The Portuguese Man-of-War traps its food in its tentacles. It feeds mainly on fish fry (young fish) and small adult fish, and it also consumes shrimp, other crustaceans, and other small animals in the plankton. Nearly 70 to 90% of the prey are fish.
The tentacles, or dactylozooids, are the Man-of-War's main mechanisms for catching its prey and are also used for defense. P. physalis sometimes traps and consumes larger fishes such as flying fish and mackerel, though fishes as large as these generally manage to escape from the tentacles. The food of the Man-of-War is digested in its bag-like stomachs (gastrozooids), which are located along the underside of the float. The gastrozooids digest the prey by secreting enzymes that break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Each Man-of-War has multiple gastrozooids complete with individual mouths. After the food has been digested, any undigestible remains are pushed out through the mouths. The nourishment from the digested food is absorbed into the body and eventually circulates to the different polyps in the colony.