Top 5 Tiny Foods to Feed Baby Fish for Healthy Growth
Breeding fish is such a fun and rewarding part of the aquarium hobby, but while it can be easy to get fish to spawn, raising their tiny babies is where the real challenge begins. The newborn period is often a difficult time for fish due to water quality problems, predation or simply not providing enough food. In this article, let’s talk about 5 miniscule foods that you can feed even the smallest fry to help them grow quickly and get past the first few weeks of their lives.
1. Baby Brine Shrimp
Peacock gudgeon fry baby brine shrimp
If you talk to veteran breeders or fish farms that produce massive numbers of fish, they know that the #1 best food to feed fry is baby brine shrimp (BBS). Freshly hatched brineshrimp have a nutritious yolk sac full of healthy fats, proteins and nutrients – ideal for feeding baby fish. As a live food, their jerky swimming movements also entice the fry to eat more so they grow faster and stronger. The brine shrimp eggs can be hatched by soaking them in saltwater, adding aeration using an air pump and heating the water to 74-82degF (23-25degC). The baby brine shrimp will be ready to harvest in 18-36 hours. As long as you buy good eggs, the recipe is very reliable, so follow the instructions in this article.
Baby brine shrimp are approximately 400-500 microns in size and are suitable for many baby livebearers, African cichlids, and other species that lay larger eggs. Baby brine shrimp are not recommended for hatching small fry from eggs like rainbowfish, killifish, or tetras. The rest of this article will focus on smaller starter foods. We strongly recommend that you switch to baby brine shrimp once your fry have grown sufficiently.
Freshwater plankton under a microscope
Baby fish are omnivores and eat protozoans and larvae of invertebrate insects. These microorganisms range from 20 to 300 microns. Infusoria is the common name that fishkeepers use for these freshwater plankton, and there are many methods for culturing them. One of the most popular techniques is to fill a large jar with a few quarts (or liters) of old tank water and mulm, and then drop in a piece of banana peel, catappa leaves, instant yeast, or other organic matter. Warm the water to tropical temperatures between 78-80degF (26-27degC) for faster results and add aeration to minimize the smell. Soon the water will start to cloud as bacteria starts to digest the food. The water will then become clearer as the infusoria eats the bacteria.
Use a turkey baster or pipette to extract water from the top of the scum. Then, feed the water directly to the fry. The culture can last between 2 and 4 weeks depending on how often it is harvested. The culture can be extended by adding tank water to the jar, adding food each week, and using turkey basters to get rid of some of the gunk. A new culture may be necessary if you are raising many children and require infusoria. Just pour water from the old culture into the new jar, add a food source, and fill the rest of the jar with aquarium water.
3. Vinegar Eels
Vinegar eels being harvested in a bottle neck
You might find keeping infusoria too tedious. If this is the case, you can try vinegar eels. This tiny nematode, or roundworm, is easy to cultivate. It measures approximately 50 microns in size and 1-2mm in length. Make a mixture of half an apple cider mixture and half dechlorinated water in a long-necked bottle. Add some apple slices and a starter culture of vinegar eels, and wait for them to reproduce. Once you can visibly see them wiggling near the surface, harvest them by adding a wad of filter floss in the neck of the bottle and some fresh water above the filter floss. The vinegar eels will swim towards the fresh water above, so you can easily scoop them out with a pipette to feed the baby fish. Their wiggling motion attracts the fry and allows them to survive in freshwater for many days. A vinegar eel culture can last up to 6 months, so follow our detailed instructions to create your own.
4. Powdered Fry Food
Sera Micron fry food
If you do not have access or time to maintain live food cultures, prepared foods are an option to consider. Fry food tends to come in a powdered form that ranges from 5-800 microns, depending on the brand. You need to ensure that your baby fish have a varied diet. This will prevent them from becoming nutritionally deficient. Some of our favorite foods include:
Sera Micron Hikari’s First Bite Easy Fry and Small Fish food – Golden Pearls Crushed Flakes – Spirulina Powder – Repashy gel food in the raw, powdered version
Powdered food tends to float on the surface due to water tension. You may need to swirl water to get them to sink faster if you are feeding small bottom dwellers. To avoid overfeeding the fish, we recommend using a small children’s paintbrush. To feed the fish, lightly dip the bristles in powdered paintbrush and tap it lightly over the tank. This ensures that the fry are not fed too often at once. It can cause water to become contaminated.
5. Green Water
Microalgae under a microscope
Infusoria is very similar in size to green water, but its color is much more noticeable because it is primarily made of microalgae as well as other phytoplankton which create energy through photosynthesis. Hobbyists are usually trying to figure out how to get rid of green water in their aquariums and ponds since it makes it harder to view the fish and plants. It has many benefits, including purifying the water, making predation harder on young fish, treating minor ailments and providing food for daphnia and baby fish. Start with a large jar, aquarium, or other container and fill it with old tank water. Add some liquid fertilizer, fish food, or other organics to create a nutrient-rich environment for the microalgae. A filter, air stone or other device is also useful to help the algae get enough oxygen and carbon. Use a light source like a desk lamp to shine directly on the container non-stop for 24 hours a day. The water will turn greener over time and be ready to feed the fry.
Here are some more Fry Feeding Ideas
Baby fish require small meals at least 3 to 5 times per day. Also, it helps to put the fry in a smaller container or aquarium so that they don’t need to swim as far and waste as much energy finding the food. The problem is that frequent feedings in a smaller container can quickly foul the water and cause fry mortality, so frequent, small water changes are needed to keep the water clean and stable. Master breeder Dean addresses this problem by creating a rack of fry trays that constantly drips and circulates water from a larger aquarium down below.
Feeding healthy fry is only one aspect. Keep reading to find out our top 5 tips to help your baby fish grow big and strong.