How Do I Create a Healthy Diet for my Fish?
Keeping your fish healthy is not just a matter of keeping your tank clean – you also need to meet the nutritional needs of your fish if you want them to thrive. There are many different types of aquarium fish food on the market, however, so it can be confusing for aquarium hobbyists to know which products to select. Before you can create a healthy diet for your aquarium fish you need to cultivate an understanding of their nutritional needs. Once you know what your fish need to thrive, you will be better equipped to make smart choices in regard to aquarium fish food.
Nutritional Needs of Aquarium Fish
Just like humans, aquarium fish have certain nutritional needs that must be met in order for them to thrive. While there may not be a food pyramid for aquarium fish, there are a few basic components of a healthy diet that your fish require. Lipids, or fats, are an essential part of any aquarium fish diet because they provide the fish with energy. Fats should only make up about 5% of the diet of your fish, however, because too much fat can be difficult to digest. Protein is also essential to maintain healthy growth, though some kinds of fish have greater needs for protein than others. Carnivorous species of fish, for example, need more protein in their diets than omnivores and herbivores.
Aquarium fish also require some fibre and carbohydrates in their daily diets. Fibre helps aid healthy digestion and carbohydrates also provide fish with energy. In addition to these elements, a healthy diet for aquarium fish should also contain vitamins and minerals. Minerals like calcium and phosphorus help to promote the growth of teeth, scales, bones and tissues in aquarium fish. The most important vitamins for fish include Vitamins C, E, A, B1, B2, B5 and B6. While some foods contain these essential vitamins and minerals, it may be necessary to occasionally give your fish vitamin or mineral supplements.
If your fish do not receive the proper nutrients, their health could decline and they could suffer from malnutrition. Some of the most common symptoms of malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies include cloudy eyes, weight loss, loss of colour, rapid breathing, erratic swimming and slow healing. If your fish exhibit any of these symptoms it may be wise to examine their diet. If you only feed your fish commercial flakes or pellets, these symptoms could be a sign of malnutrition. To improve the health of your fish, immediately begin feeding them nutritious foods such as live and frozen foods as a supplement to their diet of commercial foods.
Selecting Healthy Foods
To ensure that your fish receive all the nutrients they need it is best to feed them a variety of different foods. Processed flakes and pellets can be a good staple diet for fish but they cannot provide for every nutritional need. Even those processed foods which are fortified with vitamins or minerals should be supplemented with a variety of live, frozen and freeze-dried foods. Bloodworms and tubifex worms are an excellent source of protein and white worms provide fish with valuable lipids. Freeze-dried foods can also be good supplementary foods for fish, but keep in mind that a significant amount of the nutritional content of freeze-dried foods is lost in processing. In order to ensure that your fish benefit from proper nutrition, feed them a variety of processed, live, frozen and freeze-dried foods.
What Type of Fish Food Should I Feed my Fish?
When it comes to aquarium fish food there are myriad options to choose from. Not only do most pet stores stock dozens of different brands, each brand often puts out more than one type of food. If you do not know what to look for, you could end up purchasing a type of fish food that is not healthy for your fish. Because fish eat relatively small amounts of food throughout the day it is essential that the food you give them meets all their nutritional needs. In order to determine what kind of food to feed your fish you first need to understand the basics regarding what types of food are available.
Types of Fish Food
Processed – Processed foods come in many forms including flakes, pellets, wafers and granules. Some of these foods are designed for top-feeding fish and float on the surface of the tank while others sink to the bottom to be eaten by bottom feeders. These types of foods are a good choice for the staple diet of your fish but you need to offer your fish supplemental live, frozen and freeze-dried foods to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need.
Live – Live foods are some of the most nutritious foods you can offer your fish and most fish love live prey. Some popular live foods include bloodworms, tubifex worms, brine shrimp and white worms. Most of these foods are high in protein, though white worms are a particularly good source of lipids, or fats. Because live foods can become quite expensive, many aquarium hobbyists choose to cultivate their own stock of live foods. Brine shrimp are fairly easy and inexpensive to raise, as are worms. When feeding your fish live foods, be careful not to give them too much because these foods are very rich and could cause digestive problems if you overload your fish with them.
Frozen – Frozen foods are often just as nutritious as live foods but they can be stored for longer periods of time because they are frozen. Some popular types of frozen foods include prawns, brine shrimp, bloodworms and tubifex worms. To feed your fish frozen foods it is wise to thaw the frozen cube in a cup of tank water first. Let the frozen food sit in the water for 15 minutes or so then break it up to ensure that it is in manageable bite-size pieces for your fish. As is true of live foods, your fish can have difficulty digesting too much rich frozen food so only use these foods as part of your supplementary diet for your fish.
Freeze-Dried – Freeze-dried foods are another popular option because they are more nutritious than commercial flakes and pellets, but they have a longer shelf life than live foods. When feeding your fish freeze-dried foods you need to be aware that a great deal of the nutritional content of these foods may be lost in processing so do not let freeze-dried foods become the sole source of supplemental nutrition for your fish. Many of the same foods available in live and frozen form are also available in freeze-dried form and most fish readily accept freeze-dried foods.
Fresh Vegetables – All fish, not just herbivorous species, can benefit from some fresh plant matter in their diet. Most fish will readily accept blanched vegetables like peas, romaine lettuce, broccoli and zucchini. To distribute these foods you may simply sink them in the bottom of the tank or affix them to the side of the tank using a veggie clip. Other valuable sources of nutritious plant matter include spirulina algae and sheets of seaweed called nori.
Tips for Feeding Fish
In addition to choosing the right foods to offer your aquarium fish, you also need to be careful how much you feed them. Aquarium fish are prone to obesity and some species are also likely to develop internal blockages if fed too much. Over feeding can also result in a build-up of excess waste in your aquarium substrate which, over time, can lead to a decrease in water quality. As the water quality of your tank decreases, your fish could become stressed and may even fall ill. To prevent this from happening, only feed your fish small amounts of food twice a day. Develop a routine when it comes to feeding your fish – feed them in the morning before you leave for work then again when you get home. You can structure your feeding schedule any way you like, just be sure you stick to it. When feeding your fish, only offer as much food as they can eat in three to five minutes. If you offer your fish sinking wafers or pellets, remove the uneaten portions from the tank after an hour before they completely dissolve.