It’s not unusual for fish to lose their eyesight either through disease, an accident, or a fight with a tank mate. Some fish are even born blind because of a genetic quirk. However, a lack of sight doesn’t mean that your pet can’t enjoy an excellent quality of life.
Of course, providing any fish with the correct high-quality nutrition is essential for its health. But feeding a blind fish can be challenging, even for an experienced aquarist, especially in a community setup, where other fish will compete for the food available.
Fortunately, there are several highly effective methods of feeding a blind fish, including offering certain types of strong-smelling foods, using a feeding ring, hand-feeding your pet, and even using a turkey baster or plastic eyedropper.
Read this guide to learn our proven methods of feeding your visually challenged pet!
Blind Fish Symptoms
Telling whether your fish is blind or has eye damage isn’t always straightforward since fish rely on many senses to find their way around their environment.
However, symptoms of blindness in fish include the following common behaviors:
No Response to Visual Stimuli
Fish usually react to things that they can see happening outside their tank. For example, a betta fish will usually follow your finger along the side of the tank, and goldfish typically come to the surface for food when you approach.
If the fish shows no interest whatsoever in external visual stimuli, that often indicates problems with its vision.
Blind fish often struggle to find the fish food you offer them, resulting in a greatly reduced appetite or missed meals when tank mates are feeding.
Colliding With Objects in the Tank
If you see your fish frequently bumping into objects in the tank or swimming into the viewing panes, this could mean your pet has impaired vision.
Blind fish often stop socializing with their tank mates, swim in circles, or stay in the same small water column area. If the fish starts displaying abnormal behaviors like these, it could be that your pet is struggling to see properly.
However, the issue could be temporary if an infection is responsible, and treatment with a broad-spectrum antibiotic could solve the problem.
Lack of Response to Light
Fish are generally diurnal or nocturnal, relying on changes in the ambient light to know when to eat, become active, and rest.
If your fish doesn’t react when you switch the aquarium lights on in the morning, it could mean that the creature can’t see.
How To Feed a Blind Fish
If one of your cherished fishy friends goes blind, don’t despair! Provided you’re prepared to make a few basic adjustments to your ideal feeding routine, there’s no reason for your pet to miss out.
Here are a few feeding techniques that you can use to feed your blind fish.
Use Vibration Clues
As mentioned earlier, the fish’s lateral line helps them detect movement in the water that could indicate the presence of a food source, and you can use that ability to help your blind fish.
When one of my large fancy goldfish lost its sight following a nasty bacterial infection, I found that by vibrating the water in a certain spot, I could attract the blind goldfish to that area of the water’s surface so that he could take the food I offered him.
Of course, you need to feed the blind fish well away from his tank mates to eliminate competition, bumping, and barging and achieve an optimal feeding performance.
Use a Feeding Ring
A feeding ring is a ring-shaped piece of plastic or acrylic with a suction cap attached to it, enabling you to fix the ring to the aquarium glass so that it rests on the water’s surface. These devices can be extremely useful in dealing with cases of fish blindness and are an excellent immobile feeding technique.
Attract your blind fish to the feeding ring by vibrating the water, as described above, and place the food inside the ring so it doesn’t float away. Use the feeding ring in the same spot each day so that the fish learns where to go to be fed.
You could use a second feeding ring to feed your other fish at a different area of the tank to prevent confrontations and over-competition between tank inhabitants. That should ensure that the blind fish gets its fair share of the food, doesn’t go hungry, and avoids the inevitable feeding frenzy that often occurs at feeding times in community tanks.
Use a Turkey Baster
If your blind fish enjoys frozen foods, such as blood worms, brine shrimp, and the like, you could thaw some of the food in a little bit of tank water and offer it to your fish via a turkey baster or eyedropper.
Aim to drop the food just in front of the blind fish and allow its sense of smell to do the rest!
Choose Feeding Spots Carefully
If your blind fish has a preferred spot in which to rest, try using that area as a feeding station and feeding him there, ideally at the same times every day. This can exploit the fish’s familiar feeding patterns, making it easier for you to ensure he gets everything he needs.
Fish tend to be creatures of routine, and it shouldn’t take long for your pet to realize when and where grub’s up!
My fancy goldfish were pretty tame and happily came to me to take food from my fingers, and many betta fish owners have the same experience.
So, if your blind fish is sociable and recognizes you, you could try offering it a few morsels of food with your fingers as part of an ongoing feeding plan. However, take care not to alarm or startle the fish, and be prepared to be patient.
What To Feed a Blind Fish
Essentially, you can feed your blind fish with the same regular fish foods you use for its sighted companions.
Choose strongly scented foods, such as those containing garlic, which is also extremely beneficial for your fish’s health. That way, the blind fish can use its sense of smell to detect the food, especially if you feed it in an area that’s close to where the fish prefers to hang out.
Can Blind Fish Find Food Without Help?
A blind fish will adapt to its environment and learn to find food using alternative methods than sight.
For example, some fish species, like Blind Cavefish, live in caves or deep-sea environments and have evolved specialized sensory abilities that compensate for their lack of vision.
A Keen Sense of Smell
Both blind and healthy fish can typically detect chemical “smells” in the water that leads them to food sources.
That sense of smell is refined to detect carrion, organic matter, and prey, depending on the species of fish involved. So, you can use scent cues to attract a blind fish to his food source.
Some fish have sensory pores or super-sensitive taste buds on their bodies that enable the creature to detect tiny changes in the water chemistry and track the food source.
Catfish, carp, and some other species have sensory whiskers called barbels, which are highly sensitive to touch. The fish use the barbels to explore their surroundings in dark, murky conditions, where sight is useless.
Most fish species and amphibians have what’s called a “lateral line.” The lateral line consists of a system of sense organs running along the side of the fish’s body from the creature’s head to its tail.
This structure detects vibrations, changes in water pressure, and movements in the water, alerting the fish to the presence of prey and potential mates and warning the fish that predators could be near.
So, a blind fish could use its lateral line to find food to compensate for its lack of vision.
What Causes Blindness In Fish?
So, why might your fish go blind?
Some fish are simply born with physical, genetic abnormalities that can affect their eyesight, causing or leading to blindness. Those mutations usually affect particular parts of the fish’s brain that are responsible for vision, and there’s nothing you can do to cure them.
Bacterial Eye Infections and Diseases
Fish can be attacked by diseases and infections that can cause blindness. Common diseases that often lead to blindness include fish tuberculosis, bacterial hemorrhagic septicemia, and viral hemorrhagic septicemia.
The activities of some fish parasites, including flukes, can also cause blindness in fish.
Trauma and Injury
Sometimes, fish pick up eye injuries by bumping into sharp objects in their tank, fighting with other fish, or being attacked by predators. Physical trauma such as that can cause severe damage to the eyes, including loss of vision.
Poor Water Quality
Poor water quality in your aquarium causes stress that ultimately harms your fish’s health, including his eyes. Long-term exposure to pollutants can cause eye inflammation, cataracts, and other damage, sometimes leading to partial or complete blindness.
Keep your fish tank water in a safe, healthy condition by carrying out frequent water changes and maintaining an efficient filter system.
Just like in people, fish experience age-related physical degeneration, including changes to their eyes and visual system.
So, as the fish gets older, its eyes can become less efficient, leading to health problems such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts that can impair vision.
In this part of our guide, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about feeding fish that have lost their sight.
Q: Can Fish Go Blind From Too Much Light?
A: Although it’s not proven that bright lights can blind fish, we know that too much light is detrimental to them.
Your fish’s eyes don’t react to bright light in the same way as yours because their basic structure is different. In a nutshell, it takes your fish’s eyes much longer to adapt to changes in light than yours. So, if you switch on the tank lights in a completely dark room, you risk startling your fish and stressing them. The best strategy is to turn on the room lights first, wait for half an hour or so, then turn on the fish tank lights.
It’s highly stressful for your fish if you leave your aquarium lights on for too long. Ideally, the fish should experience a natural day/night cycle that has only 8 to 10 hours of light during the day, followed by a period of darkness when the fish can rest.
If you have a planted fish tank, your plants need 8 to 10 hours of light to enable them to photosynthesize, so that suits both your fish and plants.
Q: What Is a Betta Feeding Ring?
A: A betta feeding ring is a simple ring-shaped piece of plastic or acrylic with a suction cup. At feeding times, simply fix the ring to the aquarium glass at the water’s surface and put a portion of your betta’s food into the ring.
The feeding ring creates a designated feeding area for your pet, preventing other fish and tank inhabitants from eating all the food.
Q: Can a Blind Fish Survive?
A: Depending on the cause of its blindness, there’s no reason why a blind fish can’t survive in a community tank, provided the other residents are peaceful and you take steps to ensure the blind fish gets enough to eat.
Q: Can a Fish’s Eye Grow Back?
A: Unfortunately, fish eyes can’t grow back or regenerate once they’ve been damaged or lost, and the fish must rely on its other senses to navigate its environment and find food.
I hope you enjoyed our guide to feeding a blind fish. If you found the information helpful, please hit the share button above before you go!
There are many reasons why a fish might lose its sight and go blind. At first, that might appear to be a serious disability that could cause your fish to starve since it can no longer find food by sight. However, fish have other senses, including their lateral line and a keen sense of smell, which enable them to locate food sources.
You can vibrate the water, use strongly scented foods, employ a feeding ring, or feed the fish using a turkey baster or even by hand if that works for you. You might need to try several different feeding methods or strategies to ensure your blind fish gets all the nutrition it needs to remain healthy and thriving.
Do you have a blind fish? How do you ensure your pet gets all the nutrition it needs to survive and thrive? Tell us in the comments box below!