There was a time not too long ago that feeding fish was a time-consuming and difficult endeavor. While packaged foods existed, it was absolutely terrible for your fish – assuming that you could get your fish to eat it in the first place.
You would often find aquarists out in ponds and streams collecting live food, or spending hours creating homemade fish from their own secret recipe – which usually included some mix of meat, fish, invertebrates and vegetables.
Of course none of this is really necessary anymore, since fish foods have advanced so far. And while you don’t have to make your own homemade fish food, it’s still a good idea to offer your fish vegetables on a regular basis.
The reasons for this are simple – almost all fish in the wild have some plant matter in their diet, and as good as prepared fish foods have become, most don’t offer much in the way of plant matter to fish.
If you are going to give your fish vegetables or the occasional fruit, you need to know how to prepare and serve them to your fish. Like so much else involving aquariums, it’s not as straight forward as it sounds, and you can’t just throw a cucumber into your aquarium and hope for the best.
Probably the most important thing that you need to remember with vegetables, is that you absolutely have to clean them before feeding them to you fish. Most vegetables from the supermarket are filthy when you get them. Not only are they covered in bacteria and dirt, but they can also have some pretty nasty pesticides on their skins.
Thankfully all of these contaminants are easy to deal with, and they can removed with just a minimum amount of effort. If the fruit or vegetable have a firm skin, then you can just clean it under some cool water, using a stiff brush. Make sure that you get every surface of the vegetable with the brush, and give it a good rinse afterwards.
If the vegetable is leafy, or has an irregular skin, then you should fill up a bowl with cool, clean water to clean it in. After you have filled the bowl, you should wash the vegetable as if you were washing clothes in a tub – dip and gently rub it. After you have thoroughly washed it, you should rinse the vegetable off under tap water.
Make sure that you allow the vegetables to completely dry afterwards, since you don’t want to introduce any chlorine into your tank water. If you’re concerned that the vegetable could retain water, then you should use rain water, or distilled water to do the cleaning.
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Preparing the Vegetables
After the vegetables have been thoroughly cleaned, you can then move on to preparing them for your fish. Some fruits and vegetables can be fed raw to the fish, but most vegetables should be blanched prior to being offered to your fish.
The fruits and vegetables that are generally alright to serve raw are bananas, plantains, pumpkins, pears, apples, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. These should all be cut into small pieces before they are offered to your fish.
Most other vegetables you’ll want to blanch for your fish. All that blanching means, is bringing the vegetables to a rolling boil in a pot, and then removing them just after the water has begun to boil. Lightly steaming is also acceptable, and may actually be preferred for certain hard vegetables.
The best vegetables to blanch or steam are zucchini, squash, cucumbers (remove seeds), lima beans, peas (shell before serving), broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and spinach.
Make sure that the vegetables have completely cooled before you add them to the aquarium. Otherwise you could end up injuring your fish, since they will try to eat the vegetables immediately.
Keeping the Aquarium Clean
Even when you cut vegetables into small sections, your fish likely won’t be able to finish off the amount of vegetables that you give them. To ensure that the water doesn’t become fouled, you need to remove any uneaten portions after 24 hours. If you wait any longer, you risk your water becoming fouled.
If you’re unsure of what your fish will eat, there are a few general rules that you can abide by when choosing vegetables.
Peas are great for nearly any fish, and are perfect for helping to relieve a fish that is constipated. Regular feedings of peas is almost a requirement for fancy goldfish, since their compressed bodies means that they regularly become constipated. Just remember to shell the peas prior to feeding them to any fish.
If you’re just looking to get your feet wet with vegetables, one of the most widely accepted vegetables is zucchini. These are especially appreciated by live-bearers, but nearly any fish that eats plants or algae in the wild will accept these. Just slice them up into medallions, blanch and then feed them to your fish.
When it comes to offering vegetables to fancy snails, there is no question that leafy greens are a favorite. A good vegetable to get started with is romaine lettuce. It’s absolutely packed with nutrients, and its easy to prepare for snails. Just break off a leaf, blanch it, and offer it to your snails. In most cases, it will be completely devoured by morning.
Weighing Down Vegetables
Some vegetables have a tendency to float – even after being lightly boiled. There are several ways to deal with this, but the simplest way is to attach the vegetables to fish safe weight, or to buy a clip for the vegetables (you can find a great clip here at Amazon.com).