Tropical Fish Food - Take 2
This is an extension to the thread on fish food brands...
But I did not want to hijack that thread.
Before we get going here, I'm feeling long winded, so get a favorite beverage or run away now ;-)
I did some research and some thinking and even got into a somewhat unsavory discussion on another forum with a fellow who felt the fish food he uses is the only food anyone with any sense should use. When I suggested that there was more than one quality fish food in the world, he went off and it wasn't pretty.
First, lets rethink fish meal which is often the first item in the fish food ingredient list. The fish meal is most often made from pieces parts and/or low quality fish that can't be used in food grade consumption. There may be many reasons for this (euu). This alone makes it a somewhat lower quality. The fish are ground, dried to powder, preservatives added and it goes on a warehouse shelf until it's ordered by a fish food manufacturer...where it's combined with other ingredients *, more preservatives, flaked or pelletized and dried, then sets in another warehouse until it gets to a store to sit on their shelves until you buy it and start feeding your fish. Sounds pretty bad huh?
* Often, we'll see some kind of starch in the form of flour or gluten not too far down in the ingredient list. The starch is a necessary binder and it elevates the crude protein in the analysis. It's not really all that good for our fish.
Slightly higher quality fish foods will use whole fish meals. These at least are meals made from potentially inferior fish, but the whole fish rather than parts.
Even higher quality foods will use whole fish and/or whole fish that are food grade - the same fish we would buy in the store to cook for dinner (okay, I haven't had herring or krill lately, but you know what I mean.)
Salmon, cod, herring, krill, shrimp...
Okay, so once we get past the fishy business, we come to the other additives like greens (kelp, algae and processed garden vegetables) vitamins, minerals, natural and artificial colors and preservatives....and things none of us need/want to know about.
So the lower quality (and frankly cheaper) foods will have fish meal as the first ingredient. Not too far down in the list will be some type of flour or gluten. Here is a side by side ingredient list of three major high quality fish foods New Life Spectrum, Omega One and Hikari (First Bites):
New Life Spectrum:
Whole Antarctic Krill Meal, Whole Herring Meal, Wheat Flour, Whole Squid Meal, Algae Meal, Soybean Isolate, Beta Carotene, Spirulina, Garlic, Vegetable and Fruit Extract (Spinach, Broccoli, Red Pepper, Zucchini, Tomato, Pea, Red and Green Cabbage, Apple, Apricot, Mango, Kiwi, Papaya, Peach, Pear), Vitamin A Acetate, D-Activated Animal-Sterol (D3), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine, DL Alphatocophero ( E ), Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Niacin, Biotin, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, L-Ascorby-2-Polyphosphate (Stable C), Ethylenediamine dihydroiodide, Cobalt Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Choline Chloride.
Whole Salmon, Halibut, Black Cod, Whole Herring , Whole Shrimp, Whole Krill, Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Fresh Kelp, Lecithin, Astaxanthin, L-Ascorbyl-2-Phosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Natural and Artificial Colors, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Folic Acid, Biotin, Inositol, Tocopherol (Preservative),
Hikari First Bites:
Fish Meal, wheat flour, krill meal, soybean meal, brewers dried yeast, dried seaweed meal, spinulina, rice, bran, garlic, DL-methionne, choline cloride, vitamin E supplement, L-ascorbic-2-polyphosphate (stablized vitamin C), inositol, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, vitamin A oil, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, niacin, menadone sodium bisulfate complex (source of vitamin K), folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biolin, disodium phosphate, ferrous sulfate, magnesium sulfate, zinc sulfate, manganese sulfate, cobalt sulfate, calcium iodate.
Strictly based on the ingredients, New Life Spectrum gets high marks for using whole fish meals, but they are [still] meals and flour is high in the list. Hikari (First Bites) is using just plain (whoknowswhatsinit) fish meal followed by flour. Omega One would seem to get the highest marks using whole Alaskan fish, although they also use flour/gluten as a binder.
My research also uncovered a fellow hobbyist that many years ago began making his own fish foods and a few years ago began selling same. He uses fresh food grade fish and no flour or gluten.
I have ordered some and am axious to give it a try. Have a look at:
Almost Natural Tropical Fish Food
There are many other quality fish foods, the above are merely examples. I suppose we shouldn't be too hard on foods based on fish meal. Then again, when I get eggs, I want fresh....farm fresh, not powdered eggs loaded with preservatives that have been on a shelf for months.
I also don't want to get all high and mighty and spend a fortune on fish food. But if we can, why not feed them the very best we can?
It seems to me that in addition to water quality, the highest quality fish food will promote the best health, vitality, color and breeding.
What do you think?
Just so it is clear, I am not affiliated in any way, with any fish food company or producer - just a (perhaps temporarily obsessed) TF hobbyist like you ;-)
I agree...that like any pet, one is responsible for maintaining the animal's health and well being, even if it is "just a fish". To me that means feeding the best food you can afford. And as much as I don't want to sound like I am on a high horse or anything...I feel that if a person can't afford a decent quality food product for their pet, they really have no business having it. I don't mean that you should have to spend $20 a month on fish food or $50 for 20 pounds of all natural organic dog food...but really, $5-6 for a can of decent quality food like Omega One that could last a very long time is the least you can do to help ensure the health and quality of life for the fish you made the commitment to keep.
Nice work putting the info together - thanks!
All large companies do research on their products and conduct actual taste-testing and body weight gain experiments. Certainly they have to balance ingredients with cost and profit margins. Frankly, almost any recently unsealed flake food (typical "name brands") will likely give you very small differences in fish growth rates (although the differences may be statistically significant).
I'm not wiling to pay more for "organic" that scientifically, is not necessarily any better. Show me the data, and I'll believe the quality and results difference, but I'll still balance cost with benefit when purchasing food!
If you want the "farm-fresh egg" version of fish food, it's best to do what nature does, feed live foods! Not a lot of wild fish flakes swimming out in nature :lol:
Very interesting read, actually as of late I've moved to omega one food away from some of the cheaper brands. Anyone got some good made at home fish food recipes?
You're correct, if we truly wish to copy nature, we'd have to raise all manner of different insects and worms and such... about the same time we stop getting groceries at the store and hunt and gather ;-)
For us, a better analogy might be more like putting down the twinkie and eating some vegetables.
Unfortunately the only way we can see any benefit is if we take the plunge and switch to a higher quality food for say three months. If we don't notice improvements in appearance, overall health and well being, we switch back to the cheap fish meal and filler stuff and save that dollar or two a month. :-)
I've moved away from the more expensive brands to the cheaper brands lol. I'll be out of hikari completely in about a week. I have a whole container of NLS but my fish won't touch it. Very shortly they will all be eating ken's fish food as their only daily food. All my breeding fish have been on this stuff for a year already. Its only the smaller fish that eat the hikari. My wild caught panda garras also do great on the cheaper foods. Most the stuff I buy is around $2.50 for a 1/2 pound plus shipping, last time I bought 3 different kinds so 1.5 pounds lol. I just keep most of it in my freezer and refill my little food vial when it runs out.
I feed prepared foods almost exclusively. Most my fish only get frozen or any other kind of food once a week. Even raising my rainbow fry I'm sticking with entirely prepared foods. I have BS eggs but can't manage the effort to hatch them. BBS are also too big for newly hatched fry anyway. They eat some fancy powder thats 5-50 microns in size. Then its a great day when they graduate to bigger food and I can stop feeding them dust with a toothpick.
fish meal, brewers dried yeast, soy flour. Oat flour, corn gluten meal, shrimp meal, dried plankton, dried spirulina algae, dried kelp, lecithin, vitamin supplements a, d3, b12, biotin, thiamine (source of vitamin b1), natural coloring, ascorbic acid (source of vitamin c).
(Like Hikari First Bites, not sure why brewers yeast is the 2nd largest ingredient.)
I love your curiosity and all the effort you've put into research! Fantastic!
Me? I've worked in small animal medicine for a while, and see the consequences of nutritional choices. I know there are a lot of differences between species, and I'm not super education on fish nutrition... but I know that good in equals good out, no way around it. I guess the question is- how do we tell what is good enough? I wish that fish food labels had more information so that we could make more educated choices. Say, brand A has 10% WHOLE fish but its riddled with tumors and glows green from toxic waste, 9% gluten, and the rest is smaller amounts of other ingredients that total 81%? And say brand B uses fish MEAL but it makes up 82% of the total product and uses good quality fish for the meal. How do we know the difference? They labels don't tell us.
I dunno. But I love that we've raised these questions and are looking for answers!
(As an aside, I don't know if organic is better for me or for my family or my animals directly, but I think its better for the environment. So I try to choose organic when there's that option. I don't know of any organic fish foods. Are there any?)
The process alone of making meal, fish or otherwise, doesn't make it a low quality end product.
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