Feeding baby fry

Top 5 Tiny Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish Fry for Healthy Growth – Aquarium Co-Op

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Breeding fish is such a fun and rewarding part of the aquarium hobby, but while it can be easy to get fish to spawn, raising their tiny babies is where the real challenge begins. High losses often occur in the newborn phase because of water quality issues, predation, or simply not feeding enough of the right foods. In this article, let’s talk about 5 miniscule foods that you can feed even the smallest fry to help them grow quickly and get past the first few weeks of their lives.

1. Baby Brine Shrimp

Peacock gudgeon fry eating baby brine shrimp

If you talk to veteran breeders or fish farms that produce massive numbers of fish, they know that the #1 best food to feed fry is baby brine shrimp (BBS). Newly hatched brine shrimp have a nutrient-packed yolk sac that is chock full of healthy fats and proteins — perfect for feeding baby fish. As a live food, their jerky swimming movements also entice the fry to eat more so they grow faster and stronger. To hatch the brine shrimp eggs, simply soak them in salt water, add aeration with an air pump, and heat the water up to 74-82°F (23-28°C). Within 18–36 hours, the baby brine shrimp are ready for harvesting. As long as you buy good eggs, the recipe is very reliable, so follow the instructions in this article.

Baby brine shrimp are approximately 400–500 microns in size and are suitable for many baby livebearers, African cichlids, and other species that lay larger eggs. However, if you are hatching tiny fry from egg layers like killifish, rainbowfish, and tetras, the newborns are too little to eat baby brine shrimp. Therefore, the rest of the article focuses on even smaller “starter” foods, with the strong recommendation that you switch over to baby brine shrimp after a couple of weeks once the fry are big enough.

2. Infusoria

Freshwater plankton under a microscope

In the wild, most baby fish eat microorganisms such as protozoans and invertebrate larvae ranging between 20–300 microns. Infusoria is the common name that fishkeepers use for these freshwater plankton, and there are many methods for culturing them. One of the most popular techniques is to fill a large jar with a few quarts (or liters) of old tank water and mulm, and then drop in a piece of banana peel, catappa leaves, instant yeast, or other organic matter. Warm the water to tropical temperatures between 78–80°F (26–27°C) for faster results and add aeration to minimize the smell. Soon, the water should become cloudy as bacteria breaks down the food, and then it will turn clear as the infusoria consumes the bacteria.

To harvest, use a pipette or turkey baster to suck out some water just below the surface scum and feed it directly to the fry. Depending on the size of the jar and how often you are harvesting, the culture may last 2–4 weeks. You can extend the life of the culture by topping off the jar with tank water, adding more food every week, and using a turkey baster to remove some of the decomposed gunk at the bottom. If you are raising lots of babies and need a constant supply of infusoria, you may need to start a new culture every 1–2 weeks. Just pour water from the old culture into the new jar, add a food source, and fill the rest of the jar with aquarium water.

3. Vinegar Eels

Vinegar eels being harvested in a bottle neck

If keeping infusoria sounds too time-intensive, try your hand at another live food — vinegar eels. This teeny nematode or roundworm is very simple to culture and is approximately 50 microns in diameter and 1–2 mm in length. Create a mixture of 50% apple cider mixture and 50% dechlorinated water inside a wine bottle or other long-necked container. Add some apple slices and a starter culture of vinegar eels, and wait for them to reproduce. Once you can visibly see them wiggling near the surface, harvest them by adding a wad of filter floss in the neck of the bottle and some fresh water above the filter floss. The vinegar eels will swim to the fresh water up top, so you can easily suck them out with a pipette and directly feed them to the baby fish. Their wiggling motion will attract the fry, and they provide longer access to food since they can survive in fresh water for several days. A vinegar eel culture can last up to 6 months, so follow our detailed instructions to create your own.

4. Powdered Fry Food

Sera Micron fry food

If you do not have access or time to maintain live food cultures, prepared foods are an option to consider. Fry food tends to come in a powdered form that ranges from 5–800 microns, depending on the brand. The key is to provide a variety in diet so that the baby fish do not develop any nutritional deficiencies. Some of our favorites include:

  • Sera Micron
  • Hikari First Bites
  • Easy Fry and Small Fish Food
  • Golden Pearls
  • Crushed flakes
  • Spirulina powder
  • Repashy gel food (in the raw, powdered form)

Powdered foods tend to float at the surface because of the water tension, so if you are feeding baby bottom dwellers, you may need to swirl the water to get the particles to sink faster for them. To avoid overfeeding the fish, we recommend using a small children’s paintbrush. Dip the bristles in the powder and lightly tap the paintbrush a few times over the fry tank to feed them. This technique ensures that you do not feed the fry too much at one time, which can end up deteriorating the water quality.

5. Green Water

Microalgae under a microscope

Green water is very similar to infusoria in size, but the green color is more prominent because it’s primarily made up of microalgae and other phytoplankton that create energy through photosynthesis. Hobbyists are usually trying to figure out how to get rid of green water in their aquariums and ponds since it makes it harder to view the fish and plants. However, it has many benefits — such as purifying the water, making it harder for adult fish to predate on their young, healing minor ailments, and serving as a food source for baby fish and daphnia cultures. Start with a large jar, aquarium, or other container and fill it with old tank water. Add some liquid fertilizer, fish food, or other organics to create a nutrient-rich environment for the microalgae. Some people also like to use an air stone, filter, or other device to agitate the water surface and encourage gas exchange, helping to ensure the algae gets enough oxygen and carbon dioxide. Use a light source like a desk lamp to shine directly on the container non-stop for 24 hours a day. After several days, the water should start to turn more and more green and will be ready for feeding to the fry.

A Few More Fry Feeding Tips

Because baby fish have baby-sized stomachs, they need to be fed mini meals at least 3–5 times a day. Also, it helps to put the fry in a smaller container or aquarium so that they don’t need to swim as far and waste as much energy finding the food. The problem is that frequent feedings in a smaller container can quickly foul the water and cause fry mortality, so frequent, small water changes are needed to keep the water clean and stable. Master breeder Dean addresses this problem by creating a rack of fry trays that constantly drips and circulates water from a larger aquarium down below.

Feeding is just one aspect of raising healthy fry, so keeping reading to learn about our top 5 tips for growing baby fish to become big and strong.

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How to Feed Aquarium Fish Fry


Shirlie Sharpe

Shirlie Sharpe

Shirlie Sharpe is an aquatic expert and writer with over three decades of experience keeping and raising ornamental fish. She has consulted with The Minnesota Zoo and the National Aquarium. Shirlie has also authored a book on setting up aquariums.

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Updated on 12/02/19

Reviewed by

Nick Saint-Erne

Reviewed by Nick Saint-Erne

Dr. Nick Saint-Erne, DVM, is a highly accomplished veterinarian and writer who has treated zoo animals and exotic pets for more than 35 years. He has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve pet store animal care among other endeavors. Dr. Saint-Erne is part of The Spruce Pets' veterinary review board.

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Kai Schreiber / Flickr / CC By 2.0

The key factors to keeping the fry alive and healthy are keeping the water and environment clean, protecting the fry from adult fish, and providing proper nutrition. Most fish owners already know how to take care of the first two, but feeding fry is often the stumbling block that new breeders run into. Newborn fish cannot eat the same foods as the parents, so the challenge is providing the proper food until the fry grow large enough to eat standard foods.

Fry Type

Keep in mind that young fish will eat different foods at different stages of their development. Likewise, different species of fish have somewhat different needs. For instance, newly hatched Discus fry feed off their parents' slime coat for the first few days of life and therefore do not need to be fed until they have grown past that stage. It is wise to study the species of fish you are breeding to determine if the fry have special feeding requirements.

Taking a broader view, there are two general types of fry, those that are hatched from eggs and those that are born live. Fry that are born live are larger and have developed more fully than those hatched from eggs. Consequently, these live-born fry have a larger mouth than the typical fry hatched from an egg, and can, therefore, eat larger foods from the start. It is quite common for live-born fry to eat a finely ground version of the same foods as parent fish.

Fry from egglaying fish are smaller when they hatch and often are not free swimming for the first few days. In these cases they remain at the site where the egg was attached, feeding off their yolk-sac until they begin to swim free on their own.

Feeding Stages

Fry that are freshly hatched have very tiny bodies, and can only eat the smallest of foods. However, they are growing rapidly, and have demanding nutritional needs. This stage is particularly critical, as newly hatched fry can starve to death quickly. Some of the best foods at this stage are infusoria, freshly hatched brine shrimp, and green water. These foods must be available immediately when the fry hatch, as they cannot wait even one day for foods to be prepared. If the previously described foods are not available at the time the fry hatch, egg yolk preparations, and commercially prepared fry foods are good alternatives that don't require a lot of time to prepare.

Once the fry have passed the first week or two of life, they are generally large enough to eat similar foods as the parents, just in smaller portions. Virtually all purchased foods, either flake, pelleted, or freeze-dried, can be ground to a fine size that fry can eat. This article describes simple steps for creating your fry foods, using simple tools that you probably have on hand. As the fry grow larger, you can make the food particles larger until they can eat the same size food as the parent fish. Keep in mind that although the fry may now be eating the same foods as the parents, they need to be fed more often due to the small size of their stomachs.

Fry Foods

There are several basic high-quality foods that most fry will do well on. As previously mentioned, these foods must be on hand at the time the fry hatch, and the supply must be continuous until they can eat traditional foods. So prepare ahead of time to ensure you have what you need. Aquarium clubs come in handy when rearing fry, as there are often members who can help you in a pinch. If you want to breed and raise fish, consider finding a local club for support.

  • Infusoria: Infusoria grows naturally in most tanks, particularly those with live plants. However, there may not be sufficient quantities to sustain the full hatching of fry. Therefore, it is helpful to culture your own infusoria to ensure having an adequate amount. This infusoria article from your Guide gives plenty of tips for growing your own culture.
  • Brine shrimp: Few things can rival the nutritional value of freshly hatched brine shrimp or the appeal it has to virtually all fish. If you choose to raise it yourself, you will have to start the culture before the fry hatch and keep it going for a while to ensure the fry have sufficient quantities. Another option that owners use is a commercially prepared live brine shrimp preparation, or frozen baby brine shrimp.
  • Green water: Green water is exactly what it sounds like, water with microscopic algae growth that turns it green. It makes excellent first food for young fry and is easy to grow. Simply take a gallon jar and fill it with aquarium water, scrape some algae out of your tank and add to the jar (if you have no algae, a bit of grass will suffice). Add a few drops of plant fertilizer, then leave the jar in full sun. Within a matter of days, the water should be green and teeming with microscopic nutrients that are ideal for your fry. Take a few ounces out of the jar for each fry feeding, and replace it with treated freshwater.
  • Egg yolk: Egg yolk is a power-packed food that is easy to make into preparation for newly hatched fry. Hard boil an egg, take the yolk and wrap in a small piece of gauze, compressing it so small portions protrude through the cloth. Hang it in the tank and the fry will feed off it. Remove and replace daily for the first several days.
  • DIY fry food: Live born fry, or fry that are a week or more old can usually eat finely ground foods, that you can prepare yourself.
  • Purchased fry food: Commercially prepared fry foods.

Live-Bearer Development Period Inside Female and as Fry

what and how to properly feed the fry in the first days.

Many hobbyists dream of breeding fish in an aquarium. And sooner or later, everyone has a question: how to feed fry in the first days of life in a home aquarium ?

Feeding fry should be approached with all responsibility, because. a big problem is the sale of fry. It is necessary to decide in advance how many fry you can sell, and it is better to grow a few high-quality and healthy ones than a lot, but bad ones. nine0007

Forming a pair for breeding is not difficult, often the fish choose their own partner. Spawning can be achieved by raising the temperature and doing more frequent water changes. Parents usually protect their nest from lovers of caviar. But the main feeding concerns will begin after fry hatch and swim. It is necessary to prepare the starter feed in advance in order to get healthy juveniles. The floating fry feeds on the yolk bladder for several more days. As soon as he disappears, then you need to start feeding. Improper feeding of fry in the first days of life will lead to the fact that the fish will not be able to reach their natural size, and many of them will not be able to breed. nine0007

Starter foods must be appropriate for the size of the fry. If, for example, in chromis or acar fry, a fry can immediately take brine shrimp nauplii, then in labyrinth fry it is too small and it will have ciliates as a starting food, and only after 5 days will it grow to brine shrimp. Starter food is also rotifer and vinegar nematode. Then you can move on to brine shrimp, enchitrea or grindal worm.

Fry should be fed as often as possible, for sedentary crumbs, something must constantly move in front of the nose. For this reason, it is better to feed it with live food, because dry and egg yolks simply settle to the bottom and those that are not eaten begin to grow with fungus or mucus, which cannot be allowed. The larvae often stick to the mucus or become entangled in clumps of sediment on the bottom. From this, the gills and body of the fry are covered with mucus, he cannot breathe and dies. nine0007

Since fry are often fed (5-7 times a day), food residues must be carefully removed after each feeding. To do this, put a piece of air hose on a cocktail straw and collect all the rest of the feed from the bottom. Water must be changed in the first three weeks every day, replacing 1/4 of the water in the jar with aquarium water. It is necessary to ensure that a bacterial film does not form on the surface. The compressor usually handles this task. But the air pressure should not spread the fry throughout the aquarium. nine0007

With a constant supply of food, the right temperature and frequent water changes, the fry grow quickly. Cannibalism is inherent in most species, so it is more often necessary to sort by size. If all fry rearing activities are done correctly, you will get young ornamental fish that fully meet the breed standards, with rich colors and the absence of any health problems.

Feeding fish fry

  • Proper feeding of fry is the key to successful fish rearing.

    In nature, the appearance of fry occurs at certain periods of time, when water bodies are saturated with organic substances. These substances stimulate the growth of many organisms and serve as food for fish and their offspring. When breeding fish in aquariums, the main condition for their rearing is the constant provision of fry with a sufficient amount of food. nine0007

    Frequency of fry feeding

    A few hours after spawning, fry become quite independent, their first meal is various microorganisms living in the water column. However, it is absolutely necessary to take care of the balanced diet of the fish that have appeared, since it is the nutrition in the first weeks that determines what the adults will be like.

    The feeding of fry differs from the feeding of adult fish by the constant presence of food in the aquarium. It is important not to feed too much at one time, but to distribute them in small portions throughout the day. In the first days, the fry are fed every 3 hours, gradually increasing the interval between feedings. By four weeks of age, feed up to three times a day. nine0007

    Feed for fry

    Feed for fry should not only be plentiful, but also sufficiently varied, containing the necessary amount of substances of plant and animal origin, vitamins, etc. It is preferable to start giving fry live food from the first days. They can be finely chopped bloodworms, ciliates, rotifers, brine shrimp. Surveys of aquarists show that brine shrimp nauplii are considered the best food for fry, but this food is not suitable for all newborn fish "in size". nine0067 To replace live food, it is desirable to use dry food of industrial production, which are sold in pet stores. The recipes of these feeds are made taking into account the necessary nutrients for the growth and development of fish, and the manufacturing process includes processing with ultraviolet rays. MicroMin and SeraMicron feed mixtures can be used already from the first days of fry life, and in a later period it is recommended to add TetraOvin mixture to the diet.
    Sometimes egg yolks, curdled milk or powdered milk are used as a substitute for live food. A piece of yolk from a boiled egg is ground in a small amount of aquarium water and poured into the aquarium. Fry eat yolk food well, but water is quickly polluted from such food, so it is better to use this method of feeding in cases where other food is not available. nine0007

    Unlike egg yolk, curdled milk does not damage the aquatic environment of the aquarium. To prepare food from yogurt, a small amount of it is poured with boiling water to curdle the milk protein. The resulting clot is caught with a net and washed with water, after which the net is lowered into the aquarium and shaken until a cloud of small food particles forms in the water.

    For fry, milk powder is a nutritious protein food that is easy to prepare at home. The cooking process consists in placing a plate of milk on a boiling pot. After evaporation, a powder is obtained that does not dissolve in water for several hours and is completely eaten by the fry. nine0007

    In conclusion, it should be noted that it is desirable to rotate the food for fry, and the remains of food should be removed, as this is a favorable environment for the reproduction of microbes and bacteria. It is also very important to regularly change the water in the aquarium with fry. Water, saturated with the waste products of fish, makes it difficult for their bodies to exchange substances and inhibits the development of fry.

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