Most people who have an aquarium in their home opt for tropical fish because they are the most colorful. If you want to keep them healthy and growing though, you’ll have to meet both their nutritional and environmental requirements. This often means equipping the tank with a water heater and buying the proper food.
Tropical fish food comes in many types, including flakes, pellets and freeze-dried options, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks that need to be considered. Flakes, like Omega One Freshwater Flakes, are the most popular due to their long shelf life, low cost, ease of portioning and the sheer variety available. This one, in particular, stands out for its high-quality ingredients and ability to make your fish look more vibrant.
This distinction is important when choosing food for your fish, as marine species have different nutrition requirements than freshwater species. Be certain to choose a food designed for your fish type.
The next step to identifying the right type of food for your tropical fish is to understand what kind of feeders you have. Fish can be broken into three categories: top-feeders, midfeeders and bottom-feeders. Top- and midfeeders should be fed floating and slow-sinking food, while bottom feeders need food that sinks quickly. Also, bottom-feeders tend to have different nutrition requirements and often need a food with a higher content of algae and other plant matter.
A quick way to identify what kind of feeders you have is to simply look at their mouths. Fish with an upturned mouth are surface or midfeeders, while those with a downward mouth are bottom feeders. Most aquariums have a mix of feeder types, so will need at least two kinds of food.
When it comes to fish food, it can sometimes seem like the options are endless. Here is a quick breakdown of the various types to help you determine which kind will best suit your needs.
Flakes are the most popular type of tropical fish food and are best for top- and midfeeders because they float on the surface for a while before slowly sinking. They come in a variety of sizes and can easily be crushed into smaller bits if needed. Flakes come in many specialty options too, with foods designed to enhance color or for specific species.
Pellets are one of the most versatile types of foods because they can be made from a wide range of ingredients and come in several subtypes. There are floating pellets for top feeders, slow-sinking pellets for midfeeders and fast-sinking pellets for bottom feeders.
Crisps are similar to flakes, except they are slightly thicker and tend to float for a little longer. They also dissolve more slowly, which means they are less likely to go to waste and just end up clouding your water. As with flakes, crisps are best for top- and midfeeders, though their thickness can make them difficult for some small species to eat.
Those who love to watch their fish feed will like stick-on tabs. You simply stick them to the inside of your tank, and they will stay in place as your fish devour them. The downside is that there aren’t as many brands that make them, so you’ll have fewer options to choose from.
Though it isn’t convenient, live fish food is one of the best since it is most similar to what fish would naturally eat in the wild. That said, it does have the ability to introduce parasites and diseases into your aquarium, which is one of the main reasons many people choose not to use it.
Frozen fish foods are usually high quality and are often made of a single live food that has been frozen into cubes. They are a good choice for carnivorous species, as they tend to have little or no fillers and are high in protein. Frozen fish food will essentially stay good indefinitely as long as it is kept in the freezer.
Like frozen fish foods, freeze-dried fish food is usually a single live food that has been dried whole. Like live and frozen foods, it is also good for carnivorous species, but it has the added convenience of combining a long shelf life without the need for refrigeration.
Wafers are generally reserved for bottom feeders, as they sink quickly and then begin to slowly soften so they can be eaten. They come in small and large sizes and are made with algae and other plant-based ingredients.
Feeding blocks go by a couple of different names. Some manufacturers call them slow feeders or vacation feeders, and this latter name most aptly describes their use. They are designed to last for anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the one you buy, and solve the problem of feeding your fish when you go away on a trip.
Tropical fish food varies greatly in price depending on the type and quality. Some cost $1 an ounce or less, while others can cost as much as $10 an ounce. Live and frozen foods are usually the most expensive.
A. Most experts recommend matching the fish food to the size of your fish so they can easily eat it. Small fish may struggle to eat large flakes and pellets, and large fish may find small bits of food unappealing.
A. While most fish do fine if only feed once a day, you may find it better to do two light feedings. Ideally, you only want to feed them enough food that they can consume it all within two or three minutes. Leftover food will just wind up dissolving and dirtying the water.
Omega One Freshwater Flakes: available at Amazon
Our take: Made with high-quality protein sources from sustainable fisheries, this food is good for both your fish and the planet.
What we like: It’s high in vital omega 3s and omega 6s, and the natural pigments in it can help give your fish a more vibrant color.
What we dislike: The small flakes tend to dissolve quickly.
TetraMin Large Tropical Flakes: available at Amazon, Chewy and Petsmart
Our take: Most top- and midfeeding species take to this highly digestible formula that has added antioxidants.
What we like: It’s designed not to make the water cloudy when used properly, so you won’t have to clean your filters as often. Plus, it comes in a few sizes.
What we dislike: It contains artificial colorings.
Fluval Flaked Tropical Fish Food: available at Amazon and Chewy
Our take: If your fish haven’t been looking as vibrant lately, Fluval is worth a try. It is specifically formulated to enhance their color, especially yellow and red pigments.
What we like: It is an ecologically harvested, all-natural formula made with high-quality ingredients, like herring, krill and shrimp meal.
What we dislike: It is more pricey than most other flaked foods.
Brett Dvoretz is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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