Healthy Feeding Methods
Feeding an aquarium seems simple enough - buy a container of flake food, and toss some in, right? Actually, that really isn't a good idea. A variety of foods and nutritional supplements, provide a well-balanced diet, and better health. And depending on the type of livestock in an aquarium, and the size of the tank, the types and amounts fed, may vary. These nutrients come in many forms, including: flakes, pelleted foods, sheets, freeze dried, frozen, refrigerated, liquid, powdered, and live.
Flake food is convenient, easy to dose, and relatively inexpensive. It should be kept in a cool dry place - not sitting on the canopy, where the heat of your lighting can ruin it. Never sprinkle food directly from the container into your tank, as you may accidentally dump excessive amounts of it into the water, and pollute the tank. It is better to take a pinch of food, submerge your fingers in the water and release the food into the current. This will allow your fish to eat without gulping down air, which may happen if they are trying to eat from the water's surface. Keep in mind that some varieties of flake foods are known to add to phosphate levels, so if your tank suffers from nuisance algae, you should reduce the amount of flake food fed. Some flake foods, such as those made by Two Little Fishies, are all natural and will not contain high levels of phosphates and will be more nutritious for marine herbivores such as Tangs and Surgeonfish, Moorish Idols, Parrotfish, Angelfish, large Butterflyfish, and herbivorous freshwater fishes, such as Cichlids and Goldfish.
Pellet food comes in various sizes. Smaller fish will not eat large sized pellets, so it's recommended to use small pellet foods like O.S.I. Marine Pellets. Even though pellet foods tend to sink, it's best to submerge your fingers in the water, and release the pellets into the current, to prevent some from floating. Pellets can also be used to feed (LPS) Large-Polyped Stony corals, fish, and even your refugium inhabitants. Avoid overdosing your tank with pellets, as these can end up polluting the water.
Sheet algae or dried seaweed, referred to as Nori, is an excellent method for feeding herbivores such as Tangs. Using a feeding clip, you can affix Nori to the glass, and your fish can nip off small pieces over a period of time. If you are keeping Tangs, please be aware that these fish graze all day long, and don't do well only being fed once a day. Clipping on some Nori in the morning, and then feeding them again in the evening, will result in healthier Tangs.
Sera offers a mixed variety of freeze dried foods, such as their Sera Marin a great choice and a less messy alternative to Frozen Foods. With the advancements in the Marine Aquarium Hobby, freeze dried foods are available in many varieties including brine shrimp, bloodworms, mysid, squid, scallops, krill, silver sides, plankton and more. When purchasing freeze dried foods, consider what fish and corals you have, and if possible, try to buy what is usually available to them in nature. Krill, plankton and shrimp, are all meaty foods, that are used to feed anemones, eels, some LPS corals and carnivore fish.
Liquid foods are also readily available. They are designed to feed or "target feed" filter feeders, such as sponges and feather dusters. Plankton-based foods are also readily available. These allow hobbyists to target-feed corals, fish fry, and pods. Knowing your system's total volume of water is very important, because that is how you'll determine how much food to dose. Too much will pollute the system, and too little may not provide enough nourishment - both of which may be harmful.
Vitamins & Fish Food Additives benefit your livestock, and one herb highly recommended, is Garlic. A few drops of liquid garlic oil are all that is needed. It stimulates a response in the fish to eat, and seems to boost their immune system. HUFA's are also greatly needed for your fish to stay healthy, especially foods with HUFA's that contain Omega's; Selcon is very high in HUFA's (Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids). Vitamin C has been used with good results, to enhance the immune system of fish and invertebrates, and stimulate the production of connective tissue, such as that damaged by head and lateral line erosion. Before adding powdered vitamins and/or powdered foods to your tank, always mix them into some RO water or tank water first. Then slowly pour the mixture into an area of high water flow, to disperse it well.
Live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, rotifers and small feeder fish, are all great foods. Some fish need live food until getting fully accustomed to life in captivity, and others demand it as long as they live. Ghost shrimp can be released in a tank for a Lion Fish to consume as it gets hungry. Newly hatched brine shrimp can be fed to dwarf seahorses. Rotifers are fed late at night for (SPS) Small-Polyped Stony corals to consume, and for newly hatched Clownfish fry. Hatching brine shrimp is quite simple, and offering newly hatched baby brine shrimp to your livestock can be quite nutritious, as the yolk sac is still attached at that point. If you feed the baby brine shrimp some phytoplankton six hours before you harvest them, they will be "gut-loaded" and provide even more nutrition to your reef.
Remember that a reef tank is a closed system, so a delicate balance needs to be maintained. Whatever you put into the system will come out later, either through the fish, the protein skimmer or via nuisance algae. Experiment to determine the proper feeding regimen for your tank, and adjust it as necessary.
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