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. Predation, water quality, and inadequate food can all lead to high losses in the newborn stage. We will be discussing 5 foods that are small enough to feed even the smallest fry. This will help them grow fast and last for the next few weeks.
1. Baby Brine Shrimp
Peacock gudgeon fry eating baby brine shrimp
Baby brine shrimp (BBS) is the best food for fry, according to fish farmers or veteran breeders. The yolk sacs of newly hatched brine shrimp are packed with nutrients and great 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. To hatch brine shrimp eggs, you need to soak them in salt water and add aeration by an air pump. Once the water has reached 74-82degF (23-25degC), the eggs will be ready for harvest. The baby brine shrimp will be ready to harvest in 18-36 hours. This recipe is reliable as long you purchase good eggs. So, follow these instructions.
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. However, if you are hatching tiny fry from egg layers like killifish, rainbowfish, and tetras, the newborns are too little to eat baby brine shrimp. Therefore, the rest of the article focuses on even smaller “starter” foods, with the strong recommendation that you switch over to baby brine shrimp after a couple of weeks once the fry are big enough.
Freshwater plankton under a microscope
In the wild, most baby fish eat microorganisms such as protozoans and invertebrate larvae ranging between 20-300 microns. Infusoria, the common name fishkeepers use to refer to freshwater plankton is also used for many other methods of culturing them. A popular technique is to fill a large container with a few quarts or liters of old tank water, mulm, then add in a piece banana peel, catappa leaf, 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 should become cloudy as bacteria breaks down the food, and then it will turn clear as the infusoria consumes the bacteria.
To harvest, use a pipette or turkey baster to suck out some water just below the surface scum and feed it directly to the fry. Depending on the size of the jar and how often you are harvesting, the culture may last 2-4 weeks. 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. If you are raising lots of babies and need a constant supply of infusoria, you may need to start a new culture every 1-2 weeks. 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
If keeping infusoria sounds too time-intensive, try your hand at another live food – vinegar eels. This tiny roundworm or nematode is simple to grow and measures 50 microns in diameter. They are 1-2 mm long. In a long-necked wine bottle, or any other container with a long neck, combine 50% apple cider mixture with 50% dechlorinated. You can add some apple slices, a starter culture for vinegar eels and then wait for them to reproduce. When you can see them moving near the surface, add a wad filter floss to the neck of your bottle. Add some water above the filter floss and a few drops of fresh water. You can quickly scoop them out using a pipette, and then feed them directly to the baby fish. Their wiggling motion attracts the fry and allows them to survive in freshwater for many days. Our detailed instructions will help you create your vinegar eel cultures that can last for 6 months.
4. Powdered Fry Meal
Sera Micron fry food
You might consider purchasing prepared foods if you lack the time or resources to keep alive food cultures. Fry foods are usually available in powdered forms that can be found anywhere from 5800 to 8800 microns, depending upon 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 first bites Easy Fry and Small fish food – Golden pearls Crushed flakes, Spirulina powder – Repashy gelfood (in the raw or powdered form).
Powdered foods tends to float to the surface due to the water tension. If you are feeding babies bottom dwellers, swirl the water to make the particles sink faster. A small children’s paintbrush is recommended to avoid overfeeding fish. To feed the fish, dip the bristles into the powder. Lightly tap the paintbrush several times on the fry 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
Green water is very similar to infusoria in size, but the green color is more prominent because it’s primarily made up of microalgae and other phytoplankton that 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. However, it has many benefits – such as purifying the water, making it harder for adult fish to predate on their young, healing minor ailments, and serving as a food source for baby fish and daphnia cultures. 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
Because baby fish have baby-sized stomachs, they need to be fed mini meals at least 3-5 times a 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. Frequent feedings in smaller containers can quickly cause water to become contaminated and lead to fry death. Therefore, frequent water changes are necessary to ensure that the water is stable and clean. 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 is just one aspect of raising healthy fry, so keeping reading to learn about our top 5 tips for growing baby fish to become big and strong.