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leebca 02/24/2006 05:50 PM

Fish Health Through Proper Nutrition
I notice a rash of posting of fish illnesses and conditions which are fundamentally related to a deficient diet. By diet alone, some conditions can be prevented by your fish fending off the problem.

You know, 20 years ago we didn't have these pre-packaged foods found at our LFSs to feed our fishes. We made our own foods, according to recipes proposed by Moe (NOT from the Curly, Larry team) and other early authors of marine fish as pets.

What's happening is similar to what happened in the 60's and 70's to the human diet. There is a rash of 'fast foods' that are convenient for the aquarist to use. Some, like the fast foods of our day, are okay, others are marginally good, some downright little more than buying water.

If you're reading this post of mine, then I've referred you to it. Somewhere here is guidance for getting your fish back into the healthy mode, with a fully functioning immune system.

I've heard enough of this: [i]But my fish likes. . . [or] My fish eats. . .[or] My fish only eats. . .[/i] to suit me for a lifetime. Who's in charge? Would you let your child eat ice cream and cake for every meal just because it's what they like? You have to prevent your fish from getting into wrong habits. Just because your tang eats brine shrimp and mysis doesn't mean it [u]should[/u] be eating these meats. Provide your fish with what they should be eating.

My suggestions are all based upon a regime of 21 feedings. This covers fishes that are better off fed three times a day, and those that do well at twice a day.

No matter the types of foods you use, you must use some supplements. Your fish are caged. They can't seek out the tidbits that provide those trace compounds (e.g., vitamins and fats) they need to round out their optimal health. Fish can't produce all the vitamins and fats they need to live. So, you have to provide it.
These are some vitamin suggestions:
There are several others, liquids and water soluble solids to choose from. If you don't choose one of the above, at least choose one with multiple vitamins from more or less marine sources.
[U]Sick and/or healing fish:[/U] Soak food of one feeding, in a vitamin every day.
[U]Maintenance:[/U] Soak food of one feeding in vitamins every other day.
These are some fat supplements:
[U]Sick and/or healing fish:[/U] Soak food of one feeding, in a fat supplement every day.
[U]Maintenance:[/U] Soak food of one feeding, in a fat supplement every other day.
NOTE: Gut loaded brine shrimp with Omega 3 or HUFA type fats, or a Cyclopeze feeding may be used during maintenance to replace one fat soaking every 21 feedings.

Determine the kind of foods your fish eats in the wild. Fish can be grouped into one of three basic groups depending upon what they eat.
Fish like Triggers, Wrasses, etc. Land animals like lions are in this category.
These fish eat flesh. But they usually eat the whole organism. They don't just eat squid bodies, shrimp tails, etc., they eat the whole organism. A natural whole food would be whole mussels, opened up clams on the half-shell, frozen krill, frozen whole mysis shrimp, whole blood worms, and frozen plankton. No less than 30% of their intake must be whole foods and whole foods preferably from the ocean.

Fish like Anemonefishes (Clownfish) are in this category. People are in this category. So many people don't feed their 'Nemo' correctly.
An omnivore eater eats both flesh/meat and vegetable matter. In general, vegetable matter doesn't provide a lot of protein, however these fishes have the 'best of both worlds' in that they can obtain a lot of protein from meat and get the vitamins/nutrition that vegetable have to offer. These fish have the greatest diversity in what you can feed them. Over-all about 35-40% of their diet should be vegetables. The following threads have suggestions about feeding these fishes:
Read the middle of this thread:

Fish like Tangs, Surgeonfish, Rabbitfish, etc. fall into this category. Land animals like cows, rabbits, horses, and human vegans are in this category! Would you feed your rabbit hamburger?
They are fish that live primarily on vegetation. They have digestive tracks to extract as much nutrients and to digest the 'tough' vegetable matter they consume. These fish eat a lot and they subsequently usually have a lot of excrement. The simple reason is that vegetable matter does not provide a lot of protein per volume like meat does, so they have to eat a lot of it. That is why tangs swim so much. They cover a lot of reef area in order to eat enough. They swim more to eat more and yet expend more energy to obtain their food.

Those who keep these kinds of fish should provide some sandy substrate (even if it is a bare-bottom tank). Many of these species will swallow some sand and very small pieces of gravel. Presumably, this helps in their digestion and grinding up of their vegetable diet.

Young fish in this group usually do consume some copepods, amphipods, and plankton as they grow. Feeding some brine shrimp and mysis is not a crime BUT no way should you feed just plain brine shrimp. Always feed these fish gut loaded brine shrimp. They should contain spirulina and/or fats (Omega 3 or HUFA). AND no way should their diet contain a lot of these pods and meats.

Here's a recommended feeding regime for a herbivore:
7 feedings of gut loaded brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, or Cyclopeze
7 feedings of Formula 2 (frozen or flake); spirulina loaded foods; kelp loaded foods; spirulina wafers/pellets; etc.
7 feedings of algae (vary sources, and colors -- use red, green, brown, purple and yellow); use home grown macro algae; or buy and prepare broccoli flowers.
Thus if you're feeding three times a day, each day the fish will get algae or broccoli, a feeding of brine shrimp or mysis, and one feeding of a [u]true[/u] herbivore food.

To a small degree the health of our fish depend upon obtaining some nutrients directly from the water they swim in. They need and use trace elements found in their water environment. Where we fail them sometimes is keeping them long term in water that doesn't contain these elements or contains these elements in concentrations too low for them.

The use of synthetic sea salts and saltwater mixes isn't the problem. The problem is sometimes we aquarists 'over clean' the water. The worst offender is activated carbon. Activated carbon removes organics the first week it is put into our system. After that it removes trace elements (and sometimes adds phosphates). It's the removal of trace elements we need to be watchful for. I've had long-term success with using carbon or carbon-like substances every other week and each time no more than 5-7 days, then removing it from the system to prevent the abnormal depletion of trace elements.

Adding small quantities of trace elements to a fish only aquarium is recommended.

In addition, for this reason (if not for the many other reasons) make sure you perform regular water changes (10% per week; 25% every three-four weeks; or more often).


Don't believe the name of the product. Products claiming to be for herbivores and/or tangs should be investigated as to what you are feeding. If the first three ingredients don't contain at least 2 vegetables, keep looking for those that do.

Same for carnivore food. Read the contents. Avoid packaged foods that contain wheat, flour, soy, and land products.

Be suspicious of ingredients listed as "meal." You want to know "what kind of meal" it is.

Avoid foods over 90% in water and less than 10% in protein (protein as a dry weight).

One of the most expensive and difficult vitamins to provide in prepared foods is Vitamin D. Read closely to see if that 'vitamin enriched' product contains this vitamin, as well as A and C.


Even though the food says it contains vitamins, it doesn't replace you doing the above recommended soaks.

A sick or healing fish should also have beta glucan included in its feed until it is healed. Beta glucan is the same beta glucan humans use and can be bought from a health food store. You want the fish to eat about 20mg of this every day. Beta glucan helps the fish restore its natural immune response to some diseases and conditions.

Brine shrimp and mysis and all prepackaged frozen foods should be rinsed in a brine shrimp net with fresh-made saltwater. This gets a lot of the free juices out that can foul a tank. It also removes excess phosphates from the food that the fish won't get to consume, but which will just pollute the tank.

Dry algae and freeze-dried foods are ideal for soaking up the supplements, but even frozen food can soak some up. After rinsing as noted above, remove as much water as possible, mix with a liquid vitamin and let sit 20 minutes for it to absorb as much as possible.

Coaxing a new fish in your QT to eat is a different story and the above may or may not apply until the fish is at least eating regularly.

Store all foods in the freezer (even flakes). Buy the freshest foods possible and don't buy more than your fish will eat in two months or so. If bulk pricing is too good to pass up, then combine a food order with fellow aquarists to get the discount, but not to get the long range volume.

Don't let your fish get into any habit of eating just one kind of food. Not only offer different foods, but also change food makers. And finally, on this subject, remember: a varied diet doesn't mean providing a variety of wrong foods, it means providing a variety of the [U]right[/U] foods! The best time to train your fish what to eat is while it is in quarantine waiting to be added to your display. This is just one of the very important reasons to quarantine all new fish.

The right diet with supplements can prevent conditions that the fish can fend off when it is healthy. Such conditions and diseases include bacterial infections (cloudy eye), Popeye, secondary bacterial infections, internal bacterial infections, septicemia, blindness, weakened immune response, deteriorating fins, and a whole host of others. BUT. . .Know that a good diet and healthy fish does not mean it will prevent it getting nor survive Marine Ich ([I]Cryptocaryon irritans[/I]), Marine Velvet, fluke or worm infections, and obligate parasite attack.

An ounce of prevention. . .:rollface: I hope this helps you keep your fish from contracting some of those troublesome minor infections and conditions.

TerryB 02/24/2006 08:26 PM

Gheez Lee,

If people start feeding their fish properly, maintaining water quality and practicing quarantine then we wouldn't have many posts to reply to in the fish disease and treatment forum anymore.

Terry B

buldog 02/24/2006 10:15 PM

New Life Spectrum Pellets
All of that sounds good, but New Life Spectrum foods creator has a 2000 gallon tank with hundreds of fish he has maintained with his pellets only for over 8 years. If you check the web site, these fish look outstanding. He also indicates he has no problem with HLLE, or other diseases. They are very healthy looking and maximum colors. He maintains each feeding of his foods contain all the food requirements they need. He said feed his food execusively to ensure all their requrements food/vitamins, etc are supplied at each meal. I also like the new Formula pellet foods that are even more fresh with new ingredients. Most even contain garlic and many vitamins. I was using only frozen foods in the past, and some of my fish are 8 years old (blue tang/clown trigger). But, my emperor developed HLLE, so I am trying new foods, supplements. I also think that pellets keep the water cleaner. In other words it is like us eating a meal that always contains vegetables, meat, vitamins, breads, etc every meal, instead of eating just meat one meal and missing the other ingredients.

Psionicdragon 02/24/2006 10:54 PM


A bunch of reefers use Ozone and from my understand, we need to have carbon in the outflow to capture as much "left over" as possible.

So should we or should we not use the carbon?

Zoe and Zoecon used together would be enough vitamin/fats for the fishs?

Spectrum also contains Copper Sulfate for those that have never read the ingredient label.

BTTRFLYGRL 02/25/2006 07:48 AM

Great info Leebca!!

leebca 02/25/2006 08:29 AM


I have nothing against any encapsulated prepared foods. I prepare my own food in a gelled formula. But I would not consider feeding that to the exclusion of other foods, even if the fish could live on it [i]ad infinitum[/i]. There are fine gel foods on the market and there are fine pellet foods on the market. The contents and analysis must still meet what I know are the proper and minimal nutritional needs of the particular fish being maintained.

Our fish, for the most part, are wild animals. I would not cage a lion and make it eat Lion Chow, even if I knew it could live on it. I would not feed a puffer fish pellets, even if it contained the right nutrition and kinds of foods. The wild animal must be offered foods that are not only nutritionally sound, but that are close to its natural diet. Their intestinal, physiological, and mental status has evolved towards specific foods in their diet, and naturally selected features (long noses, teeth, strong jaws, etc.) to obtain their food.

Even a food good for one carnivore is not necessarily the best choice for another carnivore. Some carnivores prefer pods, or what we would simulate as finely chopped foods, others emphasize large chunks of flesh ripped from their prey, eaten whole, or crushed in their teeth.

I could not get my rare butterflyfish to eat pellets. They would starve first. But if I grate my gel formula to look like worms, they charge it.

The advantage of a gel or pellet food is that the nutrition is 'captured' or encapsulated. I still prefer fresh frozen foods and frozen gelled foods over the pellets, but encourage the use of both in a balanced regime.

Thanks for reading and posting! :)

leebca 02/25/2006 08:33 AM


The recommendation doesn't preclude the use of carbon. If continuous carbon is a must for your system, then you need to compensate for the reduction of trace elements by supplementing them in the water. Between carbon and water changes I would add trace elements.

Thanks for reading and posting! :)

leebca 02/25/2006 08:34 AM

Terry & Kim,

I wouldln't mind putting the Forum 'out of business!' :D

Thanks for your kind words.

buldog 02/25/2006 07:35 PM

I agree, my 200 gallon tank is 7 years old and has always been fed frozen angel formula, formula II, trigger formula, due to those fish being in there. I was just amazed at the New Life Spectrum tank. I was also trying to reduce pollution in the tank and of course, it is easier to feed pellets.

Psionicdragon 02/25/2006 10:56 PM

I assume you would know of Kent Micro Vert (its an invert food, however, it has a bunch of vitamins etc). Would that be a good substance to use to soak your food in combination with Selcon?

This is the content:
Deionized water, fish meal, whole egg solids, casein, yeast, fish oils, spirulina, kelp, potassium iodide, calcium iodide, dipotassium ascorbate, thiamine hydrochloride, niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, sodium carbonate, calcium pantothenate, choline chloride, vitamin A propionate, vitamin A palmitate, riboflavin, folic acid, cholecalciferol, sodium EDTA, ferric chloride, natural and artificial colors, menadione sodium bisulfite complex, tocopherol, vitamin B12, biotin, preservatives.

leebca 02/26/2006 08:22 AM


I'm sorry. I'm not familiar with that product. From the list your provided one essential vitamin, Vitamin D, is not listed. However, it may be hidden in the "fish oils" part of the list. I don't see listed other vitamins I think are needed (C, E, etc.)

Vitamin D is one of the most difficult compounds for the fish to acquire, even in the wild. They need it for good eyesight, which I image isn't needed for inverts?

I tried a new product (at least new to me !): GVH by H2O Life. For those who like to also add garlic to their foods, this includes a solid group of vitamins AND garlic juice. I'd add this one to the original posted list, but I don't think I'd add the one you presented.

I've always been suspicious of the ingredient: Fish meal. What kind of fish? does this mean like fins, heads, bones, and ? and is the fish from the ocean/sea or freshwater?

If the ingredients follow the order of greatest quantity, then it is made up mostly of water, the fish meal, and eggs.

The eggs is an interesting ingredient. Egg yolk has been extensively used as a food source for many decades, but I'm unaware that whole eggs have been used (assuming by "eggs" it is meant, chicken eggs).

I would stick to a formula that is made for and sold as a fish vitamin supplement.

Psionicdragon 02/26/2006 02:08 PM

Thanks Lee.

EricBrian 04/18/2006 06:52 AM

Great post. Now we need one where somebody goes into detail on how to feed inverts.

leebca 04/18/2006 09:19 AM

Yeah. But this IS the Fish Disease Forum. :D

EricBrian 04/18/2006 09:29 AM

I know... I never said that we need on in this section. :-)

Triggerfish 04/18/2006 11:14 AM

Re: Fish Health Through Proper Nutrition
[b]IF[/b] you offer your inhabitants foods that contain what their natural diet would contain, then you shouldn't need to [b]add[/b] anything additional to it.
same with humans..if they consume what is recommended through diet,then addtional vits/min supplements are not needed.
[b]huge[/b] retail maket for unnecessary supplemental diet additives.

in fact, by adding additional unmeasured additives in your livestocks diet could possibly produce adverse effects if the amounts exceed what they would normally digest in the wild.
just a random thought here...

i do, however, randomly add a squirt of Zoe or selcon. but mainly due to the fact that i think i may underfeed.;)

[QUOTE][i]<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=6819132#post6819132 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by leebca [/i]

Adding small quantities of trace elements to a fish only aquarium is recommended.

recommended by who? unless you're testing for would you know they are deficient and what quantity would be needed?

leebca 04/18/2006 11:42 AM

Your IF assumption is correct Triggerfish, BUT we humans can't attain that requirement. A fish in captivity can't get all the nutrients it needs from the foods we supply. It needs other nutrients.

A fish in the wild has access to many square miles of reef and ocean and sea to acquire even the rarest of food to supply even the simplest of nutrient in its diet. We can't duplicate that as yet. A fish in captivity only lives on what we put in the tank and we can't put all of nature's diversity in our aquaria (either as food or as inhabitants). That is why, fundamentally, we as aquarists CAN'T supply all the needed nutrients through a 'proper' diet in captivity.

It ISN'T the same as humans. Humans can go everywhere and anywhere, whenever they want to to find and decide on what foods they eat. Fish in our tanks can't do that.

There are three general groups of trace elements: The mandatory, the essential and the non-essential. We can't supply them all in our tanks, in the proper quantities, nor can we supply them all, in the proper quantities, in our aquariums [u]unless we add them as supplements[/u]. If you will study this closely, review articles about fish nutrition in both aquaculture periodicals and technical journals, you'll see that supplements are necessary. We have removed the fishes from their natural environment and although we can simulate the reef in our aquariums, we really can't provide the food and nutrient diversity the fish find in their natural habitat.

You'll find that professional and 'long term' aquarists and public and private aquariums use supplements routinely because they have found that even with the optimal foods they provide, the fish slowly looses its resistance to even the simplest of microbes that would not affect a physiologically (just caught) prepared fish.

Triggerfish 04/18/2006 11:54 AM

agreed,the requirement perhaps cannot be accomplished for many marine species...however, in regards to some omni triggerfish species, it may be easier and more practical than many.

also..large pomacs that consume 95-99% sponge with the remainder algae may be an option as well. however,,some pomacs consume 20 different varieties of sponge so that may be a nonpractical challenge.. but unless you identify what the difference is b/t the varying sponge would you know those would be included in the commercially available additives?

ps...i'm not really at all disagreeing with anything in your overall post here... i rarely have found anything to contradict with regards to what you write..,if ever..;)

leebca 04/18/2006 12:12 PM

The supplements contain what we believe are the basic vitamins and fats needed to sustain fish long-term health. The elements are added through trace element additives and water changes. So the nutrients that are: fats, vitamins, elements are in supplements or additives so far as we've analyzed. I think some vitamins, like Vita-Chem that derives its ingredients from sea organisms is a good way to include even some things we may be unaware. Combined with the basic good food practices, we have reason to believe we have addressed what needs to be addressed from observing captive fishes living beyond 20 years in good health.

P.S. I enjoy a respectful good dialoge and exchange of perspectives. :D

Psionicdragon 04/26/2006 09:16 PM

Any chance we can sticky this?

jamesa55 06/01/2006 10:42 PM

i have a 30 gall tank myself and im new to the aquariums and such but i still am experienced to some degree. what im tryin to find out is that my tank has a penguin biowheel filter ( yes with the activated carbon filter cartridge)! i remember u said carbon was bad? thats the only filte source i have and im not sure what to do if this is goin to overtime destroy the water quality. can u tell me some helpful additives for my water ( its fish only and sum inverts like crabs) and/or trace elements so my activated carbon filter doesnt deplete my water? please help - thank you!

poopsko24 06/01/2006 11:45 PM

should be a sticky!

Ixthys 06/02/2006 02:32 PM


Could you explain how you make the gel to encapsulate your foods?


laverda 06/03/2006 04:14 AM

I wish every person that keeps fish read your great thread!

Mad Scientist 06/12/2006 05:14 PM

This is a great old thread that I stumbled on while searching for some info on beta glucan.

The one thing I would add is that I belive it is of the utmost importance to have lots of healthy LR in the tank for herbs and omivores to graze off. This is as important as all the supps in the world for many species IMO.

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