China dominates the global aquaculture industry, most clearly with its massive production and consumption of low trophic-level carp species and its rapidly rising output and exports of tilapia. Although these fish do not require a high percentage of fishmeal in their diets, their large production volumes contribute to China's leading role in global fishmeal consumption. The magnitude of China's dependence on fishmeal supplies – and hence the pressure it places on wild forage fisheries – remains a contentious issue. In this study, we use primary survey data from three provinces in China to examine the current use of aquafeeds in the carp and tilapia sectors and to assess how future demand for fishmeal will likely be affected by the country's shifting patterns of seafood consumption and production. Our results indicate that virtually all carp and tilapia farmers in our survey regions use manufactured feeds containing fishmeal and that median feed conversion ratios (FCRs) are in the range of 1.4 to 1.9. Feeds are poorly targeted on many farms due to widespread polyculture practices, especially the integration of higher-value species into carp ponds to improve farm-level profitability. Our study also suggests that government statistics underestimate household demand for fish by 20–35% because they do not account for out-of-home consumption. As China's demand for fish continues to rise in the future with per capita incomes and urbanization, the co-culture of high-valued species and the use of aquaculture feeds containing fishmeal are also expected to expand.