Fish Food Varieties :: Feeding & Nutrition of Fish
The following article takes a look at the types of fish food on the market and what type of fish would be best suited to these foods.
The range and quality of flake fish foods on the market today is great for both our animals and their keepers. Flake isn't perfect, but it comes pretty close. For the average aquarist, it's at the heart of a balanced feeding regime.
There are a few things you can do to get the best for your fish from a flake food diet. To begin, freshness is important. Big bulk containers may be attractive, but the average hobbyist is better buying several small containers, feeding the different types of flake in rotation, and not leaving it to sit and become stale or lose vitamins.
It would be an error to rely on one type of staple food, and nothing else, when there is so much variety available. Color enhancing food, vegetable food, growth food - all have their places depending on what type of fish you keep.
Pellets, wafers and sticks:
Pellets, wafers and stick food are variations on flake, simply delivered in different formats. Each has its specific uses.
Pellets come in a variety of sizes, and are excellent for fish that like to strike at their food. They allow a fair bit of control over the amount of food going into the tank.
Wafers are most popular among catfish keepers, especially those who keep veggie loving Loracarids.
Sticks are popular for large fish, especially cichlids. To feed large fish enough flake would be messy, and a potential pollution problem, while food sticks are easier for both the fish and its keeper.
The process of freeze-drying leaves us with some excellent options for feeding surface-oriented fish. Bloodworms and tubifex cubes are the most common, as these animals can easily and effectively be preserved in this fashion. We can sometimes get freeze-dried artemia (brine shrimp) or daphnia - first-rate foods that suffer a bit from the process, as it is easy to reduce these tiny aquatic animals to their hard shells. An excellent, though rarer freeze-dried treat is mosquito larvae. All of these foods are great for Bettas, gouramies, killies and livebearers.
The most common frozen foods are among the best we can offer our fish - frozen bloodworms and frozen adult brine shrimp. Both are excellent, especially for young fish and potential breeders. As long as they have not been thawed and refrozen, they retain a lot of their original nutritional value.
Aquarists with a history of allergies should be cautious using bloodworms (midge larvae), whether they are frozen or freeze-dried. Many people react badly to this excellent fish food.
Glassworms are another possibility, although they don't seem as readily available as other frozen foods. Krill also has its uses, for those who like their aquarium fish big.
Freezing also allows for paste foods - in a way, another variation on flake. Both aquarists and commercial companies produce first rate recipes based on what, for fish, are unnatural ingredients.
Beef-heart is the best known of the recipe foods. All stories about pirhanas and unlucky cows aside, beef is not usual fare for fish. With all its sinew and fat removed, a cow heart provides a lean (fish do not digest animal fats well) source of protein. The commercially produced versions are convenient, and for do it yourself types, the Internet is rich in beefheart based recipes, usually for Discus or large cichlids. Recipes based on liver, on chopped shrimp or non-oily fish are less common, but have their supporters.
A lot of aquarists, especially those interested in breeding their fish, will either collect or culture live food animals.
The obvious choice, especially for fishermen, is earthworms. They can be kept in damp shredded newspaper, until their guts empty of dirt, and then fed to large fish. For small fish, chopping is necessary - not a pleasant prospect for the squeamish. Various sizes of earthworms can be purchased at fishing bait shops, caught in gardens, or cultivated in cool containers.
Whiteworms and grindal worms are smallish creatures, appropriate for most adult fish. They are cultivated in cool containers (even fridges!) on a grain based diet (bread, baby cereal, oatmeal, etc.)
Blackworms can be bought in some larger petstores. Speak to the employees for tips on keeping these worms healthy over the few days you'll need to feed them all to your fish.
You may also find live adult brine shrimp, an expensive treat for your fish, but one they will appreciate.
Some hardy souls cultivate laboratory type cultures of wingless fruit-flies. These are amazing food for surface feeders, but they have been known to escape.
Microworm cultures can sometimes be found. These tiny worms, grown in cornmeal or baby cereal, are excellent food for fry.
The old standby of ambitious aquarium keepers are brine shrimp, which can be hatched from eggs.
A good source for ideas on live food is laboratory supply houses. Keepers of large fish cultivate beetles, or even other fish as ifeeders'.
Other fishkeepers go hunting their live food. Daphnia (water fleas) provide excellent nutrition and roughage, and can be netted out of clean, slightly flowing water, where they congregate in large groups.
Still water will give us mosquito larvae, a highly nutritional live food with only one drawback. Feed the larvae to your fish quickly before they metamorphose into hungry adult mosquitoes!
In season, various types of freshwater shrimp can be captured. They usually favor cooler water. Glassworms (not really worms but insect larvae) can be taken from under winter ice, if you really get into live food collecting.
Tubifex worms can be caught in flowing water. They are a controversial catch, as they often come from polluted water, and thrive around sewage. Some hobbyists rinse them heavily, and watch their catfish go wild eating them, while other people prefer to avoid them as a health risk for their fish.
It's best to collect live food from water with no fish, to avoid the very slight possibility of disease transmission. As well, beware of catching larger insects or dragonfly larvae, as these can be dangerous predators for smaller fish.
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