Aquarium Fish Nutrition (Optimum Nutrition)
Ingredients & Analysis needed for Optimum Fish Disease Resistance, Growth and Health;
How to Determine the Best Fish Foods
"Aquarium Fish Nutrition", By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 35+ years experienceUpdated 5/18/17
The content of this article has been updated regularly, often monthly, to be as up to date as possible citing other's research too (including fish food expert/guru Clay Neighbors).
Where this article differs from most all others is this information and research dates back several decades and ALL recommendations (& fish food developments) are based on this in depth research. This is UNLIKE most articles that are written after so as to support the latest marketing scheme for a premium fish food. I know of NO other article that can make this claim.
This article is primarily about prepared fish foods. Near the end of this article I do discuss some live, frozen and freeze dried foods.
Any prepared fish food that has to add vitamin, mineral, and other supplements to bring their food up to higher standards is obviously not providing these via optimal ingredients and/or is cooking them out via the preparation process (such as making flakes or pellets versus crumbles which destroys less of the nutrition value). Admittedly even some of the better brands perform supplementation, but I still would seek a fish food that supplements as little as possible.
In fact there are many otherwise good fish foods on the market that utilize excellent ingredients (especially the newbies in the market), but their failure to optimize ingredients and/or their preparation process often leaves these fish foods lacking, this includes many, if not most, of the popular so-called "quality" fish foods currently on the market.
Hopefully this article can educate readers as to all important aspects of what goes into an optimum prepared fish food diet. This way readers can apply this information to any fish food in an educated manner.
There is a lot of confusion about what constitutes an optimal fish food.
Another point is amino acids (the building blocks of proteins); almost all animals have different amino acid needs.
We also know from studies in human nutrition that certain diets add to inflammation and oxidative stress. This is easily carried over to fish nutrition as well.
Then there is the speed of digestion, some fish such as goldfish tend to have slower digestive tracts (I like to compare it to a horse, but there are major differences such as the stomach).
As for the stomach of goldfish (& other cyprinids), I would have to respectfully disagree with the TV show "Tanked", as although it is a rudimentary stomach, from what I see of the goldfish anatomy IS A stomach.
But more importantly, regardless of which side you fall on the issue of whether or not a goldfish has a stomach; What is a fact is that this small or rudimentary goldfish stomach along with their long intestinal tract tends to loose moisture readily because of this small stomach and long intestinal tract.
Here is a quote from a Veterinary University article:
Back to other Fish: Another note about fish food is what carnivores need. Carnivorous fish often consume whole animals including intestinal contents, which often include plant material. A quality fish food for carnivores must include vegetable matter such as spirulina.
An important point about aquatic nutrition to think about is what is best for the fish is NOT necessarily what the fish eat most readily.
Along this same line, if I offer TetraMin at the same time as a superior food such as Spirulina 20 Fish Food Flake, in most instances the fish will prefer the TetraMin. However this does not prove superior nutrition in the least and in fact is the reason I generally only feed one type of fish food at a time so that fish cannot “pick and choose” what they eat and ignore a nutritional part of their diet.
HERE ARE A FEW BUILDING BLOCK INGREDIENTS:
The net protein utilization is profoundly affected by the limiting amino acid content or protein quality (the essential amino acid found in the smallest quantity in the foodstuff), and somewhat affected by salvage of essential amino acids in the body.
Another practice often used by aquaculture, and even among many of the "better" brands is too much protein/amino acids, as this can cause kidney issues later on and affect fish longevity. Therefore the best fish foods will also blend ingredients to "limit" proteins for optimal protein/amino acid utilization.
DL-methionine is an essential amino acid for producing the “Lionhead” feature in goldfish. It is noteworthy that Methionine is one of eight essential amino acids.
Eggs (whether fish or even chicken) has one of the higher protein qualities. Which makes hard boiled egg crumbles an excellent food source for fry.
Other essential Amino acids include (essential, meaning amino acids that cannot be produced within the fish’ body from other nutrients and proteins): Arginine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine + Cystine3, Phenylalanine + Tryosine4, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine.
Other quality sources of usable amino acids include: Whole fish meal (Whole Menhaden & salmon is best), Cylcops, fish roe, squid meal, and even spirulina algae.
Bottom line; Not all protein sources are equal nor is maximum protein desirable.
We need to remember that protein's primary function is to build or repair muscle and tissue. Its the only component in food that can build or repair muscle and tissue. Protein not used for repairing muscle and tissue can be converted to glycogen and stored. However the conversion is not very efficient often resulting in a shortened lifespan. The use of Protein as a fuel has long ago been discredited and debating protein levels at this point in time is the equivalent of debating whether the earth is round or flat.
Another point as to grain or plant sources (Spirulina does NOT fall into this category), is that proteins in cereal grains and other plant concentrates do not contain complete amino acid profiles and usually are deficient in the essential amino acids lysine and methionine.
Molecular compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and largely insoluble in water. Fats are important for insulating body organs against shock, maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function. They also serve as energy stores for the body. Fats are broken down in the body to release glycerol and free fatty acids. The glycerol can be converted to glucose by the liver and thus used as a source of energy.
The fatty acids are the main source of energy in fish, especially for many tissues, such as heart and skeletal muscle. Another important function for fats are for vitamin absorption.
More information about this below carbohydrates section, including an important discussion as per energy levels ina fish food and their effect on potential fatty liver disease.
The lipids (fats) in fish can be separated into liquid fish oils and solid fats.
The predominant omega-3 fatty acids in fishmeal and fish oil are linolenic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
In contrast, most plant lipids contain higher concentrations of omega-6 fatty acids. For example, oil extracted from soybeans, corn, or cottonseed is rich in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid.
More about Omega 3 & 6
As with most animals, it is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the diet, as these two substances work together to promote health. However in fish it is the Omega 3 that is most needed and many warm water freshwater do not readily produce this fatty acid like most coldwater marine fish can.
One problem with many fish foods that are void of Whole Fish Meal (vs. plain fish meal which has often lost most oils), Fish oils, or similar are that they often will get their fats from plant sources that lack even short-chain Omega 3 and only contain Omega 6.
Molecular substances which include the sugars, starches, gums and celluloses. The common attributes of carbohydrates are that they contain only the elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and that their combustion will yield carbon dioxide plus one or more molecules of water.
Most of the carbohydrates, which enter the diet of fish are of plant origin.
Carbohydrates are not a superior energy source for fish over protein or fat although digestible carbohydrates do spare protein for tissue building. Also, unlike in mammals, glycogen is not a significant storage depot of energy in fish.
Limiting of Fish Food Energy Levels:
What is also noteworthy is that fish use sugar and carbs/starch found in any fish food first since they can store very little if any.
A University of Florida study has shown ceroidosis of the organs and Malawi Bloat are directly related to energy levels of food being too high.
My own observations over decades of professional fish keeping with 1000s of clients aquariums concur with this research and also includes Dropsy and as well as issues of bloat in goldfish.
This is why the optimization of energy levels in a fish food is so important as research and professional observations point out!!
Energy Point System
Please note many fish foods fail to provide starch/carbohydrates/sugar in their analysis, so you have deduce the carbs/sugars by adding all known percentages then subtracting to get the car/sugar likely percentage. If Ash is also not listed, I would add an average of 9% when making this deduction.
The SUMMARY section of this article provides another example on how to read a fish food label using a popular discount store brand fish food so as to get these numbers. You will be astonished as to how many popular fish food brands, even those considered among the best, get poor grades as per optimum energy levels.
As an example, using a good food, but still too high in energy levels as proven in University level studies, is Hikari Goldfish Gold which gets most of its energy from starches (which is not the best way as shown), but more importantly their energy levels are double what are considered best.Video Resource:
Further Reference: ufl.edu; "Nutrition for juvenile African cichlids"
Product Resource: Clay Neighbor's AAP Ultra Premium Custom Fish Foods
Fiber acts as a laxative. All fiber is passed. However it has no effect on the ecology of your aquarium.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, it has been proven that bacteria feed on the digestible portion soluble fiber (which is about 10%). According to fish food guru Clay Neighbors, this bacteria is what breaks down food sources in the digestive system of fish, much more effectively than pro-biotics would.
With the previous paragraph in mind, some would have you believe that 12% Fiber is too much for Carnivorous fish. This is simply not the case and fish food guru Clay Neighbor's research into fish nutrition using live subjects proves it.
FISH FOOD SOURCES:
High quality whole fishmeal provides a balanced amount of all essential amino acids, phospholipids, and fatty acids for optimum development, growth, and reproduction, especially of larvae and brood stock.
Two basic types of fish meal are produced;
(1) Fish Meal from left over parts:
Unfortunately many if not MOST of the major fish food brands use this poor source of nutrition rather than the vastly superior whole fish meal.
(2) Whole Fishmeal:
Fish that are only used for the production of fish meal are the best source, listed on ingredients as “Whole Fish Meal”, “White Fish Meal”, or the best: “Whole Menhaden Fish Meal” (found in AAP/Paradigm fish foods).
Most plant-based proteins, even when properly processed (with the exception of Spirulina, which is not actually a plant or even a true algae), are usually not as digestible as fishmeal; and their inclusion rate into the diet is often limited as it results in depressed growth rates and feed intake.
Whole Fish Meal is an excellent source of DL-methionine which along with some fats such as the VERY important Omega 3 fatty acid is important to large head growth in certain cichlids and Orandas/Lionhead goldfish.
Whole Fish Meal averages between 17% and 25% ash content.
Fishmeal also contains certain compounds that make the fish food more acceptable and agreeable to the taste (palatable). This property allows for the feed to be ingested rapidly, and will reduce nutrient leaching. It is thought the non-essential amino acid glutamic acid is one of the compounds that imparts to fishmeal its palatability.
Use of high quality fish meal as a percentage of processed/prepared foods ranges from 5-7% for koi and goldfish, and up to 40% to 55% for high protein tropical fish, trout, salmon, and some marine fishes diets.
Further reading for Fish Meal (resource)
Recommended Product Resource with Whole Menhaden Fish Meal:
"Condensed Fish Protein Digest" is the condensed enzymatic digest of clean undecomposed whole fish or fish cuttings using the enzyme hydrolysis process.
While there are both positives and negatives of the use of this product in fish foods, the negatives clearly outweigh the positives.
Ocean Nutrition is a popular fish food that unfortunately uses this product.
Shrimp meal can be made from either cull shrimp that are being processed before freezing or from whole shrimp that is not of suitable quality for human consumption. For fish food, in most every instance for fish food it is only shrimp "parts" with just 20% digestibility that is used
Krill meal can be an excellent source for fats needed for the growth of heads in Flowerhorn Cichlids.
A positive aspect of Shrimp or Krill Meal is that it often has a high palatability for many fish, especially small “finicky” fish such as many small Tetras.
Both Shrimp or Krill meal has been found to be an acceptable supplemental protein source for fish, but inferior to whole fish meal such as Whole Menhaden Fish Meal for pepsin digestibility.
In the end, both Shrimp and Krill meals are a great appetite stimulant and part of a diet if fish are finicky eaters, but if the fish will eat other foods just fine, shrimp/krill or fish foods containing krill/shrimp should be avoided long term!
Squid Meal is made from squid viscera portions from cannery plants including egg and testis.
Just over a centimeter in size, the adult brine shrimp (Artemia) is a common food source for fish. They can be purchased at many Pet Stores as adults, Freeze dried or even eggs.
As I noted, Brine Shrimp have a natural laxative ability and along with shelled peas makes for an excellent laxative for constipated fish.
Spirulina is a blue-green plant plankton rich in raw protein and seven major vitamins: A1, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E.
Spirulina is different from other algae and is similar to bacteria in many ways, occupying a niche between plants and bacteria.
Spirulina is probably one of the best fish food ingredients available, INCLUDING for carnivores (as PART of the diet, usually fed via gut loading, more information later in the article).
One of the negatives of Spirulina is fish sometimes have to be hungry and then acclimated to a fish food containing a high amount of Spirulina as it is not as palatable to many fish. I noted this in my fish food trials going as far back to the late 1970s using "Aquatronics Green Flake Plus" where fish when given a choice would go for much less healthy foods with enhancers for stimulating appetite over Spirulina based foods.
For much more about Spirulina as to the health benefits there in:
There is a lot of both subjective and objective evidence about the use and effectiveness of garlic for fish.
Based on a study ("Using Garlic as an Appetite Stimulant in Sand Tiger Sharks." Drum & Croaker, January 2004, Volume 35, pages 59-63"), I would have to venture a guess that the results that I and others have observed were real, it simply depends upon the fish and what stimulates certain fish, as this study was quite flawed and only dealt with one type of fish. My positive results were with omnivores and herbivores, but not carnivores (in particular Yellow Tangs and some livebearers I only used Garlic to stimulate appetite).
Here are a couple other claims of benefits for Garlic use:
I do not have good evidence of the benefit of Garlic for parasite prevention/treatment, however I do have good scientific evidence of the use of garlic for bacterial treatment (which may at least allow for a stronger immune system to aid in treatment of parasites).
Garlic contains the active (& proven) ingredient; Allicin, (a.k.a. Diallyl thiosulfinate)). Allicin is a broad-spectrum agent against both Gram Positive and Gram Negative bacteria, with more gram positive activity (which unfortunately most aquatic diseases are gram negative).
Fish Tuberculosis (Mycobacterium marinum) has been demonstrated to be effectively treated with Allicin. Some human studies show the effectiveness of Garlic (Allicin) in treatment Streptoccocus (which can affect fish).
Garlic can be added to fish food at about 1-2% (generally during manufacture or homemade fish food) or an aquarium keeper can add professionally prepared products such as SeaChem Garlic Guard to fish food prior to feeding (a half hour or more is best to allow food to absorb the garlic).
AAP/SeaChem GarlicGuard can be mixed with Metronidazole or Neomycin and then fed used as a food soak for treatment of internal bacterial and some parasites.
Although still fed to fish and often part of many homemade fish food recipes due to popular YouTube channels and other social media, Beef Heart is a food source that should be used very sparingly if at all.
Although lower in fats than most warm blooded animal meats, Beef Heart is still about 18% Saturated Fat. These fats are very difficult for fish to process these fats, especially older fish.
The well known aquatic author Martin A. Moe (my favorite is the
Another issue with the use of Beef Heart is due to its make up, it often leads to considerable aquarium pollution when used regularly, which is another reason to use sparingly (if at all).
Unfortunately our hobby seems to no longer respect mentors or those who existed even a few years before they got into hobby with their Facebook pages and YouTube channels, so the experience of Martin A. Moe & others is but a foreign language to these persons who should know better as the use of beef heart was LONG AGO discredited as a fish food source.
Use of soybean products in the aquaculture industry have become the focus of protein substitution in fish food around the world. The high protein level makes soybean meal a key ingredient for aquaculture feeds since soybean meal is considerably less expensive than traditionally used marine animal meals.
Another thought about soy is its digestibility compared to animal based proteins. I have done a lot of reading on this aspect if only because I have become a "SIBO" patient in recent years (Small Intestine Bacterial Over-growth). I have found in practical experience and then later read that soy based products cause me more issues.
While the use of soybean meal is OK, fish foods that use soybean meal as the primary protein source should be avoided. Moreover, use of soybean meal as a source of vegetable matter should also be avoided as this can affect the protein limiting when used with other protein sources such as whole fish meal.
Carbohydrates as explained earlier are not the best source of energy in fish, but sources of Carbohydrates still can be useful, especially when whole wheat is used.
Whole Wheat in your goldfish/koi diet (such as AquaMaster PremiumKoi Diet) can act to prevent intestinal distress which in turn help prevent opportunistic internal Aeromonas infections.
Gluten is a protein composite that appears in foods processed from wheat and related species.
Glutens are also the basic source of glutamate, what the Japanese call "umami" what Americans and others call savory - the flavor produced by proteins and amino acids found primarily in meat. When cooked in broth, gluten absorbs some of the surrounding liquid (including the taste) and becoming firm, making for popular meatless, inexpensive filler used by many fish foods (& human foods).
PEAS & PEA FLOUR:
Green peas or green pea flour is a good source of fiber (when not over processed & include the hull). Pea flour is also used to lower protein which is important and missed often even by premium brand fish foods. Please reference the amino acids section earlier in this article for more.
This ingredient when dried contains 26.6% protein without a complete amino acid profile so it is NOT and should not be used as a complete diet as per proteins/amino acids. However it is a superior source of vegetable matter for fish, with one of the most complete vegetable nutritional make-ups of any vegetable sources, including kelp.
Dried green pea flour also contains these nutrition parameters: 2.4% fat/lipids and 28.2% starch, 27.7% fiber, 6.9% sugar, 3% minerals and 5% moisture.
Fresh or frozen green peas are often used as a digestive aid for constipation in fish (along with Brine Shrimp), in particular Goldfish.
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Cricket Flour/Meal is highly digestible and since insects or insect larva/pupae are a common natural food ingredient for many fish, its use as part of carnivore or omnivore fish food is something that improves the quality of the food but is unfortunately not very commonly used (likely due to costs).
Cricket flour is a complete source of protein containing essential amino acids that include; leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and valine.
Of course fresh or FD Crickets are an excellent food source for fish large enough to consume these food sources, especially when gut loaded with Spirulina prior to feeding (as noted later in this article).
First here are a couple of immune enhancers used in prepared (or homemade) fish foods. Spirulina could be included too, but since it was already covered separately, please refer to that section of the article.
*Paprika has anti-inflammatory properties and gives a boost to the immune system.
It is noteworthy that drying of prepared fish foods reduces Vitamin C to almost nothing however drying Paprika actually increases the Vitamin C.
*Cayenne Pepper has anti-bacterial properties and aids in digestion.
Next here are some proven color enhancers.
*Carotenoids are a broad group of terpenoid (with 8 isoprene units) color enhancers are organic pigments that are naturally occurring in the chloroplasts and chromoplasts of plants and some other photosynthetic organisms such as algae, a few bacteria, and a few types of fungus.
The following are essentially sub groups of Carotenoids:
*Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid alcohol that is considered by Koi experts in Japan to provide vivid color-enhancement of the yellow, orange, & red areas ('Hiban' as per Japanese Koi breeders), all the while not impacting the white areas ("Shiroji" as per Japanese Koi breeders).
Zeaxanthin is found in Paprika, Safron, marigold, and most notably Spirulina.
*Astaxanthin is a carotenoid belonging to a class of phytochemicals known as terpenes that is helpful for enhancing red pigments.
Astaxanthin is found in Chlorella algae, lobster, salmon, trout, krill, shrimp, crayfish, crustaceans, & other shellfish.
Most of the astaxanthin for aquaculture is produced synthetically even though astaxanthin is fairly abundant and obtainable from natural sources (albeit for triple the price).
Here are a few other color enhancers and their color enhancing abilities (although not all scientifically confirmed)
*Lettuce; this is mostly cellulose and empty nutrition and worse lettuce is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria that can in turn cloud your aquarium and compete with fish for oxygen (many labs use lettuce for this).
*Bread; again mostly empty nutrition to fish (maybe not for humans, but as noted earlier fish get their energy primarily from fats). Also bread again will attract un wanted bacteria.
HOMEMADE FISH FOOD:
You can make your own supplement for general fish feeding that is high in DL-methionine; Start with whole salmon which is an excellent source of carotene for color (frozen or even canned works), frozen peas, hard boiled egg, frozen or FD brine shrimp, duck weed or spiulina powder, and fish oil (cod liver oil works fine). Blend this mixture then add corn starch to the paste to dehydrate. Spread this paste on small strips of foil (or even wax paper if your dehydrator does not get too hot). Make sure you leave room for air circulation.
*For a frozen food, substitute the corn starch with unflavored gelatin powder.
*For cichlids, goldfish and koi, add wheat germ powder.
*For more carnivorous fish increase the whole fish and decrease the spirulina powder or duckweed. Calamari (squid) can be added too for carnivorous fish, but make sure that all the ink is removed from whole squid.
* For better attraction (smell) as well as a parasite repellent (Ich), you can add garlic powder to each batch of frozen or dried fish food at a rate of less than 1% of the prepared batch, this comes to about ½ teaspoon (or less) per one cup batch of wet fish food (before drying/freezing)
For spirulina powder, Spirulina 20 Flake can be substituted, but since this already a complete diet for many fish, I double the amount of this and decrease other ingredients by comparable amounts.
Here are basic percentages, please note that you can change these percentages to suit your fish food requirements:
Some suggest the use of Agar as a binder in place of Geletin, however I do not recommend this based on evidence, while not fully proven, that Agar allows Saprolegnia to gain a foothold in an aquarium and that Agar can allow Heterotrophic bacteria to crowd out the needed Autotrophic bacteria for a healthy aquarium nitrogen cycle.
LIVE, FROZEN OR FD FOODS:
As stated earlier, this article has been primarily about prepared foods; however this is not to say that this is all you should feed, far from it. Many fish benefit from live, frozen or freeze dried supplements such as Brine Shrimp, Blood worms, Daphnia, Microworms, Whiteworms, Walter Worms and more. Make sure that you make sure that live foods come from an uncontaminated source and some foods such as Tubiflex Worms are raised in polluted waters which make them a poor choice.
Worms & Brine Shrimp
For young fry such as Bettas; Walter Worms, newly hatched brine shrimp, vinegar eels or Micro Worms are an excellent choice (Micro Worms tend to drop to the bottom and Vinegar Eels may be a good alternative).
Reference: Worms used as Fish Food; Aquarium Answers
Here is place to purchase Grindal Worms, Walter Worms, or Vinegar Eel starter cultures:
Over a Copper Moon; Live foods
Here is a little about Micro Worms:
Micro Worms are nematodes (Panagrellus).
Microworms are one of the easiest live foods to culture.
Micro Worms are small .5 -1.5 mm and difficult to see individually. They are white, un-segmented worms that move continuously. The tail end is pointed while the mouth end is generally more rounded. They are approximately 15 times as long as they are wide.
Due to their size and shape, they can be fed to fish that are too small to take a brine shrimp nauplii.
Microworms can remain alive in fresh water for twelve hours or more.
Microworms reproduce sexually. The males have a curved tail, are smaller, more slender, and lower in number than the females.
Micro Worms are live bearing, producing 10 to 40 young every 1 to 1.5 days for an average 20 to 25 day life span. This results in each female producing approximately 300 offspring. The young reach sexual maturity in approximately three days.
Their size increases by three times during the first day and five to six times during the next three days. The Micro worm nematodes are 76% water and 24% dry matter; 40% of the dry matter is protein and 20% is fat.
Micro Worms are easily cultured, here is a link to a starter culture:
Live Microworm culture
A simple mix is one cup of quick oats, baby cereal, Cream of Wheat or similar (with maybe a tiny pinch of dry yeast) to one and a quarter cups of warm water.
Mix thoroughly and pour into a suitable container. Yogurt containers or similar types of containers work well for culturing Micro Worms.
Allow cooling, and then seed the mix with worms, putting the lid on (with small holes for ventilation) and leaving in a cool place. The temperature should be between 65 to 75 degrees.
Within a few days you will have Microworms to harvest.
For MORE information about worms for feeding as well as many more resources (including links from which to purchase), please see this Aquarium Answers Article (near the bottom):
"Trematodes, Nematodes, Annelids, & Feeding Worms"
HOW AND WHEN TO FEED FISH
No one fish food should be relied on as your fish’ sole nutritional source.
For problems with intestinal distress in fish (very common with goldfish, however Bettas and many other fish can suffer too), you fist want to avoid this by feeding foods with the best ingredients (as noted earlier in this article) and keeping your fish in water with the Proper Electrolyte levels.
POOR APPETITE, MALNUTRITION, SICK FISH:
Often new fish will not eat (more common with carnivores in my experience, especially those that are being adapted to a prepared diet such as Bettas).
PROBIOTICS FOR FISH:
First I will explain what a probiotic is:
The use of probiotics whether homemade or commercial is best performed immediately after use of antibiotics on your fish either or both "in tank" or in baths.
There are many commercially available probiotics for fish, however the shelf life is often questionable.
However making you own probiotic is not difficult at all; simply using a plain yogurt with no sugar or other additives can work.
This can also be used to feed feeder fish, worms, or any live food fed to carnivores immediately prior to the feeding of these live foods to their intended carnivore fish.
BEST USED BY DATES:
This is sometimes controversial, but ONLY due to miss-informed persons who do not realize that Fish Foods are NOT required to place such dates on their fish foods and/or do not understand what this means or what even the laws are about this mythical date.
Hopefully the reader has gained some very helpful insights into what truly constitutes an optimum fish food. As I noted in the beginning, my fish food trials starting at the Bahooka Restaurant in the 1970s in their 110+ aquariums under contract were my earliest tests.
Keep in mind certain specifics about the fish you keep.
Learn to read a fish food label, as most fish food labels leave off the full picture, thus leaving the fish keeper guessing.
In the end, the information given in this article should also help you to make a better choice when purchasing prepared fish food (especially when feeding young fish!), such as the examples below:
Here is an example of ingredients for three Betta Foods:
Fish Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Dried Yeast, Shrimp Meal, Wheat Gluten, Brine Shrimps (FD), Potato Protein, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Fish Oil, Soybean Oil, Sorbitol, Algae Meal, Lecithin, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Stabilized Vitamin C). Coloring Agents: Red No. 3 Dye (E127). Ethoxyquin as a Preservative.
Wardleys Premium Betta:
Fish meal, whole grain wheat, shrimp meal, soybean flour, brewers dried yeast, wheat germ meal, wheat gluten, fish protein concentrate, fish oil, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, crayfish extract in soybean oil, iron oxide, vitamin premix containing (wheat middlings, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, niacin supplement, calcium pantothenate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, folic acid, pyridoxine HCI, thiamine mononitrate, d-biotin), choline chloride, marigold petal extract, canthaxanthin, ethoxyquin (as a preservative).
Sanyu Betta Pellets:
White fish meal, shrimp meal, soybean meal, wheat flour, rice bran, wheat germ, yeast, vitamins A, B C, E and other minerals.
Product Resource: Sanyu Betta Food Pellets
Hikari Betta Bio-Gold the leader in quality Betta Pellets, originally was very similar to Sanyu Betta pellets, however it has been re-formulated/improved even more:
Premium Fish meal, wheat flour, Soybean Meal, Rice Bran, gluten meal, Starch, Krill Meal, Wheat Germ Meal, brewers dried yeast, DHA Oil, spirulina, dried seaweeds meal, DL-methionine, Garlic, astaxanthin, grape seed extract, choline chloride, Vitamin E supplement, L-ascobyl-2-polyphosphate (stabilized vitamin C), inositol, calcium pantothenate, Riboflavin, vitamin A oil, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, niacin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K), folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin, disodium phosphate, ferrous sulfate, magnesium sulfate, cobalt sulfate, calcium iodate, red 3 (artificial color)
Product Resource: Hikari Betta Bio Gold, .7 oz
Compare the above ingredients, the differences are striking!
Tetra starts with low quality fish meal (vs. high quality Whole/White fish meal), then has cereals as the next two highest ingredients. Cereals are needed as a filler, however the cereals should not be this high in the ingredients for a carnivore such as Bettas.
Compare TetraMin to some of the facts I have explained, then compare foods such as HBH Tropical and Marine Flake, Spirulina One Flake, Hikari, Aqua Master Ultra Premium, Sanyu Foods, and SeaChem Nutri-Diet.
The differences are quite clear for long term growth and health.
When it comes to feeding young fish (fry), a quality prepared food is even more important. A comparison I would use is this; would you feed your infant cows milk instead of formula?
Spirulina, ground whole wheat, whole fish meal, defatted soy meal, wheat flour, torula dried yeast, vital wheat gluten, fish oil, biophos, soy oil, lecithin, natural colors.
Product Resource: ZooMed Spiulina 20 Fish Food
As you can see, both are excellent formulas, although different in their nutrition approach (they can be used together).
SOME FISH FOOD REVIEWS(With input from Everything Aquatic & Trusted Aquarium Maintenance Companies), far from an exhaustive list too.
This list is intended as a list of fish foods intended for daily basic feeding, not as the only food to feed.
Resources (references), further reading
*ufl.edu; "Nutrition for juvenile African cichlids"
*Understanding Fish Nutrition, Feeds, and Feeding
*Food Requirements in Aquarium Fish
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