Feeding the fish in an aquarium is fun. It is one of the best opportunities for the fish owners to interact with their aquarium fish. Choosing the right fish food is essential not only for the well-being of your fish, but it can also contribute to the ease of the aquarium maintenance for the fish owner. What to feed the fish? It is easy. Just use the commercial available fish food. However, which one to use might be a little harder to decide since there are so many different brands and types available on the market.
Staple Fish Food
Most commercial fish food comes in the form of flakes or pellets. Both have their pros and cons.
Flakes vs. Pellets
Flakes are easier on the fish digestive system because they do not expand a lot like the pellets once contacting with water. However, flakes are paper thin. Therefore, some of the nutrients such as vitamins will start to dissolve the moment the flakes are in the water. Moreover, flakes are also easier to make a mess in the aquarium because they often break into smaller pieces or even fine dust when the fish try to eat them.
Pellets are easier to swallow whole, thus they usually remain in water for a shorter time before being eaten by fish. The vitamins in the pellets don’t dissolve as fast as the flakes. This helps the pellets retain more nutritious value as compared to the flakes. Furthermore, they do not make a mess like the flakes, which is good for the water quality in the aquarium. However, one negative aspect of pellets is that they will expand a lot after getting wet. It can put stress on the fish’s digestive systems if they have eaten too many pellets at a time. In severe cases, fish can die from overeating pellets.
Both flakes and pellets can be used to feed fish on daily basis, which makes them the staple fish food.
One single type of staple food vs. Multiple different types of staple food
It is not a problem if you only use a single type of fish food as the staple food as long as it is of high quality. However, it is beneficial to the fish if you rotate two or more different types or brands of staple food on different days of the week. Different brands of fish food certainly contain different ingredients and nutrients. Diversifying the fish food can ensure a more balanced diet for the fish.
What to look for when choosing a high quality staple fish food?
It is important to look at the ingredients of the fish food before you make a purchase. The ingredients are always listed in the order of the highest percentage ingredient to the lowest percentage ingredient. In most cases, the first ingredient on the bottle is always some kind of fish. However, what kind of fish is used in the fish food is more important.
Fish Meal vs. Whole Fish
Those types of fish food with “fish meal” as the main ingredient are generally considered inferior, because the “fish meal” is often the leftover of fish (e.g., fish skin, fish organs) after the better parts were removed for other purposes such as for human consumption. What you should be looking for is the word “whole.” Whole fish means every part of the entire fish and it is certainly superior to just the fish skins and organs.
For example, “Whole Salmon” is used in Omega One Flakes . “Whole Krill” is used in New Life Spectrum Pellets. Both are my favorite types of fish food because of their superior quality. High quality fish food certainly makes the fish healthier and in some cases more colorful as well. The low quality fish food also has more filler (e.g., wheat flour) which fish can’t digest. Therefore, it creates more fish waste, making the aquarium maintenance harder.
Treats for the Fish
To ensure the fish get enough nutrients, you should feed them a special treat or two, but only once or twice a week. Some good choices for treats are bloodworm, krill, brine shrimp, and daphnia. These treats come in the form of live, frozen, and freeze dried.
Live food certainly can retain the most nutritious value, but they also come with the risk of possible parasites unless you breed your own live food at home. In addition, it also requires your attention to take care of the live food in order to keep them fresh.
Frozen fish food is as good as live food in nutritious value, and the parasites are already killed by the freezing temperature. They are the recommended type of treats if you can get them without them thawing on the way. You must have a freezer to keep the frozen fish food fresh.
Freeze dried fish food might have lost some nutritious value during the processing, but they are definitely parasites/disease free. They are the easiest to handle. They also have the advantage of added vitamins by the manufacturers depending on what brand you are looking at. (e.g., Omega One Freeze Dried Blood Worms and Hikari Freeze Dried Krill both have the added vitamins.)
Most of these aquarium fish treats are high in protein. Therefore, you should avoid using them too often. Too much protein can harm certain species of fish, and it can also pollute the aquarium water. On the days you feed the fish special treats, make sure you skip the staple fish food otherwise it will be overfeeding. The treats should be used to replace the staple food on those days instead of being used with them.
Research your fish species before choosing a fish food
Which fish food to choose is also related to the size of your fish as well as the species.
Fish size matters when it comes to fish food choice
It is important to consider the size of the fish food if you use a type of pellets as staple food. For example, I observed that many tropical fish of less than 3” long require 0.5mm pellets or they can’t swallow them whole in one bite. For larger species, pellets of larger sizes will work better.
Fish species matters to the choice of fish food
While most fish species will eat typical flakes or pellets, different species can certainly have different diet requirements. For example, some large carnivore species might require you to feed them live fish, whereas some species of herbivore such as Otocinclus catfish will eat only algae and algae wafer. Algae wafer should also be the staple of many bottom feeders such as Corydoras catfish, since they have very little chance to grab flakes and pellet before other fish. If you are unsure which fish food to use for your aquarium, doing some research on the individual species’ diet requirement will certainly help.