Aquarium fish feed is plant or animal material intended for consumption by pet fish kept in aquariums or ponds. Fish foods normally contain macro nutrients, trace elements and vitamins necessary to keep captive fish in good health. Approximately 80% of fishkeeping hobbyists feed their fish exclusively prepared foods that most commonly are produced in flake, pellet or tablet form. Pelleted forms, some of which sink rapidly, are often used for larger fish or bottom feeding species such as loaches or catfish. Some fish foods also contain additives such as sex hormones or beta carotene to artificially enhance the color of ornamental fish.
Ingredients of quality fish food
Fish food should ideally provide the fish with fat (for energy) and amino acids (building blocks of proteins) and the fish food (whether flake or pellet) must be speedily digested in order to prevent build up of intestinal gas, renal failure and infections (such as swim bladder problems and dropsy) and to avoid aquarium pollution due to excessive ammonia. Aquatic diets for carnivores must contain vegetable matter such as spirulina.
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Building block ingredients of fish food
- Amino acids are the basic components of proteins. An example of an aquatic diet that is a good source of amino acid is a crumbled hard boiled egg offered to small fry. Large amounts of DL-Methionine enhance the headgrowth of the Lionhead goldfish.
- Fats that are broken down into fatty acids are the main source of energy in fish especially for the heart and skeletal muscles. Fats also assists in vitamin absorption. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble or can only be digested, absorbed, and transported in conjunction with fats.
- Carbohydrates are molecular substances that include sugars, starches, gums and celluloses. Most of the carbohydrates that are incorporated into aquatic diets are of plant origin and are sources of the enzyme amylase. Carbohydrates, however, are not a superior energy source for fish over protein or fat but digestible carbohydrates do spare protein for tissue building. Unlike in mammals, glycogen is not a significant storage depot of energy in fish.
Sources of fish food
- Fish meal (protein source) have two basic types: (a) those produced from fishery wastes associated with the processing of fish for human consumption (such as salmon and tuna) and (b) those from specific fish (herring, menhaden and pollack) which are harvested solely for the purpose of producing fish meal.
- Shrimp meal is made from cull shrimp that are being processed before freezing or from whole shrimp that is not of suitable quality for human consumption. The material to be made into shrimp meal is dried (sun-dried or by using a dryer) and then ground. Shrimp meal is a source of pigments that enhances the desirable color in the tissues of fish. It is also a secondary supplemental protein source for fish.
- Squid meal is made from squid viscera portions from cannery plants including the eggs and testis. Squid Meal is a highly digestible protein source for fish which provides a full range of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and cholesterol (1.0–1.5%) of cholesterol suitable for fish fry and young fish.
- Brine shrimp (adult Artemia) is a common food source for fish that are available in adult-form, as eggs or freeze-dried. Brine shrimp is a source of protein, carotene (a color enhancer) and acts as a natural laxative in fish digestive systems. Brine shrimps can also supply the fish with vegetable matter due to their consumption of algae.
- Soybean meal is a high protein source for fish and has become a substitute for traditionally-used marine animal meals.
- Spirulina is a blue-green plant plankton rich in raw protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E, beta-carotene, color enhancing pigments, a whole range of minerals, essential fatty acids and eight amino acids required for complete nutrition.
- Whole wheat (carbohydrates) is not the best source of energy in fish but is an excellent source of roughage for fish such as Goldfish and Koi. It is also a natural source of vitamin E which promotes growth and enhances coloration.