Hamsters are omnivores, which means they can eat fish as part of their diet. Fish is a good source of animal protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, antioxidants, and vitamin D.
These nutrients are vital for a hamster’s brain function, immune system, bones, and energy levels. However, fish can be high in calcium, so only a small amount can be consumed.
Hamsters should eat fish because it’s rich in animal protein, which contains amino acids that aren’t found in plant-based foods.
Salmon, cod, and sardines are the healthiest fish, while shellfish and tuna are less healthy due to pollutants and a high mercury and sodium content.
Fresh or farm-grown fish are recommended. Water-packed tinned fish is also a good choice, but salted fish and fish in oil can cause obesity, hypertension, and heart disease.
Only feed your hamster a small portion of fish with all the bones removed.
Do Hamsters Like Fish?
Most hamsters enjoy the taste of fish because they’re food-orientated animals that enjoy new flavors and textures. Fish meat is also lean, tasty, and easy to tear and chew.
However, some hamsters are more reluctant to try new foods, so you may need to encourage them to eat their first piece of fish. You can do this by doing the following:
- Only providing fresh and flavorsome fish, not pre-packaged fish.
- Offering fish by hand if your hamster trusts you.
- Allowing your hamster to investigate fish by placing it on a safe surface.
Some hamsters dislike fish. If your hamster doesn’t eat the fresh food you provide, it’ll rot in the enclosure. This will be a problem if your hamster creates burrows, as you won’t be able to reach it.
You must remove any uneaten fish before your hamster takes it away in its pouch.
How Much Fish Can Hamsters Have?
Because hamster species vary in shape and size, they tolerate different amounts of fish. So, always adhere to the following guidelines:
- Syrian hamsters: One teaspoon of fish every week.
- Roborovski hamsters: One teaspoon of fish every other week.
- Dwarf hamsters (winter white, Chinese, and Campbell’s): One teaspoon of fish monthly.
Don’t exceed these limits to avoid putting your hamster at risk of nutritional imbalances.
Is Fish Good for Hamsters?
When provided in small quantities, fish has the following health benefits for hamsters:
The amino acids in fish form the building blocks for a hamster’s muscle tissue. Protein also gives hamsters the energy they need to run on their wheels, dig tunnels, and forage for food.
However, fish isn’t a natural source of protein for hamsters in the wild, so incorporate other dietary sources to give it all the nutrients it needs. The healthiest varieties of protein include:
- Boiled eggs.
- Cooked chicken.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to The American Journal of Pathology, a diet enriched with omega-3 fatty acids prevents skeletal muscle legions.
Omega-3s can also prevent autoimmune diseases and inflammation. Cod, salmon, and sardines are particularly high in omega-3.
Vitamin D prevents rickets, which is a painful bone disorder.
It also helps hamsters absorb phosphorus and dietary calcium. Low vitamin D levels are dangerous because the hamster’s body dissolves existing bone to get the missing nutrients.
Iodine is an essential nutrient, as it protects hamsters against some forms of cancer. Iodine also helps create thyroid hormones, essentially maintaining the speed of the body’s chemical reactions.
The Journal of Nutrition found that excess iodine doesn’t cause any issues in hamsters.
High Mineral Content
Fish contains many vital nutrients, including:
Deficiencies can cause hamsters to become lethargic and prone to diseases.
According to BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that hamsters fed a fish oil diet had lower oxidative stress levels and increased antioxidant status.
Selenium is a mineral in fish that lowers the risk of heart and neurological diseases while benefitting thyroid health.
Is Fish Bad for Hamsters?
While fish provides hamsters with many nutritional benefits, there are some issues, including:
Some fish, such as tuna, are high in sodium (salt). As with everything, too much sodium is unhealthy.
Fish can be toxic to eat due to the build-up of heavy metals, such as mercury. Shellfish and tuna are most likely to retain these toxins, and smaller fish have higher levels than larger ones.
Sardines, salmon, and cod are the safest for hamsters to eat because they contain the least mercury.
Fish and shellfish retain pollutants found in the ocean. Shellfish are most prone to harboring contaminants, as they feed off decay or waste on the sea floors.
Also, some shellfish pick up toxins, parasites, and bacteria. For example, crabs and shellfish eat algae – some algae are toxic and remain in the meat.
However, this is rare. There are strict safety standards in place to prevent this from happening. To minimize the risk of contamination, wild-caught seafood is the freshest kind.
Can Hamsters Eat Tuna?
While tuna is healthy, owners must be careful how much they feed their hamsters. Tuna contains more salt and mercury than other seafood, leading to:
- Weight gain.
- Digestive issues.
Light and skipjack tuna contains the lowest amount of mercury.
However, bigeye and albacore tuna are high in mercury, causing heavy metals to accumulate in a hamster’s tissue over time.
Only give a hamster water-packed tuna, as oily tuna is too fatty.
Can Hamsters Eat Shellfish?
While shellfish contains a higher toxin count than other fish, it’s safe for hamsters to eat in small quantities if you ensure the following:
- Ensure it’s sourced from a high-quality farm.
- Cooked properly.
- Fed to healthy hamsters.
There’s also a chance your hamster could develop an allergic reaction to shellfish, so monitor them closely after eating it for the first time.
Can Hamsters Eat Salmon?
Baked and smoked salmon are safe for hamsters.
Salmon is less likely to contain mercury than other fish and is an excellent source of omega-3. While expensive, it’s easy to source from high-quality farms.
Can Hamsters Eat Cod?
Cod is a healthy type of fish because it has a low risk of containing mercury. You can feed cod to your hamster in many ways, including:
All options are okay as long as the fish is plain.
Can Hamsters Eat Sardines?
Sardines are oily, so your hamster can only eat a small quantity. However, alongside salmon and cod, they’re one of the healthiest types of fish and most hamsters like the flavor.
Fried fish isn’t healthy for hamsters because it’s high in saturated fat due to the oils used to cook the fish. Your hamster may enjoy the taste but experience stomach upsets and become obese.