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Why A Balanced Diet Is Important For Your Aquarium Fish

Freshwater aquarium fish need a varied diet of quality food to ensure optimum health and resist disease. Get helpful tips for creating a balanced diet for your fish.


cichlid xs 6332036In order to ensure that your aquarium fish are as healthy and happy as they can be you need to feed them a proper diet. Aquarium fish may be able to survive on a diet limited to commercial flake foods, but they are unlikely to thrive. Unless all of their nutritional needs are met, your fish will not live up to their potential when it comes to their coloration and level of activity. Freshwater fishes need a varied diet of quality, nutritious foods in order to thrive and it is your job as the aquarium hobbyist to provide these things. Before you go out and purchase any new fish foods, however, do some research to learn the basics about aquarium fish nutrition so you are better equipped to create a balanced diet for the fish in your tank.

Dietary Needs of Aquarium Fish

food pyramid xs 22653986Like all living things, aquarium fish have specific nutritional needs that must be met if they are to thrive. While there may not be a food pyramid to refer to when it comes to examining the diet of your aquarium fish, there are a few main categories of nutrition that you should be aware of. All aquarium fish need protein, lipids (fats), carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals but the recommended amount from each category may depend on the type of fish. Carnivorous fish, for example, may require more protein than an omnivorous species of fish, while herbivorous fish need a diet consisting mainly of vegetables.

Not only is it important to provide your fish with a variety of foods to ensure that their nutritional needs are met, but it is also essential that you feed them quality foods. Flake foods are inexpensive and convenient, but flake foods alone cannot fulfill the nutritional needs of your fish. Freeze-dried and frozen fish foods are more nutritious and offer a better variety. In order to provide your fish with all the vitamins and minerals they need, it is wise to feed them a mixture of flake, live, frozen and freeze-dried foods. If your fish do not receive the proper nutrients from their diet, they may grow slowly and could even fall ill and die. A proper, balanced diet of a variety of food types will help to strengthen the immune system of your fish and enable them to fight off disease.

Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiency

If your fish do not receive a balanced diet their health will decline and they could eventually die. Malnourished fish may exhibit a variety of symptoms including the following:

•    Loss of color
•    Lateral line or lower jaw erosion
•    Reddening or darkening of body
•    Cloudy eyes
•    Weight loss
•    Rapid breathing
•    Erratic or spiral swimming
•    Lack of appetite
•    Increased susceptibility to infection
•    Slow growth or healing

How to Structure a Balanced Diet

food shrimp-freeze-dried OmegaOneThe key to a balanced diet for aquarium fish is to establish a staple diet as well as a supplemental diet and to use nutritional supplements as needed. A staple diet may consist of a commercial flake or pellet food specially formulated for the type of fish you have in your tank. These foods may be able to fulfill a large portion of the nutritional needs for your fish, but a supplemental diet is necessary to create a balanced diet. A supplemental diet should consist of a variety of live, frozen and freeze-dried foods. Examples of these foods include bloodworms, tubifex worms, brine shrimp and white worms. For herbivorous species of fish, a supplemental diet should be primarily vegetable-based. Carnivorous species of fish should be given a meat-based supplemental diet.

You do not need to give your fish vitamin and mineral supplements all the time – there are certain situations in which they are most beneficial. Vitamins and minerals are helpful in fighting stress, so if you are about to add a new fish to your tank or if your fish are stressed due to some other reason, it may be a good idea to give them a vitamin or mineral supplement. In addition to the stress-fighting benefits, vitamin and mineral supplements can also lead to healthier and hardier aquarium fish along with enhanced color and activity.

Tips for Feeding Aquarium Fish

How much you feed your fish is almost as important as what you feed them. If you overfeed your fish they are likely to become obese and any uneaten fish food will accumulate in the bottom of your tank, decreasing the water quality. In order to ensure that your fish get the most out of their balanced diet you must learn how to feed them properly and how much food to give them. Most hobbyists recommend feeding aquarium fish only small amounts twice daily. Give your fish as much food as they are likely to consume in 3 to 5 minutes. When offering sinking foods like algae wafers or pellets it is wise to remove any uneaten portions after an hour so they do not completely dissolve and add to the waste build-up in your tank.

loach clown xs 13083008Keep in mind that different types of aquarium fish have different feeding habits. While some species like Gouramis will feed at the surface of the tank, other fish like Tetras may snatch food out of the water as it sinks. Bottom feeders like Corydoras Catfish and Loaches should be given sinking discs or pellets since they primarily graze among the substrate at the bottom of the tank. If you have a community tank filled with a variety of species, be sure to research the nutritional needs of each individual species in your tank so you can provide the right types of food for all of your fish.

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