Fishkeeping Tips 2: Flake Foods, Brine Shrimp


      Dry foods are not what they used to be. They are better today than they have ever been. However, for fish to be 
      healthy, want to breed, and maintain immune systems ready to fight off occasional challenges, feeding dried food   
      alone is not entirely up to the task. To get the most from the dry food I use, I only buy from places where the food has   
      not sat on a shelf for a long period, and keep the food refrigerated. As a rule I buy in larger quantities, but no more    
      than I can use up in about 3 months. Consider online vendors such as Brine Shrimp Direct or Jehmco to save     
      money and obtain food in larger quantities. Food is then kept refrigerated or frozen.

      It is always better to underfeed than to overfeed, as excess food will cause the water in an aquarium to deteriorate
      quickly. To feed the fish heavily for faster growth, it is best to feed smaller quantities more frequently, making sure
      that what is fed is completely consumed. Rather than simply putting the amount of food to be fed directly into the
      aquarium in one shot, I will feed slightly less than I know they will easily consume, then feed again a few minutes
      later (simply making two tours of the tanks) so that what is fed is entirely eaten, and so that smaller, younger or
      weaker fish will be fed on the "return pass", when they may be bullied from eating initially.

       For maximum ingestion of food, some breeders will feed a dry food first, then follow with brine shrimp. I don't
      recommend this with all fish- some will overeat themselves to their detriment if allowed. There is a saying that
      "you cannot starve a fish"- long before they die of starvation an opportunistic infection will get them first. Going 
      a day or two without food will not harm a fish, but restrain from going more than 4 or 5 days without feeding. 
      Fish can survive for up to 2 weeks without being fed if necessary. Be sure they are well fed and healthy before 
      any long period without eating. Then gradually resume normal feeding upon your return. Keep in mind that the
      more food going into the aquarium, even when it is all eaten, the more important it is that regular water
      changes be adhered to, for more food still equals more waste.

      Most commercially available general-use dry fish foods are fairly well balanced, but find out if the fish you  
      keep require more vegetable in their diet, and be sure to provide frequent feedings of spirulina flake if that is
      the case. The Tiger Limia, Limia nigrofasciata, the goodeids and all of the swordtails appreciate occasional 
      added vegetable supplements to their diet. (see blanched zucchini recipe below) I will also occasionally alternate
      a "meat" flake to provide some diversity in their diet. I have also made various beefheart mixes that are kept  
      frozen, and have worked well, particularly for cichlids such as discus. The livebearers and barbs I currently  
      keep also respond eagerly to an occasional feeding of a cichlid flake, but they should never be raised on 
      that alone. Avoid any type of Goldfish food for any tropical fish- they are often composed of grains and   
      meals made for fish that eat heavily, and are fairly inefficient in their digestion, requiring a larger quantity of
      food that is lower in the type of nutrition that tropical fish require.

      Lastly, for those with a desire for only the absolute best foods your fish could possibly be fed in captivity,
      in many cases duplicating their diet in the wild, consider raising live food. Here advice from the experience
      of having done them is offered. See Red Worms, Blackworm Culturing, Daphnia and Vinegar Eels.


           How to Turn Zucchini into a Vegetable Supplement for All Fish
                                     (Especially Plecos)

      Required for plecostomus catfish and very beneficial for any fish requiring a strong vegetable component in
      their diet, this is easy to make and a supply can be made that will last for a long while. I use 10 zucchini
      at a time. Cut into 3/8-1/2 inch slices, then put into a large glass bowl. Cover with water and heat in the
      microwave just long enough for the majority of the zucchini to sink. (About 30 minutes) Overcooking will
      destroy its nutritional value causing it to become too soft, and it will break down when put into the aquarium.
      Let sit, and the warm water will penetrate the few zucchini left floating, so that all of it will sink in a few
      minutes. Then carefully place the slices on cookie sheets such that they do not touch one another before freezing
      (or they will come apart when broken up from one another). I then put them into freezer bags. Keep frozen, and
      drop them into the tank as needed- they will sink as they thaw. I used to boil the zucchini which took much
      longer, and have also added a liquid avian vitamin to the zucchini in the past before freezing, but do not feel
      the results were worth the expense. The fish will usually eat all of it, leaving the outer skin till last.

      It may take awhile for the fish, if they have never seen it before, to eat it eagerly. You may need to put some
      in and remove it after a few hours a few times before they realize it is food. Plecos will generally eat it
      right away.  

      Frozen brine shrimp, tubifex and blackworms are probably the best "live food" alternatives that are 
      easily available without actually having to raise anything. But there are live foods that are simple, cheap, 
      non smelly, don't get loose, carry disease, fly, bite, or need to be refrigerated. Here in Fishkeeping  
      Tips 2, 3, 4, and 5 are what I have settled on after years of trying many types of Live Food:


                                                                        Brine Shrimp

      Everyone needs to learn how to hatch BBS (Baby Brine Shrimp) if they hope to raise young of just about anything.
      Avoid the often dramatically overpriced 1-4 oz. glass tubes of brine shrimp eggs sold at many fish stores. They are
      available online from many places, such as Brine Shrimp Direct for about $40 a pound, whereas I have seen fish
      stores selling them for as much as $14 for a 2oz. bottle. Most all serious hobbyists have some on hand and will sell
      (or give) you some to get you started. Make contact with a local club, and that should get inexpensive eggs to you
      soon enough. Store eggs in the freezer, and refrigerator once opened. From making a hatcher out of two 2-liter pop
      bottles- (see instructions below), to spending from $10 to $100 for a premade brine shrimp hatcher (including one
      commonly sold that is actually a premade stand for a 2-liter pop bottle), Brine Shrimp are easy to hatch. Essentially
      the formula is 2 liters (approx. 32 oz.) of water to two full tablespoons of salt (Rock Salt, Water softening salt-which
      is cheapest, table salt etc. Iodized salt is OK, and in fact recommended by some fishkeepers. Premixed aquarium
      salt used for saltwater aquariums is best if available). Add a teaspoon of eggs per liter, which in fact are not eggs
      at all. They are small cysts (approx. 100,000 per gram) with young in a suspended state, waiting to hatch. Keep
      them in motion with an air bubble stream under direct light at about 80 degrees. After 24-36 hours, let settle for 5
      minutes, then siphon off bright orange shrimp into a brine shrimp net (available at fish stores- the cloth is much
      finer) and feed to the fish. BBS is best within 24 hours after hatching, and can be frozen after hatching in an ice
      cube tray for storage and convenient feeding, if desired. You can also- if you don't need to hatch more than a
      teaspoon or so at a time, without the need for an air stream or specially made device hatch shrimp this way:

       Simple, No Hatchery method of hatching regular Brine Shrimp Eggs (Not decapsulated)

      Use a plastic "shoebox" style plastic container. Find a spot under a light where the container can sit for 2 days without
      being bumped or knocked. Add 4 cups of water (I use clean aquarium water) and then 2 heaping tablespoons of salt
      (I use water softener salt as it can be as cheap as $6-8 for 50lbs.). Then gently sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of brine
      shrimp eggs across the top of the water, letting them STAY FLOATING. Do not stir. In 24-36 hours the shells will be
      floating on the top and the bottom edge closest to the light will be  bright orange with newly hatched shrimp. Siphon
      out and run the water through a brine shrimp net into a container saving the water, which gets put back. Siphon off
      new shrimp from the container until the batch is exhausted. Then, I will often just add another half teaspoon, changing
      the water after the second batch- but it of course is best to use fresh water each time for best hatch results.

      Decapsulated brine shrimp is simply the brine shrimp cysts, that have had the shell chemically removed, leaving
      just the shrimp itself. I have not used decapsulated brine shrimp.

                                                            The "Specially-Made Hatcher"

      Get two 2 liter soda bottles. (See pic series) Cut one in half through the middle. Throw that top half away. Take the
      second complete bottle and set it upside down into the bottom of the first bottle. Trim bottom half bottle so that top of
      the full bottle rests comfortably on bottom- upside-down, so that it stands up solidly. Then, near the bottom of the
      inverted full bottle (near the top of this apparatus), cut about a 1.5" sized hole into the side of the bottle. Now drill or
      cut a 1/4" hole into the very middle of the bottle bottom, just big enough to allow airline tubing to pass through.
      Pass airline tubing through this drilled hole, catching the end of the tubing through the 1.5" hole, and pull it out
      just a couple inches. Attach an airstone, put back in bottle and let airstone rest in bottom neck of bottle. Attach
      other end to an air pump and fill with mix. To clean, simply dump the mix, fill with hot water and maybe a little
      Chlorox, cover holes with palm and shake, then empty. Repeat water rinse until clean. As shown in the pic,
      a small rectangular vanity wastebasket will hold two firmly so they don't tip over. I used the same two for over
      20 years!


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