Aquaponics systems commonly involve raising freshwater fish because they can tolerate diverse water temperatures and pH…
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Fish are one of the primary components of an aquaponics system as they produce waste that is converted into plant food. The healthier the fish, the more efficient they are in their job of keeping your plants happy. But what kind of food should your fish eat? What is considered the best aquaponics fish food?
Feeding your fish only high-quality feed ensures you’ll have healthy plants and fish in your aquaponics system. And if you plan to harvest the fish for personal consumption, make sure you’re feeding non-GMO feed. The best aquaponics fish food falls into two categories:
- DIY fish feed
- Commercial pellet feed
In this article, we will discuss the different feed based on fish diets, plus the best food you can give to your aquaponics fish.
Feeding Fish In An Aquaponics System
Different fish species require different diets. Some fish are herbivores, while others are strictly carnivores. There are fish that are omnivorous, meaning they have a varied diet composed of both plant and animal matter. Knowing the specific diet of your chosen aquaponics fish is vital to your system’s survival and overall health.
In the following sections, we will discuss three different fish diets and what species in each category usually eat.
Carnivorous fish, such as Barramundi and Trout, require feed that is rich in protein. This feed usually consists of meat – either live or dead. Most fish species of this type are predatory, going after animals that are smaller than them. In the wild, these fish naturally go for insects, larvae, smaller fish, and crustaceans.
Fish with this diet can be given the following:
- Critters like blood worms
- Live fish
- Brine shrimp
Just like mammalian species, herbivorous fish only eat plant matter. This means fish species with this diet require feed that is high in fiber. Fish such as the popular favorite tilapia is an herbivore. In the wild, they graze on algae and other aquatic plants.
Your herbivorous fish may love to eat fruits and vegetables, but according to a study, they may still need a small amount of protein. Nevertheless, if you keep herbivores in your tank, you may feed the following:
- Aquatic plants like duckweed and algae
- Fruits (apples, pears) and vegetables (lettuce, spinach)
Omnivores are flexible eaters, so they don’t have a strict preference. And since they have a varied diet, they may be a lot easier to care compared to the other fish types since they eat a combination of plant and animal matter.
Types of Aquaponics Fish Feed
When looking for the best aquaponics fish food, you need to determine if your fish are primarily carnivorous or herbivorous, or omnivorous. As much as possible, you want to mimic their food habits in the wild. You have two options to go about this: to give homemade fish food or purchase commercial fish pellets.
Homemade Fish Food
Homemade fish food is ideal if you have a small aquaponics system, and you’re fond of making the food yourself. This way, you’re sure what your fish is eating and what your plants are receiving. Also, if you eat the fish, there’s no concern over the ingredients used because you know what goes into the feed.
Other benefits of choosing homemade fish food are the following:
- Cost-effective, especially when ingredients are on sale
- Having total control over what your fish eats
- Has all the nutrients your fish needs
If you choose this route, make sure you give the right balance of nutrients needed for fish growth. For example, if your fish is primarily carnivorous, you would want to feed insects such as crickets, flies, and tiny insects or insect larvae. Worms are also a favorite, and there’s the option of raising worms like red wigglers as fish feed.
If you have an omnivore, you can make your own fish flakes, freeze them and then give when necessary. To learn how to do it, check out this simple feed recipe.
Commercial Fish Pellets
For large-scale aquaponics systems, commercial pellets may be the most practical choice since it’s sold and prepared ready to feed and are formulated to meet the dietary requirements of your fish, depending on the species. That is – if you choose the right brand.
When it comes to commercial feed, you have the option to go for products that don’t include GMO ingredients, especially if you plan to eat the fish. While this is debatable due to the fact that the FDA has approved genetically engineered salmon safe for consumption, there are still potential health risks tied to GM foods.
Meanwhile, if you’re not too concerned about organic labels, other commercial feeds such as pellets or flakes would suffice. Remember to go for high-quality products that offer balanced nutrition. Some recommendations include the following:
Giving fish high-quality feed is not only beneficial to them but also to the plants yourself if you plan to harvest fish for personal consumption. For this reason, you need to give much thought to the kind of feed you’re giving to your fish.
You can either make your own fish food at home or buy great quality commercial pellets formulated for specific fish types. Homemade fish food is an easier and more economical option if you have a small-scale system. You can also have some peace of mind that your fish is eating fresh food.
Commercial pellets are fine as long as you are familiar with the ingredients on the label. Remember to avoid cheap junk pellets that can affect your fish’s nutrition and consequently, the health of your plants.