Top 10 Live Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish
If you are looking for the very best fish food to feed your aquarium animals, most veteran fishkeepers will agree there is nothing that tops live foods. The premium food is similar to the natural diet of fish and offers many benefits. The movement of the food entices the fish to eat, which is especially useful if they are underweight or growing and need to consume more nutrients than usual. Hunting is a great way to enrich your aquarium animals’ mental and physical health. It also allows you to observe interesting behaviors that may not be possible when feeding flakes. Live foods are a great way to breed your fish. These 10 live foods are easy to cultivate in your home.
1. Baby Brine Shrimp
Peacock gudgeon fry eating baby brine shrimp
Baby brine shrimp are the best choice for raising baby fish and encouraging them to spawn. The tiny saltwater crustaceans of the Artemia genus have highly nutritious yolk sacs, which are rich in healthy fats and proteins. To hatch them at home, just soak brine shrimp eggs in salt water, which should take about 18-36 hours if the water is heated to 74-82degF (23-28degC). When you see hundreds of tiny, pink dots swimming around, shine a light to the base of your brine shrimp hatchery to attract the brine shrimp and separate them from their egg shells. Read the entire article to learn how to hatch brine shrimp.
Malaysian trumpet snails
Puffers, loaches and larger South American Cichlids like to eat live snails. Pufferfish love snail shells because they help reduce their teeth growth so that they don’t grow too much. For a steady supply, you will need a separate aquarium to house your ramshorn, bladder, and Malaysian trumpet snails. Their shells may become damaged if they are not given hard water with a higher pH or GH. If you have hard water like us, we use 1-2 inches (3-3-5 cm) of crushed Coral as a substrate. We then give mineral supplements such Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium as needed. Next, we feed Pleco Banquet Blocks or Nano Banquet Food Blocks to our fish food high in calcium. For more information, learn about the top 7 freshwater snails.
3. Vinegar Eels
Egg-scattering fish like tetras and rainbowfish often produce tiny fry that are too small for regular fry. Vinegar eels, which are harmless white roundworms, are easy to cultivate and are great for feeding babies until they can eat baby brine shrimp. Fill a wine glass or any other long-necked vessel with half an apple cider vinegar, half dechlorinated waters, and a few apples slices. After enough vinegar eels have been produced, you can harvest them. To allow the vinegar-eels to swim out from the vinegar into fresh water, add some filter floss and dechlorinated liquid into the neck. Then use a pipette to remove some of the vinegar eels and feed them to your fish fry. You can follow our step-by-step instructions for making your own vinegar eel culture.
4. Micro Worms
Kribensis fry eating microworms
Walter worms and banana worms can also be used as live fish food. These nematodes are slightly larger than vinegar eels, but smaller than baby brine shrimps and can therefore be fed to small fry. We like to start our cultures in small plastic containers with instant mashed potatoes. Cut a breathing hole in the plastic container’s lid and stuff it with filter floss to prevent unwanted pests from entering. To collect them, simply run your finger along any sides of the tub that microworms have reached and then place your finger in the tank. This tutorial will provide more details.
These aquatic crustaceans are roughly 1-5 millimeters long and therefore make excellent food for small to medium fish. They breed quite rapidly, so to keep the water parameters stable and prevent the population from crashing, we recommend keeping them in as much water as possible. Use old tank water or aged, dechlorinated water for water changes since they are very sensitive to chlorine. For optimal reproduction, they prefer long exposure to light and lower temperatures (around 68degF (20degC). Daphnia prefer to be fed through filters. If the water is not cloudy, you can feed them active dry yeast or green water. It is easy to harvest them by slowly squeezing through the water a fine-meshed aquarium mesh net. Find out more about how to cultivate daphnia.
What are the most common wild foods for newborn fish? Microorganisms like protozoans and microalgae are the most common. Many fish breeders create their own freshwater plankton cultures (also known as infusoria), to feed tiny fry. There are many methods, but one of the most popular is to fill a large jar with a few quarts (or liters) of old tank water and squeeze in some mulm from your filter media. Drop a 1-inch (3cm) piece of banana peel or half a teaspoon of instant yeast into the jar to feed your infusoria. For faster results, warm the water to 78-80degF (26-27degC) and you should see some tiny, moving specks within a couple of days. If the water turns from cloudy to clear, then the infusoria are consuming all the food you provided, and the culture is ready for harvesting. Use a pipette to extract some water and give it to your baby fry.
Because they sink to the bottom, live blackworms make a great food source for bottom dwellers. Many breeders also believe that they are the best way of conditioning corydoras catfish. They can be challenging to propagate at home, so in the United States, farms grow large-scale cultures of California blackworms in man-made ponds. Blackworms are usually available at your local fish market or online directly from farms. After receiving them, scoop out the blackworms and place them in a fine-meshed net. Rinse them with dechlorinated water at 40-55°F (4-13°C). Keep them in a shallow, wide container. This will ensure that they don’t get too crowded. The blackworms should be covered with cold, chlorinated water. To keep your worms alive until they are fed to your fish, repeat this process of rinsing the worms every day with prechilled, dechlorinated water, or else they will quickly foul the water.
8. Grindal Worms and White Worms
After your fish fry are no longer dependent on vinegar eels or micro worms for food, you can start to use Grindal worms (about 0.25 mm in size) and eventually white worms (1 mm in size). You will need to sterilize the substrate, such as organic potting soil, coconut fiber, or peatmoss. You can use an oven to heat the dirt for 30 minutes at 180-200degF (82-93degC), or moisten the substrate and microwave it in 90 seconds intervals until it reaches 180-200degF (82-93degC).
Cover the substrate with a tub or plastic container and let it cool. If necessary, add some dechlorinated water so that it is moistened further. Afterwards, add the starter worm culture and some food (e.g., bread and yogurt, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, or even fish food) to the surface of the substrate. Add the food to a deli-cup lid. To seal the pests out, make a small opening in the plastic container’s top lid. Next, attach a piece or fabric to the opening. Place the lid on top of the container.
Grindal worms do well in room temperatures of 70-75degF (21-24degC), whereas white worms must be stored around 55degF (13degC) in a cool basement or wine chiller. To harvest them, remove the deli cup lid on top of the food, wipe off some worms with your finger, and dip them in a small cup of water to rinse them before feeding your fish.
Insects are an important part of many fishes’ natural diets. The larvae and exoskeletons of insect insects provide roughage that aids in fish digestion. Reptile shops can sell feeder insects such as mealworms, dubia-roaches, and crickets. Some people even grow their own dubia-roach colonies. Red wigglers and earthworms are available at certain pet stores and bait shops and can be cultured at home as well.
You can harvest insects from the wild, but not introduce potential parasites, by placing a 5-gallon bucket with dechlorinated water out and waiting for them to lay their eggs.
Use a fine-meshed net to scoop up mosquito larvae from the water surface, and make sure to harvest every day or else they will develop into adult mosquitos.
10. Live Fish
We personally do not sell feeder fish at Aquarium Co-Op because they have a higher likelihood of spreading disease to your aquarium and most people do not bother quarantining feeder fish. Plus, goldfish and minnows contain high levels of thiaminase and, when consumed in large amounts, can prevent your predator fish from getting enough thiamin (or vitamin B1) and cause all sorts of health issues. The key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies is to give your fish a variety of food and not just one type.
That being said, some hobbyists raise their own feeder fish at home to minimize the risk of infection. For example, livebearers (or fish that bear live young) reproduce very quickly, so removing some of the offspring will help prevent the colony from getting too big. In order to breed cherry shrimp, it might be necessary to cut down the less-colorful individuals in order to increase the quality of the line. Feeding live fish or invertebrates is not for everyone, but it is a natural part of a predator’s life.
Most live cultures can be purchased online or from local hobbyists, so find out which foods are well-suited for your fish and give it a try. Also, we recommend always making extra cultures to have a backup just in case the first culture crashes and is no longer viable. Good luck with your live food journey. Make sure you check out our tutorial on baby brine shrimp, our favorite live dish.