The food that the fish eats is of great importance in aquaponics cycle because fish provide nutrient to plants, and ultimately you’re going to eat the fish as well.
Therefore, we can say that vegetables grown out of aquaponics are what fish eat, right? just like you are what you eat.
Also, the Fish feed is one of the most expensive recurring inputs for an aquaponic unit and one of the most important components of the whole aquaponic ecosystem because it sustains both the fish and vegetable growth.
Currently, a big issue for aquaponics farmer is feeding the fish and finding organic fish food. This soil-less gardening practice relies solely on fish byproducts, so doesn’t it only make sense to feed aquarium fish with something substantial and all natural? yes, it does!
In this article, learn how to make your own fish food, in order to keep aquarium occupants looking and feeling their best.
A healthy and organic homemade food for your fish!
Also, making fish food yourself means that you know exactly what went into it.
Fish feed should consist of all the nutrients that are required for growth, energy, and reproduction. Dietary requirements are identified for proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, energy, minerals, and vitamins. An unbalanced feed will cause reduced growth, nutritional disorders, and illness leading to higher production costs.
Check the best type of fish to use in aquaponics
Different fish don’t have the same diet. There are herbivores, omnivores and carnivorous fish. So, if you’re wanting to please your fish with homemade food, it helps to first understand what type of eater they are! While the list below won’t explain the specific needs of each individual species, it will at least serve as a general guideline as to what your fishes should be eating!
- Herbivores – needs fewer proteins in the diet. While these fish may occasionally eat meat proteins, the majority of their diet consists of plant matter. Many aquarium algae eaters (ottocinclus & plecostomus), as well as some tropical species and African cichlids, fall into the herbivorous category.
- Omnivores – The majority of aquarium fish have an omnivorous diet. These fish will readily take both animal and plant matter and should be fed both regularly for continued health. Generally speaking, omnivores normally take in more plant matter, so animal proteins are usually limited to around 20-40% of their diet.
- Carnivores – Like herbivores, there are few aquarium fish that are actually labeled true carnivores. The reason for this is that even carnivorous species tend to eat plant matter in the wild. So, for vitality and longevity in the aquarium, these fish should be typically fed with 50-70% animal matter and 30-40% plant matter.
Read about the factors to consider while choosing your fish.
Common sources of the important nutrient components
Protein Plant-based sources: algae, yeast, soybean meal, cottonseed meal, peanuts, sunflower, rapeseed/canola, other oil-seed cakes. Animal-based sources: fishery by-products (fishmeal or offal), poultry by-products (poultry meal or offal), meat meal, meat and bone meal, blood meal.
Carbohydrates Wheat flour, wheat bran, corn flour, corn bran, rice bran, potato starch, cassava root meal.
Lipids Fish oil, vegetable oil (soybean, canola, sunflower), processed animal fat.
Vitamins Vitamin premix, yeast, legumes, liver, milk, bran, wheat germ, fish and vegetable oil.
Minerals Mineral premix, crushed bone
You can grow duckweed and black soldier fly/larvae in the home to make protein-rich organic food for your fish.
Steps to make homemade fish feed
The process below outlines the steps to make fish feed.
- Prepare your ingredients. Leafy greens should be rinsed and harder veggies (aka broccoli, carrots, etc.) parboiled. Defrost any frozen ingredients. Descale the fish, but with bones in. Soybeans, corn kernels, and wheat berries need to be dried, de-hulled and ground. Moreover, whole soybeans need to be toasted at 120 °C for 1–2 minutes
- Blend it. That pretty much says it all! Place all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture has reached an even consistency.
- Strain the mixture. Using a spatula, squeeze the mixture through a medium-fine mesh. This process is the most labor intensive but will remove any large pieces of bone/veggie that are too big for fish consumption.
- Dry it out. Dedicate three to four hours for drying your fish food into flakes. Dry the extruded dough by spreading the strips out on aluminum trays. If available, dry the feed strips in an electric oven at a temperature of 60–85 °C for 10–30 minutes to gelatinize the starch. Check the strips regularly to avoid any burn.
- Break it Apart. The sheets will come off in large chunks. Break or cut the feed on the tray with the fingers into smaller pieces. Try to make the pellets the same size. Avoid excessive pellet manipulation to prevent crumbling. Pellets can be sieved and separated in batches of homogeneous size with proper mesh sizes.
- Store in a dark and cool environment. Place the fully-dried feed pellets into airtight plastic containers soon after they have been broken into pieces to prevent them absorbing humidity. In an airtight container, the fish food will remain good for over a year.
Storing Homemade Feed
Once prepared, the best way to store fish feed is to put pellets into an airtight container soon after being dried and broken apart. Containers must be kept in a cool, dry, dark and ventilated place, away from pests.
Keeping pellets at low levels of moisture (< 10 percent) prevents them from becoming moldy and developing toxic mycotoxins. Depending on the temperature, the pellets can be stored for as long as two months.
Another way to keep pellets for long periods is to close them in a plastic container and store them in the fridge, though this would require electricity. The feed can be kept in this way for more than one year. Feed must be used on a “first in, first out” basis. Avoid using any feed showing signs of decay or mold, as this could be fatal for fish.
Things to Care about while feeding the fish
- Don’t mix incompatible fish.
- Wash your hands before and after handling fish foods.
- Feed the fish three times a day.
- Do not over-feed the fish. It can lead to nitrite poisoning in the aquarium.
- Feed the fish with the lights on.
- Feed fish at the same times every day—if possible.
- All feedings should be done by one person for better continuity.