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The Correct Way to Feed Your Marine Fish

Paul Hughes ·

Many of you reading this will think you know what you’re doing when it comes to feeding marine fish. However, from interactions with many customers in-store over the past 30 years (both beginners and more advanced Aquarists alike), I have seen a huge difference in people’s understanding of the ‘Correct Way to Feed Marine Fish’. 

From visiting client systems all across the UK, to the thousands of images strewn across Social Media Groups and the Internet, I often see examples of less-than-perfect specimens that could do with that little extra enrichment in their diet. I frequently feel this can be the difference between a fish being more susceptible to disease, or less so. There’s also many a ‘YouTuber’/’Instagrammer’ with a single Reef Tank or two’s experience under their belt, giving out advice based on their ‘hobbyist findings’. In my opinion, this is often questionable. I would always recommend to research those individuals before you take any advice from them, or anywhere for that matter. Better still, find a Commercial dealer or LFS whose expertise you can trust, who you can discuss your purchases one on one in real time.  

Although any information is better than none, long-term it will be beneficial if the correct dietary requirements and volume of feeding for a particular species are gained from someone who handles Marine Fish on a daily basis. Once you understand the physiology and habitat of the fish species you are keeping, you can start to form an opinion on the best options available for that animal.

One thing often misunderstood, is the whole ‘Frozen food vs Dried food’ debate. Many hobbyists I talk to initially believe that the natural food provided in frozen format is the best. Mysis, Krill and Brine Shrimp are the staple examples. I mean, it looks like the stuff they would eat in the wild, right? unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth in a captive situation. 

If you study the way a fish feeds on a coral reef, you will see there isn’t a minute in the day where these animals aren’t feeding. The only exception to this would be if they are avoiding predators, or are spawning. The nutritional profile for these omnivores or herbivores is very low in both protein and minerals. This means a vast amount needs to be consumed to keep the particular specimen in good condition. A healthy reef can be home to an abundance of food sources. Biological microfilms, algae, smaller fish, worms and crustaceans to name but a few. Of course, in an Aquarium we can’t provide this consistent feeding to the same volume. If we were to, we would likely pollute the very water we wish to keep ‘pristine’. 

Adapting your Marine Fish to a diet of Flake, Pellets and ‘Grazing’ products has a higher advantage to frozen counterparts. This is due to their concentrated nature. This, in turn, means fewer feeds are necessary. Even enriched Frozen foods don’t carry the same nutritional profile as even the most basic forms of dried food. This applies to both the Tropical Freshwater and the Marine side of the hobby collectively. 

‘So are frozen fish foods a waste of time then?’ I hear you cry.

Absolutely not. At least, not in our opinion. Just like other animals (including ourselves), our fishy friends need a varied diet with varying degrees of fibre and fats. This is in conjunction with the aforementioned protein and minerals. Frozen food not only allows us to initiate the feeding of a delicate marine fish that’s adapting to Aquarium life, but also provides a more natural feeding response (its also worth bearing in mind that there are some species of Marine Fish that simply wont take Dried foods).

However, we should still try our best on a daily basis to feed an Aquarium with enough food (and food choices), in order to give the animal(s) all they need within just a few feeds. Hence why your go-to feeding products should centre around the Dry Food ranges available, as they have had a ton of research applied to their development over many years depending on the brand. 

At AAC, we suggest to start your day’s feed with a Dried food. A hungry fish is more likely to attempt a Dried food over their frozen favourites first thing in the morning. Towards the end of the day, I suggest bringing some Frozen food to the mix. A feeding regime for AAC goes something like this :

Vitalis Marine Flakes/RS Mysis Flakes, Hikari Marine S pellets/Hikari Seaweed Extreme pellets, Easy Reefs Masstick, and Two Little Fishes Sea Veggies Seaweed are all used for the first few morning feeds of the day. This is on our Commercial Fish System and Display Aquariums alike. This suits to the requirements of different species accordingly. As the day progresses, the feeding leads onto Frozen foods. These range from PE Mysis, to Gamma Brineshrimp + Omega/Gamma Mysis and Live/Frozen Copepods for the smaller species. You can use a various devices or pipettes to feed these foods. Browse our Feeding Tools for options.

Fish that are primarily herbivorous (such as Angels and Tangs) need Algae in their diet several times a week. Of course, this depends on what’s available for them to graze on. Today’s modern systems are generally devoid of algae and microfauna on the Rockwork of an Aquarium, due to the lack of Live Rock available to the hobbyist. Because of this, it’s never been so important to feed your fish with thought, rather than give them what you think they like. 

Even more important, is that you buy your fish knowing that they are feeding well in the first place. Any reputable Dealer will be happy to show you the specimen of choice feeding before you make your decision. Furthermore, they should be on hand to recommend the suggested dietary requirements of said species. This should be a given if they are a 5 Star-rated, pet licensed business like ourselves. 

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