Aquarium Fish Nutrition (Proper Aquatic Nutrition)
What Ingredients are needed for Optimum Fish Disease Resistance, Growth and Health;
Facts about Fish Foods
By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 35+ years experience
HERE ARE A FEW BUILDING BLOCK INGREDIENTS:
FISH FOOD SOURCES:
Dried green pea flour also contains these nutrition parameters: 2.4% fat/lipids and 28.2% starch, 27.7% fiber, 6.9% sugar, 3% minerals and 5% moisture.
Fresh or frozen green peas are often used as a digestive aid for constipation in fish (along with Brine Shrimp), in particular Goldfish.
Make sure to boil or microwave the peas first (then cool) so as to soften. Then remove the skin and cut in 1/2 using the what would be the stem of the seed curved along the center of the pea as a cutting guide.
*AAP Custom/Paradigm, Fish Food Crumbles with fresh ground Pea Flour
Reference: Green peas nutrition
CRICKETS, CRICKET FLOUR/MEAL:
Cricket Flour/Meal is highly digestible and since insects or insect larva/pupae are a common natural food ingredient for many fish, its use as part of carnivore or omnivore fish food is something that improves the quality of the food but is unfortunately not very commonly used (likely due to costs).
Many fish are predominately insectivorous (animals that primarily eat insects) such as Arowana, African Butterfly fish, so the use of this Cricket Flour is something that might be sought out as an ingredient.
Cricket flour is a complete source of protein containing essential amino acids that include; leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and valine.
Of course fresh or FD Crickets are an excellent food source for fish large enough to consume these food sources, especially when gut loaded with Spirulina prior to feeding (as noted later in this article).
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FISH COLOR ENHANCERS & IMMUNE ENHANCERS:
First here are a couple of immune enhancers used in prepared (or homemade) fish foods. Spirulina could be included too, but since it was already covered separately, please refer to that section of the article.
*Paprika has anti-inflammatory properties and gives a boost to the immune system.
Paprika is 15% protein without a complete amino acid profile and contains 11% Omega 3 as well as 89% Omega 6. It also has 13% fat/lipids and 8.4% starch, 37.5% fiber, 10% sugar, 7% minerals and 9.1% moisture.
Paprika is a very good source of Iron and has these Vitamins: A, C, E, K,and B6.
Paprika contains these minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Manganese and Selenium.
It is noteworthy that drying of prepared fish foods reduces Vitamin C to almost nothing however drying Paprika actually increases the Vitamin C.
*Cayenne Pepper has anti-bacterial properties and aids in digestion.
Cayenne Pepper is 12% protein without a complete amino acid profile and contains 11% Omega 3 and 89% Omega 6. It also has 17% fat/lipids and 19.4% starch, 27.4% fiber, 10.2% sugar, 6% minerals and 8% moisture.
Cayenne Pepper has these vitamins: A, C, E, K, B1, B6, B2, B3, M and Choline.
Cayenne Pepper contains these minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc, Manganese and Selenium.
Next here are some proven color enhancers.
While I already note color enhancing properties of certain fish food ingredients, I will use this section to address specific proven natural fish color enhancers, especially as it applies to Koi, Goldfish, and some Cichlids.
*Carotenoids are a broad group of terpenoid (with 8 isoprene units) color enhancers are organic pigments that are naturally occurring in the chloroplasts and chromoplasts of plants and some other photosynthetic organisms such as algae, a few bacteria, and a few types of fungus.
The following are essentially sub groups of Carotenoids:
*Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid alcohol that is considered by Koi experts in Japan to provide vivid color-enhancement of the yellow, orange, & red areas ('Hiban' as per Japanese Koi breeders), all the while not impacting the white areas ("Shiroji" as per Japanese Koi breeders).
Zeaxanthin is found in Paprika, Safron, marigold, and most notably Spirulina.
*Astaxanthin is a carotenoid belonging to a class of phytochemicals known as terpenes that is helpful for enhancing red pigments.
Astaxanthin is found in Chlorella algae, lobster, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp, crayfish, crustaceans, & other shellfish.
Most of the astaxanthin for aquaculture is produced synthetically even though astaxanthin is fairly abundant and obtainable from natural sources (albeit for triple the price).
I have not found any real proof of any advantages in using natural over artificial astaxanthin based on scientific evidence.
Regardless of this unproven controversy, some fish foods claim to use only natural sources such as "Aqua Master Koi Foods"
Here are a few other color enhancers and their color enhancing abilities (although not all scientifically confirmed)
Lutein (found in high amounts in dandelion leaves): Greenish-yellow
*Koi Answers; Color Enhancers
FISH FOOD SOURCES NOT TO USE:
*Lettuce; this is mostly cellulose and empty nutrition and worse lettuce is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria that can in turn cloud your aquarium and compete with fish for oxygen (many labs use lettuce for this).
It is MUCH better to use commercially sold seaweed over lettuce, or even spinach or any other garden vegetable not only for reasons of less issues with bacteria growth, but also for vastly better nutrition.
Product Resource: San Francisco Bay Brand Seaweed Salad
*Bread; again mostly empty nutrition to fish (maybe not for humans, but as noted earlier fish get their energy primarily from fats). Also bread again will attract un wanted bacteria.
HOMEMADE FISH FOOD:
You can make your own supplement for general fish feeding that is high in DL-methionine; Start with whole salmon which is an excellent source of carotene for color (frozen or even canned works), frozen peas, hard boiled egg, frozen or FD brine shrimp, duck weed or spiulina powder, and fish oil (cod liver oil works fine). Blend this mixture then add corn starch to the paste to dehydrate. Spread this paste on small strips of foil (or even wax paper if your dehydrator does not get too hot). Make sure you leave room for air circulation.
Here are basic percentages, please note that you can change these percentages to suit your fish food requirements:
Some suggest the use of Agar as a binder in place of Geletin, however I do not recommend this based on evidence, while not fully proven, that Agar allows Saprolegnia to gain a foothold in an aquarium and that Agar can allow Heterotrophic bacteria to crowd out the needed Autotrophic bacteria for a healthy aquarium nitrogen cycle.
LIVE, FROZEN OR FD FOODS:
As stated earlier, this article has been primarily about prepared foods; however this is not to say that this is all you should feed, far from it. Many fish benefit from live, frozen or freeze dried supplements such as Brine Shrimp, Blood worms, Daphnia, Microworms, Whiteworms, Walter Worms and more. Make sure that you make sure that live foods come from an uncontaminated source and some foods such as Tubiflex Worms are raised in polluted waters which make them a poor choice.
HOW AND WHEN TO FEED FISH
No one fish food should be relied on as your fish’ sole nutritional source.
For problems with intestinal distress in fish (very common with goldfish, however Bettas and many other fish can suffer too), you fist want to avoid this by feeding foods with the best ingredients (as noted earlier in this article) and keeping your fish in water with the Proper Electrolyte levels.
POOR APPETITE, MALNUTRITION, SICK FISH:
Often new fish will not eat (more common with carnivores in my experience, especially those that are being adapted to a prepared diet such as Bettas).
PROBIOTICS FOR FISH:
First I will explain what a probiotic is:
BEST USED BY DATES:
This is sometimes controversial, but ONLY due to miss-informed persons who do not realize that Fish Foods are NOT required to place such dates on their fish foods and/or do not understand what this means or what even the laws are about this mythical date.
This information is intended primarily for prepared foods however it can also be applied to live, FD, or frozen foods as well. You can improve live foods by “gut loading” them such as feeding Spirulina 20 Flake to your feeder fish or to black worms 30 minutes prior to feeding your fish (I have seen good color improvement in black worms fed to Bettas this way). This is actually quite natural for carnivores in particular as in the wild a worm or food fish rarely has an empty belly.
In the end, the information given in this article should also help you to make a better choice when purchasing prepared fish food (especially when feeding young fish!), such as the examples below:
Here is an example of ingredients for three Betta Foods:
Fish Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Dried Yeast, Shrimp Meal, Wheat Gluten, Brine Shrimps (FD), Potato Protein, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Fish Oil, Soybean Oil, Sorbitol, Algae Meal, Lecithin, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Stabilized Vitamin C). Coloring Agents: Red No. 3 Dye (E127). Ethoxyquin as a Preservative.
Wardleys Premium Betta:
Fish meal, whole grain wheat, shrimp meal, soybean flour, brewers dried yeast, wheat germ meal, wheat gluten, fish protein concentrate, fish oil, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, crayfish extract in soybean oil, iron oxide, vitamin premix containing (wheat middlings, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, folic acid, pyridoxine HCI, thiamine mononitrate, d-biotin), choline chloride, marigold petal extract, canthaxanthin, ethoxyquin (as a preservative).
Sanyu Betta Pellets:
White fish meal, shrimp meal, soybean meal, wheat flour, rice bran, wheat germ, yeast, vitamins A, B C, E and other minerals.
Product Resource: Sanyu Betta Food Pellets
Hikari Betta Bio-Gold the leader in quality Betta Pellets, originally was very similar to Sanyu Betta pellets, however it has been re-formulated/improved even more:
Premium Fish meal, wheat flour, Soybean Meal, Rice Bran, gluten meal, Starch, Krill Meal, Wheat Germ Meal, brewers dried yeast, DHA Oil, spirulina, dried seaweeds meal, DL-methionine, Garlic, astaxanthin, grape seed extract, choline chloride, Vitamin E supplement, L-ascobyl-2-polyphosphate (stabilized vitamin C), inositol, calcium pantothenate, Riboflavin, vitamin A oil, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, niacin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K), folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin, disodium phosphate, ferrous sulfate, magnesium sulfate, cobalt sulfate, calcium iodate, red 3 (artificial color)
Product Resource: Hikari Betta Bio Gold, .7 oz
Compare the above ingredients, the differences are striking!
Tetra starts with low quality fish meal (vs. high quality Whole/White fish meal), then has cereals as the next two highest ingredients. Cereals are needed as a filler, however the cereals should not be this high in the ingredients for a carnivore such as Bettas.
Compare TetraMin to some of the facts I have explained, then compare foods such as HBH Tropical and Marine Flake, Spirulina One Flake, Hikari, Aqua Master Ultra Premium, Sanyu Foods, and SeaChem Nutri-Diet.
The differences are quite clear for long term growth and health.
When it comes to feeding young fish (fry), a quality prepared food is even more important. A comparison I would use is this; would you feed your infant cows milk instead of formula?
My point is fish fry are even more sensitive to poor nutrition. I prefer to powder my fish Flake foods and my favorites are Spirulina 20 (for ease of digestibility and usable protein) and Hikari First Bites.
Here are the ingredients to compare:
Hikari First Bites:
Ingredients: Fish Meal, Milt Meal, Wheat Flour, Antarctic Krill Meal, Clam Meal, Spirulina, Seaweed Meal, DL-Methionine, Monosodium Glutamate, Garlic, Enzyme, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Inositol, Manganese Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Sulfate, Magnesium Sulfate, Aluminum Hydroxide.
Product Resource: Hikari First Bites; Premium baby fish fry diet
Spirulina, ground whole wheat, whole fish meal, defatted soy meal, wheat flour, torula dried yeast, vital wheat gluten, fish oil, biophos, soy oil, lecithin, natural colors.
Product Resource: ZooMed Spiulina 20 Fish Food
As you can see, both are excellent formulas, although different in their nutrition approach (they can be used together).
RECOMMENDED FOODS(FROM Everything Aquatic & Trusted Aquarium Maintenance Companies)
This list is intended as a list of fish foods intended for daily basic feeding, not as the only food to feed.
Resources (references), further reading
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