A lot of work goes into setting up an aquarium. You must choose the right size tank, and select substrate, plants, lights, aerators, and appropriate and compatible fish species.
Once you have your fish tank stocked, your next dilemma is figuring out how to feed your fish. There are several options, but some will be better than others for feeding the fish you have chosen to keep in your fish tank. Our complete guide to freshwater fish aquarium food will help you make good choices that will keep your fish well-fed and healthy.
When you choose fish for your aquarium, one of the things you should look at is whether the fish are herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores.
Herbivores are the vegetarians of the aquatic world. They eat plant foods only. Many brands of fish food cater to herbivorous fish.
Carnivores, on the other hand, are the meat-eaters. They want animal foods, and while they’ll eat mostly insects, they may also prefer worms or tiny shrimp. But with carnivores, if you’re not careful in your selections, they might make a meal of your other fish.
Omnivores are like teenagers—they’ll eat nearly anything, meaning they’ll thrive on a mixture of both plant and animal foods.
Your task, as the fish parent, is to select food that is right for the species of fish you’ve placed in your aquarium. When shopping for fish to add to your aquarium, find out what they naturally eat, so you’ll know what type of food you should provide.
Where Do They Swim?
Your aquarium has three “water column” zones: top, middle, and bottom. Your fish species will tend to prefer to stay primarily in one zone of the tank.
You can usually tell if a fish is a surface, mid-range, or bottom feeder by looking at the shape of its mouth. Surface feeders have mouths that point upward. Mid-range feeders have mouths that are straighter, and more parallel to the surface and bottom of the tank. Bottom-feeders have mouths that curve downwards, or that you can see the fish extending downward to vacuum up food from the bottom of your tank.
The food you choose for your fish should correspond not only with what they like to eat, but also with where they swim. Some fish food floats and stays near the surface most of the time, until surface feeders eat it.
Other fish food is formulated to sink, either slowly, so it is available to middle-of-the-tank feeders, or quickly, so it drops to the bottom of the aquarium to be available for bottom feeders.
Your tank will very likely contain a combination of surface, mid, and bottom feeders, so you’ll need to provide a variety of foods that will meet their needs.
Types of Fish Food
Our guide to freshwater fish aquarium food must address the various formats of fish food. The size, shape, and buoyancy of fish food make a difference to your finny friends.
Flakes: The most familiar type of fish food is flakes—the thin, colorful, wafer-y looking bits that you sprinkle in, and fish go after quickly. Flakes are best for surface feeders, as they dissolve quickly, and lose their nutritional value as they do.
While herbivore fish like to forage all day, you’ll end up with foggy, filthy water if you overfeed flakes all at once, as dissolved flakes dirty up your tank and clog your filters.
Crisps: This type of food brings a whole new meaning to “fish and chips.” Essentially thicker, crunchier flakes, fish crisps float for longer and dissolve more slowly than flakes, helping to keep your tank cleaner. Crisps are too large for some smaller fish that have small mouths, but you can crush them to make the pieces smaller for smaller fish, and they will still be less messy than flakes.
Pellets: Fish pellets are like little beads of food. They come in assorted sizes and formulations for varied species of fish. Some contain a lot of air, making them buoyant for surface feeders, while others are designed to sink quickly to sustain bottom feeders.
Wafers: Best for larger fish and bottom feeders, wafers sink quickly and soften slowly, so fish can nibble at and shred them as they please. They’ll break up into edible bits as the fish work on them.
Freeze-Dried and Frozen: Fish that prefer live foods in the wild may be trainable to enjoy frozen or freeze-dried foods like blood worms, krill, daphnia (water fleas), or brine shrimp. These may be available in freeze-dried or frozen form.
Freeze-dried foods can be introduced directly into the tank, while frozen food should be thawed first. Frozen fish food usually comes in cubes: you can cut or break off an individual cube for thawing before you feed your fish.
Fresh Foods: Herbivores graze most of the time, largely because they must eat more plant food to get enough nutrients than omnivores or carnivores need to eat all at once. If your fish eat plants, they’ll nibble on live aquarium plants, which is fine, as long as you provide the right species of plants.
What many new aquarium owners don’t know, however, is that some fish will also eat fresh foods like lettuce, spinach, peas, or even bits of cucumber and zucchini. Introduce these foods slowly so you can tell how much your fish will eat and gauge whether they are leaving too much behind to sink and rot on the bottom of the tank.
Remember, dry food must stay dry to remain wholesome, as frozen food should stay frozen until you’re ready to thaw and use it. Fresh foods should be fresh and high-quality. Fish aren’t pigs; they won’t like slops, so don’t use your aquarium as a garbage disposal for leafy greens that have turned to slime.
When To Feed Your Fish
Morning and evening are good times to feed a mixed tank of fish. Keep the light on for at least half an hour before and after feeding.
Nocturnal fish prefer to feed at night, so for these fish, sprinkle in feed at bedtime and turn the aquarium light off. The nocturnal fish will feed overnight.
We hope this complete guide to freshwater fish aquarium food has given you a good idea about the several types of fish foods available. You can buy fish tank supplies online here at Natural Environment Aquatix. Contact us with questions, and we’ll be happy to help you choose the right foods for the fish in your tank.
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