Most folk taking up tropical fish keeping, normally think about fish
food as one of the last items to purchase or be considered. But in
relation to priorities, fish food should be one of the very first
things to consider. For over the years, I have been able to establish
that 90% of all tropical fish diseases and deaths are as a result poor
diet and water quality, lastly, all stress related. For the fact is,
you have healthy tropical fish, you then have happy disease free
Certain species of tropical fish can go down hill noticeably in a matter of days such as Discus (symphysodon), where other fish species such as tetras, and barbs, suffering from poor health, as a result of poor diet, and water quality, may take a considerable time longer, and not be so noticeable.
When keeping tropical fish from the outset, it is important to obtain high protein foods for your charges. Tropical fish when purchased are not cheap, some can run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars, especially Discus and rare Cat Fish. So to lose such fish from poor health, as a result of a poor diet, to me and should be to anyone else, a complete no brainer, with regards to getting the right food from the very beginning. A tub of tropical fish flake food I am sorry to say, is not going to the be, the be all and end all, when it comes to tropical fish food.
Tropical fish as like ourselves in our everyday life need a balanced and varied diet, to stave off poor health. We know ourselves from not eating properly, we will suffer the consequence, leading to illness and in some cases, very serious health problems, affecting liver and kidney organs.
Every other animal and marine life species is no different, as I always remind folk regarding the sciences and genealogy of the species and all life forms, we are all related somewhere along the line. Food is the fuel and energy provider for all that we do allowing us to function, tropical fish are no different, they require good quality food to function, and carry out their daily activities, eventually leading to finding a mate and reproduction.
In the late 1960's, I learnt my lesson as a result of poor diet and water quality, when I lost my prized Clown Loach species, where they first developed white spot as a result of poor water quality, and poor diet, brought on by stress, and very sadly leading to eventual death. As a small boy at the time I was heart broken, but as the years went on, and the more aquarists I spoke too and learnt from at my local aquarists club, I soon realized the importance of fish food, especially if I wanted to breed species.
Many club aquarists who had fish houses in those days, that were best described as Aladdin's Caves for tropical fish enthusiasts. The hobbyists were always proud to show me their food cultures and techniques, on feeding their tropical fish, how much to feed, and also when to feed. The more experienced I became over the years, and especially starting in the late 1970's, and early 1980's, when I decided to meet the impossible challenge of breeding Wild Discus in captivity, I knew food was going to be a major part of the project, to even just get the fish species back to health, after the marathon and arduous journeys my poor fish endured, getting my discus from South America to Europe.
After tearing up the rule book regarding what little literature I had read about keeping discus, I started to apply my own logical techniques based on my findings. One was water quality, where I decided the challenge was not to try and keep changing my water to the quality of the wild, but by acclimatizing my wild fish to my local water, so I was then in a position to carryout massive regular water changes as and when, even on a daily basis, and sometimes the replacement of some 3,500 gallons a day in my discus aquariums.
The other challenge was literally getting my wild discus to eat, I knew the odd nimble of a live blood worm was not going to bring these majestic fish back to full health, for when I acquired my wild species, they were already very bony, under nourished, with tattered fins etc.
By studying the wild environment of the discus, this being mainly The River Amazon, and adjoining Rivers in South America such as the Tefe. I discovered quiet a variation in diet between the known species, these being Heckel, Axelrodi, Haraldi and Pellegrin. Some of these species with bright yellow bellies and red spots, had a substantial diet consisting of shrimps and prawns. This included the brown discus axelrodi, in addition to the Perrigrin, or Tefe Green. Others areas it was found discus namely the Pellegrin, had a diet that consisted of certain desired weed and algae. It was clear discus were not only meat eaters, but also enjoyed certain types of vegetation in their diet.
Looking at foods to feed discus, that had high protein mineral content levels to them, to get the species back into full health, both meat and vegetation was quiet a challenge, et required. A break came, when I heard through the grape vine Dr. Eduard Schmidt-Focke had tried Beef Heart as a meat to feed Discus, and Jack Wattley was also experimenting with egg based food recipes, to feed new born discu,s to try and replicate the early hours and days of when the discus fry fed off of the milt of the parents. A body mucous developed by the parents, that was full of antibodies, to give the fry that very early critical start in life.
I decided to try making some recipes with beef heart, and the introduction of liver, knowing this to be extremely high in iron content, a mineral found in the River Amazon, in fact some parts of the River Silt is literally red in colour from the high iron mineral content presence. With the foods and the receding water of these Rivers in the rainy season, it was obvious natural river bank species of plants would then become accessible to the fish also in the flood periods. By studying our own environment, there are certain species of plant life that thrive at the waters edge, almost looking like large cabbages, and others looking like giant lettuces. So again I looked at vegetation that was similar, that could be bought and had a high in mineral content, and one particular crop that made sense and was worth trying, was spinach!
My first recipes when making my own tropical fish foods for my wild discus, consisted of beef heart, liver, and spinach. After being cut into very small pieces, using a food processor, and freezing down. When frozen, the food is more manageable in thin slabs and easier to grate from frozen. I was then able to shred small pieces of the beef heart recipe and started to feed my wild discus with the new fish food. I was amazed at the results, the discus eagerly ate the new food created, and after several weeks, they truly were a picture to see in size and colour. Now with the right diet and the right water, I found my wild discus beginning to swim more, acknowledge each other members in the the particular aquariums in question that they inhabited , and started to show signs of finding mates for each other.
It had been a long slog over many years trying to get wild discus to breed, in fact nearly a decade, before I was first successful. For as I said, little had been written at the time in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's, in fact only a handful of articles or points of reference on discus. And in the 1970's and 1980's as keepers, there were only a handful of us trying to break a taboo that had lasted over a century, and that was trying to breed the King of the Aquarium in captivity.
One of my objectives has always been since the writing of my first Discus Book back in 1989, where I recorded my findings in keeping and breeding discus, was always to help and share with other aquarists, to ensure many more folk bred discus, to protect the species from extinction. My same philosophy and outlook is towards helping aquarists with regards to all marine life species and their animal welfare, where I want hobbyists keeping tropical fish to be healthy, thriving, and happy disease free tropical fish. The only way this can be achieved is ensuring all tropical fish receive a high protein diet, with foods containing all the essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals.
At the beginning of 2017, I wrote a book on tropical fish foods with a wide selection of recipes, so you can make your own tropical fish food for your fish. I believe it to be a first, and upon reflection, I believe such a book is long overdue. We as humans in our everyday lives, are surrounded by an abundance of recipe books on cooking for ourselves and for a varied healthy diet. Perhaps the question is, why was a book not written earlier on the subject, or covered extensively in the tropical fish magazines and journals that are produced. I seem to think at the end of the day it comes down to knowledge and experience beyond commercial interests. For I have never been part of the tropical fish establishment, nor will I be until publications write informative articles first and foremost, in the interests of marine Life Species and Animal Welfare, before Commercial interests, namely Advertisers and the revenue it generates for them!
Thank fully, since the 1980's and 1990's, there is a greater diversity of fish food on the market today and more specialized, from my endeavours and others in those earlier times. But at the end of the day, as like ourselves, when it comes to food, you cannot beat healthy fresh food, and this is what you can offer to your tropical fish found in the book, but lastly also, the opportunity to make great savings. A batch of food I make for my discus and other tropical fish, from buying the ingredients that cost me around £10.00 ($13.50). If I could purchase such a food in large frozen packs, it would make around 10 packs in quantity, so this would cost me if I had to buy around £13.00 a pack, about $17.00. And so 10 packs would cost me around £130.00 ($170.00), and so I am making a saving with my fish food from every batch I make of around £120.00 ($155.00). Now I like to think that is something to shout about!
Beyond any marketing spiel, or hype, that you may come across regarding why you should buy the book. I can guarantee that you will see an immediate change in your tropical fish when eating these super foods, and your fish will start to grow faster, far larger in size, and develop far more colour, as they come into a full healthy condition. Lastly they will live longer!