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 Post subject: Freshwater live foods.
PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 4:19 am 
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Being that take-off time for my tank is closing in I'm doing reading on some alternative freshwater live food sources which I can culture easily at home.

I'm doing some reading on Branchinecta sp. and Streptocephalus sp. (Fairy Shrimp) of which at least three species have been described to date, all very recently.

These are freshwater branchiopods related to genus Artemia.

During the nauplii stage they offer comparable nutritional values to Artemia but as adults, it seems they are much easier to feed, keep and enrich. Like I said, no salt water needed, just clean green water. This will save trips (gas) to the Great Salt Lake, though now and then, I imagine I'll be bringing in some brine shrimp just for the heck of it.

The Fairy Shrimp eggs are on the way from Thailand and will get my greenwater cultures going this weekend.

A Daphnia magna culture is also on the way.

I'm steering away from nematodes for now and trying to include water borne insect larvae, flies and fly larvae as well as aquatic crustacea. For the sake of seasonal temperature changes here in the valley (100F expected today, in February I can go below 0), I'd like to rely on local creatures that are adapted to the varying temperatures. These live food cultures will be in my storage/garage that doesn't have dedicated heating, so I'll have to improvise some indirect heating or plain aquarium water heaters.

A clean feeder guppy tank (fed with enriched feed) is also being prepped up.

Some good SFBB products will also be in the diet as well as decapsulated brine shrimp eggs.

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Other notes:

I still have to build the filter so I am running a bit late but I hope to get through with any decorations and drilling by Monday. I'll take some pics along the way.

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Merlin R/O was tested several times along the week and my assumptions have held true. Let it run for some three minutes before taking parameter readings and water comes out pH6.4 and 0 EC and TDS. The membrane design does allow for some TDS leakage into the product section of the housing while the system is at rest, so I just need to flush it for three or so minutes to drain the "rest water" out.

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Also waiting on some leaves and herbs that are on the way (T. catappa, Oak and some others) to prepare "Orinoco" blackwater Plus. Plus because of the Sea Almond, LOL. But not kidding, an almost identical species of this genus grows in the Orinoco basin.

Need to thank Marc for his kind gesture of sending me some goodies in a box from Florida, some of his good old buffers and Vital line products, trace elements and more Catappa leaves. So thanks again Marc.

I'll check in later tonight.

Ed

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PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 4:24 pm 
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Whatever became of those Fair Shrimp eggs? Did they hatch and did any grow out?

I buy FD decapsulated Artemia cysts but I soak them in fresh water for a half hour. I usually do a table spoon at a time and refrigerate the unused portion. They remain edible for four days. Pre-soaking allows the eggs to rehydrate and that allows them to sink.

I have been harvesting large hatches of brine shrimp and refrigerate the unused portion which remains good for two days. This has turned out to be an excellent way to use bbs. Only fish requiring moving food don't eat them. Chilling them immediately after they hatch prevents the first molt so they remain very nutritious. Discus fry, pleco fry, Apistos of all sizes and even Tetra fry eat them well.

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PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 8:42 pm 
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Looking at cost/benefit, Larry.
the price per kilo cysts is high.
How do you get the most even hatch rate so that when you chill them you have most of them at the same stage, and preserve their nutritional value ?
James suggested decapping them for even hatch rate and to kill any pathogens. I had never killed fish with bbs though, I
m not worried too much about pathogens.

How about raising some of them a bit further and making them a bit meatier ?
would that be an economical thing to do also ?


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PostPosted: Sat May 10, 2008 10:20 pm 
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At face value such a food might turn out to be a 'tie breaker' when it comes to you altum-keepers getting adult altums into breeding condition.

I might try it myself. Here it's easy to get adult brine shrimps though. I just gave a large feed to my scalare angels and they just love them.

Phill already remarked how his adult altums are not as gluttonous as youngsters.
With my adult scalares that is not the case. They still eat very well.

My own suspicion remains that a large fish like an altum, with a relatively huge mouth, will supplement it's diet in the wild with a good number of small fish.
We know that discus have a surprising amount of detritus, fruit and green matter in their diet (as well as anything wriggly they can catch). But they have a very different mouth structure to altums. Interesting though that discus have a very short digestive tract. That doesn't generally suggest a herbivorous fish to me.

Would be interesting to know how the digestive tract of an altum compares to a discus.

But there must be some way of conditioning altums in captivity....

Alec


Last edited by Alec on Sun May 11, 2008 7:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 6:58 am 
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I buy premium Artemia cysts for $35/16oz including postage.
www.brineshrimpdirect.com
Brine shrimp will hatch in 20 to 24 hours at 82*F. That is when I harvest the lot, do a second settling to minimize shell scraps, then refrigerate in clean hatching brine water.

Generally, it is not feasible to raise brine shrimp because it takes too much space. However, during the Summer one can grow out large quantities in a five or six foot wide wading pool placed where it gets sun for part of the day so a green water bloom is created. One can harvest substantial amounts using this method. Every few days add cleaned live bbs to the pool to maintain high population densities.

The decapsulated cysts are not that expensive from www.jehmco.com but these have been freeze dried and do not hatch. These are only good for fry and small fish.

I have tried every way I have read on how to properly decapsulate cysts but I do not get adequate hatches from these. Best to hatch normally. I keep my hatcheries in a warm enclosure heated by a 10 watt compact fluorescent screw in bulb.

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PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:55 pm 
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Larry, about the fairy shrimp eggs.... thanks for reminding me. Now let me see where I put them. Remember things in my garage didn't work out, so I just stored them some place for later. Well, I just set up a 50G in the garage, plants only, CO2, fertilizer, adequate substrate, no fish for now. Think it should be good to throw the eggs in there.

Ed

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:32 am 
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Hi Ed,

I obviously do not have to tell any of you how to feed your altums or discus as you have far more experience with this than I do, but I would like to make some comments from my biochemical background and my knowledge about foods.

The argument in favor of feeding live foods is that they are as "fresh" as possible and as a result of that they contain the highest quality nutrients and therefore are better than dried or frozen foods. This concept of "fresh" in real terms means foods that are in their most reduced state or put alternatively are less oxidized than any food that may have been frozen or dried. This argument is correct but one must also consider the following:

Why are fresh foods the least oxidized? It is because these organisms (shrimps or mosquito larvae etc) take up other foods and use the components present in them to get themselves into the most reduced state. What I am saying is that in order to get a highly reduced live food it has to take in enough other foodstuffs to get into a highly reduced state.

What we must therefore consider in actual fact is if we can culture foods and feed them well enough to get them into a more reduced state than the frozen or dried foods. The quantity of the food that the fish would take in then also becomes a critical factor. If you feed a very small amount of live, highly reduced foods as compared to a larger amount of slightly more oxidized foods, you could reach the same effect or in actual fact the frozen foods might outperform the live foods because the amount now also becomes a factor.

Another factor to consider is that all live foods contain a very high percentage of water. In terms of getting an absolute amount of food into your fish, I am of the opinion that you can get more in terms of absolute mass into the fish in the form of dried foods than live foods. An additional advantage of certain high quality dried granulates as I source them from Germany is that they contain between 11-15% fat (including omega 3 and 5 mono-unsaturated fatty acids) which just simply means that a high amount of feed that delivers a large amount of energy is going into your fish. In nature altums and discus consume large amounts of Macrobrachium shrimps, I have read, and these, similar to brine shrimps, contain 10-15% fats, so this higher fat percentage is part of the natural diet. So, feeding diets rich in fats is part of the normal diet of these fish. Such dried foods do therefore have advantages.

For this reason, I believe that one must very carefully weigh up the benefits of feeding the limited amount of live foods that one can produce against the relatively large amounts of high quality frozen and dried foods that one can feed ones fish. If one takes the effort that goes into keeping live foods fed, then I am not so sure that the effort is actually beneficial. Over many years of feeding my fish, I still believe that feeding as large amounts of high quality (but it all hinges on this high quality) of frozen and dried foods, can outweigh the benefits of only feeding live foods, especially if one has to invest a considerable amount of time and effort to cultivate them.

Some food for thought?

I would like to know your opinions?

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 7:52 pm 
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Hi Dirk,
It is true that live foods have been endowed by many of us as having certain ineffable qualities. The one that comes to mind it the reaction fish have when presented with food that may potentially escape does bring out a certain vibrancy activated by their predatory instincts. That is one of the reasons I like to feed live foods.

The fact remains, as you have pointed out, that most live foods are well over 90% water so in absolute terms, not all that much nutrition is actually available to fish from living foods when compared to commercially prepared and freeze dried foods.

I make extensive use of freeze dried foods and prepared foods as added ingredients to my beef heart blends. While no two batches are ever identical, about 65 to 70% of the mix by volume is the blended heart. The balance is Spirulina powder, freeze dried CyclopEeze, dried seaweed, F.D. Blood Worms and Earth Worm Flakes. I also add a generous squirt of VitaChem fish vitamins per blender full. No other food I use can equal this blend as far as producing rapid growth rates, ultimate maximum size and good color development. The blend is quick frozen before all the freeze dried have had a chance to rehydrate completely but they do absorb enough blood and water that helps contain it until the fish swallow the goop.

Beef heart blends are inherently messier than prepared foods and present special challenges with regard to maintaining water quality and is a different topic. Still, it can be a good way to convey a variety of nutritious foods, both those high in water content and much that is more concentrated. Many of the "high octane" ingredients are normally ignored by fish as large as Angels or Discus and mixing them with beef heart is a means of delivery. Of course, one of the attractions that many live foods have that no prepared food can duplicate is the ability to stay alive until being eaten. That is an attractive feature in terms of overfeeding. They remain available to fish until the fish get hungry again without contributing significantly to pollution of the culture water.

Interesting how you describe the difference between live and dead foods in terms of oxidation. I always think of live foods as representing the maximum state of organization vs dead foods, which I think of being in an ever increasing state of disorganization or a more entropic state of organization. Same things from a different perspectives.

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 9:41 pm 
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Hi Dirk,

I agree entirely with Larry about beef-heart mixes. For certain fish they worked for me like nothing else I found. Discus, chocolate gourami's, various apisto's, did really well using it as a main food.
Other fish such as various tetras also did well with it as an occasional supplement. I found that cardinals did particularly well off it.
There is quite some dispute about ox-heart from some people in the UK. But the key thing for me, like Larry, was that it was a slate for getting other foods eg good quality flake and other supplements into the fish.

While animal meat may not be 'natural' for fish, all I can say is show me any animal that is kept in captivity or farmed that eats what it would have got in the wild. Impossible I think. So the only question is does it give good results.
Used properly and carefully it evidently does.

But when you have fish that will readily eat more conventional basic fare, such as good quality flake, I've only ever used the ox-heart as a supplement.
For instance angels (scalares and leopoldi) are such omnivores that the trouble of using ox heart mixes never seemed necessary to me. I find that a good flake food (I use Tetramin) with occasional feeds of live foods such as adult brine shrimps and daphnia, when I can get them, seems to be perfectly adequate.
This pic is a pair of my scalares I took last night.
Image
This is an older pic of a pair of leopoldi.
Image
They were all raised from quite small fish to full adult size on flake & occasional live foods.
They are fed typically four times a day on flake. Morning and evening by me, and during the day by my wife & daughter.


That's the other thing about feeding prepared foods. Anyone can help out. But I wouldn't usually ask others to go through my routine with ox-heart (hoover the bottom of the tank, scrape fine pieces of ox-heart with a cheese-grater, feed the fish slowly so that they take it 'on the drop', then hoover any residue up).
Young discus got the mix four times a day, but adults seemed fine with two feeds per day.


Those folks who keep altums clearly have a bigger feeding challenge than me. They just don't seem to be as amenable to living and feeding in a tank as either discus, or scalares/leopoldi. You have my sympathy and admiration!

Alec


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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 10:33 pm 
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Hi Dirk , thanks for such an educative post and I truly agree with you, 100%.

As a matter of fact I feed my fish almost exclusively frozen crustacea and inscet larvae. The only brine shrimp I feed are those that have been fed Spirulina algae and deep frozen. I also feed bloodworm (chironomus larvae) and white mosquito larvae.

I also feed blackworm (Lumbricus variegatus) which I feed with Spirulina flake and at present I hope to find a clean source of Branchinecta which i have been informed is a very short drive from my home (20-30 min).

Anyone might think that living in SLC and having the Great Salt Lake so close to home that all my problems are solved as far as feeding live foods to my fish. But transporting practical amounts of live brine shrimp is not so easy. Many die and contaminate the holding water on the way and I would need a separate salt water tank to hold them for any considerable time. I hope that if I find the freshwater fairy shrimp that I can collect enough and feed them appropriately to provide my fish optimum benefits.

In other posts I have also rcommended that anybody who has, i.e., breeder guppies, that these also receive daily feeding of spirulina algae and other v/m supplemented foods.

As the saying goes "Fish Are What They Eat"... all these goodies in the GI tract of the feeder animals is used in a predigested form by the predatory fish.

In nature, the fact that altum mostly eat smaller tetras, crustaceans and larvae, implies that they consume large amounts of predigested vegetable matter and the animals they eat are the prime, sometimes only source for these important nutrients.

Last but not least, in the case of some of the wild carnivorous cichlids (and P. altum is one of them) there in an additional reason to feed them live food, this is the preying instinct.

I've noted a great difference between fish that become accustomed to eat what they want, when they want it, knowing food will be available at a certain moment in comparison to those that are fed mostly live food at irregular hours. The latter fish are usually sharp, keen and fast, grow faster, mature earlier and are more responsive sexwise while those under a "domesticated feeding program" (concentrated -dry- feeds at specific hours), learn to wait.

I like (try) to keep wild fish wild in all their senses, even if I try to get them accustomed to movement in front of the tank and ocassionally, inside the tank. Once the fish is tamed, breeding is not always easier. I would say it is a question of balance, but I think the behavior patterns of a fish that is frequently fed live food gives us a better chance of breeding them because such a fish will be in a generally healthier and stronger condition to start off with.

All this said, your recommendation of cultivating live foods and properly feeding them optimum nutrients is of utmost importance.

I like not to make my fish feel good at my home, I like to make them feel as if they were at their own home, Orinoco; and to have them work and compete for their food IMO does a lot of good.


Ed

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PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2008 11:43 am 
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Dear Ed, Alec and Larry,

It sounds like we are pretty much agreed on the diet of our fish.

I also like to feed a beefheart mix, but I import this from Germany and do not prepare my own. The primary reason for this is that steroid use in beef cattle is permitted in feedlots in SA and not as tightly regulated as in Europe, so I do not trust the SA beefheart on that score. The beefheart mix that I feed has had vitamins and greens added plus garlic, so it might not be quite as good as your mix Larry, I also find that it does result in very good growth and I do use it in spite of what is said about feeding beefheart. What I would like to add Larry is that you should also remember that feeze-dried food allows oxygen to penetrate it potentially leading to oxidation. Again the storage of it is critical. By adding the FD food Larry, you do however achieve a concentrating effect similar to what I explained with regard to my dried foods, in other words you get in more solids.

One more comment I would like to make about frozen adult brine shrimps and why I view them of such importance is that they contain a relatively high content (in comparison to other foods) of the amino acid cysteine. This amino acid contains sulfur and it is of particular importance in that it causes bonds within protein molecules and between them if they are multimeric, thereby stabilizing their structure. Cysteine is also highely susceptible to oxygen damage and again, the introduction of oxygen in a dried food oxidises it away very rapidly. A while back I had to perform measurements of sulfhydryl groups (which are on the amino acid cysteine then) on a dried protein powder, and I was shocked to find how labile these groups are. I found that if I opened the container, removed some powder to perform the assay, closed the container and stored it in the refrigerator for a week, the amount of sulfhydryl groups dropped by about 80%. If I took a sample of the powder lower down in the container that had been covered with a thicker layer of powder, the assay gave the same reading, but the upper layers were already oxidized. This actually indicated to me what the lability of this component is in dried foods and what the importance is of feeding frozen brine shrimps (and obviously the freshly hatched baby shrimps have this as well).

I am also in agreement about the fact that live food brings out the natural instincts of the fish, this cannot be doubted, but my time is too limited to go and hunt for this and find an unpolluted source.

Kind regards,

Dirk

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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2008 7:48 am 
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I knew that fish foods degraded rapidly but but I didn't realize how quickly it could occur based on your experience, Dirk.

I buy all my prepared foods from a company here in the US, www.aquaticeco.com, because they are the only company I know for sure that stores ALL their foods refrigerated. They are my source for earthworm sticks and earthworm flakes which I use extensively. Aquatic Eco-Systems, Inc. is a major aquaculture equipment and foods supplier.

I also refrigerate all but about a one week supply of my foods.
I buy my frozen foods from desertbrineshrimp.com. My buddy and I order about 50 pounds of frozen blood worms about every 6 months from them. I don't used frozen brine shrimp except last time we ordered, I did get a few pounds but my fish aren't used to it and don't eat it well enough to bother retraining them.

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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 10:07 pm 
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Had never used frozen krill (SFFB) before and boy do my fish hate it.
Looking at the nutritional value I won't be throwing my money away again with this product.
Has anybody here done good with krill and angels or discus?

Ed

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 6:13 pm 
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I have not had any fish take to krill or frozen Mysis for that matter. I think many of the more gluttonous large Cichlids accept Krill better than more discriminating fish like wild angels and discus.
Another live food which fish love is Daphnia, that is until it has been frozen or dried, then they ignore it completely.

Sometime it is must a matter of acclimating fish gradually to new food before they will accept it well. Frozen Mysis may be one of these but Daphnia are ignored unless alive, ime. I have over-collected when getting Daphnia was good and frozen the surplus in hopes at least the Corydoras would accept it but they did not.

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:38 pm 
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Yep, my expereince is same as yours Larry, even if they did eat mysis better than krill, but not with much enthusiasm.
Frozen bloodworm, mosqito larvae and spirulina brine shrimp are all eater voraciously by my fish.
The apistos and tetras do go for the frozen daphnia with no problem.

Ed

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