Experienced aquarists know that the vitality and vibrance of aquarium fish hinges not only on a clean environment but on the quality of the diet you provide for your fish. Flake and pellet foods have been long time aquarium dietary staples and frozen foods are popular for their nutritional value and variety, but a couple new kinds on the feeding block are gaining in popularity – gel foods and frozen “IQF” foods. Read More »
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Don’t Just Feed Your Fish, Feed Your Fish Better
Hello, Patty here. Everyone has heard the old saying “you are what you eat” and, when considering your diet, we all know which foods we’re supposed to eat (not that we always do) to keep our bodies happy and live long and healthy lives. The same goes for our pets; even our fish! Just as we supplement and vary the diets of dogs, cats, and other pets, it is important to vary the foods we give our fish, so that they can develop to their full potential with regards to color and size and so they can get nutrition necessary for breeding, fighting parasites and diseases, and for looking their best for years in your aquarium.
Flake food is a staple
There is a plethora of foods in the market today for feeding aquarium fish. Most of the foods aquarists are accustomed to are in flake, pellet or granule form. These foods are the staple diet most people feed their fish as they are economical, well preserved, easy to store and convenient to feed. They are formulated with ingredients like fish meal, wheat flour, and a laundry list of other ingredients including added colors and vitamins to make up for the natural nutrients lost in the preparation of these foods. These foods are often sold as complete diets, and will keep fish alive and well-colored, but may ultimately be lacking. Kind of like one of us eating ramen noodles or some similar packaged food, every meal of every day.
Fresh is best, Frozen is still better
So what do you do if you want to give your fish a diet upgrade? There are very few fresh or live fish foods available to consumers, but earthworms, blackworms, ghost shrimp and some others can be a nice treat for some fish if you can find them. A terrific alternative is choosing frozen foods and formulas to supplement the flake food regimen several times through the week. These foods are harvested and frozen at the peak of freshness, preserving the naturally occurring vitamins and nutrients. Many of these foods are (or are very similar to) foods that the fish in your aquarium would seek out in their natural environment. Today, there are varieties of frozen foods available to suit the needs of just about any type of fish you keep. These high-quality, high-protein food items increase the vitality and color of your fish, and allow you to see the fish develop and thrive.
Many of the frozen foods on the market are aimed at marine fish and corals, but not exclusively. There are brine shrimp, mysis, plankton, baby brine shrimp, clam, mussel, and more which give you lots of options for variety and each with its own benefits. Baby Brine, for example are very tiny but high in nutrition and ideal for fish fry and filter feeding inverts and corals, while clam, mussel, and squid come in larger pieces for larger fish. Whole silversides and sand eels are great for groupers, eels and other larger fish with big appetites!
Freshwater options include bloodworms, glass worms, and beef heart, though mysis shrimp, plankton and brine may also be fed.
There are also several formula foods available, which are combinations of these proteins which may be suspended in a gel with other foods such as spirulina, sponge or other specialty food bits to enhance the diets of specialty feeders like marine angels and omnivores. Consider the fish you’re keeping and what they might eat on the reef or in the river bed to select what’s best.
Some Things About Frozen Foods
Frozen foods are available for purchase online or in retail stores. Being frozen, these foods are shipped with dry ice to keep them in that state. The foods must be thawed before feeding, but this is easy as the foods are usually in cube serving form or in thin flat packs that can easily portioned and the appropriate portion snapped off from the body of the pack. The food portions can be placed in a small vessel of cool water (never warm or hot water as it will cook the food and break down the nutrients) and will be thawed in minutes and ready to feed. You may even choose to soak frozen foods in additional vitamin supplements like garlic extract or Selcon as they thaw to enhance them even more.
Frozen foods may be a bit more expensive and perishable, but the benefits to the food will outweigh the disadvantages. Give it a try – your fish will love you for it!
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about feeding frozen foods or feeding fish in general let us know!
Until Next Time,
Live Foods for Marine and Freshwater Fishes – Worms and Worm Look-a-likes
Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Marine, grindal, micro, white, blood and other worms drive even the most peaceful aquarium fishes wild, and with good reason – they figure prominently in diets worldwide, and are packed with important nutrients. Research in which I was involved (Bronx Zoo) has shown that earthworms form a near-perfect diet for many amphibians, and may likely be so for certain fishes as well.
Blackworms are a pet trade staple…today I’d like to mention a few lesser-known types.
Marine Worms, Families Neridae and Annelidae
Sandworms, bloodworms and other large marine species are seasonally available at bait stores or, where legal, may be collected under rocks along bays and tidal streams. They are an expensive but important component of the diets of a great many saltwater fishes and invertebrates.
Several species have sharp mouthparts and can deliver a painful bite, and may be dangerous to aquarium pets as well….in fact, the hard jaw material of one sandworm is being put to industrial uses. It is usually prudent to remove the head before feeding.
Marine worms store well packed in seaweed under refrigeration. They are interesting aquarium animals in their own right – please look for a future article on their care.
Microworms, Anguillula silasiae and Grindalworms, Enchytraeus bucholizi
Grindalworms are related to earthworms; microworms are not true worms, but rather nematodes.
Both breed well in damp peat moss at 75 F, and feed upon vegetable-based tropical fish flakes.
Whiteworms, Enchytraeus albidus
Closely related to grindalworms, whiteworms fare better at cooler temperatures (50-58 F) and may be fed oatmeal and staple diet fish flakes. Cultures are commercially available.
Bloodworms, Chironomus spp.
Unlike marine bloodworms, Chironomus are the aquatic larvae of tiny flying insects known as midges (“gnats”). Interestingly, they utilize a form of hemoglobin to transport oxygen in the blood, much as we do.
Bloodworms are impractical to breed but are available at pet stores, and survive well under refrigeration. Like other freshwater invertebrates, bloodworms may be fed to marine creatures, but they spoil rapidly in salt water.
Earthworms are the most useful of all invertebrates…a breeding colony will supply the needs of fishes and invertebrates of all sizes. Please see my article Rearing and Using Earthworms for further information.
For an interesting article on sandworm behavior and breeding habits, please see this article.
Please write in with your questions and comments.
Thanks, until next time,