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 has many advantages and is very similar in taste to what fish eat naturally. Fish will eat the food as it moves, which is particularly useful for those who are growing or underweight and require more nutrients. 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. 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 is the best option for raising fish babies or encouraging fish to spawn. These tiny, saltwater crustaceans are born with extremely nutritious yolk sacs full of healthy fats. 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). If you notice hundreds of tiny, pink dots floating around in your brine shrimp hatchery, turn on the light and attract them. Then, separate their eggs from their shells by shining a light at the base. 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-cichlid species like South American cichlids love snails. The snail shells are a great way to keep pufferfish from getting too big. 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 need water with a higher pH and GH or they will develop holes in the shells. If you have soft waters, like us we use 1-2 to 3-5 cm of crushed coral as the substrate. We then give mineral supplements such Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium as needed. 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, such as tetras or rainbowfish, often produce tiny fry, which are too small to be eaten as regular fry. Vinegar Eels are harmless, roundworms made of white worms. They are ideal for feeding babies and keeping them happy until they are old enough to eat baby salt shrimp. Simply fill a wine or other long-necked bottle with 50% apple cider vinegar, 50% dechlorinated water, and a few slices of apple. Once the vinegar eggs have reproduced enough you can harvest them. To allow the vinegar to escape from the vinegar, add some filter floss or dechlorinated water to 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
Banana worms, walter worms, and micro worms are also nematodes or roundworms 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 collect them, simply run your finger along any sides of the plastic tub that microworms have reached and then dip your fingers into the aquarium to feed the fish. You can find more details in this simple tutorial.
These aquatic crustaceans measure approximately 1-5 millimeters in length and are a great food source for small- to medium-sized 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. 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 can be fed active dry yeast, green or spirulina powder whenever the water is clear. They are easily harvested by slowly scooping a fine-meshed aquarium net through the water. Learn more about how to cultivate daphnia.
What do most newborn fish eat in the wild? Microorganisms like protozoans and microalgae are the most common. To feed their tiny fry, fish breeders often make their own cultures, or infusoria, of freshwater plankton. 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. To feed the infusoria, drop a 1-inch (3-cm) section of banana peel. The water should be heated to 78-80degF (26-24 degC). You will notice tiny, moving particles within a few days. 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. Use a pipette to extract some water and give it to your baby fry.
Live blackworms are a great food for bottom dwellers because they sink to the ground, and many breeders believe they are the best way to condition 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 the farms. Once you have received them, place the blackworms in a fine mesh fish net. After they are rinsed thoroughly, cool them down with dechlorinated tap water to between 40-55degF and 4-13degC. You want to make sure that they aren’t too full. Keep them in a large, shallow container. Place the container in the fridge with a lid. If you want to keep your worms hydrated until they are ready for your fish, rinse them every day with prechilled dechlorinated tap water.
8. Grindal and White Worms
Once your fish fry have been exposed to vinegar eels as well as micro worms, it is possible to move onwards to Grindal (approximately 0.5mm in diameter) or white (approximately 1mm in diameter). First sterilize the substrate. The dirt can be heated in an oven for up to 30 minutes at 180-200degF (82–93degC), or you can moisten the substrate with water and microwave it in 90 second intervals until it attains 180-200degF.
The substrate should be placed in a container or tub. Cover it with plastic until it has cooled. After cooling, add starter worm culture, food (e.g. bread and yogurt, oatmeal instant mashed potatoes, fish food) to the substrate’s surface. Place a deli cup lid on top of the food. Next, cut a hole in the lid of the plastic container. Then attach a piece fabric to the hole. Place the lid on top of the container.
Grindal worms can be kept at room temperature between 70-75degF (21-24degC), while white worms should be kept around 55degF (13) in a cellar 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. Reptile stores can sell feeder insects like mealworms and dubia bugs. Some people even start their own colonies of dubia rats. Red wigglers and earthworms are available at certain pet stores and bait shops and can be cultured at home as well.
To harvest insects from the wild without introducing potential parasites, set a 5-gallon bucket of dechlorinated water outside and wait for the mosquitos 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. It may be necessary for cherry shrimp breeders to eliminate the less vibrant individuals so that the line grows in quality. While it may not be for everyone, feeding fish or other invertebrates to your predator is an important part of his life.
You can buy most live cultures online or at local hobbyists. Find out what foods work well for your fish, and then give it a go. You should always keep an extra culture in case the primary one is destroyed or becomes unviable. Best of luck on your live food journey, and make sure to check out the tutorial for our favorite live food, baby brine shrimp.