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Fish Tank Forum • View topic - Feeding your fish the correct diet
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Feeding your fish the correct diet

Articles on general fish keeping

Feeding your fish the correct diet

Postby Mick » Fri Apr 02, 2010 11:17 am

In their own natural habitat different fish species have evolved to require different diets, if all fish ate the same food there would be a shortage and inevitably a lot of fish species would simply die off. Fish have also adapted to feed at different levels in the water column, this greatly reduces the competition when food is available and ensures that all of the fish get their fair share of the food. In the aquarium it is up to the fish keeper to supply their fish with the correct fish food, certain species require high protein diets, some require low protein diets, some fish are carnivorous some are herbivorous and some are omnivorous. Before we purchase any fish we should research which diet they require and at which level of the aquarium they feed from, knowing this will ensure healthy fish that are getting the correct fish food.
There are basically 5 basic requirements that fish need but in varying levels-proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. These are the main ingredients in all fish food. All commercial brands of fish food will have a table on the label giving you a brief breakdown of the percentage of these that the food contains, always read the label so that you know what you are feeding the fish.
If you have done your research you will know if your fish is carnivorous, herbivorous etc., below these are explained briefly

Herbivores- Herbivores tend to have an elongated gut system, this allows the food to travel further breaking down the cellulose as it passes through. Their digestive system struggles to cope with the amount of protein and fats that meaty foods contain so they have a vegetable based diet. Having said this there are not many species of fish that stick to a true herbivorous diet, most will also accept treats of small meaty foods such as blood worms or brine shrimp. Their staple diet should consist of algal based foods and blanched lettuce, spinach or similar.

Carnivores-These fish will have a shorter gut system but their stomachs will be larger and they can take larger pieces of food such as small fish , prawns etc. Do not attempt to feed these fish with plant matter as their digestive system can't break down the cellulose cell structure. In most of these species they should still be fine with commercial brands of fish food to vary the diet.

Omnivores- These species of fish have cracked the best of both worlds. Their digestive system is capable of digesting both meaty foods and plant matter. They have both a reasonable sized stomach and a gut system that breaks down the food. With these fish the diet should be varied to keep them interested in food so along with commercial flakes or granules they should be offered meaty treats.

There are now many commercial brands of food available to use in your aquarium, a few years ago these were considered as lacking in nourishment by experienced breeders but scientists are now involved in providing balanced diets for you fish, there are even commercial foods available for special dietary needs and these can be given as the complete package when feeding your fish. Using dried foods can have its drawbacks, they are what the name implies-"dried", this means that the water content in the food is very low and especially with fish flake food they are designed to absorb water when they are added to the aquarium. This can cause problems if the fish eat the flakes and the food then swells inside the fish as it absorbs water. The gut can expand and apply pressure to the swim bladder causing stability problems, this can be spotted easily as the fish will swim diagonally with its head pointing downwards and its stomach will look bloated. To get around this the flake food can be presoaked for a few seconds in water before feeding, avoid using feeder rings as these can reduce the surface are of the flake food making it a longer time required for the food to expand.
Granules are becoming more popular than flake food, these will satisfy the feeding needs of all of the levels in the aquarium. Some of the granules will float for a while so that the top feeders can eat while other granules will slowly sink feeding the fish at lower levels. Floating sticks are also available purposely to feed fish that feed from the water surface.

When we read the labels on the commercial foods what are we looking at?
These are not as complicated as you think, they will all list the ingredients followed by a percentage table of fats, proteins, added vitamins etc.
Looking at each item on this table will help you decide if this fish food is providing the necessary nutrients your fish require or if it contains too much fat etc. which is not good for your fish. Most fishfoods are based mainly on fish meal and vegetable additives, yeast, artificial colourants and other ingredients, far too many to list completely. Below is a break down of items that you need to check in the analysis table on the label.

Fats- these are detrimental to your fishes health if there is a high percentage in the fish food. Carnivorous fish will only require a fat content of 5% or below. Herbivores will require a lower fat content, as low as 3% is ideal. Omnivorous fish can range between 3%-5% with no digestive problems.
Fibre content- this should always be higher than the fat content, fibrous content aids the digestive process.
Proteins (Albumens)- Protein content will vary with specialised fish foods, carnivorous fish will require a protein content of at least 45% whereas herbivorous fish will only require a protein content of 30%
Water content-this can vary between different flaked foods, they normally average between 6%-12%. This level is set on production to prevent the food from breaking down and becoming useless. This is why fish food should always be protected from the atmosphere when stored to prevent any more moisture from being absorbed before it is added to the tank.
Added vitamins- fish require vitamins for healthy growth and to build up their immune system. Any quality fish food will supply these at the correct levels. Some vitamins are more important than others e.g. Vitamin A is required for growth and aids juvenile fish to have strong, healthy cells in their body thus making them resistant to diseases or infections. Vitamin B2 aids the digestive system and utilises the proteins that are absorbed into the body to also aid growth. Vitamin C aids the bone growth and the formation of teeth ( this is often added to the food in the form of citric acid).
Added minerals- As fish meal is one of the main ingredients of a fish food they will contain essential minerals and trace elements, the fish require these for growth and development of the skeleton especially, calcium and phosphorous being the main two. These trace elements are not as compound when you feed your fish a diet of live or frozen foods hence the need for commercial foods as well.

I intend to cover live and frozen foods in a separate article so I will not go into detail here but these should only be used as a supplement to the fishes diet unless you are conditioning the fish for breeding purposes.

Only feed the fish the amount that they can eat in a 5 min period, fish have small stomachs and may require feeding twice a day but keep each meal small, remember uneaten food can become toxic in the tank as it breaks down.
Fish have a habit of begging for food every time you approach the tank, this is a habit, they do not always need feeding. In the wild they will go for days without food and survive.
Always use a quality fish food, cheaper versions may look like a bargain but they do not supply the fish with their required dietary needs, always but the best you can afford from a reliable producer.

If you have any further questions regarding this article, register for free on our forum and we will try to answer your queries as quickly as possible!!

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