What is the best food for marine fish?

Marine fish have evolved to take advantage of all the different types of food that are available in the ocean. Foods vary from phytoplankton to zooplankton, macroalgae to mobile invertebrates, coral polyps and even other fish. Some fish are omnivores and are easy to feed in our aquariums, while others are specialists which struggle to feed on items that are different to what they would find in the wild. 

When we keep a mix of different fish in our aquariums it’s important that each fish receives the right type of food for it. It needs the correct particle size and the right nutritional profile, be it herbivore, carnivore, planktivore or coralivore. Feed your marine fish properly and they will be hardier, less shy and more disease resistant. Offer the wrong foods or in too little a quantity and they will sadly waste away. 

The first foods to entice wild-caught marine fish are frozen foods. Artemia (also known as Brine Shrimp,) and Mysis shrimp are small invertebrates that will tempt many marine fish from Clownfish and Damsels to Tangs, Angelfish, wrasses and gobies.

There can be a few issues though in that the nutritional profile of Artemia is actually quite low, meaning that although fish readily eat it, it’s hard to put weight and growth on the fish. And if you buy your frozen food online it arrives thawed out. 

The saving grace, however, is to buy foods like Artemia, Mysis and Krill in liquid form. These don’t need to be frozen, and also deliver whole crustaceans along with a soup of other particles which will guarantee to get your fish (and your corals,) feeding. So the new generation of liquid marine fish foods is well worth investing in, both for fish and corals. 

Butterflyfish can be difficult feeders when first imported

Try dry foods for weight gain and nutrition

Next is to try to get your marine fish onto dry foods. Although made from raw ingredients like algae, fish and shellfish, a good brand of marine food can be made even better at the manufacturing level by making sure that all the key vitamins and minerals are present throughout the food. This makes many marine fish food recipes a complete diet for marine fish. Get your fish onto flakes or better still soft pellets and they’ll have fat bellies and they’ll be looking as good as they did on the reef in no time. 

Frequency of feeding for marine fish

The other thing to know about most planktivores like Anthias and Green Chromis, and herbivores like Powder Blue tangs is that they need to feed really often, with six feeds per day not considered excessive. To do that load pellets into an automatic fish feeder, which release small amounts of food many times throughout the day. 

And for the herbivores, you can’t beat a stick-on grazer ring or an algae rich paste which can be smeared over rocks, enabling grazers to dine throughout the day and pick at the rocks for food, just like they would in the wild. So liquid foods, and better still, a quality brand of dry food, are the best foods for marine fish.

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Jeremy Gay is an author, lifelong fishkeeper, and aquatic specialist. He's a former editor of Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, UK editor at Reefbuilders, a former aquatic store manager, and has collected fish in Sri Lanka and the Amazon. He's been on tv and radio, contributed to Koi Carp and Gardeners World magazines, been a product tester, a judge, and a product developer. Jeremy is here to guide and advise you on all things tropical, pond and marine, from set-up to stocking, health, feeding to breeding, as well as solving many common fishkeeping problems along the way.

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