Theory predicts that staying in a refuge has benefits in terms of predator avoidance and costs in terms of lost feeding opportunities. In this study, we investigated how the relative importance of these costs and benefits changes with increasing body length. This is of particular interest in animals such as fish, which show continuous growth throughout their lives. Our results suggest that larger fish are subject to lower predation risks and are less affected by food deprivation than small fish, with fish decreasing their responses to food–deprivation treatments more strongly with increasing body length than to predation treatments. This may explain our observation that large fish emerged later from a refuge than small ones and spent shorter times outside the refuge. The key role of differential responses to food deprivation was further illustrated by the finding that the relative weight loss of individual fish was strongly correlated with a reduction in hiding time even in the absence of body length differences. The importance of inter–individual differences in metabolic rates for the decision–making behaviour of animals is discussed.