Feeding guppies, mollies, platies and other livebearers

guppies and platies in a community tank

Feeding guppies, mollies, platies and other livebearers

Make your own fish food

Raising live food

Feeding livebearers can be easy especially the commonly found livebearers, but to get the best results then care must be taken with their diet. Most livebearers are omnivorous, eating both animal matter and vegetable matter. Other livebearers are mostly vegetarian such as the platy and goodeid livebearer. And the last group of livebearers are carnivores that need live food and even small fish to eat such as pike livebearer, half beaks, four-eyed fish and porthole livebearer.

Dried food forms a livebearers staple diet

Dried foods can be used to feed most livebearers but if you have vegetarian livebearers or carnivorous livebearers then you need to pick a brand that has a high vegetable content or high protein content. Supplement dried foods with live food at least once a week. And for the vegetarian livebearers add some sliced vegetable matter such as a cucumber slice.

The biggest problem with dried food are that they quickly become stale. So it is best to buy only small quantities at a time and when you buy them check the sell by date and whether the carton looks dusty. Do not buy old stock.

Dried foods come in several varieties. Food flakes are the most common and are a good choice for livebearers because the flakes float giving the livebearers a chance to eat from the surface. Most livebearers are surface feeders.

Types of dried foods for livebearers

Food flakes come in different sizes. The sizes are there to allow you to feed fish with small mouths or fish with large mouths. If there are fry in the aquarium the just crumble a few flakes into crumbs for them.

You could also feed fish pellets to your livebearers. Care must be taken to buy a brand that has floating pellets. Livebearers will usually ignore food that has fallen to the floor of the aquarium where it will rot and pollute the aquarium. The advantage of pellets is that they are less processed than flakes and are just compacted bits of dried food.

Food tablets are useful if you will be away for days at a time. They are compressed food tablets that dissolve slowly over sevearl days. The fish will pick off bits at a time and will be kept fed while you are away.

Feed live food to keep your livebearers healthy

All livebearers benefit from the occasional meal of live food. The fresh vitamins, minerals and amino acids available in live food can not be obtained from dried foods. Once or twice a week is sufficient for most species. But for vegetarians you will also need to feed fresh vegetable matter at least once or twice a week.

Live food can also come in the form of frozen live food and freezze dried food. These are not quite as nutritiuos as real live food.

Where can you obtain live food?

  1. You can keep a large 200l litre barrel of water in a sunny spot in the garden. This will attract mosquito larvae and blood worms. But you can also seed the barrel with daphnia. Daphnia needs to be fed daily with green water or yeast powder. This is the safest and best way of collecting live food for your fish.
  2. You can buy live food from the pet store. But care must be taken to examine the bags of live food for freshness. Some bags of live food can be full of dead insects which is a waste of time. Also some pet shops will sell live food which may contain illnesses from their fish or other source, even the best aquarium store may be quilty of this.
  3. You can collect from wild sources. Good sources for daphnia are from water troughs for cattle or horses and are generally safe. Collecting from wild ponds is a danger. Care must be taken not to collect parasites and other nasties alongside your chosen live food. Best to avoid any pond that contains fish.
  4. You could also raise live food such as brine shrimp to adult hood to feed adult fish. Brineshrimp is an excellent choice of live food except for the effort you need to put in to raise the shrimps. You can also raise white worms or fruit flies. All make a nutritious supplement to dried foods.
  5. Another excellent choice is small earthworms. You will need to rinse out any soil from the worms stomach. Chop the worms up with a razor into small pieces to feed your fish.

Best live foods include daphnia, cyclops, mosquito larvae, and even earth worms, white worms and fruit flies. If you can give your fish a variety of live food as well as some vegetable matter then all the better for the health of your livebearers.

Vegetable items to feed livebearers

A slice of cucumber, boiled spinach or lettuce leaves, spirulina and algae are a good source of vegetable matter for livebearers. There are many vegetable items that can be chopped up into small pieces and fed to your fish. Experiment with what your fish will eat. Try ensure that the items float. Tie a cotton thread to the vegetable piece to keep it near the surface. Also after a couple of hours remove any uneaten vegetable item and throw it away.

Variety in feeding keeps your livebearers healthy and breeding

If you bear all this information in mind and feed your fish using this knowledge then your fish should remain healthy, vibrant and active. Remember variety is the spice of life and it goes for the food of livebearers too. They will of course reproduce when fed well which is a sure sign that they are healthy.

Tropical fish keeping on a budget

home made sponge filter

Tropical fishkeeping on a budget

home made sponge filter
home made sponge filter

While aquarists far and wide agree that fishkeeping is a fascinating hobby and trade, it can easily become an expensive one as well. The staggering number of new products always being released is enough to make anyone believe that an aquarium is a major investment. However, if you keep things simple and aren’t afraid of a little bit of DIY work, you can enjoy an amazing fish tank without breaking the bank in the process.

There are two major elements to keeping a tropical tank on a budget: reducing your start-up costs and keeping your tank maintenance low-cost. Making the correct choices in both aspects will ensure that you end up saving significant sums of money in the long run.

Reducing start-up costs

The first opportunities to save money come when you begin collecting supplies to set up your fish tank. Depending on what products you buy and the sources from which you buy them, you can end up earning yourself substantial savings, or spending an unnecessary fortune.

Naturally, getting a smaller tank will decrease all of the associated costs that you will have to deal with afterwards. However, small tanks can be difficult to properly take care of, so you are encouraged to choose a small tank only if you feel like you have enough experience to make it a success, especially if you are on a budget.

Some of the best deals for aquarium equipment can be found through second-hand sources such as classifieds sections and fishkeeping forums. Buying second-hand equipment can vastly reduce your start-up costs, but must be done carefully. Everything has a shelf life, and you can expect to replace used equipment more frequently than you would if it was new.

Creatively sourcing your aquarium supplies can help you save in many ways. For example, you could forego using expensive substrates like black Tahitian moon sand and instead opt for pool filter sand that, while not specifically made for aquarium use, is cheap, clean, and natural enough to use on a budget without risking the health of your fish or affecting your filtration.

Sometimes people will give away a leaky aquarium that is otherwise sound. Such an aquarium can be repaired for just the price of a tube of silicone and a bottle of nail varnish remover. Use a blade to remove the old silicone from the inside of the aquarium. Thoroughly clean the joints. Then spread a thin bead of silicone and reseal the tank. Use a finger along the seam to smooth the silicone and voila a new tank. You can also re-seal any tank that springs a leak.

Another great way to save money on your start-up costs is by making your aquarium setup a DIY project. Many common aquarium appliances can be made using various household and workshop items:

  • Sponge Filters – If you buy a simple power head and a brick of filter sponge, you can use a plastic tube to connect the inlet of a power head with the other end of the tube inserted into the sponge. Point the outlet towards the surface of the water and you have a surprisingly good filter at a fraction of the cost.
  • Sumps and refugiums – Ambitious DIY aquarists can build their own sump with relative ease. If you have spare tank handy and don’t mind doing a small bit of plumbing work, you can enjoy the benefits of a sump without having to pay for one! This is a great option for tanks that are damaged or scratched.
  • Aquarium stands – You can use a solid piece of furniture to place your aquarium on. A table of exactly the right size can be purchased and used. These can be bought second hand and used. Make sure that they are sturdy and level and support the whole of the aquarium base. If needs be place a solid sheet of wood on the base to support the aquarium.
  • home made aquarium lid
    home made aquarium lid

    Aquarium lids – This is an ideal DIY project. If you have some DIY ability this is an ideal first project that will not be costly if you make a mistake. Materials can be bought from your local DIY store. You can also improve your design over time.

Collecting your aquascape decorations locally is another way to save some cash on your setup. Why pay for exotic Amazon driftwood to be delivered to your door if you have a river or a forest nearby? With a little bit of time, some careful selection, and a thorough cleaning and soaking, you can get your entire tank’s decoration done for free. Rocks and stones can be collected in the same way.

Making choices that save money over time

There are lots of ways that you can enjoy tropical fishkeeping on a budget, and a great deal of them rely on reducing the long-term costs of keeping a tank. Putting any of these cost-saving measures into practice with your tropical fish tank will ensure that you keep your expenses low.

  • Make your tank plantless—Live plants are wonderful additions to tropical tanks, but they need lots of light and those lights need lots of energy to run. If you want to save money in the long run, you might want to leave the plants behind.

Plantless aquarium here

  • Use low-maintenance, low light plant varieties and keep them nourished with inexpensive LED lights whenever possible. Incandescent and halide lamps can get costly over time. Buy a few easy varieties that grow fast.
  • Do your own repairs. Most filters have repair kits that are used to replace parts that wear out. The kits are a fraction of the price of a new filter.
  • Condition your water slowly—If you want to avoid conditioning your local tap water with expensive chemical products, let the chlorine naturally evaporate before using it in your tank. You can even try collecting rainwater if your tap water is too hard.
  • Grow your own live food—Fish food is a constant cost that continually adds up over time. If you choose instead to invest some energy in cultivating brine shrimp or daphnia or digging worms from the garden, you can enjoy an effectively unlimited supply of high quality live fish food.

Live food rearing here

  • Make your own dried fish food – There are many fish food recipes based on prawns, spirulina or spinach, flour, eggs, fish and other ingredients mixed in with multivitamins. The recipe is blended together then baked on a low heat to dry. The result can be broken into small pieces and frozen.
  • Insulate your aquarium – Heat loss can result in additional energy costs and make your heater work harder, wearing it down faster in the process. Insulating your aquarium to minimize heat loss will save you money over time—even if it is only partial insulation.
  • Set up a low maintenance Walsted aquarium.
  • Set up a temperate aquarium without a heater.
  • Stock your aquarium by breeding your own fish. To obtain different species just advertise and swap your excess brood. It may take some time, but you will obtain the variety of fish that you want for just the price of the initial adults.
  • Buy young fish and grow them to the size you want. Adults are more expensive to buy and won’t adapt to your aquarium as well as young fish.

Common cost-saving mistakes

Some beginning aquarists, in an attempt to save cut corners and save money, make a number of grave mistakes that can end up costing them the entire aquarium if left unchecked. A few examples of these are listed below:

  • Buying cheap low quality equipment such as heaters, filters and lighting is a bad mistake. A heater that fails can chill your fish or even get stuck and cook them! A filter that fails will pollute your water.
  • Using sunlight to light your aquarium—A tropical aquarium needs both heat and light, so placing your aquarium in direct sunlight seems like the perfect cost-saving solution right? Not quite! Rather than killing two birds with one stone, this will probably kill your aquarium population by causing an uncontrollable algae bloom.
  • If you don’t buy a heater, tropical fish will slowly die of cold at night or in winter.
  • Insufficient Filtration – Yes, larger filters tend to cost more, but it is always better to err on the safe side and go for a larger filter than to find yourself suffering from insufficient filtration.
  • Not testing the water—Water testing kits are not the kind of product that you want to skip out on in order to save some cash, even if you are an experienced aquarist. Be sure you know your water’s ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels, as well as its hardness and pH before you start adding fish.
  • Do not try to repair a tank with a cracked glass. Finding and fitting a new pane of glass is as difficult and costly as buying a new or second aquarium.
  • Buying cheap fish that are unhealthy. By all means shop around and see if someone is giving away fish or selling at a low price. But always make sure that the fish you are buying are healthy and the other seller’s fish are also healthy. Sick fish don’t just die they also pass illnesses to your other fish.

If you avoid these three common pitfalls and follow the guidelines set out above, you should be able to enjoy significant savings on your tropical fish tank. If you get lucky enough to find good deals on your tank’s necessities, you can end up with a beautiful aquarium at a fraction of the price it looks like it cost!

Breeding egg laying fish

fish laying eggs
Angel fish laying eggs

Fish laying eggs?

Many times fish keepers are caught by surprise and your fish may have already laid eggs. If you are lucky enough to have a male and female that have bred in the aquarium then you most probably want the eggs to hatch to become baby fish. This may be difficult if the fish lay eggs in a community aquarium. If the fish are cichlids they will look after their eggs and young to some extent. Remember other fish will want to eat the eggs and baby fish if they get a chance. If you want to maximise your chance of raising the baby fish then it might be a good idea if you carefully removed the other fish. Note that disturbing fish with eggs or young may result in the parents killing their offspring.

Fish such as angel fish, kribensis, or convict cichlids are the most likely to spawn with out ay help from you. And as often as not they will spawn in the community aquarium.

More about Kribensis here
 
Breeding fish A-Z

How To Start Breeding Egg-Laying Fish: A Guide To Egg-Layers

convict cichlid breeding pair
breeding pair of convict cichlids

If you have already enjoyed some success breeding livebearers such as guppies or platys then your next step could be breeding egg-laying fish. These fish can be a bit more of a challenge in producing healthy young successfully, but are well worth the effort.

With the success of breeding live-bearing fish, you should already have most of the equipment and expertise necessary to make the step up to breeding egg-laying fish. So how do you complete the next step? What do you need to know and do? You need to provide the right water conditions and the appropriate spawning environment for the adult fish. Then you need to feed and raise the young which are usually smaller than livebearer fry.

Choosing Your First Egg-Layers

breeding group of zebra danios
breeding group of zebra danios

There are many egg-laying fish species that breed in one of several ways. In order to maximize your chances of success, it is recommended that your first egg-layer be either a simple cave-spawner such as kribensis or convict cichlids, or easily cared for egg-scatterers such as zebra danio or rosy barb.

Egg-laying fish that protect their young are relatively easy to spawn plus they look after their eggs and fry: The optimal conditions can be reached by raising the water a few degrees, feeding well with live food such as blood worms, and providing a cave-like structure or spawning stones somewhere in the tank.

Kribensis, for example, will seek out a cave or other similar hiding place when ready to spawn. The female will lay her eggs in the cave and let the male fertilize them. For the next week or so, they will both guard the nest from other fish.

Setting Up The Right Conditions For Egg-Layer Spawning

female_kribensis_fish_with_fryThe first thing to take into consideration for breeding egg-laying fish will be to set up the correct temperature for spawning. Every species of fish has different needs, but there are a few universal principles that will apply to keep the eggs and fry safe; one of these is the use of a separate breeding tank.

Fish eggs and fry are largely considered fair game for hungry adult fish—including the parents of some species. For this reason, you will need to setup a breeding tank in order to prevent other fish eating the fry. Also a breeding tank has space for your fry to grow.

Another overlooked danger for eggs and fry is your filtration system. Eggs and fry are so tiny that they can easily be sucked into the filter where they will be crushed. Your breeding tank will need to use a low flow sponge filter in order to keep the eggs safe at least for the first week or two.

In the case of egg-scattering fish such as the Zebra Danio, it is recommended that both adults are removed immediately after laying is complete. Installing a layer of marbles or a porous net as a substrate can help protect the the eggs which will fall between the gaps where they cannot be reached or eaten.

Successfully breeding egg-laying fish also requires more attention to the water quality and feeding. Clean tank water encourages breeding, and often the most difficult part of breeding is maintaining the correct balance between high quality water and high levels of food. Many fish will only breed when given very clean water and live food.

How to recognise if your fish are breeding

zebra danio fish
femal zebra danio fish

When the female is noticeably plump and the male is more vibrantly coloured then you can be sure the fish will soon spawn. With brood carers such as kribensis and convict cichlids you will notice mouth wrestling between the pair. Also they will flirt with each other by waving their bodies and fins at each other. With egg scatterers you will see flirting and chasing. When the fish spawn they usually quiver their bodies as they lay eggs and release milt.

Caring For Your Fish Eggs And Raising Fry

If you have managed to get your fish to breed, and have a number of fish eggs waiting to hatch in your breeding tank, it is time to focus on keeping them safe until hatching and then providing the fry with everything they need to grow into healthy adult fish.

Once your eggs are safely deposited in the breeding tank and out of reach of any other fish, you are ready to begin the waiting game. With very clean water and an appropriate temperature, you should begin to see fry appear within a few days or so.

However, do not feed the fry when they first hatch. They will not feed. And are not yet free swimming but just dart about occasionally. Fry when first hatched still have a yolk sac attached which they feed off. When they have completely absorbed the yolk sac, they will then start eating and start free swimming. They need to be fed at this point. This is where most beginners fail.

three week old zebra danio fry
three week old zebra danio fry

When breeding egg-laying fish, it is often necessary to feed your fry live food—the problem here, however, is that many of these fish are too small to eat many commercially available live foods. The best foods for these tiny fry are infusoria, which have to be cultivated beforehand. After a week or two depending on species they will be big enough to eat baby brine shrimp and microworms. After 1 month they can then be fed on crushed dry food.

In order to encourage the growth of your fry, frequent feeding and water changes are recommended: Your fry should be fed lightly several times per day, and at least 10% of the water changed every other day.

More about live food here

Considerations For Fish Nearing Adulthood

If your first experiment in breeding egg-laying fish has gone well so far, you should have a small breeding tank full of young fry that are rapidly growing. But you will soon have to make space for the young adult fish to move into.

If you have a breeding tank of 50 litres that is housing perhaps a 100 young fry, you will not be able to keep them all there for very long. If you already have a network of contacts to whom you can sell your or swap your young fish, then you should be able to sell them off relatively quickly, but it is important to have extra tank space ready just in case. If needs must then you can try offloading some at your local petstore.

If you have prepared a separate tank for the adults to live in, you will be able to successfully transfer them there when they are adults and begin selling them off without pressure. Nobody wants to spoil all of this hard work at the last step because there is no room for an otherwise successful attempt at breeding egg-laying fish.

Aquarium live food rearing

daphnia swarm

 How to reap the benefits of aquarium live food rearing for your fish

If you have spent great amounts of time and effort reproducing a natural habitat for the fish in your tank, yet you still feed them commercially prepared fish food, it might be a good time to consider rearing live food. There are numerous benefits to rearing your own sources of live food, covered in the points below:

• Live food more closely reproduces the natural diet of fish, making them healthier and happier.

• Live food, being composed of living organisms, will not decay in your tank if left uneaten the way that fish flake does.

• Adult fish that are used to foraging for their food behave more actively in pursuing live food than prepared fish flakes.

• Better nutrition can be achieved through indirect enrichment— feeding your live food vitamin supplements that get passed on to your fish.

• Live food encourages breeding, and some species of fish will not breed successfully without it.

For young fry live food rearing is essential:

• Most species of fish give birth to fry that are too small to eat commercially prepared foods.

• Many species of young fish fry will only eat food that is moving, and need to be carefully weaned onto non-moving food over time.

• Live food is the healthiest option for young fry, and will help them grow faster and become healthy adults.

Types of live food

There is a huge range of live food available at your local fish store or online but this can be seasonal. Choosing which of the available types of live food you should use depends greatly on the species of fish you keep and whether you are feeding adult fish, fry, or both.

For adult fish, there are a number of attractive and healthy aquarium live food choices available. These largely consist of water fleas, various worms and larvae, as well as some shrimp. Some of the most popular species are:

• Daphnia. These tiny water fleas often top the list of easily managed aquarium live food rearing options. They live comfortably in slightly alkaline freshwater tanks with temperatures between 18-25 degrees Celsius and medium light intensity. Daphnia multiply quickly, offer beneficial vitamins for your fish, and are very easy to raise.

• Blood Worms. Blood worms are widely available from a vast majority of fish stores and bait shops, and offer a very convenient live food for your fish. They are simple to raise and once the life cycle is introduced, greatly reduce the need to supplement your fish’s diets with other foods.

• Earth Worms. Earth worms offer one of the most complete food sources available for aquarium live food rearing. They are high in protein, essential vitamins, and roughage. They do require soil, however, and can grow quite large, making them ideal for larger fish in larger tanks.

• Mosquito Larvae. Mosquito larvae are some of the easiest aquarium live food rearing options, since they will readily grow in just about any environment where you have access to stagnant water and sun. You must be very careful, however, to regularly harvest the larvae before they turn into troublesome adult mosquitoes.

• Brine Shrimp. Brine shrimp are an excellent and highly popular live food option for fish. They are especially suited to this purpose since baby brine fish are also suitable for fish fry thanks to their tiny size and nutritional value.

• White Worms. These nutritious worms are easy to cultivate and fish love them. They are high in fat as well as protein and can stay alive in the water for days. These worms can make your fish fat, however, so care should be exercised so as not to overfeed them.

Any of the options listed above should be enough for most species of adult fish, but fish fry have more subtle nutritional needs. If you are raising young fish fry, you will need to give them food small enough for them to eat and nutritious enough for them to subsist on completely, such as:

• Infusoria. This term refers to a number of extremely tiny microorganisms that serve as a readily cultivated source of food for your fry. It can be convenient to think of Infusoria as fresh water plankton. Infusoria are easy to culture and widely available online or at your local aquarium store.

• Brine Shrimp. One of the most popular and successful aquarium live food rearing options for young fry, baby brine shrimp are simple to cultivate and small enough for some fry to feed on.

• Microworms. These hardy creatures can thrive in a wide variety of environments, and make an excellent live food choice when you need a readily available source of food quickly. They can be cultivated in days and offer a complete source of nutrition that fry will gladly eat.

In many cases, offering your fish a variety of these food sources will help give them a varied and complete diet. Many of these foods are complementary when added together, and can be combined for the optimal balance of nutrients, vitamins, and essential proteins.

How to cultivate live food for your aquarium

If you are interested in aquarium live food rearing for your fish, you will need to invest some effort in making a cultivation tank or water barrel to raise your food in. Most species of live food are very easy to raise and require very little attendance or care.

For instance, Daphnia can be cultivated in any large container with access to sunshine and green water algae or yeast. Optimal water conditions include a pH between 6.0 and 8.2 and a 20% water change every two weeks. With a large enough surface area for the water in the container, aeration is not even necessary.

Brine shrimp make a similarly easy aquarium live food rearing selection for fish keeping enthusiasts and do not even require a large container. They are filter feeders that need only be provided with a food source such as yeast or wheat flour, an air stone for aeration, and regular water changes.

Mosquito larvae are even simpler, readily growing in just about any pot of stagnant water with access to sunlight and algae. Mosquitoes will readily begin spawning anywhere they find the right conditions, and you need only net the larvae every few days to feed your fish.

Most of the worm species available at your local fish store can be raised conveniently in plant soil and introduced to your aquarium when they grow to full size. Cultures are simple to purchase and cultivate; once ready, they can be tossed directly into the aquarium.

Tips for easier growing of live food

Once you decide to begin investing in an aquarium live food rearing setup, there are a few important considerations that can help you make the most of your breeding. One of the most helpful ways to ensure sufficient stocks of food for your fish is to stagger multiple cultivars several days apart.

Keeping several separate tanks can help insure your aquarium live food rearing attempt from being compromised by disease or other problems. Just like a fish tank, any number of unwanted conditions could erupt in a live food cultivation environment, and you want to be protected against the possibility of losing your fish’s primary food source.

Depending on the specific needs of your fish, you may also be able to feed them essential vitamins and minerals through the live food you raise. This process is called indirect enrichment and can help you more effectively fight disease by ensuring the right combination of ingredients makes its way into your fish’s diet. Many fish supply sites provide aquarium live food rearing supplements like these.

For further detailed instructions you can buy the amazon book by Mike Hellweg. Click on the picture to go to Amazon

This book was written by a master breeder of tropical fish. It has been written not just to culture live food but rather to culture live food for the benefit of fish and breeding and raising fry. It is well written giving detailed instructions on how to raise the variouslive foods. Finally you will be armed with the knowledge on what to feed difficult to breed species. Over 80 different live foods are explained in great detail. This is a book for the serious hobbyist and breeder. It is well written and surprisingly easy to read and understand.