The effects of delayed first feeding on growth and survival of spotted mandarin fish Siniperca scherzeri larvae were examined under controlled conditions. Morphometric characters [yolk-sac volume, oil globule volume, head depth (HD), body depth (BD), eye diameter (ED), musculature height (MH), mouth diameter (MD) and total length (LT)], body mass (M), specific growth rate (SGR) and survival were evaluated under different first-feeding time (2, 3, 4 and 5 days after hatching). Larvae began to feed exogenously at 2 days after hatching (DAH) and the point of no return (PNR) occurred between 5 and 6 DAH at 23° C, range ±1·0° C. The yolk volume of larvae first-fed at 2 days had a significant difference compared with that of larvae first-fed at 3, 4 and 5 days on 3 and 4 DAH. The larvae first-fed at 2 days achieved comparatively better growth performance than that of 3, 4 and 5 days. On 5 DAH, all morphometric characters had significant differences between 2 and 5 days and 2 and 4 days initial feeding, respectively. Total mortality was recorded on 9 DAH for the larvae first-fed at 5 days. On 12 DAH, significant differences were observed between 2 and 4 days and 3 and 4 days initial feeding for all morphometric characters. From 16 DAH to the end of experiment, all growth variables of the larvae first-fed at 2 days were significantly higher than those in other treatments. The SGR (2–9 DAH) first-fed at 2 and 3 days were significantly higher than 4 and 5 day treatments, and the SGR (9–16 DAH) first-fed at 2 days was significantly higher than 3 and 4 day treatments. There was no significant difference, however, of SGR (16–28 DAH) among treatments. Survival rate was significantly higher at 2 days initial feeding (27·42%) when compared with 3 (15·96%) and 4 days (7·92%) initial feeding at the end of experiment. The present study suggests that the first feeding of S. scherzeri larvae should be initiated at 2 days after hatching for achieving good growth and survival.