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. The premium food is similar to the natural diet of fish and offers many benefits. The food moves and attracts fish to eat it. This is especially important for growing or overweight fish who need 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. Live foods are a great way to breed your fish. Discover these 10 most popular live foods, and how you can culture them at home.
1. Baby Brine Shrimp
Peacock gudgeon fish eating baby brine shrimp
When it comes to raising baby fish or encouraging adult fish to spawn, you can’t beat baby brine shrimp. These tiny, saltwater crustaceans from the Artemia genus are born with highly nutritious yolk sacs that are packed with proteins and healthy fats. If you want to hatch them yourself, soak the brine shrimp eggs in warm salt water. This should take between 18 and 36 hours (or 23-28 hours) depending on how hot your water is. To attract brine shrimp, shine light on the bottom of your hatchery and let them out. Read the entire article to learn how to hatch brine shrimp.
Malaysian trumpet snails
Many fish – like puffers, loaches, and larger South American cichlids – enjoy eating live snails. For pufferfish, the snail shells help to grind down their ever-growing teeth so they won’t get too long. You can keep a steady supply of these aquatic gastropods by setting up an aquarium or tub that is separate from your main tank. Their shells may become damaged if they are not given hard water with a higher pH or GH. If you have soft water like us, we like to use 1-2 inches (3-5 cm) of crushed coral as substrate and then dose mineral supplements like Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium if needed. Next, we feed Pleco Banquet Blocks or Nano Banquet Food Blocks to our fish food high in calcium. Find out more about the top 7 freshwater snails.
3. Vinegar Eels
Typically, egg-scattering fish such as tetras, rainbowfish, and killifish produce teeny-tiny fry that are too small to eat regular fry food. 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. 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 eels have reproduced enough, you can harvest them by adding some filter floss and dechlorinated water into the neck of the bottle so that the vinegar eels swim out of the vinegar into the fresh water. 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. We like to start our cultures in small plastic containers with instant mashed potatoes. Make a small opening in the lid of your plastic container and cover it with filter floss. This will keep unwanted pests out. Simply run your finger along the plastic tub’s sides to harvest the microworms. Then, dip your finger into the aquarium 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 can reproduce quickly, so we recommend that they are kept in as much water possible to maintain stable water parameters and avoid population crashes. 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. You can easily harvest them by gently squeezing an aquarium net through the water. You can learn more about cultivating daphnia in our article.
What does the majority of newborn fish eat in nature? Microorganisms like protozoans and microalgae are the most common. 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. To feed the infusoria, drop a 1-inch (3-cm) section of banana peel. Warm the water to 78-80degF (26-25degC) for faster results. You should see tiny, moving specks in a matter of 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. Suck out some of the water with a pipette and feed them directly 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. 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. Blackworms are usually available at your local fish market or online directly from 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). Keep them in a shallow, wide container. This will ensure that they don’t get too crowded. 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 Worms and White Worms
Once your fish fry have graduated from vinegar eels and micro worms, you can move onto Grindal worms (about 0.5 mm in diameter) and then eventually white worms (about 1 mm in diameter). You will need to sterilize the substrate, such as organic potting soil, coconut fiber, or peatmoss. The dirt can be heated in an oven for up to 30 minutes at 180-200°F (82-93°C), or you can moisten it with water and microwave it in intervals of 90 seconds until it reaches 180–200°F (82–93°C).
Place the substrate in a plastic container or tub and cover until it has cooled; add a little dechlorinated water to moisten it some more if needed. Afterwards, add the starter worm culture and some food (e.g., bread and yogurt, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, or even fish food) to the surface of the substrate. Cover the food with a deli lid. Next, cut a hole in the lid of the plastic container. Then attach a piece fabric to the hole. Finally, place the lid on the plastic 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. To harvest them, remove the deli cup lid on top of the food, wipe off some worms with your finger, and dip them in a small cup of water to rinse them before feeding your fish.
Insects and larvae make up a large part of fish’s natural diets. Their exoskeletons provide excellent roughage, which helps fish digestion. Feeder insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches can be purchased at reptile shops. Some even have their own dubia and roach colonies. Red wigglers or earthworms can be purchased at some pet shops and bait shops. You can also culture them at home.
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. In order to breed cherry shrimp, it might be necessary to cut down the less-colorful individuals in order to increase the quality of the line. 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. It is a good idea to always keep extra cultures on hand in case one culture 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.