What Types of Foods Can I Feed My Aquariums?
Quick! Your aquarium is hungry! What do you grab first?
We are going to look at the different types of food your aquarium inhabitants could be interested in. The better the nutrition you give them, the healthier they’ll be! It’s important to pick a type of food that will be readily accepted, and that will benefit your inhabitants as much as possible.
Pellets are a dried food that you can easily reach for and add to your tank. They come in various sizes, from small fish’s 0.5mm sizes to pea-sized or larger extrusions that make huge fish happy. When you walk into your aquarium store you’ll see shelves and shelves of different formulas. That’s because pellets can reach a variety of fishes’ needs!
There are plant-heavy formulas for herbivores, meat-heavy for carnivores, and even insect based formulas for insectivorous fishes. Some are packed tightly, with no air, so that they’ll sink and go straight to bottom feeding fish! Some are floating pellets — these are lightweight and stay at the surface to be picked at by fish who look up. And if you were looking to boost immune systems, or treat some kind of illness, there are even medicated pellets that could fit the bill!
A bonus to using pellets is that you can soak them with additives like vitamin C or garlic to enhance them.
If you have fast-eating fish who will swarm to the top for their food, flakes are an easily-dissolving option. Flakes are paper-thin layers of food, stored in an air-tight container just like pellets. Your fish won’t need to work to crunch them down, and you can easily crumble flakes between your fingers to make them easier to eat for smaller fish. Keep in mind that because flakes dissolve easily, any uneaten foods will be going into your filter or can create nutrient issues. Most fish readily eat flake food.
Powdered foods come into play when the mouths you’re feeding are just too small for conventional pellet or flake sizes, for example fish fry, corals, or other small-mouthed animals. These can have very similar ingredients to both pellets and flakes but they are ground to a fine powder and for that reason this type of food tends to stay in the water column longer. This makes it easy for groups of fry to feed on, or to target corals that normally grab small particles out of the water column. Some planktivores fish like Anthias like small particle foods.
Maybe your fish are finicky, or maybe you’re feeding them with the goal of conditioning them for breeding. Live foods trigger eating responses in your fish, and are a great -though more expensive- way to get new fish to eat and become comfortable in your aquarium. You can gut-load the live food with nutrients and additives before feeding them to your fish to create an even better meal. It’s important to note, though, that live foods are also an easy way to introduce illnesses into your aquarium.
Frozen foods can’t be stored in your aquarium cabinet, so they’re not as easy to reach for. However, they provide you with the ability to feed what could’ve been live food, and do so in a controlled manner that doesn’t introduce illness. They come in cubes, or flat packs that allow you to control the portion size more easily. You can thaw these foods out before feeding them to your aquarium, but it’s not advisable to refreeze them after — once the first freezing ruptures cells, the nutrients are already on their way out of the food.
You can make your own frozen food using quality seafood from the grocery store and grinding them to a fine pulp. Adding vitamins, flavor enhancers like garlic, color enhancers like astaxanthin gives you the chance to experiment with additives.
Bringing live foods in the opposite direction is the freeze drying process. The food is dried into whole organisms, and you can feed them directly to the tank or crush them up first for smaller fish. These pack nutrition as well, and are as convenient as pellets or flakes.
Liquid foods will usually target a dietary need in your aquarium. Filter feeders, for example, require suspended particles measured in microns in order to feed correctly and thrive, much less grow. This is where you can get specific with phytoplankton, zooplankton, and even ‘marine snow’, a mix of organics and inorganics that will provide nutrients to your filter feeding inverts. They’re dense foods, so it’s recommended to target feed your corals. Some require refrigeration after opening, some only to extend shelf life, and some don’t require refrigeration at all.
Keep in mind that no matter what food you pick, you can always supplement! Many aquarists like to add things like garlic, vitamins, fatty acids, or other ‘sides’ to the aquarium dish.