A few perspectives on feeding


Retired Staff
May 6, 2009
Berkeley, CA
So I just recovered from another bout of roommate induced fish slaughtering (lost the pseudohemiodons, all their fry, and a whole colony of betta pugnax), and have decided to take it a little easy on the hobby. Instead of having dedicated breeding setups, I’ve been tinkering around with ecosystematic tanks, and have come up with a few interesting feeding methods which have, so far, worked out pretty well. I’m pretty bored right now, so I though I’d check in and write an article about it.

1) Aquatic invert collecting
if any of you have access to relatively pristine streams and/or creeks in your area, especially the particular fast flowing, stony, coolwater variant, I would strongly suggest doing some safariing next time you’re out there. Stone, damsel, caddis, crane, and mayfly nymphs have been a big hit with my anabantoids and cichlids since I started collecting them from a local creek. Similarly, one could easily see the appeal of such invertebrate fare to some of the more insectivorous loricariidae, i.e. the leporacanthicus, hypans, etc. etc. It is something of a highly renewable fresh food source for your fish. Particularly, most prepared foods don’t provide the chitinous component to the diet of these fishes that live foods do, and let’s be honest…bloodworms are not the most exciting or, in all likelihood, palatable food for your plecos. Certainly, one can envision a scenario where the bits and pieces of exoskeleton help trawl the digestive tract for residual waste, etc. etc. The procedure I’ve been using is to collect them, bring them back, and keep them in a 5 gal breeder for a few days before I ship em off to the main tank, for precautionary purposes. There are a few xiphophorus fry hanging out, and an ancistrus, as indicator fish.
2) Daphnia in-tank culturing
This setup ensures a fairly constant food supply that feeds your fish for you. I tried this recently with hemiodontichthys and a few jewel goodeids and it worked quite well. Here’s the basic premise: culturing your food alongside the fish they are intended to feed. I used a slurry of low powered DIY sponge filters (to ensure the daphnia did not get sucked up and obliterated in a power filter box, or to remove food sources from the water column). The water was thus relatively still. I added the daphnia culture sourced from one of our labs (plenty of daphnia, in case you were wondering—like, an assload). The Xenotoca spp. were added because they will graze on the daphnia, but prefer prepared foods. The tank itself was well lit and choked with plants to give the daphnia sufficient cover. Feeding the tank involved daily doses of green water and mashed pea/flake/shrimp mix, which was taken greedily by the goodeids, the catfish, and the daphnia. In addition to the listed livestock, I had a couple of BNs and a grip of shrimp, for cleanup crew purposes. Eventually, the tank got too damn pungent (not the foul sort of odor, but like, well managed swamp water, which I didn’t mind, but we started getting some flies), so I cut it off, but I’ve never seen fatter, healthier animals in my life. If you some time, you should try it out. It let me cut back on feeding the tank to every other day, and the fish were, if I do say so myself, top notch. Keep in mind, water changes were expelled through coarse cheesecloth to ensure none of the precious daphnia ended up sinkside.
3) Kiddie pond culturing
Here’s an interesting method of preparing foods that I tried recently to induce hypoptopoma spawning, which didn’t happen, but I thought it was cool as tits, and the fish enjoyed it. To keep the above daphnia culture going strong, I made a separate culturing facility for them. I had a twenty long filled with green water, daphnia, some ghost shrimp, wood, and flat river stones. Green water was induced by strong lighting and doses of yeast-sugar into the water column (once a week). Additionally, the water was heavily aerated and fish food was added along with the yeast cultures. What resulted was all the décor covered in a clear, slimy biofilm, algae, and tufts of fungal colonies. Additionally, the water column itself contained large numbers of resident daphnia as well as, I suspect, ghost shrimp larvae. This sort of biofilmy crap is exactly the kind of stuff plecs, and specifically, those difficult-to-feed awfuchs-grazers relish, and this was certainly true for my giant otos. What’s more, the microbially induced breakdown of the wood in the tank is just what the doctor orders for wood eaters, such as panaque, which rely on wet rot to obtain nutrients when they graze. So if you want to fatten those big guys up, consider controllably “rotting†your wood in this manner, introducing it to your tank, and putting the piece back in your culture after a few days. The jist of this is that we keep our tanks too, well, clean for the induction of decomposition to any large degree, so periodic reestablishment of fungal or bacterial cultures are necessary for the desired effect. Plus, of course, you get a nice daphnia/ green water culture in the process. Keep the water aerated and moving, though. We’re not looking for fermentation.