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. Premium food has many benefits and is very similar to what fish eat in the wild. Fish will eat the food as it moves, which is particularly useful for those who are growing or underweight and require more nutrients. You can also observe unusual behaviors when you feed flakes, which will enrich both your aquarium’s physical and mental health. 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 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 are born with extremely nutritious yolk sacs full of 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. You can read the complete article to find out our exact method for hatching brine shrimp.
Malaysian trumpet snails
Many fish – like puffers, loaches, and larger South American cichlids – enjoy eating live snails. The snail shells are a great way to keep pufferfish from getting too big. For a steady supply, you will need a separate aquarium to house your ramshorn, bladder, and Malaysian trumpet snails. They require hard water that is higher in pH and GH to avoid developing holes in their shells. We prefer to use crushed coral for substrate. If we have soft water, we can then add mineral supplements such as Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium. Then we feed Pleco Banquet Blocks, Nano Banquet Food Blocks, and other fish foods high in calcium. Learn more about the 7 most popular freshwater snails.
3. Vinegar Eels
Egg-scattering fish like tetras and rainbowfish often produce tiny fry that are too small for regular fry. Vinegar eels, which are harmless white roundworms, are easy to cultivate and are great for feeding babies until they can eat baby brine 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. Then use a pipette to remove some of the vinegar eels and feed them to your fish fry. Follow our step-by–step instructions to create your own vinegar-eel culture.
4. Micro Worms
Kribensis fry eating microworms
Walter worms (banana worms), micro worms and walter worms all make up nematodes. These roundworms are used to feed live fish. These nematodes are slightly larger than vinegar eels, but smaller than baby brine shrimps and can therefore be fed to small fry. Our preferred method of starting our cultures is to use small plastic containers containing 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. To harvest them, just swipe your finger along the sides of the plastic tub where the microworms have climbed up and then dip your finger directly into the tank to feed the fish. Check out this easy tutorial for 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 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. It is easy to harvest them by slowly squeezing through the water a fine-meshed aquarium mesh net. Find out more about how to cultivate daphnia.
What does the majority of newborn fish eat in nature? Usually microorganisms such as microalgae, protozoans, and invertebrate larvae. Many fish breeders create their own freshwater plankton cultures (also known as 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. Drop a 1-inch (3cm) piece of banana peel or half a teaspoon of instant yeast into the jar to feed your infusoria. To get faster results, heat the water to between 78-80degF and 26-27degC. Within a few days, you will see small, moving specks. 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. It can be difficult to propagate them at home so farms in the United States grow large-scale cultures in man-made lakes. You can usually purchase blackworms either from your local fish store or online directly from the 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). To make sure they are not too crowded, keep them in a wide, shallow container so that the worms are not piled on top of each other more than 0.5 inches high (1.3 cm). Place the container in the fridge with a lid. You can keep your worms healthy until you feed them fish by repeating this process every day.
8. Grindal 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).
The substrate should be placed in a container or tub. Cover it with plastic until it cools. 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. Place a deli cup lid on top of the food. To seal the pests out, make a small opening in the plastic container’s top lid. Next, attach a piece or fabric to the opening. Place the lid on top of the container.
Grindal worms do well in room temperatures of 70-75degF (21-24degC), whereas white worms must be stored around 55degF (13degC) in a cool basement or wine chiller. Take off the deli cup lid and gently wipe the worms clean with your finger. Rinse them under a cup of water before you feed 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, earthworms and other species are available in certain pet shops and bait shops. They can also be cultured at home.
You can harvest insects from the wild, but not introduce potential parasites, by placing a 5-gallon bucket with dechlorinated water out and waiting for them to lay their eggs.
You can scoop up the mosquito larvae using a fine mesh net. Make sure you harvest every day, or they will become 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. When breeding cherry shrimp, it may be necessary to cull the less colorful individuals to ensure that the line improves in quality over time. 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.