a waste of food at best, and a danger to your pets at worst. You might be surprised how quickly it can happen, too.

Look for a feeder with a built-in ventilation system, or a genuinely airtight chamber, to keep your food dry and your fish fed.

Ease of Use

What good is a cool piece of tech that’s supposed to simplify your life if you can’t figure out how to use it?

Anything that looks complicated probably is. Ideally, you want just a few clearly labeled buttons and an easily read display.

Durability

Although an automatic fish feeder tends to sit in one place, it moves a lot, and it gets handled frequently.

Every rotation and every refill causes wear, so you want a unit that will stand up to the rigors of regular use. Avoid flimsy-looking plastic and protruding parts.

Reading reviews left by owners is an excellent way to find out if there are reliability issues with a feeder you’re considering.

Feeding Your Need for Knowledge

So what do you think of our contenders for the best automatic fish feeder? Is there one in our list right for you, your aquarium and your lifestyle?

If you find feeding your fish every day to be a chore, or if you don’t want to rely on others while you’re away, it’s well worth the modest investment.

If you know other aquarium enthusiasts, be sure and tell them all about this article and the site. Fishkeeping can be a challenging hobby, and every bit of wisdom helps!

Have any comments or questions? Send them to us and we’ll do our best to address them for you.

For now, thanks for reading – we know there are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to aquarium sites, and we’re thrilled you chose ours.

Happy fish keeping!

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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Wendy Kathryn

Hi, I'm Wendy, the owner and creator of this website, an experienced fish keeper and avid student of the art since 2010. My aim is to help beginners avoid the many possible mistakes when getting started in this wonderful hobby.

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