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. This premium food is the closest thing to what fish eat in nature and has numerous 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. The fastest way to raise your fish for breeding is with live foods. Learn about these 10 popular live foods and how to culture some of them in your own home.
1. Baby Brine Shrimp
Peacock gudgeon fry eating baby brine shrimp
When it comes to raising baby fish or encouraging adult fish to spawn, you can’t beat baby brine shrimp. The tiny saltwater crustaceans of the Artemia genus have highly nutritious yolk sacs, which are rich in healthy fats and proteins. You can hatch them at home by soaking brine shrimp eggs into salt water. It should take 18 to 36 hours, depending on whether the water temperature is 74-82F (23 to 28degC). To attract brine shrimp, shine light on the bottom of your hatchery and let them out. You can read the complete article to find out our exact method for hatching brine shrimp.
Malaysian trumpet snails
Puffers, loaches and larger South American Cichlids like to eat live snails. For pufferfish, the snail shells help to grind down their ever-growing teeth so they won’t get too long. To produce a steady supply of these aquatic gastropods, set up a separate aquarium or tub as your breeding factory for bladder, ramshorn, or Malaysian trumpet snails. They require hard water that is higher in pH and GH to avoid developing holes in their shells. We prefer to use crushed coral for substrate. If we have soft water, we can then add mineral supplements such as Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium. Then we feed Pleco Banquet Blocks, Nano Banquet Food Blocks, and other fish foods 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 are harmless, roundworm-like white worms that can be cultured quickly and are ideal for feeding babies while they grow up to eat baby salt shrimp. Fill a wine bottle or another long-necked container with apple cider vinegar, half the dechlorinated water and a few apple 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. Use a pipette or a spoon to remove the vinegar eels. 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. They are slightly bigger than vinegar eels but still smaller than baby brine shrimp and therefore can be fed to tiny fry. Our preferred method of starting our cultures is to use small plastic containers containing 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 harvest them, just swipe your finger along the sides of the plastic tub where the microworms have climbed up and then dip your finger directly into the tank to feed the fish. This tutorial will provide more details.
These aquatic crustaceans measure approximately 1-5 millimeters in length and are a great food source for small- to medium-sized fish. They reproduce very quickly so it is important to ensure that the water parameters are stable and prevent population collapse. They are sensitive to chlorine so it is best to use old tank water or dechlorinated water. Also, long exposure to light and cooler temperatures around 68degF (20degC) are preferred for optimal reproduction. Daphnia are filter feeders, so whenever the water is no longer cloudy with food, feed them active dry yeast, green water, or spirulina powder. You can easily harvest them by gently squeezing an aquarium net through the water. Find out more about how to cultivate daphnia.
What do most newborn fish eat in the wild? Most often, microorganisms, such as protozoans, microalgae and invertebrate larvae. Therefore, many fish breeders make their own cultures of freshwater plankton (i.e., infusoria) to feed tiny fry. There are many options, but the easiest is to fill large jars with a few quarts or liters of old tank water. Then add some mulm from filter media. Drop a 1-inch (3 cm) section of banana peel or 1/2 teaspoon of instant yeast to feed the infusoria. To get faster results, heat the water to between 78-80degF and 26-27degC. Within a few days, you will see small, moving specks. If the water changes from cloudy to clear, the infusoria will have finished eating all the food that you provided and are ready for harvesting. Take some of the water out and use it to feed 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. Because they can be difficult to grow at home, many farms in the United States raise large-scale populations of California blackworms in artificial ponds. You can usually purchase blackworms either from your local fish store or online directly from the farms. When you receive them, pour out the blackworms into a fine-meshed fish net and rinse them thoroughly with dechlorinated water chilled to 40-55degF (4-13degC). You want to make sure that they aren’t too full. Keep them in a large, shallow container. The blackworms should be covered with cold, chlorinated water. Keep your worms alive until you give them to your fish. Rinse the container with cold, dechlorinated water every day.
8. Grindal 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. To heat the dirt, you can either use an oven for 30 minutes at 180-200degF/82-93degC or moisten it and microwave it in 90 second intervals until it reaches 180-220degF/82-93degC.
The substrate should be placed in a container or tub. Cover it with plastic until it cools. After cooling, add starter worm culture, food (e.g. bread and yogurt, oatmeal instant mashed potatoes, fish food) to the substrate’s surface. Add the food to a deli-cup lid. Then cut a breathing hole in the plastic container’s lid and adhere a piece of fabric to cover the hole and prevent pests from entering. The lid should be placed on the plastic 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. You can harvest them by removing the lid from the deli cups, wiping off the worms with your finger and rinsing them in water.
Insects and larvae make up a large part of fish’s natural diets. Their exoskeletons provide excellent roughage, which helps fish digestion. You can buy feeder insects – like crickets, dubia roaches, and mealworms – from reptile stores, and some people even raise 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.
Set up a 5-gallon bucket filled with dechlorinated drinking water outside to capture wild insects without the risk of introducing parasites. Then wait for the eggs to hatch.
To collect mosquito larvae from the surface of the water, use a fine-mesh net. Do not forget to harvest them every day to prevent their development into adult mosquitoes.
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. When breeding cherry shrimp, it may be necessary to cull the less colorful individuals to ensure that the line improves in quality over time. 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. We recommend that you always have extra cultures in case the first one fails. Best of luck on your live food journey, and make sure to check out the tutorial for our favorite live food, baby brine shrimp.