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    Feeding Finicky Eaters, A Trick for Angels and Butterflyfish

    Minute by minute, we grow with anticipation during the acclimation process. Maybe immediately after releasing the fish to its new home—or for the truly patient, the next day—we add prepared food in hopes that the new animal eats with vigor. We expect hope the fish takes to the offered food, but step back for a moment […]

    feeding marine fish

    Minute by minute, we grow with anticipation during the acclimation process. Maybe immediately after releasing the fish to its new home—or for the truly patient, the next day—we add prepared food in hopes that the new animal eats with vigor. We expect hope the fish takes to the offered food, but step back for a moment and realize how large of an expectation that is.

    These animals have evolved over million of years and so have their diets and feeding behavior. We can’t then expect them to go after mysis floating in the water column when they may not even be open water feeders.

    feeding fish tricks

    Angelfish and Butterflyfish often get a bad rep for being difficult to adapt or to wean onto prepared foods. We can offer a variety of fare: mysis, live brine, blackworms, copepods, pellets, you name it,  only for the fish to completely ignore it. Why is this?

    There are generally two issues or a combination there of. The fish is:

    • …stressed or physically not well
    • …does not recognized water column offerings as food

    If its stressed, clean water, ample hiding spaces, and solitary confinement in a quarantine system can usually take care of this. If needed, treat for disease, but be cognizant of the fish’s metabolism and of medications like Copper that can reduce appetite.

    To address the second point, how can we train fish to recognize our offerings as a meal? For grazers and opportunistic feeders like Pomacanthids and Chaetodonts, a simple fish food paste can do the trick. [I wrote a piece in 2010 for PFK outlining this technique in more detail, which can be found here.]

    feeding fish trick

    The goal here is to take smelly, prepared foods, and present them in a manner that is more natural to the fish. Smear it on liverock, or in this case inside a snail shell. The shell or rock is then put in the freezer to harden the food. Once placed in the aquarium the food will thaw and is hopefully consumed–it will soften and begin to float in the water column.

    Next thing you know, your prized new acquisition is eating mysis mid-tank.

    If you get a fish that is not eating, first eliminate any stressors. Then think like a fish and try offering foods as they may appear in the wild.

    6 Comments

    1. Frank Boyd
      January 24, 2011 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

      what type of pellets do you use?

    2. January 25, 2011 at 2:18 PM | Permalink

      @Frank, I like to use Hikari Marine S. They have a potent smell and are easily pulverized.

    3. Ccampbell57
      January 25, 2011 at 3:12 PM | Permalink

      Great advise Eric! The most critical point in the article and 9 time out of 10 the most overlooked is isolation in QT from other animals and settings with ample hiding. I find that any finicky eater will more than likely eat if left alone and able to graze in peace. Adding a piece of live rock as a cave or hiding place is simple and adds a lot of familiarity to the fish as is acclimated to captivity. Smearing the food on there is a great way to get them to eat.

      As for pellets, that is a whole other ball game…this should be your next article 😉

    4. January 29, 2011 at 9:34 PM | Permalink

      Fantastic advice! I never thought of that one! I didn’t see anywhere the recipe for the gel?

      A few years back I had an idea of using a sort of play-do hair head (the kind where you push th playdough up through little holes) to feed fish with a sort of paste. Figured it would be good for butterflies; this is much more simple and I think would work very well!

      So… where’s the recipe?

    5. Liqdart
      January 29, 2011 at 9:35 PM | Permalink

      nm…in the linked article. Why not use a binder?

    6. February 1, 2011 at 3:16 AM | Permalink

      Chris, you can certainly use a binder, but this may prevent food floating into the water column… and training fish to eat mid-water.

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