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Nutrition

CHOOSING FOOD FOR YOUR TROPICAL FISH

December 13, 2018 | By Tom Sarac

by Tom Sarac

Choosing the right food for your tropical fish does require that you understand some basic information about the species you are keeping as well as of the food itself.

Here are some fundamental questions you need to ask yourself when putting together a menu for your fish!

1- WHERE DO MY FISH PREFER TO FEED?

Different fish have evolved in different environments, and as such they have a different physiology to help them feed effectively. Fish with upturned mouths prefer surface feeding, and you will notice many common livebearers such as platys, guppies, swordtails and mollies feed this way. Consequently, flake foods, small floating pellet foods, and various freeze-dried foods are good choices for a core diet for these fish. The same is true for many anabantids such as gouramis and bettas.

When selecting foods for bottom feeders, you need to also consider your substrate. Make sure it is not of an overly coarse nature such that food might fall in between the substrate and effectively disappear from the reach of your fish.

The majority of fish have mouths that are more centered and thus can feed effectively at all three levels: top, middle, and bottom, with many of these preferring to obtain their food as it is sinking in the water column. For these fish, slowly sinking pellets of the right size are ideal.

2- CARNIVORE VS. OMNIVORE VS. HERBIVORE?

There are very few, true herbivorous fish. In reality, just about all the common fish we keep in aquariums are either omnivores or carnivores. Knowing what type of diet a fish would naturally feed on is very important. For example, does it exclusively consume its prey, or does it graze on algae and occasionally ingest small invertebrates in its course? Knowing the answer to this sort of question will help you understand whether vegetable matter needs to be in a specific species’ diet. For example, true carnivores, such as the family of pike cichlids, only consume insect larvae or other fish, and do not consume plant matter at all.

3- IS FROZEN BETTER THAN DRY FOOD?

The simple answer is no. In fact, while fish really do relish frozen food, the water content on the label will show that many frozen fish foods are 80 to 90% water, which seriously diminishes the nutritive content. Dry foods are far higher in nutritional content by weight, and should therefore form the core of a fish diet. Exceptions to the rule do exist, of course, so always review the ingredients and the analysis section on the label of any food you buy.

4- IS THE FISH SHY OR ACTIVE?

While the activity level of a fish is not the first question that comes to mind when choosing food, it is an important consideration when it comes to how well you can expect certain fish to feed based on their tank mates. When creating communities of different fish, make sure you choose compatible species in terms of activity level and temperament. Mixing fast moving, aggressive-feeding species with shy, retiring types is going to be a factor in how well the more shy fish can feed.

VARIETY IS KEY

It is always a good idea to supplement with a variety of forms of food. We recommend a quality nutrient-rich pellet or flake as the core diet, along with some specialty flakes and suitable frozen and freeze-dried offerings. If you are willing to go the extra distance, providing some live food such as shrimp, worms and various small insect larvae is highly recommended.

READ THE LABEL!

The most important thing you can do is to read the nutrition label of the food you are considering. The first two or three ingredients need to be quality protein sources. If they are not, don’t consider it.

Know your fish and know their needs. Quality nutrition is key for healthy, active fish!

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