Feeding to the Max

By Larry Arnold, Aqualand Pets Plus

 
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Different Watersprite

              

Food consumes a great deal of our thoughts, even when we’re not consuming it ourselves.

We want to make sure we feed our fish what’s good for them and what tastes good to them. Watching them eat makes us happy.  We want our pets to clean their plates, grow plump (but not fat), and stay healthy -- often higher standards than we set for ourselves.

So we feed them the best foods we can find on the market.  Unfortunately, we can easily feed them too much. Most fish disease problems trace back to too much food.  Too much of a food thing pollutes the water, encourages bacteria, depletes the oxygen, stresses the fish, and encourages diseases.  Avoid overfeeding.

IN THE WILD.  Fish are “opportunistic feeders” in the wild.  Anything small that moves is tasted.  If they find something smaller than them, they eat it.  If it’s larger than them, they run from it.  “Eat now” is the message, because it may be a long time before the next meal shows up.

IN OUR TANKS.  We quickly condition our fishes to react to our opening the lid and adding food.  They learn to eat whenever we feed them and whatever we feed them.  We have the ultimate power to… Whoops, we almost got off on a rant there.  Anyway, we’re in charge of almost everything they eat with a few exceptions.

BROWSERS.  Watch your fish closely.  You’ll see them grazing on the plants, on the tank walls, and on the gravel -- maybe even each other.  They supplement the food you give them by snacking on the multitudinous microscopic animalcules  that grow in your aquarium.

BARE TANKS.  When experimenters ran food tests in aquaria that were carefully washed out daily, the fishes fared poorly on most foods.  They need those little unseen critters that live in the tank with them.  So now you have one more reason for not wiping off all the algae that grows in your tank.

ALGAE.  Sure it looks messy, but algae perform a valuable service in your aquarium.  Algae remove nitrogenous wastes and carbon dioxide.  In exchange, they provide food (for the fish and for other tiny organisms) and oxygen.  No matter what food you feed, this part of their food chain occurs except in new tanks.

BASIC SCHEDULE.  A Thanksgiving Day feast once a day is not the best feeding schedule for us or for our fishes.  Feed at least twice a day for healthy fishes.  Their tiny stomachs enable them to consume only tiny amounts of food.  They need frequent refills in addition to the mini-wildlife that grows in their tank.

FEED TO BREED.  Feeding twice a day will often do it for breeding.  But add frozen foods to the menu for better results.  Remember that frozen foods are rarely a balanced diet.  They just taste great.  Feed the flakes first. Feed them frozen for dessert.  Watch their breeding colors develop.

FEED TO SHOW.  Follow the same rules as above.  Then four days before the show, cut their rations in half.  A hungry fish is a moving fish.  They show off to the judge as they prowl the tank in search of food.  And if you carry a clipboard when you feed them, you’ll get them to show off even better when the judges show up.

FEED TO GROW.  Several experiments by professional guppy breeders prove that the maximum feeding schedule for growing guppies is five feedings a day.  Fewer feedings slow their growth.  More frequent feedings do not increase it.  And at least one of those feedings should be brine shrimp.  Oddly enough, frequency of feeding affected growth more than the type(s) of food(s) fed.

CLEAN UP.  Add some snails to clean up any extra rations.  As a general rule:  If food hits the bottom, you have exceeded the stomach capacity of your fishes -- but not the capacity of the bacteria in your aquarium just waiting for a chance to go forth and prosper.  Snails appreciate the extra food and will help you control your overfeeding habits.

FILTRATION.  Don’t go for maximum feedings in fish bowls or new tanks.  You need a well functioning filter system to handle the extra waste products.

WATER CHANGES.  When feeding to the MAX, water changes assume greater importance.  Your fishes generate more waste products, so they need new water more often.  You need to flush their toilet for them.

SUMMARY.  Feed a variety of foods and feed as often as practical for you.  Some fish keepers use the battery-operated fish feeders to increase their feeding schedule.  Others drop in a mini-vacation block.  Most of us, however, prefer to watch our fishes turn into creatures from Jaws III when we sprinkle in a few flakes.  LA

© 1996, © 2003, © 2004  LA Productions

3600 Sixth Avenue

Corner of Sixth & Euclid Avenues

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