Homemade Fish Food: A Complete DIY Fish Food Guide

If you take a moment to read the nutritional information on a typical can of fish food you might be surprised by what you read. Wheat powder (flour) and potato starch are often in the first two categories – how many fish actually eat wheat and potatoes?

Carbohydrate rich fillers aren’t all that great for most fish. Instead, why not take control of your fish’s nutrition by making your own DIY fish food? It’s not particularly difficult and your fish will reward your efforts with better health, color, and even reproductive success!


Materials Needed for Homemade Fish Food

Here are some of the materials you will need to make homemade fish food for your aquarium:

Kitchen Scale

Measuring our ingredients in grams is easier using an appropriately sized scale. Digital or not, so long as you can accurately weigh out vegetables and meat, you’ll be in great shape!

Blender or Food Processor

You’ll want to choose your blender based on the ingredients you’ll be using frequently. Basic blenders may not be powerful enough to dice hard ingredients like fresh carrots. These recipes use little additional water as well, which can cause models designed for fruit smoothies to falter.

Ice Cube Trays

Once you’ve thoroughly blended your DIY fish food you’ll need moulds for your product until it freezes. Ice cube trays give you conveniently sized and separated blocks to provide your fish!

If you’ve ever purchased frozen food I also recommend reusing the trays as they are typically smaller than ice cubes and perfect for small community fish feedings!

Plastic Wrap

Once you’ve blended and added your mixture to an ice cube tray, if the tray doesn’t come with some sort of covering or lid you’ll want to make one using plastic wrap. This keeps the food from getting freezer burn, which toughens food and makes it less appetizing even when thawed.

types of fish food

Meat Based Ingredients

Here are some meat based ingredients that you may need:

Beef Heart

Beef heart is an especially lean meat (~8 to 10% fat) and like all organ meats, rich in vitamins, particularly B12 and folate. However it’s quite tough and needs to be processed for most fish. Larger predators can swallow small thawed cubes whole, though!

Fish

Fish protein naturally contains all of the essential nutrients fish need to survive, making it a perfect food for carnivorous and omnivorous fish! Inexpensive white fish like Tilapia can be offered in slices to trained predators like Stingrays and large Cichlids. Or you can blend it into a frozen formula for smaller fish.

Shellfish

Shellfish is a diverse category and includes Shrimp, Bivalves like Mussels and Clams, Squid, and other seafood staples. As a whole they provide very high quality meat but are usually pricier than other meat based additions.

Using dried shellfish like freeze dried Krill, Brine Shrimp, or Shrimp powder can help save money and is significantly easier to store relative to fresh seafood. However fresh is always the way to go for optimal nutritional content!

When preparing thin-shelled Shellfish like Shrimp or Krill it’s a good idea to leave the shells partially or completely intact. Fish in the wild will get portions or all of the shell when feeding, providing valuable roughage through the digestive tract. These shells also provide a bit of wear for toothy invertebrate feeders like Pufferfish and Wrasses.

Worms

Worms are used in fishing for very good reasons! They are high in both protein and fat relative to other animal food and fish love the taste. Earthworms and Tubifex worms are both easily found in bait shops and pet stores and are a perfect addition to a carnivore blend. You can even add them whole after the blending as surprise treats for fish to uncover!


Plant Based Ingredients

Here are a few plant-based ingredients that you may need for your DIY fish food:

Peas

Inexpensive and nutritious, Peas are one of the best DIY fish food ingredients! Peas can be bought frozen and processed or prepared whole for larger fish like adult Goldfish, Koi, Silver Dollars, and Pacu. Even bottom dwellers like Crayfish enjoy servings of blanched Peas.

Peas are also high in protein relative to other vegetables – a serving of peas has four times the protein of an equal weight of carrots! This makes it excellent when mashed or ground for omnivorous fish like Barbs and Livebearers!

Leafy Greens

Leafy Greens like Spinach and Kale are very high in nutritional content and once blanched are easy to digest. Fresh and frozen Leafy Greens are also affordably priced and significantly boost the vitamin and mineral content of any fish food blend.

Chopped or Shredded Vegetables

Whole and thick chunks of Cauliflower or Cucumber are often used as treats for Snails and vegetarian fish like Plecos and Silver Dollars. However they can be shredded or finely shopped in order to feed any omnivorous or vegetarian fish, including marine fish like Tangs and Blennies.

Finely diced root vegetables like carrots are also perfect additions to your DIY fish food blend. Stay away from carbohydrate rich ingredients like rice and potatoes as fish don’t need carbs in their food and have little capacity to digest them.


Supplements

Adding supplements to your homemade fish food can be a great way to add an extra boost to your creation. Here are a few supplements that can be helpful:

Garlic

As in humans, Garlic’s antibacterial properties also extend to fish that consume it. Small amounts of diced garlic are an excellent digestive and immunity booster. Using freshly chopped or pureeing whole cloves and then freezing the DIY blend is recommended to keep the active ingredient (allicin) fresh.

Garlic is also a potent flavor enhancer and appetite stimulator thanks to its strong odor; so much so that Seachem has created an aquarium Garlic Extract for DIY Fish Food enthusiasts. Liquid extracts also penetrate more thoroughly into DIY food compared to chopped Garlic.

Carotenoids & Flavonoids

Carotenoids & flavonoids are compounds that, when consumed, impart their color in the flesh of many fish species. The rich red flesh of wild salmon comes from the shrimp and krill they eat out at sea.

Many color enhancing prepared food blends, such as Tetra Tropical Flakes are rich in beta-carotene powder and/or krill, both of which contribute to orange/red pigmentation in aquarium fish. Adding these compounds can help liven the colors of your fish permanently!

Fish flake food

Sources of Carotenoids & Flavonoids: Salmon, Beta-Carotene Powder, brightly colored vegetables (Beets, Carrots, Bell Peppers), Brightly colored Shellfish (Shrimp, whole Scallops, Krill), Spirulina

Spirulina

Spirulina is a superfood that’s gaining in traction among health enthusiasts as well as aquarists. It’s already found in several prepared foods as a plant-based additive to the typical grain-based formulas.

Spirulina are actually cyanobacteria packed with essential nutrients. Spirulina is also a ready source of Flavonoids, responsible for yellow pigments in many animals.

Corn or Potato Starch

While we still want to avoid heavy doses of carbohydrates a dash of plant starch gives the final blend a bit of consistency. Instead of immediately falling apart once thawed your DIY fish food will stick together until they finish their meal!


3 Awesome Homemade Fish Food Recipes

While each of these DIY Fish Food recipes differs ingredient-wise the preparation is always the same! Get your ingredients chopped as finely as possible to make things easier for your food processor and then mix it all together!

Once mixed, add the blended food to your ice cube trays, cover the tops in plastic wrap, and freeze it until it’s ready to be used.

You may want to modify how you prepare certain ingredients based on the size of your fish! If you have large herbivores like Tinfoil Barbs or Pacu I recommend keeping the Peas whole instead of blending them.

Large carnivores like Oscars will enjoy whole worms added after the mixture is blended – and the same goes for Tubifex added for small community fish!

Vegetarian Delight

  • 400g Frozen Peas
  • 300g Chopped, Shredded, or Grated Vegetables (Carrots, Beets, Zucchini, Broccoli, etc)
  • 300g Fresh or Frozen Spinach
  • 4 sheets of Macroalgae (Japanese Nori, Marine Algae Blends)
  • 1 Tablespoon Spirulina Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic/Seachem Garlic Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

Carnivore’s Choice

  • 200g White fish (Tilapia, Catfish, Cod)
  • 200g Fresh Beef Heart
  • 400g Shellfish (choose 2: Shrimp, Squid, Mussels, Krill, etc)
  • 1 tub of Nightcrawlers/mass of Tubifex worms
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic/Seachem Garlic Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

Omnivore’s Dilemma

  • 200g White fish (Tilapia, Catfish, Cod)
  • 200g Shrimp or Mussels
  • 200g Fresh or Frozen Spinach
  • 300g Frozen Peas
  • 1 Tablespoon Spirulina Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic/Seachem Garlic Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

Summary

DIY fish food blends contain a balanced mixture of whole foods rich in macro and micronutrients prepared blends lack or make up for in suboptimal ways. And even if you feed mostly prepared foods DIY foods provide nutritional variety and stimulation.

It’s also yet another fun way for you to get involved in the hobby – making your own blends can take off as a side hobby in its own right! And best of all you can always eat any leftovers unused in the process (save the worms, of course)!

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