Once you’ve built your tank, added aquascaping, and filled your tank with bright and colorful fish, it is time to face the challenge of choosing what food is best for your inhabitants. There are three types of diets for fish: herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore. Each of them has special needs and nutritional requirements that you must be able to meet when feeding them in your tank. This is especially important for certain marine species as many are captured in the wild and re-homed in a domestic tank, so keeping their diet as close to natural as possible helps them adapt to life in captivity more quickly. Herbivores eat a completely green and vegetarian diet. Carnivores eat a predominantly meat or high-protein diet, though in the wild they would also receive small amounts of algae. Omnivores eat both about equally; it is just as important for them to receive meat as it is for them to eat vegetation. There are a variety of foods available, some you can buy in the store and others you can provide yourself.
Manufactured foods are foods such as flakes, pellets and wafers. They are often specially formulated for the dietary needs of different fish. For example, herbivore pellets are full of vegetation and algae matter. These options are excellent for beginners and may be used by advanced aquarists to help supplement diets. Avoid any manufactured foods that contain fat, wheat flour, and excessive additives. Remember, you should not buy more than a month’s supply of any manufactured food as it will lose its nutritional value if kept any longer.
Flake – Flake foods are most commonly used by fish owners and consist of small, paper thin flakes of food. They are best for small and medium sized fish as the flakes will fill them up well and can be easily broken down for small mouths.
Pellet – Pellets are a larger option for larger fish. Like flakes, they’re an all-in-one feeding option, containing most of the necessary nutrition in a compact and easy to feed shape.
Wafers – The most commonly sold wafer food is the algae wafer. It is a compact disc of algae plant matter ideal for those species that tend to prefer algae over all other foods.
Freeze-dried food is considered to be a supplement as it is not a spectrum of foods, but one thing such as blood worms or mosquito larvae. They are pressed together into a sheet that is then freeze-dried. You break chunks off and drop them into the water for your fish to nibble on. While they are an excellent treat for your fish, they do not provide all the nutrition your fish needs and you will want to supplement with something a bit hardier and healthier, even if all you do is offer two or three different freeze-dried options.
Frozen food for fish is no different than frozen food for people. The food is prepared before hand, either by your hand or by a manufacturer, and then stored in containers in your freezer. This is ideal for those fish that are carnivorous since you can purchase large quantities of fish meat, shrimp meat or crab and clam meat, cut them into appropriate pieces, and then store them in your freezer. It allows you to make purchases based on your timetable and budget without worrying about spending extra money when something is out of season.
Live foods can be a bit of a hassle. Most aquarium shops and pet stores will have some live food options such as brine shrimp, crickets or feeder fish. This is an excellent solution if you have the funds; however, you must be careful as feeding live foods can introduce diseases into your aquarium. If buying live food is not an option, you can also cultivate it yourself. There are some species of feeder fish that you can quickly and easily breed yourself, as well as raising brine shrimp and worms.
There are a large number of ways to provide a varied and nutritional diet for your herbivorous fish simply because if it’s a vegetable they will love it and eat it. Some species even enjoy the occasional bit of fruit dropped in for their pleasure. Common feeding options are zucchini, lettuce, spinach, and eggplant. Cut them into tiny pieces and boil them briefly before feeding to your fish. Allow a little bit of algae to grow on your rocks as this provides your algae-eating fish with an excellent source of snack foods. One item that often slips the minds of aquarium owners is wood. If you add a small piece of pest-free driftwood to your aquarium, fish such as Plecos will be absolutely thrilled as this is a treat they often only experience in the wild.