Why Is Flowerhorn Not Eating Pellets?

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Flowerhorns are sturdy fish with big appetites. They’re extremely greedy, ravenous eaters. So much so, in fact, that you have to be careful about how much and how often you feed them.

But what if your Flowerhorn refuses to eat? You wouldn’t be the first to have trouble feeding your fish pellets.

Pellets should make up a staple in the diet. Despite this, Flowerhorns would sometimes rather starve than eat them. Find out why this happens, and what you can do about it! In this article, we’ll cover the reason behind this as well as some solutions and alternatives.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Why Won’t Flowerhorn Eat Pellets?

There are a few possible reasons. Maybe your fish is stressed or sick. Perhaps they simply aren’t hungry enough to eat pellets. Or maybe they’ve just been trained not to like pellets.

If you recently purchased your Flowerhorn, maybe it still needs some time to get used to its new environment.

As feisty as they are, Flowerhorns can also feel shy and stressed. A big change in the environment can affect the fish’s appetite. This might be the reason why your fish doesn’t want to eat pellets.

Try feeding it something else to see if it eats other foods. If your Flowerhorn won’t eat anything, give it some more time to adjust. It should start eating within the first week.

If your fish accepts other foods, this means it’s just a picky eater. It sounds funny, but it can happen. Most breeders raise Flowerhorns on fresh, protein-rich foods like bloodworms and shrimp. These foods make the fish colorful and help increase the size of its hump.

They also taste delicious, for the fish at least. What fish would want to eat dry kibble when they got a good taste of other goodies? You wouldn’t eat cardboard-dry bread instead of a juicy burger either. It’s more difficult to tell whether your fish is simply not hungry.

But if the fish eats other foods, it’s probably not an appetite issue. Watch out for any signs of digestive distress. If your fish has a distended belly, skin bruising, or acts agitated, it’s probably sick.

Not eating is a common symptom in sick fish suffering from dropsy, mouth fungus, temperature shock, tuberculosis, and more.

How to Trick Flowerhorn to Eat Pellets?

Many people give up trying to feed pellets to their Flowerhorns altogether. This is an easy way out of the problem, but not a solution.

You’ll have to train your fish and change its palate. It’s going to take multiple tries. It’s going to be frustrating. But it’s worth it! Luckily, if you’re dealing with a picky eater, there are a few things you can do:

– Never Feed It Live Foods

Flowerhorns, and all fish for that matter, go nuts over live food. It’s an entire experience— chasing after the squiggly shrimp and worms and getting that fresh bloody taste. But the problem is they’ll learn to associate movement with food.

Pellets will look boring and unappetizing. If they don’t move, they won’t even register as food. If you used to feed live foods, switch to frozen or dried feed first.

– Starve It

It sounds like a drastic solution, but it works in most cases. Do you know how you get ravenous when you wait too long to eat? In such cases, you can eat anything, no matter how bland. The same applies to fish. If the little booger gets hungry enough, there’s a 99% chance it’s going to eat anything you feed him.

You don’t have to wait for a long time either. Simply stop feeding your fish for 2 days. Then, try the pellets again. If your fish still refuses the food, try another 2 days. He should start eating soon enough. Not feeding your fish for 3-4 days will make it hungry, but won’t pose a threat to its health.

– Slowly Wean It Off The Tasty Foods

You can start with soaking the pellets in bloodworm juice. Let the pellets soak up a good amount before feeding. You can also mash them together with some bloodworms to increase the BW to pellet ratio.

Continue feeding the fish soaked pellets and no other foods. Slowly decrease the quantity of BW juice at each meal over the following week. By the end of the first week, the Flowerhorn should also accept pellets soaked in plain water.

– Try Different Pellets

If nothing else works, maybe the pellets just suck. Different species have different dietary needs, so no pellet product is universal. Flowerhorn cichlids happen to have high protein requirements. Pellets can contain anywhere between 18-50+% protein, so there’s a very wide range to choose from.

Low-quality pellets will contain mostly fillers like wheat and rice husk, bran, and other by-products. I suggest looking for a species-specific feed. I recommend Northfin, Omega One, Humpy Head, and Grand Sumo cichlid pellets. Most Flowerhorns love these. These products are also formulated for maximal hump growth.

How Long Can Flowerhorn Go Without Eating?

It depends. An adult Flowerhorn with enough body reserves will survive longer than a juvenile or a smaller fish.

But even smaller fish can survive for at least 1-2 weeks without food. I’d say 2 weeks is a good average that includes both the young and the adult fish.

So, if your fish is still not eating after the first 7 days, don’t worry too much yet! Both juveniles and adults need frequent small meals. Feeding them 3 times a day is a common recommendation.

However, adult Flowerhorns can go more than two weeks without food. Fish with high-fat stores can last even a little more than a month.

What to Feed Flowerhorn Besides Pellets?

In theory, Flowerhorns will eat anything you offer. They’re big eaters with huge appetites. And this is great because fish need a varied diet. Sticking to only 1 food is unhealthy.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about pellets or bloodworms. If your fish just doesn’t do pellets, there are other options you can try to diversify the menu.

Besides bloodworms and pellets, I would also recommend other protein-rich foods. Things like small grasshoppers, crickets, earthworms, and insect larvae are full of protein, B-vitamins, and minerals.

They’re also quite easy to find and fairly cheap. They’re similar enough to bloodworms, so your Flowerhorns will enjoy these foods.

The familiar taste and texture are more appealing than most pellets. Other similar foods include krill, brine shrimp, and other small crustaceans. These foods are rich and meaty. They’re equally nutritious, containing a good dose of healthy fats, protein, B-vitamins, and minerals. Just remember to opt for freeze-dried varieties.

Live foods are exciting for your fish. But you don’t want to spoil them too much. Otherwise, they will end up refusing foods they consider too bland. Besides, live foods come with a higher risk of bacterial or parasitic contamination. Freeze-dried foods are a safer alternative.

Let’s not forget the veggies! Flowerhorn cichlids love meat. But they’re still omnivores. They need vegetables for fiber and vitamins. Without plant foods, the fish will develop deficiencies and digestive issues.

Luckily, Flowerhorns love the occasional green. I recommend cooked, deshelled peas, shredded lettuce, zucchini, and cucumber.

And finally, why not try some cichlid flakes? They’re a lot easier to eat than pellets, and the texture is also a bit different. Your cichlids might like them! And a good quality product packs a good combo of everything your fish need.

Flakes can be the foundation of a well-balanced diet. They’re rich in protein, with enough fat and fiber to complete the diet.

They also contain lots of vitamins and minerals, all in one package. Just look for a formulation that lists fish meal or protein among the first ingredients.


Despite their huge appetites, Flowerhorns might not like pellets. It’s quite a common issue for new fishkeepers. There are multiple reasons why this happens. Most probably, your fish is a little spoiled. They simply like other foods more, and pellets are too bland.

Luckily, with a bit of training, you can get your fish accustomed to staple foods like pellets. It takes time and patience, but it’s possible!

If you use the methods I outlined in this article, you should manage to trick your Flowerhorns into eating pellets.

If nothing else works, there are many other foods you can include on the menu. From flakes to insect larvae, from veggies to freeze-dried brine shrimp, you’ve got lots of options. You can still formulate a well-balanced diet for your fish.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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