One has to wonder why there are so many types of food for fish and what their uses are. Flake, live, pellet, stick, freeze dried, and frozen; not to mention floating, sinking etc. It can become a nightmarish maze when going into a pet store and seeing counters upon counters of selections of fish food. All fish food manufacturers use what ever they can to attract your attention to their food products. I am going to just cover adult fish food in this article.
We are taught about the proper nutrition, we, as humans need, i.e. carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The same goes for fish. They require good foods and a variety of types for a balanced diet. It would not take long if we only ate lettuce to either become bored with the same old food day in and out or become sick from lack of other nutrients that we require. Unfortunately we can also feed fish “treats” that make them spoiled and they turn off the other foods they need. If one was to feed a child only sugar foods after a while they become dependant on the sugar so it has it’s effects as an addiction. As children we were suggested (in whatever manner) to make sure we eat all our dinner, including vegetables, before we get our dessert. A fish on the other hand does not listen to reason.
Feeding is a pleasing activity while one can observe the general behaviors of our fish as well as notice any different temperaments due to stress etc. A shy fish may be due to social ranking or possibly unhealthy due to a disease or a parasite. In nature the food supply for different fish species differs as fish adapt to their natural food sources. For healthy growth and colors we wish to see from our fish, they need food that contains all the natural nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in a well balanced diet according to their requirements. Being “cheap” when buying food for our fish can be very detrimental to their health. They become listless, shy, and probably sick, ending in death. I’m not by any means suggesting we only buy the best food available but if one can, try. Most high quality manufactured foods contain nutrition of quality for our fish. Using various freeze-drying processes, they can ensure the food is free of parasites. This prevents the introduction of diseases from frozen or live foods. I am not suggesting that frozen or live foods are bad, however they can easily introduce parasites that can survive in a frozen environment. One should look at the ingredients the manufacturer puts into their products.
Paprika and carrots stimulate digestion as well as providing vitamins and the carotene that improves fish colors the natural way.
Soybeans improve the resistance to disease. They contain an abundance of protein and lecithin. Soybeans increase the fertility of male fish therefore improving breeding results.
Spinach and other lettuce products contain important trace elements and will increase the vitality of the fish.
Herbs, like basil improve a fish’s general well being. Angelica reduces the effects of stress. Anise stimulates appetite and digestion.
Fishmeal foods containing bloodworms, mussels, and Daphnia are an excellent and easy-to-digest energy supply. Most high quality foods will contain these and other vitamins required for good fish health.
Carbohydrates and fats are important energy sources in the food. However if an oversupply occurs, especially of fat, it gets enriched in the fish’s body and can lead to fattening and organ damages. Food should be low in fat, around 6% but in the case for rearing young fish it may be as high as 8%. Protein content on the other hand should be high. Protein consists of long chains of amino acids that are broken during digestion. The fish then absorbs the amino acids to build muscles. Animal protein is usually quicker and easier to digest than vegetable protein. A mixture of both should be used in feeding if possible. Different fish species should be fed that which is best used for nutritional purposes.
Vitamins are a whole different ball game. Some manufacturers do not put these listings on the food labels, which is unfortunate. Sometimes a vitamin supplement should be used if the foods you are using don’t have all the ones needed.
Vitamin A improves eyesight and healthy growth. It also serves as a skin protector and as a fertility vitamin.
Vitamin B1 is necessary to obtain energy from carbohydrates in food. It provides the brain and nerves with sugars required. Lack of vitamin B1 leads to swimming and movement troubles and cramps for the fish.
Vitamin B2 does an important role in the digestion of proteins, for muscle buildup as well as protection for the mucus membranes. Lack of B2 can lead to body sores on the skin and disturbances of the nervous system.
Vitamin B5 is important for the buildup of various enzymes. Typical deficiency symptoms are gill problems.
Vitamin B6 is important for the nervous system. A lack of this vitamin causes movement troubles.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the digestive organs as well as strong red blood cells, which are needed for good oxygen transfer
Vitamin C is important for skeleton building as well as improving the resistance to disease.
Vitamin D3 regulates the intake of calcium and phosphorus as well as skeletal growth
There are other vitamins such as E, H, K, and choline, which are needed for various requirements for the health and well being of the fish.
The next part to be discussed concerns feeding and how to feed. We should always feed in smaller amounts and several times throughout the day. This should be as much as the fish can eat in a two to five minute period. Excess food falls to the bottom of the tank where it decomposes and pollutes the water. This also keeps the fish active looking for food instead of it becoming “regular” to a feeding schedule. A measuring spoon could be used to make sure even portions are being served. Make sure to spread the food out across the water surface for all the fish to have access to it, as larger fish tend to chase off the smaller ones while feeding.
Now we come to making a choice of a floating type or a sinking type food. Flake food floats, but only for a short period of time. Small granular or floating pellet foods float for a greater period of time unless there is a strong current from a filter. Fish with a straight back and a mouth directed upwards and a dorsal fin shifted backwards prefer to stay near the surface to feed. Examples of these fish are archers, hatchetfish and most killifish. Fish with sloped dorsal fins and a mouth facing forwards prefer to stay and feed in the middle water layer. Among these fish, are neon tetras, discus, and most barbs. Fish that dwell on the bottom usually have a flat belly with a mouth facing downwards. Armored catfish, loaches, and sucker-mouth type catfish are the best known types of such fish. Floating or sinking foods should be purchased for the types of fish you have in your aquarium.
When purchasing food we tend to buy in bulk since it may be cheaper that way but that has its downfalls. Some of us buy according to the “one can, once a year formula”. This is fine if you use another smaller container for the food as you use it and store the rest in a cool dry place: preferably the freezer. By opening a container we expose the food to light and air which destroys vital vitamins and nutrients. Hence the necessity of a smaller container which we can leave by the aquarium. A smaller container should only contain a moderate amount of food that the fish can consume in a one to two-month period. A variety of fish foods should also be used in feeding. There are many different flakes as well as pellet and frozen forms that allow us to change the food given at any time. By varying the forms of food we can also make sure we are covering all the vitamin and mineral bases.
Frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp are an excellent source of protein for the fish. I prefer the freeze-dried Tubifex worms as well as freeze-dried krill over the frozen items since the frozen forms can be very messy in your tank. The frozen foods may also be carriers of parasites so caution should be taken in ensuring the best available quality is used.
So in ending this article please look at the label before buying instead of the price. Your fish will be happier and healthier for it.