Teaching your (gold)fish to eat from your hand is not only possible; it’s also a fun experience and it can be very helpful for your fish to be used to your hands, for example when you need to examine possible injuries. It just takes some patience! Hand feeding is most popular among goldfish keepers, but there are other species that will also happily eat from your hand, like bettas.Before you start attempting to hand feed your fish, make sure your hands are absolutely clean. There should be no traces of soap/cosmetic products. If you have unhealed cuts/lesions on your hands or fingers, stop hand feeding your fish or wear gloves! When dealing with more aggressive fish like bigger puffer species, consider feeding with plant tweezers instead of your fingers (just to be sure!).
To teach your fish to eat from your hand, patience is key. If the fish are already aware that you are the one that feeds them (for example, when they beg for food when you approach the tank), that’s one step in the right direction! They already associate you with a positive event. If this is not already the case, it’s a good idea to stay by the aquarium while the fish eat for a while.
To get the fish to also associate your hand with something positive, start off by feeding them and leaving your hand in the water while they eat. If they’re shy at first, just remove your hand after a while and try again later until they will happily feed with your hand near them. This way the fish will usually lose fear of your hands quite quickly! Once they do, you can start actually trying to hand feed them. Leave some food in your hands or between your fingers and be patient again while the fish adapt. The bravest fish will quickly realize they will be able to eat more if they eat from your hand, and do so happily. If you also want to be able to handle your fish, for example if you need to examine an illness, hand feeding is a great way to make them less scared of your hands. Just be sure not to touch your fish unless it’s absolutely necessary!
Note: You can now buy New Era goldfish food online here! My goldfish dealer recommended this food to me; he actually fed it to all his goldfish. It’s great to hand feed with because you can knead the pellets into bigger balls.
It’s as simple as that! If you keep hand feeding your fish regularly they will eventually get 100% used to your hands.
If you have any more questions about hand feeding or want to share a tip, leave a comment below! Happy fishkeeping!