The most important daily task would probably be feeding your fish. Not only will you find this enjoyable, but it will also give you an insight into your fish’s normal behavior patterns. In time to come, you will be able to spot any differences in behavior, which could indicate a possible health or aquarium problem.
Your fish should be interested in the foods that you offer them, and should not hesitate in consuming it readily. Indeed, all of my fish come to the surface as soon as they see me approach the tanks with their food.
- Which types of foods should I choose?
- What is a well-balanced diet for fish?
- Dry foods & flakes
- Live food – harvest from the wild or buy
- First foods for fry – make your own at home
- Vegetable foods
- Other types of foods
- How much food should aquarium fish be given?
Which types of foods should I choose?
It should however be remembered that not all fish will thrive if fed on the same diet. For example, you wouldn’t think of feeding a cat with lettuce, or a rabbit with beefsteak, it’s much the same with fish. Some species of fish require a vegetable diet, while some need live food, on the other hand, there are species that do well when fed on both.
- Meat-eaters are referred to as “Carnivores”
- Vegetable-eaters are referred to as “Herbivores”
- Fish that eat a general diet, i.e. a little of both, are referred to as “Omnivores”
- Mud-eaters are referred to as “Limnivores”
There are many different types of dry foods, such as tablets, sticks, granules, wafers, and of course flakes, as well as others. All of these dried foods can be bought in various compositions, depending on the type of fish you want to feed.
For example, I use sinking algae wafers, or plant chips, for my Plecostomus (mainly Herbivore, although they will eat various worms, etc.), and the surface feeders such as my Gouramis, are fed on high-quality flakes, while at the same time, my Green Terror (Cichlid, usually Carnivore) likes to feed on the algae wafers and the flakes, as well as live food.
Another important factor is diet; it is a fact that a poorly balanced diet will be responsible for the fish’s inability to fight off diseases. If a fish is to live a healthy life it must have a well-balanced diet.
What is a well-balanced diet for fish?
Fish need to have all the right ingredients in their diet. These should include vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, as well as fats, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates.
The typical analysis of a good quality flake food for a general diet, i.e. fish that like a mixed diet (omnivore), should read something like:
- Protein 35%
- Fat 2%-5%
- Fibre 3%-8%
The typical analysis of a good quality flake food for carnivorous fish, i.e. meat-eaters, should read something like:
- Protein over 45%
- Fat 3%-6%
- Fibre 2%-4%
The typical analysis of a good quality flake food, or a tablet or wafer type food for herbivore fish, i.e. vegetarians, should read something like:
- Protein 15%
- Fat 1%-3%
- Fibre 5%-10%
As with most foods, either animal or human, there is little to indicate how rich the food is in vitamins. There is usually a list of vitamins on the label, but this, as a rule, doesn’t mean very much to a normal person reading it.
Calcium and Phosphorous should be found in fishmeal, these two components are particularly important for the development of the fish’s bony skeleton.
The fat content is quite important, this should be as low as possible, as with all animals fat is very unhealthy, even more so for fish. I’m sure that you are aware of what happens to fat when it gets cold, yes, it turns into a solid. Do you see my point? fish are cold-blooded animals! Therefore, the fat that is consumed by the fish, in its diet, will coagulate more readily, and lead to fatty deposits in the tissues, which, in turn, will cause degeneration of internal organs such as the liver.
Dry foods & flakes
Great advantages with dry foods
There are great advantages with dry foods, they are always available, they can be easily stored; which saves on regular trips to buy them. The risk of disease or parasites being introduced into the aquarium with the food is completely eliminated with dry foods.
The major manufacturers of dry fish foods have formulated their flakes from natural ingredients, which include vegetable matter; therefore there will be sufficient quantities of all the important trace elements.
Although it should be noted that the vitamin content does have a limited shelf life, the vitamin content is usually guaranteed until the best before date, this will be on the container. On the other hand, minerals and trace elements, do have a long shelf life and are not adversely affected by prolonged storage.
Most manufacturers display a list of ingredients as well as a typical analysis on their packaging; you should look for this label when buying food for your fish. It’s the foods that are labeled as “complete balanced diets” that you need to look for.
Could I use dry foods as a staple diet for my fish?
There was a time when dry foods were only used out of necessity because its grade could not always be assured. Even now modern flake foods are all too often ignored or dismissed as being less than a complete diet. It’s also surprising that many fishkeeping books seem to take a skeptical view of dry foods. There’s no need for this negative attitude.
Nowadays it’s not too difficult to provide good quality flake food. Most flake foods now are of unquestionable origin, they are scientifically developed, and are without a doubt a complete diet. Commercial foods have progressed to the point now were most species can live a lifetime on a varied diet of high-quality dry foods.
Having said that, I’ve been using dried and flake foods now for about ten years, and my fish have always been lively, colorful, and healthy. My experience shows, with confidence, that you can provide your fish with dried, and flake foods, which have an adequate quantity of all the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, as well as all the other necessary ingredients that are needed for a staple diet.
Not all dry foods are designed as a staple diet
Some foods such as dried daphnia, bloodworms, or tubifex worms, as well as live and frozen foods, do not necessarily contain all the vitamins and trace elements. They are fine to supplement a staple diet, but should not be the only food you feed to your fish, otherwise, you will be faced with dietary problems developing through deficiencies of these components. These problems can be corrected by regular feeding with a high-quality flake food.
Live food – harvest from the wild or buy
Most species of fish will thrive on live foods, most of which can be purchased from your local aquatic store. Live food that is fed to your fish should be bought, or cultured if you know how to. Live food that has been caught from the wild, for example, a garden pond, could introduce diseases into the aquarium. The danger of disease being introduced this way is also increased because of the warmer water of the tropical aquarium.
The best-known live foods that are available are:
These are small crustaceans and are sometimes referred to as “water fleas”, although they are not really fleas at all. They can be found in ponds during spring and summer, and are often sold in aquatic shops. They don’t have a great food value, but fish love them, and they will certainly keep fit chasing and catching them.
The larvae of midges are very nutritious and can be found at the bottom of ponds or even small puddles. You may have seen them almost anywhere that holds any amount of water as small wriggling red worm-like creatures about ½ inch (1.3cm) long.
It may seem surprising, considering the fact that these worms live in the muddiest and dirtiest of conditions, that it is recommended as food at all. Nonetheless, it is a popular choice when it comes to fish treats, although fish should not be fed too much or too often with tubifex because of the high albumen (protein) content.
These provide an excellent food, and are full of albumen, making them suitable for larger fish, such as large Cichlids. One reason why they are not used as often as one might think is the fact that they have to be chopped up, before giving them to the fish.
You could try your local fishing tackle shop for these; otherwise, if you obtain your own, make sure you thoroughly clean them in fresh water. Before they can be fed to your fish you must place them in a box and allow enough time for them to clear out their intestinal tract of sand. Remember to keep them moist, too.
First foods for fry – make your own at home
The fry of egg-layers are usually first fed on “Infusoria”, this is by enlarging an obsolete term, but is still used by fish keepers to represent a variety of minute or microscopic animal and vegetable organisms, which develop in an infusion of decaying organic matter.
Infusoria cultures can be prepared quite simply; the spores are airborne so there is no need to obtain starter cultures. All you need is an open jar three-quarters full of aquarium water, to which you add either a small amount of potato (lightly boiled may be of benefit), banana skin, dried lettuce leaves, or hay; allow this to stand for about a week, after which it will become cloudy with Infusoria.
When it is time to feed the fry just pour a little of this cloudy water into the aquarium, then top up with aquarium water again. If you have a few of these cultures on the go at once it will give you a constant supply of Infusoria.
These marine shrimps, which are also available in dried form, can easily be cultivated from eggs that are available from aquatic shops. They will be supplied in sealed airtight containers and it is imperative that they remain in a dry and cool place; otherwise, if they get damp they will fail to hatch.
Take a one-liter plastic bottle and half fill it with tap water, the water should be kept at 75°F (24°C), add to it one and a half teaspoons of salt (aquarium or sea salt preferably), then add a quarter of a teaspoon of the eggs. You will then need to place a piece of an airline into the bottle and attach the other end of the airline to an air pump.
Run the air pump, which will circulate the eggs in the bottle, after about 36 hours the eggs will have hatched and the shells will float to the surface, at this point you can remove the airline. Wait for a further 30 minutes and you will see the newly hatched Brine shrimp at the base of the bottle.
For feeding, just place a plastic tube into the bottle and siphon the minute shrimps through, either clean dry linen, nylon, or paper towel. They can now be washed in fresh water and fed to the fish.
This minute worm is also bought as a culture; you may be able to obtain a starter culture from another aquarist. Microworms feed on the surface of cereal-based foods, therefore you will need to mix up some oatmeal with a little water (porridge), be sure to only use water. Let the mixture cool then spread a layer of it, about 1cm (0.4inch) thick, onto the base of a container or saucer, take a small spoonful of the culture and place it onto the porridge, put a lid or cover (which must have a few small air holes in it), over the container, and keep it in a warm place 70°-75°F (21-24°C).
After a few days, the worms will have multiplied and will be climbing around the sides of the container, you can wipe these off with a small brush and feed them directly to the fry.
You will need to start fresh cultures after about five days, after that it starts to turn foul. All you need to do then is make a fresh porridge mix, and place some of your old cultures on to the top of your new porridge mix. If you use about three containers you will have a succession of cultures for continuous use.
There are many fish, whose main or only diet, consists of vegetable foods. Many Catfish belong in this category, along with some livebearing species, and some Carps and Minnows. You usually find that these types of fish are particularly fond of algae.
Some Catfish especially can often be seen rasping on objects in the aquarium, and even on the aquarium glass itself where algae has grown. As long as this algae is not out of control it can be safely left in the aquarium for these fish to feed on. However, the fact that it is not out of control, therefore not in great abundance, means that you will need to offer your fish extra vegetable matter to supplement their diet.
There are a great variety of vegetable foods that are suitable to feed to your fish, some possibilities include lettuce and spinach leaves, which must be blanched (briefly boiled) prior to feeding to your fish, slices of cucumber, peas, and of course there are a number of excellent dried foods available, which include all the right ingredients for vegetarian fish.
Other types of foods
The Arowana eating a centipede
There are some foods that may not have been considered by newcomers to the hobby, which don’t come under the category of normal, or commercial fare for pet fish, for example, meat, other fish, and crustaceans. These foods could be considered as “solid” foods, and some fish, in particular large Cichlids, do like to have solid food.
Feeding your fish on high-quality flake and live food etc is still recommended, but occasionally you could try small pieces of beef heart (no fat), pieces of mussel or prawn, and pieces of fish, if you’re having some fish yourself for a meal, before you cook it, cut a small piece off for your fish, they’ll love it.
If you are a fisherman, it is not wise to feed your fish with fish that you have caught from natural bodies of freshwater, this carries the risk of introducing diseases into your aquarium. A simple little rule is that you should feed freshwater fish with saltwater fish or feed saltwater fish with freshwater fish. If you follow this rule you will prevent any disease from cross-contaminating.
One thing that you must not feed to your fish is bread; this will swell up in their stomach and could cause problems.
How much food should aquarium fish be given?
The most important point to be made is not to overfeed. When a fish eats more food it produces more excreta, this may sound obvious, but when this is combined with the uneaten food that is undoubtedly leftover from feeding too much, it causes a problem.
All of this waste will fall to the aquarium floor, and start to decompose, in turn, this will produce pollutants that no fish can tolerate, and could ultimately lead to fatalities. In simple terms, the easiest way to aquarium mismanagement is through overfeeding.
The thumb rule is to feed your fish the amount they can consume within 3-4 minutes, then remove any leftover matters. I feed my fish two times a day. You can feed your fish as many times a day as you want, higher frequency of feeding should be accompanied by reducing the food amount of each time to obey the rule.