by Ruby Bayan
Providing your fish with the right types of food at the right time is crucial. For your pet fish to flourish in their captive environment, they need to assimilate nutrients that are identical to those found in their natural habitat.
Fortunately, different types of fish food, packed with necessary minerals and nutrients, and prepared in various forms, are commercially available. With your knowledge of your specific fishes' nutritional and feeding requirements, and the help of your nearest well-stocked pet food store, your fish communities can enjoy the diets essential to their health, appearance, and life span.
There are several basic principles you need to remember when feeding aquarium fish. By following the feeding tips related to these principles, you can rest assured that your fish community will remain in an equilibrium and in optimum health.
- Each specie of fish has unique food and feeding requirements. Carnivores will need plenty of protein -- from meat slivers or small fish. Herbivores will require adequate fiber -- from plants and algae. Some species appreciate chasing live food like insects and worms.
Tip: Research on the food requirements and feeding habits of each breed of fish you keep. Then inspect the different types of food commercially available. This will help you determine which types of food you need to stock up on.
- Overfeeding can be hazardous to your fish community. Fish can only eat as much as their stomachs will allow. Typically, fishes are able to swallow their one-meal intake within three to five minutes from the time the food is introduced into the tank. After that, the leftovers will remain suspended in the water and start to decay, polluting the environment. Not even the most efficient filtration system can counteract a heavily contaminated setup.
Tip: Feed the fish a little at a time, at regular intervals during the day, instead of dropping one "big meal" into the tank.
- Fish can also get obese -- another consequence of overfeeding. Some breeds of fish (like cyclids and catfish) are prone to non-stop eating, giving way to obesity and poor health. Fish food that are too fatty (like Whiteworms) should be given sparingly.
Tip: Be aware of this obesity phenomenon and feed only the quantity and quality of food that will ensure good health and nutrition.
- Sometimes not all the fish are able to eat properly. In a community tank, fast swimmers and hyperactive fish will get to the food sooner than the rest. Juveniles will be more picky than adults. Nocturnals will only eat when it's dark. Surface feeders will only eat food that are floating; bottom feeders will only eat food that have sunk. A new fish may be too shy to approach the food, and sick ones will simply ignore the feedings.
Tip: Observe all the fish during feeding time. Ensure that all of them are able to eat properly and adequately.
Surface and Mid-level Feeders
- Fish appreciate variety in their diets. Feeding your fish the same food for months at a time can lead to some form of malnutrition. In their native habitats, fish obtain a variety of foods, so this is what you should strive to simulate.
Tip: Vary the types of food you give your fish community -- through a mixture or alternation of prepared foods (dried and frozen), live foods, and greens, for a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
- Live or fresh foods, though nutritious and preferred by most fishes can be risky. Worms, insect larvae, water fleas, and brine shrimp are just some of the live foods that most fish enjoy chasing and gobbling up. Unfortunately, introducing these tasty delights into your aquarium poses the risk of introducing disease-carrying bacteria or accompanying predators (leeches and diving beetles) as well.
Tip: Always rinse live and fresh food under clean running water to remove dirt and dead ones. Culture your own batches, if possible, to avoid harvesting unwanted predators. And scoop out the uneaten ones after each meal because they will eventually die and pollute the water.
In order to understand what types of foods are essential for your fish, here's a rundown of the different nutrients that are crucial for fish health and longevity:
- Proteins - About 50 percent of the total calorie requirement of fish come from proteins. Amino acids, the building blocks of muscles, cells, and tissue are essential, especially for juvenile fish.
- Carbohydrates - More required by freshwater fish than marine fish, carbohydrates are also necessary for energy and growth.
- Fatty Acids - The major energy source for most fish, fats are stored in their tissues to provide stamina and serve as storage medium for fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Minerals - Abundant sources of minerals exist for fishes in their natural habitat. In an aquarium, fishes will need prepared food fortified with minerals (like calcium for their bone formation).
- Vitamins - The essential vitamins your fish need are: A (from greens and crustaceans), B-Complex (from greens, eggs, and yeast), C (from greens, algae, and fish eggs), D (from snails, shrimps, and earthworms), E (from algae, greens, and egg yolk), and K (from water fleas, greens, and liver).
- Fiber - Also a necessary diet component for fish, fiber is abundant in vegetable matter.
See also: Fish Food Options and Feeding Tips and Specific Fish Diets