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 FEEDING FISH A BALANCED DIET

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PostSubject: FEEDING FISH A BALANCED DIET   Fri Dec 14, 2007 12:37 am

Written by Rich


How many of us when we started out in keeping fish, bought a 'complete setup' with a tub of flake food, and belived this was all that is necessary ?

Well, I did, although I soon figured that like us and all creatures, fish need a healthy balanced diet. I have kept many animals over the years, and the one think I always made sure of, was that all the little beasties I was fortunate enough to have as company, were fed to the highest standards I possible could. A good example was my chipmunks, now you can buy off the shelf chipmunk food, but this isnt everything they need, so by time I had bought all the nuts, fruit, veg, seeds, meat (mealworms mainly) they needed, I was paying 40 per month to feed them.

Look at it logically, well, the saying that 'man cannot live on bread alone' covers the scenario quite neicely, first of all, we'd soon get bored of it, and secondly, it is far from an ideal basis on a nutritional basis (I honestly belive many of the people in the western world who are ill with weight problems and asscociated illnesses are so due to the large amounts of bread and similar goods consumed)

Anyway, they may 'only be fish' but they are entirely dependant upon their human keepers for their food (obvious I know). But have you thought about the differences between a wild fish and its diet, and a captive fish? even just considering the diet alone, in the wild, the fish isnt served on a regular basis, it has to be an opportunistic feeder and eat when the chance is there (this is why fish are easily overfed, they cannot feel full, its natures way of allowing them to eat when they can incase of a shortage of food in the near future) so you could almost pour the whole tub of food iunto a tank, the fish will eat almost to the point of bursting, because instinct tell them it may be a long time before another meal arrives (this is also why in most cases, its safe to go away on holiday for a week and not feed the fish for that time).

The food we feed the fish, in most cases is man made dried food. It is not a live prey species (with the obvious exceptions of live blood worms and similar aquatic organisms fed to fish). Which means the fish dont have to hunt their food, in fact, they may as well sit there with their mouths open and let the food drift in. As the fish dont have to work for a living, its easy for them to get overweight and lazy, and another problem is fish do and will develop eating habits. They will learn 'favourite foods' an example is they will only eat a certain colour flake. Siamese Fighting Fish are notourious for being fussy eaters, many people buy one, and panic because it wont eat for several days, because it has become used to the food the store fed it, and wont eat anything else (until near starvation forces them to try something new).

The answer to all these problems is actually relatively easy, although a little more costly than some would like. Do not feed your fish on a single type of food, eg flake, get them used to eating pellets as well (use the appropriate size food for the fish) and do not be tempted to keep to the same make and type of food, its murphys law that one day, you will no longer be able to find this food in a store, and then you have a massive problem of a fish that is reluctant to feed on anything but the food its used too.

Also, not all flake foods (or foods in general) have the same contents, be this in terms of actual ingredients, or mineral/vitamin/fat etc content, if you feed fish on a single food stuff, you are more than likely slowly but surely causing soem kind of dietry deficiency. So its best to buy two or three different foods, and alternate between these at different feeding times, so the fish dont get too attached to a single food, they dont 'learn' a favourite, and are hopefully getting as wide a range of nutrients as you can provide.

Something that is very important 9especially if you have a community tank) is to ensure that all the different fish have their individual needs covered. Some fish are carnivors, some herbivores, some omnivors.

A classic example is the algae eaters (such as bristlenose catfish) many people believe (because the bloke in the store said so) that these fish are happily fed on algae wagfers and nothing else. Well, the problem is, in nature, there is no shortage of algae for these fish to find, in your average tank, there is. Its almaost impossible to supply enough free growing in a fish tank to feed these fish. Even if you thought you could, algaae has very little nutritional value and in order to get everything the fish needs, it has to eat a massive amount.

Algae wafers do cover this problem, they are of benefit to these fish, and in fact, many fish will eat them, however, they are not a balanced diet on there own. many of these wafers contain large amounts of useless 'bulk' ingredients such as ash, which goes in one end and out the other, creating potential water quality issues. The way to stop these problems is again very easy, wholse seemingly unnatural, you can feed these fish fresh vegetables such as cucumber, courgette (zuccini), peas, water cress, or fresh lettuce, even some fruits (all this will be covered in a different topc).

This means the fish can feed in a more natural manner and get the different nutrients it needs in a healthy and balanced manner.

Many people complain that 'my fish has a swollen abdomen and isnt eating' this is often good old constipation caused by a diet of nothing but flake food, which eventually blicks the gut. A few meals of fresh veg soon fixes it, and if the veg is amde a regular feature of the diet, the problem shouldnt arrise. Something else I personally think is bebeficial to fish, it to give them a regular starvation day, ie, one day a week where they are not fed. This gives the fishs' body a chance to flush out anything remaining within the digestive system, and also, the fish then (as they are always hungry) look for its iwn sources of food within the tank. There is always something edible in the tank for a fish, and the next day that do return to the normal feeding pattern, you can be sure there is no wasted food. I find a good time to do this is the day that I do my weekly water change, so not only do I remove any excess food, anything I miss or disturb within the tank, the fish will find and its like having an extra little helping clean crew to mop up (it also means the tank stays looking clean for that little while longer).

Another common mistake is feeding corydoras soley on algae wafers. many of these fish actually starve to death because they are not fed the correct diet. They do eat algae in the wild, but these little catfish are opportunistic omnivores, and need a wide range of foods, including meaty foods. A good general sinking pellet food easily prevents starvation, they will pick off any stray flakes that do not get eaten (another mistake the belief they survive purely on scraps) and they will eat anything they find really, but its your job to make sure they 'find' a good balanced diet.

When you buy fish, find out as much as you can about what they eat not just in the fish stores, but what they would eat in the wild, and try 9as best as you can) to emulate this diet. Fortunately, many fish share the same diets so in most cases (if you already have fish in a community) you are feeding most of what they need anyway. It never hurts to double check the tanks food input though.

So to summarise, keep the diet balanced, but feed good quality food, never overfeed (if you have food sat on the substrate and left uneaten by any fish, you are overfeeding so simply reduce the amount you put in), think about what the fish would normally eat (also bear in mind, many fish sold have been caught from the wild, and do not understand they no longer need to hunt etc and the flake is now the food they need), keep the diet mixed to avoid boredom and food addiction, and try to ensure the fish get all the nutrients they need.

YOU ARE WHOLEY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR FOOD, YOU ARE KEEPING THEM IN YOUR TANK, THEY ARE UNABLE TO CHOOSE FOR THEMSLEVES, ITS YOUR DUTY TO CARE FOR THE FISH TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY
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