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  1. #1

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    Default Problem Feeders Demystified

    0 Not allowed!
    Problem feeders demystified

    There are several marine fishes commonly sold for reef aquariums. Many fail in days, weeks or months because their specific dietary needs aren't addressed. In this post I'll list several reef fishes that can easily be kept when properly fed.

    - - - -

    Imported in the tens of thousands yearly is the Yellow Tang, Zebrasoma flavescens.

    Endemic to Hawaiian reefs, Yellow Tangs are a popular addition to the mid-sized, or better larger, reef aquarium. With good reason, since yellow tangs are a vivid yellow, and are quite hardy when well kept.

    Though Yellow Tangs will happily eat meaty fare, it isn't good for them, since the rich food damages their kidneys, resulting in many unexplained deaths due to renal failure.

    However, it is quite easy, if a bit time consuming, to give a confirmed Herbivore like a Yellow Tang a proper diet. Yellow Tangs, in fact, all Tangs in general, are constant grazers of green algae, searching for it almost every moment of every day. In the home reef aquarium, the keeper should provide both macro algae like dried nori, and micro algae cultured on stones for a more natural feeding behavior.

    Pelleted foods that are at least 70 percent Spirulina can be added to the menu in light meals twice daily, but both macro algae (clipped to the side of the tank), and algae-covered stones should be available for your tang constantly, all day, every day.

    And as Yellow Tangs, which grow to eight inches, can live for well over a decade properly kept, keeping it well fed can be a bit of a chore for some. Fortunately there are commercial products that can help. Sheets of macro algae can be found in flaked forms are available and 100 percent macro algae. The flakes can be used in addition to green algae on stones and sheet macro clipped to the side of the tank housing a Yellow Tang. It takes a lot of 'greens' to keep a herbivore like a Yellow Tang well fed.

    But having a happy, healthy Yellow Tang is what any prospective keeper should aspire to.

    If one has a reef tank of sufficient size (in the hundreds of gallons) a person can keep a school of Yellow Tangs, but it has to be at least a group of 10 of them, with more, better, and added all at once.


    Many, many keepers have lost Dwarf Angelfish due to improper diet.

    Most common dwarf angelfish selected for reef tanks are of the Centropyge genus, and all of them eat the same thing in nature: algae, micro-crustaceans like copepods, and tunicates (sea squirts).

    The former is relatively easy for the home aquarist to culture on stones, the latter available frozen in foods designed for marine angelfish. Since marine angels are omnivores, one can use a high quality pelleted food for light meals twice daily, but for best results, make sure your Dwarf Angelfish has access to green algae all day, every day.

    If one drips live phytoplankton into their reef 24/7, tunicates will proliferate in some months in such numbers that a Dwarf Angelfish can have plenty of both; green algae from its owner and hundreds or thousands of sea squirts in tank. Multiple refugiums should be employed to keep the copepod population high. Dwarf Angelfish are very hardy when their dietary needs are met.

    Properly kept and fed, Dwarf Angelfish can live an awful long time in the home reef tank. How long, I don't know, but my Bicolor Angel was nearing nine years old when I sold the tank due to a move.

    In a reef aquarium of sufficient size (at least 200 gallons) one can keep a species of several Dwarf Angelfish in their tank. However, all must be of different sizes, at least eight of them, with more better, and added all at once. The size difference is necessary since all Dwarf Angelfish are born female. The largest will transform into a fully functioning male, while the others will remain his 'harem'. In such setups one can experience how a species of Dwarf Angelfish behave in the natural reef.

    Properly fed, Dwarf Angelfish are a colorful, beautiful splash of color in a reef aquarium.


    Usually not recommended for reef aquariums because of their dietary needs are the Butterfly Fish, Chaetodon family. Many, many of them consume stoney coral polyps, some soft corals and zoanthids, and the like, thus they aren't recommended for the reef aquarium containing those species.

    All are either primarily carnivores or omnivores. I greatly recommended asking to see any Butterfly fish eat prior to purchase.

    I'll list the dietary needs of those Butterfly fishes I've kept, plus what type of reef aquarium they can be kept in, if they can. Research the dietary needs of any Butterfly Fish prior to purchase, I cannot stress this enough.

    - - - -

    Very commonly kept is the Copper Banded Butterfly Fish, Chelmon rostratus.

    This one can be kept in the reef tank with caution. I kept mine with large and small polyp corals with no problem, but unless properly fed three times a day would nip at giant clam mantles occasionally. Those I talked to as to their experience with them ranged from one of the best reef fishes to a holy terror that consumed the polyps of every coral in the tank. So use one in a reef tank with a healthy dose of caution.

    I fed mine frozen foods designed for carnivores, a meaty pelleted food, and live Mysis shrimps, and it nibbled at the algae covered stones put in for other fishes as well. If a keeper cultures algae on stones it can help to get a Copper Banded eating, and should be provided daily.

    Copper Banded Butterfly fish grow to about eight inches, so a larger reef tank in the 90 gallon range and larger should be used with one. Often this fish is bought to eat pest anemones like Aptasia, but only about half of them will. Some will consume bristleworms too.


    Raccoon Butterfly fish (Chaetodon lunula) are another eight-inch fish, and one, with a great deal of caution, can be kept in some reef aquaria.

    The one I kept left stoney corals alone, but rapidly consumed all soft corals and snails. Thus, though it is a quite attractive species, I wouldn't recommended them kept in any reef. They would be ideal for the passive 'fish only with live rock' tank. At their adult size and need for swimming room, a 90 gallon tank is necessary to keep one. In larger climes, like at least a 200 gallon tank, you can keep Raccoon Butterfly fish in groups. No less than eight should be added. Less and there can be conflict, as the smallest one will invariably be attacked. A group of eight or more should be added all at once, and differing sizes is recommended.

    In nature the menu is similar to the above species; micro-algae on hard surfaces, which is easily home cultured. As I said, they will eat marine snails, so a frozen food designed for marine carnivores, plus another designed for marine herbivores, should be given in quite small meals two to three times daily. Some Raccoon Butterfly fish will also eat pelleted prepared foods, so make sure they are the highest quality available. Pelleted food meals, with color enhancers to preserve the vivid color of the fish, must be very light. Most of the food should be green algae cultured on stones and the two frozen foods. The green algae on stones usually gets a newly acquired Raccoon Butterfly fish eating, to my experience.


    Another Butterfly fish which can be kept in some reef setups is Chaetodon miliaris, the Lemon Butterfly Fish, a common site in Hawaiian reefs.

    The one I had consumed all small brittle stars and harassed the hermit crabs mercilessly. It left the stoney corals alone, but I recommend erring on the side of caution and keeping this species in a 'fish only with live rock' tank.

    A smaller species, reaching just under six inches, it needs at least a 55 gallon tank. Lemon Butterfly Fish, including this one, need a lot of swimming room and much live rock to graze on. A peaceful species, Lemons should be the first fish in the tank, and allow them to become established and eating prior to adding other peaceful marine fishes.

    Lemon Butterfly fish are another that exist in a harem setup, and if one has a sufficiently large FOWLR tank, add no less than eight, with more, better, of differing sizes. Since they are a slightly smaller butterfly fish species, a 125 gallon tank would be sufficient.

    Lemon Butterfly fish, also called Millet because of the rows of vertical black spots along the lines of scales, are a consummate omnivore.

    They will happily eat any green algae you can provide, and cultured on stones, can be added daily. Lemons eat micro-crustaceans like copepods, so two or more refugiums attached to your tank will continually add them. I've had them nibble on sheets of macro algae clipped to the side of the tank for other fishes, so you may want to add that menu option as well.

    Frozen foods designed for smaller marine carnivores, and freshwater Mysis shrimp a very good idea. One designed for marine herbivores should most certainly be on the menu. Some will also eat small marine pelleted foods, so make sure they are top quality, but like most marines, feeding portions must be small and thrice daily. One containing color enhancers is necessary for the fish to retain its vivid lemon yellow coloring.


    On of my favorite of the marine fishes are Anthias, Pseudanthias species.

    I currently keep eight P. squamipinnis in one reef, 12 P. dispar in another.

    What makes Anthias a bit challenging to keep is the frequency of feeding required to keep them.

    Anthias are zooplankton eaters, and they will eat any micro-crustacean up to the size of Mysis shrimp. They forage for such food all day, every day.

    And that's the crux. If one wishes to keep these beautiful reef fishes, one must be prepared to feed it, or them, no less than six times a day, meaning every two hours. It's the only way to keep weight on these fishes, and they will slowly starve if you don't feed on this schedule. As vividly colored as Anthias are, it's certainly worth it.

    Personally, I use auto feeders on their tanks for the first, second and third feedings, and I also have several refugiums attached to their tanks to continually supply copepods. I feed them myself in the afternoons and evenings and they are very partial to live and frozen Mysis shrimp. Mine will eat marine pelleted foods, which is their fare in the mornings, but not all will upon arrival, so one must be prepared with appropriate frozen foods for marine zooplankton eaters before purchasing Anthias.

    Like the above, all Anthias are born female, so do yourself a favor and buy all females. The largest will transform herself into a fully functional male in less than 24 hours, and the remaining females will be his harem. No less than six should be purchased, with more, better, and at least a 200 gallon reef should be used. Like the above they need much swimming room and much live rock to forage on. Anthias, at least the two species I have, top out at less than four inches, with the Lyretail about 3.75 inches and the Dispar slightly larger

    Thus, one can keep several of an Anthias species in their reef if their tank is of a sufficient size and they are prepared to keep them properly fed.

    One should be aware that a properly kept Anthias species group will spawn almost weekly between December and March, and one must have aggressive protein skimming plus multiple partial water changes to deal with it, because even for such smaller fish, they cast a ton of ova and milt into the water column. As I have so many filter feeders in my tanks, I don't worry about it.


    Since they are similar in size and color brilliance I'll group together both Fairy (Cirrhiliabrus species) and Flasher (Paracheilinus species) Wrasse.

    The Fairy and Flasher Wrasse are among the most richly and brilliantly colored reef fish one can buy. And feeding them correctly is key to keeping them healthy and long term. The smallest of them grow to under three inches, the largest nearly five.

    Both eat the same thing; zooplankton, and they do so all day, Thus one needs a large reef aquarium equipped with a live phytoplankton drip, and have several refugiums attached to it, if one wishes to keep these gorgeous fishes fed properly.

    The size of the tank is important, with the larger the better, with much live rock. An aquarium for a group of the smaller species should be no less than 75 gallons, with larger better, and both kinds of Wrasse are ideally suited for the SPS and LPS tank. Both exist in the harem system, that is, one very highly colored male plus a number of females. By no means ever keep a Fairy or Flasher male, or female for that matter, alone, since that is so unnatural, it will soon perish. Best setup is a male with at least five females, with more ladies better. With more 'girls' to show off for, the Wrasse male will spend his time intensifying his color and spreading his fins. Flasher males are so named for that behavior, but Fairy Wrasse males will do the same thing.

    As well as 'pods' continually generated by the live phytoplankton drip, the refugiums, and the much live rock to graze on, one can provide quality frozen foods like freshwater Mysis shrimp, highly enriched Brine Shrimp, and similar. In time, both kinds of wrasse most usually learn to take prepared foods, pelleted food the best, so it can be added to the menu. One should provide very light meals three to four times a day. I've found them very fond of herbivore food like macro algae provided for other fishes, so one could try clipping some to the side of the tank to see if yours will as well.

    Before I go on, one must have their tank tightly covered, with all gaps sealed with nylon screening, since both Fairy and Flasher wrasse are infamous as jumpers. I suspect that's because of the shallowness of the average reef tank, since both species of wrasse frequent the slope of the reef about 10 feet down. Both are rather shy when introduced, and will spend days hidden among the rock work. In time they will emerge and the whole group will be visible all day. Fairy and Flasher wrasse are extremely peaceful fishes.

    Delightful fishes, the Fairy and Flasher Wrasse, and quite hardy well fed and well kept.


    These are the fishes that occurred to me that several forum members have had trouble feeding and keeping them. If you are wondering what a prospective reef fish they plan to purchase eats, don't hesitate to contact me via PM.

    Last edited by Cliff; 12-29-2011 at 09:38 PM. Reason: Requested by the OP
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

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  2. #2

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    Saskatchewan, Canada

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    1 Not allowed!
    Some really good info Dave

    I've had to buy algae from our SW LFS for a quite a while now so my tangs would have a more natural food source along with the other foods I feed them. I've also started growing it in my sumps but with the low nitrates and phosphates in both of my set-ups, it has been growing very slowly. So far I've only grown enough for 3 X weekly feeding

    I have also been soaking the dried seaweed I feed in a vitamin supplement. In your opinion, do these additives really benefit the fish or does it just make me feel better
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL=""]

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    0 Not allowed!
    I emulsify the sheet macro in Super Selco actually. It adds 400 mg/l of HUFAS. Reason I do it, is because live green and macro algae in nature have a layer of small life on them. Since the macro is dried, I use the Super Selco to simulate that bio-layer on it.

    Just FYI, Tangs are rabid for Gracilaria species macro algae. Grows well in a properly lit sump or refugium. The Atlantic Blue Tangs I keep decimated a colony of Gracilaria the size of a basketball in less than a week down to its hold fast. The tangs were less than two inches long at that point.

    Hope that gives folks an idea on how much green and macro algae a tang can eat every day.

    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

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