Despite the variety, flavor and popularity of the various manufactured food that you find in the store, there is still a need to feed your fish some varieties of live food as often as you can. In addition to adding a welcome change to their feeding routine, it also introduces a lot of nutrients that may be lacking in the store food. Live food needs to be approached with a bit of caution. You should be absolutely sure that the food you provide the fish is fresh and without any signs of decay or infection. You do not want your fish to show signs of disease after it have innocently eaten something you provided. If you have cultured the live food yourself in a healthy environment, then there is no fear of it being infected or chemically treated.
Planktons are minute floating aquatic plants and animals. They are a good source of nutrition for fish. Plankton can be trapped or netted from ponds for feeding. Tubifex worms are a hot favorite among a large number of fish. They are unfortunately also known to carry diseases and are very fatty which means that Tubifex only should be used once in a while. Rinsing out live food thoroughly before introducing it into water will greatly help reduce the chances of carrying the disease into your aquarium, but this method is naturally only effective for the germs outside the body.
Microworms are one of the simplest fish foods to culture. These are primarily used to feed fish fry. Fish that are too small to feed on brine shrimp will find these an excellent choice. Brine shrimp, on the other hand, are minute shrimps collected from saltwater ponds. Even after they are dried, they remain dormant inside cysts. These cysts can be hatched as and when needed even after storing them for months and even years. Each cyst will contain one single animal.
Earthworms and Redworms are other popular sources of food for tropical fish. These are easy to rear, but are also high in fat content. They are very popular among some fish varieties like the Cichlids.
Earthworms are some of the most complete sources of food in nature. These worms are full of vitamins, roughage and calcium. They have rich supplies of proteins too. Fish that are fed on earthworms grow at a very fast rate. Large fish like the Cichlids will eat the adult earthworm in whole, while medium size fish will eat worms that are an inch or less in length. The very small fish species will need the worms chopped or shredded.
Earthworms are blind, but light sensitive. They will burrow into the soil to avoid light. They are also temperature sensitive, and will drown if their home is flooded. Earthworms prefer a rich, clay free soil. You can feed them with decaying vegetables and eggshells. Do not over-feed the worms, as this will turn the soil sour. The simplest way to culture a small quantity of worms is to gather some very heavy sacking on the ground. This should be in a shady spot. The area should be kept moist. Some scraps of vegetables should be placed in between the sack and the ground to encourage the growth of the worms. When you need the worms, just lift up the sack and remove the worms that cling to the sack.
Microworms are fairly easy to cultivate too once you get a fresh starter. Transfer your starter culture to a large container. Maintain a temperature between 65-75 degrees. Prick small holes into the lid for air exchange. Any cereal-based media, including cornmeal or oatmeal or even baby food, can be used for the microworms. Mix about one spoon of brewers yeast to the culture. The yeast should be mixed in slightly warm water. In 3-5 days, you will see that the worms have filled the surface of the medium and will start climbing over. These can then be collected using an ice cream stick. Rinse the worms, and then feed the worms to the fish using a baby eyedropper. One excellent side benefit of culturing your own microworms is that you can add liquid vitamins to the culture. Whatever you feed the worms will go directly to the fish too.
The larvae and adult specimens of fruit flies are another hot favorite among fish. You should not use the maggots supplied by your nearest fishing store. The reason being that these larvae are specially bred to be bait; they will have toughened skins as well as chemicals in them. Cultivation of maggots is best suited for the summer months. Make a few holes in a plastic container. These holes should be big enough for the flies to enter. Make some smaller holes at the bottom of the container, and place a small piece of fish or meat within the container. Place this in a large container and put it in a shady part of your garden. Within a few hors, flies will start visiting your container and would have laid their eggs on your bait. After a few days the larvae will start coming out of the inner container. These can then be collected and fed to your fish.
Water fleas or daphnia are an excellent supplementary food. They can be given once every week to the fish. They are a rich source of fiber. A starter culture of Daphnia can be store-bought or captured from the wild. Take a shallow container, clean it thoroughly and fill it with alkaline water. The container should receive plenty of sunlight, but not left exposed to the sun all day. Now, add the fleas. Various substances like rotting lettuce, green water or yeast can be used as food. Do not add too much of food, since the water will foul up and the fleas will die due to a lack of oxygen. Gram flour is one of the best substances for food. Mix the flour well with half a liter of water. Add this mixture to the culture. The culture will look cloudy now, but the bottom of the container will still be seen. Within a week, the container will be filled with fleas that can be netted and fed to the fish. Daphnia are sensitive to the presence of other life forms in their water, and even algae should therefore be kept out of the medium while culturing Daphnia.
Brine shrimp is another excellent food for fish. They are available in 3 forms: live, frozen or freeze-dried. The eggs of the brine shrimp are easily available for home cultivation. The shrimp that come out of them are excellent food for fry, while adult Brine shrimp can be fed to adult fish (and to very large fry). The exoskeletons of the Brine shrimp are excellent sources of fiber.
Cyclops is another tiny animal that can be cultivated at home and that is a good food for large fry and small fish. Cyclops cannot be used as food for small fry as they attack the fry.
Insect larvae of Bloodworms, White and Black Mosquitoes, and Meal Worms are also good fish food. The larvae of black mosquitoes are especially good as they are full of vitamins. In some fish species, these seem to trigger the spawning process. Mosquitoes can easily be bred in standing water, and their larvae can be caught and fed to the fish.
Flies, Crickets, Back swimmers and Beetles can also be caught easily and fed to your larger fish. Several types of mollusks, including snails, can be used as food for larger fish like the Puffer fish. Goldfish and guppies are widely used as feeder fish. Larger species relish these, but feeder fish can be carriers of diseases or infection. Proper care should be taken before using them as food.
Frozen food can be made at home using some of the vegetables and meat from the refrigerator. Here is a favorite recipe: Mix 1 tablespoon each of parsley, carrot shaving, green peas and oatmeal cereal with 5 oz. of shrimp and fish filet. Add 2 tablespoons of brewers yeast, 3 drops anise extract and keep 3 packets of gelatin ready for use. Puree everything except the gelatin in a blender. Dissolve gelatin in warm water and add this to the pureed mixture. Let the mixture sit for a minute or two, before pouring it into bags. Lay the bags in the fridge to chill for a day. After a day in the fridge, move this to the freezer. Cut the food into chunks and feed the fish.