Text by: The red severum
This article is going to be about weaning fish off of live fish to prepared and better foods.
When first looking at why people feed live feeders, you can say that they are in it for the thrill of watching another fish chase down its prey and eat it. I am not going to discuss if this is a cruel practise or simply nature because that is another topic for another day, but I am going to say that it is bad for the predatory fish since it do not get the right nutrients, and malnutrition can cause deformity, stunting of growth and other side effects. Live food can also spread sickness from the feeder fish to the predatory fish, such as HITH (hole in the head). Feeder fish bought from stores are often kept in poor conditions where diseases like ich are common.
Now that I’ve finished saying how bad feeders are it’s time to go into what to do to if you bought a fish that won’t eat anything else besides feeders. The first method I am going to talk about is fasting a fish. There could be some long negative term effects to this, but that is uncommon. You have to make sure you have a healthy specimen with no sickness. You also want to check if they are of a healthy weight, since you don’t want to fast a fish that has not been eating in the first place. When first fasting a fish, I would have it in a tank by itself. You do this because one, you don’t want it eating any other of your fish, and two you don’t want it to be picked on for being weak. Most fish will break within the first week, but some fish have been known to go for weeks even months without eating. When you first start to try, you should think about moving the fish onto pellets or market shrimp, because both foods are cheap healthy choices. When you are working with a fish that has been fasted for over two weeks, pellets or market shrimp should be introduced every two days, then if not eaten removed from the tank. Water changes should be done once a week, to keep the fish healthy. It should take 1-4 weeks, and don’t give in on feeding.
Another method that will work on less picky eaters is to slowly mix in the shrimp or the pellets in with the feeders. The way you do this is pretty simple; you gradually cut down on the feeders and replace them with pellets. If you for instance normally feed your oscar cichlid 10 feeders every time, start weaning him by feeding him just 8 feeders together with some pellets. If the pellets aren’t eaten, vacuum them out so they don’t foul your water. Even if the fish don’t eat the pellets, it should be given pellets again. Next time, serve 5 feeders plus pellets and hope your fish get’s the idea. If not, feed him 3 goldfish and so on, and if the fish is not a finicky eater, the pellets will eventually be accepted. This method is a lot easier on the fish and less stressful on the keeper. If it does not work, I would try the fasting method mentioned above.
In conclusion, feeders are not the answer. It is true that fish will eat other fish in the wild, but feeder fish purchased from fish stores are often kept on a monotonous diet and rarely contain the correct profusion of nutrients that your fish needs to stay healthy in the long run. Also, most species of predatory fish feed on many different species in the wild; just not goldfish and guppy. Feeding feeders is like giving kid candy for its main diet; it may not look like they’re sick but on the inside they are.
When using feeders, including when you’re trying to wean your fish off them, the feeders should always be quarantined so you can make sure there is no sickness. The key is to keep the water quality high and the fish as healthy as possible – the feeders as well as the fish you’re trying to wean.