The Importance of a Varied Diet for Freshwater Fish (Part 2)

An appealing element of the aquarium hobby is that Tropical fish enjoy a balanced diet. This trait is very important to pay attention to, as they should be provided with the proper feeding requirements to ensure proper health. Read on to learn more about the best assorted cuisine for freshwater fish!

Large Central & South American Cichlids are generally carnivorous and tend to eat very specific foods in the wild. This is not to say that the cichlids in your aquarium are not opportunistic and would mind going away from their favorite foods to have a meal. They will certainly be better off for it in an aquarium if they do eat a varied diet. All the little fish, crustaceans and bugs eat a varied diet before wild Oscars would eat them. So for most larger predatory American Cichlids, the best way to feed would be a good staple diet HIKARI mixed in with frozen krillJumbo bloodworms, plankton or silversides.  Some people will also occasionally feed things like ghost shrimp or even self-cloning crayfish to bring out a little more of their hunting instincts. We don’t recommend feeding live fish to cichlids as it is not necessary and improves your chances of getting a viral or bacterial infection going amongst your prized tank inhabitants. However, make sure you know your fish, as in recent years more unusual cichlids have been showing up and fish such as Basketmouths are planktivores and will require smaller foods than fish of similar size.

In recent years, Eartheaters have been a very hot group of fish for aquarists with larger aquariums looking for larger fish with less attitude than the traditional predatory cichlids.  This group of fish will eat most of the same foods as the previous fish but leans a little more omnivorous and prefers to scavenge smaller pieces of food off the bottom. As the group name suggests, these fish prefer to sift sand off the bottom of the aquarium and pull food out while dropping sand out of their gills, which is a fun process to watch. At Blue Fish Aquarium, both wild and captive bred Eartheaters have taken most foods without difficulty, but they would prefer smaller foods such as plankton and bloodworms and should be fed a bit more often as they are certainly more inclined to graze.

Smaller and dwarf South American Cichlids do well on smaller staple flakes such as Sera or Cobalt Cichlid Flakes but prefer smaller frozen foods several times weekly in their diet.  Fish such as German Blue Rams and Apistogrammas do very well adding Frozen Brine ShrimpDaphnia and Bloodworms to their diets.

We feed our discus a varied diet of dry and frozen foods. These fish will eat a lot due to their overall size and the warmer water temperature tends to keep their metabolism running at a higher rate as well. We feed several times daily, rotating food between Hikari frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp and discus formula. We also add in Cobalt Discus Hans Flake and our own discus flake blend of beefheart, bloodworm, blackworm and earthworm. Over the years we have found that it works better to keep their menus varied, as abbreviated menus will cause discus to not eat other foods when introduced. We have heard reports of people who only fed bloodworms or live blackworms (as it was easy for that specific aquarist) but when there was a national shortage of bloodworms or black worms, the fish went on hunger strike once the aquarist was out of their food. It is not unusual for discus or large cichlids to go on hunger strike for weeks at a time and will add to the stress level of both the fish and the aquarist. While blackworms are great for a lot of fish, we do not recommend live blackworms for discus as they appear to get sick often while on a live blackworm diet.

Freshwater puffers, such as the very popular Indian Dwarf Puffer and all brackish water puffers, will eat frozen foods such as bloodworms and appropriate-sized brine shrimp plankton or krill. The key to their happiness is feeding them snails. They love them and must have them. Each of these puffers have teeth that continue to grow over their entire lifetime, but feeding them hard shelled crustaceans and snails helps keep these teeth filed down to a manageable size for them to continue to eat normally. Without snails in the diet, the owner would eventually have to trim the teeth by hand or risk losing the fish when it can no longer eat normally.

Overall, a mixed diet for freshwater fish is of high significance if you want them to grow to their highest potential. Just like humans, fish require a balanced diet. They need to be fed various foods in order to grow and thrive. If you are at all concerned about the health of your freshwater fish, take note. Remember to pick up a few different kinds of the aforementioned foods the next time you stop at Blue Fish!

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