Top 5 Tiny Foods to Feed Baby Fish for Healthy Growth
Breeding fish is such a fun and rewarding part of the aquarium hobby, but while it can be easy to get fish to spawn, raising their tiny babies is where the real challenge begins. High losses often occur in the newborn phase because of water quality issues, predation, or simply not feeding enough of the right foods. We will be discussing 5 foods that are small enough to feed even the smallest fry. This will help them grow fast and last for the next few weeks.
1. Baby Brine Shrimp
Peacock gudgeon fry eating baby brine shrimp
If you talk to veteran breeders or fish farms that produce massive numbers of fish, they know that the #1 best food to feed fry is baby brine shrimp (BBS). The yolk sacs of newly hatched brine shrimp are packed with nutrients and great for feeding baby fish. The fry will eat more of the brine shrimp eggs to grow faster and stronger because they are a live food. To hatch the brine shrimp eggs, simply soak them in salt water, add aeration with an air pump, and heat the water up to 74-82degF (23-28degC). Baby brine shrimp can be harvested within 18 to 36 hours. This recipe is reliable as long you purchase good eggs. So, follow these instructions.
Baby brine shrimp range in size from 400 to 500 microns. They can be used for baby livebearers, African Cichlids, and other species with larger eggs. Baby brine shrimp are not recommended for hatching small fry from eggs like rainbowfish, killifish, or tetras. Therefore, the rest of the article focuses on even smaller “starter” foods, with the strong recommendation that you switch over to baby brine shrimp after a couple of weeks once the fry are big enough.
Freshwater plankton under a microscope
Baby fish are omnivores and eat protozoans and larvae of invertebrate insects. These microorganisms range from 20 to 300 microns. Infusoria, the common name fishkeepers use to refer to freshwater plankton is also used for many other methods of culturing them. One popular method is to fill large jars with old tank water and mulm. Next, add a banana peel, catappa leaves or any other organic matter. To speed up the process, heat the water to tropical temperatures (78-80degF/26-27degC). You can also add aeration to reduce the smell. The water will become cloudy soon as bacteria begins to break down the food. After that, it will become clear as the infusoria consumes them.
You can harvest the eggs using a turkey baster, a pipette, or a pipette. The culture can last between 2 and 4 weeks depending on how often it is harvested. To extend the life of your culture, you can add more food to the jar every week and top it off with tank water. You can also use a turkey baster or turkey stoker to clean out any gunk. If you are raising lots of babies and need a constant supply of infusoria, you may need to start a new culture every 1-2 weeks. Just pour water from the old culture into the new jar, add a food source, and fill the rest of the jar with aquarium water.
3. Vinegar Eels
Vinegar eels being harvested in a bottle neck
You might find keeping infusoria too tedious. If this is the case, you can try vinegar eels. This teeny nematode or roundworm is very simple to culture and is approximately 50 microns in diameter and 1-2 mm in length. Make a mixture of half an apple cider mixture and half dechlorinated water in a long-necked bottle. You can add some apple slices, a starter culture for vinegar eels and then wait for them to reproduce. After they are visible wiggling around near the surface of the water, you can harvest them by placing a wad or filter floss in the neck and adding some fresh water to the top. The vinegar eels will swim to the fresh water up top, so you can easily suck them out with a pipette and directly feed them to the baby fish. The fry will be attracted to their wiggling motions. They can also survive for several days in freshwater. Our detailed instructions will help you create your vinegar eel cultures that can last for 6 months.
4. Powdered Fry Food
Sera Micron fry food
You might consider purchasing prepared foods if you lack the time or resources to keep alive food cultures. The powdered form of fry food can range from 5 to 800 microns depending on the brand. It is important to offer a variety of diets so that baby fish don’t become nutritionally deficient. Some of our favorite foods include:
Sera Micron Hikari first bites Easy Fry and Small fish food – Golden pearls Crushed flakes, Spirulina powder – Repashy gelfood (in the raw or powdered form).
Powdered foods tends to float to the surface due to the water tension. If you are feeding babies bottom dwellers, swirl the water to make the particles sink faster. To avoid overfeeding the fish, we recommend using a small children’s paintbrush. To feed the fish, lightly dip the bristles in powdered paintbrush and tap it lightly over the tank. This technique ensures that you do not feed the fry too much at one time, which can end up deteriorating the water quality.
5. Green Water
Microalgae under a microscope
Although green water looks very similar to infusoria, its size is smaller. However, the color of green is more apparent because it is mostly made up microalgae and other photosynthesis-producing phytoplankton. Hobbyists are usually trying to figure out how to get rid of green water in their aquariums and ponds since it makes it harder to view the fish and plants. It has many benefits, including purifying the water, making predation harder on young fish, treating minor ailments and providing food for daphnia and baby fish. Start with a large jar, aquarium, or other container and fill it with old tank water. Add some liquid fertilizer, fish food, or other organics to create a nutrient-rich environment for the microalgae. A filter, air stone or other device is also useful to help the algae get enough oxygen and carbon. You can shine non-stop 24 hours per day with a light source such as a desk lamp on the container. After several days, the water will start turning more green and should be ready for the fry to be fed.
A Few More Fry Feeding Tips
Baby fish require small meals at least 3 to 5 times per day. Also, it helps to put the fry in a smaller container or aquarium so that they don’t need to swim as far and waste as much energy finding the food. The problem is that frequent feedings in a smaller container can quickly foul the water and cause fry mortality, so frequent, small water changes are needed to keep the water clean and stable. Master breeder Dean addresses this problem by creating a rack of fry trays that constantly drips and circulates water from a larger aquarium down below.
Feeding is just one aspect of raising healthy fry, so keeping reading to learn about our top 5 tips for growing baby fish to become big and strong.