Comments: Opportunistic omnivore; eats mainly small invertebrates, often taken near water surface. Also eats small fishes and, in the absence of abundant animal food, algae and diatoms (Moyle 1976).
Mosquitofish are principally carnivorous, and have strong, conical teeth and short guts (Meffe et al. 1983, Turner and Snelson 1984). They are reported to feed on rotifers, snails, spiders, insect larvae, crustaceans, algae, and fish fry, including their own progeny (Barnickol 1941, Minckley 1973, Meffe and Crump 1987). Cannibalism has been documented by several authors (Seale 1917, Krumholz 1948, Walters and Legner 1980, Harrington and Harrington 1982). Plant material is taken occasionally (Barnickol 1941) and may make up a significant portion of the diet during periods of scarcity of animal prey (Harrington and Harrington 1982). Grubb (1972) showed that anuran eggs from temporary ponds were preferentially selected over those breeding in permanent systems. Several workers have documented changes in the prey community after mosquitofish introduction (Hurlbert et al. 1972, Farley and Younce 1977, Hurlbert and Mulla 1981, Walters and Legner 1980).
Due to their name, these fishes are popularly believed to be "super" mosquito-larvae predators. Reddy and Shakuntala (1979), however, found that adult females grew poorly on a diet of mosquito larvae, but they grew quickly on tubifex worms. These results matched the outcome of preference tests, i.e. worms were chosen over mosquito larvae. Cech et al. (1980) found that juveniles grew more quickly when they were raised on brine shrimp nauplii than tubifex worms. Many biologists have concluded these fishes are no more effective in mosquito-larval control than various native fishes (Cross 1967). The effectiveness of predation on mosquito larvae decreases as water volume decreases (Reddy and Pandian 1973).