Providing your fish with adequate nutrition is vital to maintaining your fish’s health and vitality. There are many different types and brands of fish food on the market. Types of fish food include; flake, freeze dried, frozen and live foods. There are more brands than can be mentioned here, however, a few trusted brands to look out for are Tetra, Wardley and Hikari.
Most aquarium hobbyists use flake foods as a staple diet for their fish. There is nothing wrong with this, as many brands will provide all the nutrition that your fish need. However, there are brands that contain very little in the way of nutrition.
You should never buy fish food from supermarket stores because supermarket store flake foods tend to have a small list of inexpensive ingredients and a lot of filler ingredients, typically flour. These are not only lacking in nutrition but can cause digestion problems in your fish, which can lead to infection and eventually death.
Flake foods are often available in bulk. However, it is unwise to purchase flake food in bulk because although it might save you money, fish food will become stale if not used soon enough. Flake foods can be bought in one kilogram bags but unless you have hundreds of fish, the flakes will eventually become stale and you will be stuck with stale flakes for years.
There is also a large range of speciality flakes on the market. These try and cater to the specific dietary requirements of certain fish. One of the more useful types of specialty flakes are those which are high in vegetable matter. Most of these vegetable flakes contain Spirulina, which is a photosynthetic cyanobacterium. Spirulina is high in protein and a great source of many amino acids that are otherwise difficult to acquire. Spirulina flakes are great for a wide variety of vegetarian fishes and you can also buy spirulina enriched wafers that sink, which are very good for algae-eating bottom feeders like catfish.
Various other speciality flake foods include; carnivore flakes and colour flakes. The effectiveness of these flakes as dietary supplements is debatable, however, feel free to purchase a variety of flakes which will aid in providing your fish with a balanced diet.
Freeze-dried foods differ from flake foods in that they usually only contain a single animal-ingredient, such as mosquito larvae, blood worm, tubifex worms etc. These foods are usually in the form of blocks or as individual organisms, rather than flakes. Freeze-dried foods should not be considered complete diets and should be used as part a well-balanced diet.
Almost all of the organisms that are freeze-dried can be found as either living or frozen foods, however, the freeze-dried form has the convenience of being easy to store, as they do not need to be frozen or refrigerated.
Frozen foods have all the benefits of live foods without any of the problems that come with feeding live foods. Frozen foods allow us to feed our fish organisms which would be difficult to culture in captivity and allow us to come very close to replicating what our fish would find in their natural habitats. Frozen foods have none of the problems of live foods, which can introduce diseases and parasites. Frozen foods also have the advantage over live foods in that they are prepared while still nutritious. Live foods can quickly lose their nutritional value, as the organisms metabolise. This is often seen in Brine Shrimp, which can be bought in small bags in many aquarium stores. These Brine Shrimp are often no more than living cardboard by the time you buy them, as they have absorbed all the available nutrients. Most frozen organisms are deliberately enriched before being frozen and their guts loaded with extra vitamins and minerals for the fish to then consume.
When buying live foods, the hobbyist needs to ensure that the food comes from a reputable source. Only use trusted sources of live foods because, as mentioned above, live foods can introduce disease. Live foods can be great for initiating breeding in some of the more demanding fish species and it is sometimes the movement of the food that gets the fish sufficiently enthusiastic to warrant breeding.
Most fish will benefit from the addition of vegetable matter in their diets and a few require vegetable matter in their diets. Most notable of which are the South American algae-eating catfish (See: Breeding Bristlenose), silver dollars, and mbuna (rock-dwelling cichlids from Lake Malawi, Africa). These fish have extraordinarily long guts and will develop lower-digestive system problems if they do not get enough roughage in their diets. These problems are usually followed by a lethal bacterial infection.
Almost all fish will also benefit from the addition of vegetable matter in their diets, as greens contain folic acid and the carotenes that are needed for the creation of red and yellow pigments. Some of the best vegetable foods are; cucumber, frozen peas, blanched lettuce and zucchini.
The next thing to know about feeding your fish is how much to feed. Unlike people, fish do not require food energy in order to maintain their body temperatures, which is a major source of energy consumption in people. As a result, fish can get by on remarkably little food.
A practical rule of thumb to use when feeding your fish is to feed as much as your fish can eat in five minutes. This can be adjusted depending on how many times a day you feed your fish. For freshwater fish, you should never feed more than three times a day. When feeding more than once a day, feed as much as your fish will eat in two to three minutes. This method works well with schooling fish as they feed as a school rather than competitively. However, more aggressive fish like cichlid’s can abuse a food supply and prevent other fish from feeding. Most aquarists therefore end up feeding a cichlid aquarium more than the recommended amount, and so they must deal with the high nitrate levels, algae growth, and unwanted breeding that comes with overfed fish. Feeding your fish smaller amounts allows you to keep wastes to a minimum, thus allowing you a healthier, more easily maintained, and more enjoyable tank.
The five-minute rule cannot be used for bottom feeders, like loaches and catfishes. Bottom feeders feed very differently to other fish and prefer to eat slowly and over a longer period of time. Catfish need to be provided with their own type of food and will not survive on the scraps that other fish don’t eat. Most bottom dwellers are nocturnal and suppling sinking wafers when the lights go out is a good idea.