Laboratory and field investigations were conducted to study the food habit of Chinese perch Siniperca chuatsi (Basilewsky) from first feeding through adult stage. Only fish larvae were consumed by Chinese perch larvae (2–21 days from hatching), and the presence of zooplankton did not have any significant effect on their survival rate. The ability of Chinese perch to feed on zooplankton is clearly limited by some innate factor. Instead of gill rakers, Chinese perch larvae have well-developed sharp teeth at the first feeding stage, and are well adapted to the piscivorous feeding habit unique to the larvae of Chinese perch, e.g. they bite and ingest the tails of other fish larvae. At the first feeding stage (2 days from hatching), daily rations were both very low, either in light or complete darkness. Although early-staged Chinese perch larvae (7–17 days from hatching) could feed in complete darkness, their daily rations were always significantly higher in light than in complete darkness. Late-staged Chinese perch larvae (21 days from hatching) were able to feed in complete darkness as well as in light, similar to the case of Chinese perch yearlings. Chinese perch yearlings (total length, 14–16 cm) consumed prey fish only and refused shrimp when visual cues were available (in light), but they consumed both prey when visual cues were not available (in complete darkness), suggesting that prey consumption by Chinese perch yearlings is affected by their sensory modality in predation. Both prey were found in the stomachs of similar-sized Chinese perch (total length, 14–32 cm) from their natural habitat, suggesting that shrimp are consumed by Chinese perch at night. Prey selection of Chinese perch with a length >38 cm, which consumed only fish in the field, appears to be based upon prey size instead of prey type. These results suggest that although environmental factors (e.g. light intensity) affect prey detection by Chinese perch, this fish is anatomically and behaviourally predisposed to prey on live fish from first feeding. This makes it a difficult fish to cultivate using conventional feeds.