There are many reasons to want to lessen your use of regular fish foods like pellets and flakes. A lot of the varieties available in aquarium stores are not of the quality we’d like them to be, especially in flake foods. They are also often very expensive and they don’t offer enough variation. But are there alternatives? Well, turns out there are!
Gel food is probably one of the best alternatives to regular pellets or flakes. It’s a homemade fish food prepared with gelatin or agar agar and any ingredients you like. This means it can be fully adapted to the needs of your fish. Make gel food with protein-based ingredients for your discus, a mix of veggies and protein for your goldfish or a fully vegetarian variety for plecos or shrimp. You can also add any ‘extras’ you like: red bell pepper for brighter colors, Spirulina to improve the overall health of the fish or garlic to improve the taste and help fight internal parasites.
Gel food is super easy and quick to make – have a look at the Aquariadise article on how to make gel food for recipes, instructions and tips. If you’re short on time or not ready to make your own fish food yet, Repashy also sells great quality gel food premixes for all types of fish.
Frozen fish foods usually come in handy blister packs and are available in pretty much every variety you’ll ever need. Most frozen foods are protein-based (blood worms, mosquito larvae, fish eggs/meat, krill, cockle meat etc.), but some companies also sell veggie based frozen foods like spinach or seaweed. This means there’s a frozen food for every fish. There are many benefits to feeding frozen food:
- No chance of parasites (contrary to live foods)
- No added preservatives
- No mostly unnecessary “fillers” like wheat flour, corn meal, oatmeal etc.
- Easy to feed
- Comes in many varieties
- Almost all fish will accept frozen food
- Can be kept in the freezer for a long time
To feed your fish frozen food, just thaw the required amount in a cup of water and you’re ready to go! Frozen foods shouldn’t be used as a “main” food source to completely replace pellets for most fish, but it’s a great way to add some variation (which is very important!).
This is a great option for fish and invertebrates that are herbivorous or omnivorous. There are many types of veggies you can try, but I’ve found that the all-time favourites among my own fish are zucchini, peas and spinach. All of these are easy to find (peas and spinach are usually available frozen) and easy to feed. Zucchini and peas can be blanched beforehand so they soften a bit, and spinach can be fed as is.
Fish and inverts that are especially fond of vegetables are shrimp, plecos, goldfish, otocinclus, etc., but there are many more species that will eat them. If you’re unsure, just try with a smaller piece! Be sure to remove any uneaten bits after a maximum of 12 hours, though, or the water may become dirty.
Although store-bought live foods can come with the risk of transferring parasites to your fish, there is no reason to steer clear of live fish food altogether. You can easily culture many types yourself. Live foods have many benefits and smaller kinds like infusoria and baby brine shrimp (pictured at the top) are especially suitable to feed to newly hatched fish fry that usually don’t accept anything else.
Live fish foods that are easy to culture include:
If you’re interested in trying live fish foods, hatching your own brine shrimp eggs may be a fun experiment!
Although you can definitely keep using pellets (they are, after all, the easiest option), adding some variation with the options listed above can really benefit your fish and help cut aquarium spending. If you know another good alternative to pellets or flakes, leave a comment below and I’ll add it to this article!