Most of us love to eat, and so do our fish! There is a dizzying array of food options available to the home hobbyist. There are frozen foods, irradiated foods, freeze dried foods, and even live foods, just to name some very broad categories. The question is, how do you know what to pick and what’s best for your fish and your aquarium?

Well, I think it's most important to realize and remember that your aquarium is unique. Although aquarists love to share information with one another (and should do so!), remember to be practical and know that what works for your fellow aquarist might not work for you. Having said that, there are a few guiding principles that can help you make informed choices about food for your home setup.

First things first, do your homework! You must always start with the natural history of the species you are keeping. Do you have fish that eat zooplankton, and also fish that graze on algae? Are your butterflyfish going to pick at small morsels all day, while your lionfish might only need a couple of big meals a week? You’ll have to consider many factors when selecting appropriate foods for your system, including the natural diet and feeding modalities of the various species in your care. This should help to guide your food choices.

Second, variety is key. I recommend you find a few staple foods that your fish really like to eat but be sure to offer additional goodies regularly. While we can make general assumptions about the nutritional needs of our fishes, the truth is that most marine ornamental species haven’t been studied in depth, so we don’t know exactly what constitutes a complete diet in every case. This is where variety can be important. For example, maybe you’ll decide to offer laver (red seaweed) and nori (green seaweed) to your herbivores, instead of just one type of algae. By providing a varied diet, you’ll be sure to meet a wide range of nutritional needs for your animals.

Stay tuned for more feeding tips in the next installment.

Jennifer Rawlings