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NFC: fish food

Organic Cuisine
Robert Rice
Robertrice at juno_com

One of the constant struggles of keeping Native Fish has been the lack of
decent food out there for the wild caught fish. Darters and scores of
other NA Natives simply will starve to death before eating flake food.
When you think about it, do you blame them ? Most flake food is the
equivalent of military meals ready to eat or mre's to us military
folks/dependents. While they may meet our basic nutritional requirements
they are so unpalatable that you might as well starve as to have to live
on them full time. Yet that is what we do to our fishes. We put them on a
mre diet and then wonder why they don't eat, thrive and breed. I've got a
shock for you folks while a good flake food is nice to have around it's
not the stuff that makes fish thrive. It is in effect survival rations.
What I have found over the last decade of Native fish keeping is that the
best foods are live natural and inexpensive.
Inexpensive you say, hah not a chance. You have, I am sure purchased
those pitiful little shot glasses of  live blackworms for a Jillion
bucks. Only to find when you drop it in your tank it is consumed in 5
seconds. Two things we can figure out from this experience. One our fish
like live or fresh food. Two your local pet store needs to get up to
speed in alternative foods. Instead of terribly expensive small portions
of live/frozen foods there is a literal buffet of outstanding foods out
there ready to be had with just a bit of hustle and brain power. You just
need to think like a fish. 
I know your saying think like a fish, bah I can hardly think like a
person. Now you want me to think like a fish. How about this, think with
the stomach of a fish! Being a bit of an oddball Aquarius to begin with I
have always tried different foods for my fish whether I was keeping
Discus, Cichlids or Darters. I have found much to my surprise that there
are great foods out there. Some in your backyard garden, some in your
local bait shop and some in your grocery/fish market.  That's right even
your own yard has cuisine that will make your fishes lips smack with
excitement. If you shop at the local grocery store or garden with a minds
eye towards your fish things can get very fun very fast for your fishy
friends. All you need to do is think with your fishes stomach in mind.
First stop in our fish food search is the Grocery store/fish market.
There are a huge variety of items that are suitable for the home aquarist
available at reasonable prices you just gotta look. Here's a brief list
of some of the things I have found in my Grocery store travels. My Prices
are will be different than yours and should not be used as anything
except a guideline.  
Head on Shrimp : Yes Head on Shrimp, those ugly alien looking things,
Fresh or  Frozen . Simply feed the heads to your fish and the shrimp
tails to yourself. Now as with ALL organic non live foods if after 24
hours you have food still In your tank remove it. Shellfish are rather
rich foods so feed sparingly! If you don't your tank could crash. Shrimp
cost locally $3.40 cents a pound.

Live/frozen Crayfish: You can get them in many southern regions in local
fish markets or grocery stores. Up north try you local bait store they
often carry them as bait for a low price. I crush them and feed them to
all my fish from sunfish to tiny darters Or boil em up spicy eat the
tails myself and save the scraps for my fish. All around a great food
easily accepted. Available locally for $1.75 a pound live
Shucked or Shelled Oysters: Eaten greedily by most fish. They are a rich
food so again go lightly. Cost about $3 a pint shucked. Freezes well.
Crabs: Essentially treat them the same as Crawfish. Available in coastal
regions at great prices. You get a great crab dinner ,  the scraps go to
the fish. Really puts weight on fast. Cost $8 a dozen locally

Beefheart : If you can talk your local butcher into keeping this organ
meat you will have a great food source for the sunfishes and madtoms and
many other fishes in your collection. When purchasing your Beefheart have
the butcher trim it very lean and then grind it extra fine. Use this
great Cuisine lightly it's a great 1X a week food...Local cost  $2.50 a
pound locally.

Smelt: Rainbow Smelt are seasonal near the great lakes and make a great
addition to your fish cuisine. They are very cheap and make great food
for catfish, Bass, Sunfish, Bowfin's or anything else that will take this
great food. Typical cost is $1.25 a pound and it freezes well, so load up

This is not a complete list. You will of course find other suitable foods
at your local fish/grocery store. Including liver, odd fishes, and other
bizarre things like scrambled eggs. Just go slow and document your
results. We all want to hear about your efforts.

Now You head to your Garden. Here you'll find a special place for your
spirit and your fish.
Mosquito Larvae: Those annoying little bugs make a great food source ,
their sacrifice to us aquarist is their children. Simply place a shallow
dish  of 6 inches or less in between the rows of plants and wait. I like
to add a bit of dirt to the dish but that is up to you. In no time (10
days or so )  the dish will be full of  wriggling larvae. These little
dishes work in country gardens or urban porches. Just remember to harvest
your beauties regularly and  you will make your neighbors and your fish
very happy . Excellent for Killies and pygmy sunfishes. I've also found
than most plant nursery's are swarmed with Mosquitoes because of all the
little pots that collect water in the back.  Most nursery managers are
all to happy to have you come by once a week or so and remove their
mosquito larvae. Cost Free, with a little hustle
Scuds: AKA Gammerus  Shrimp. They are easy to culture with a bit of water
and a bit of sunshine. You can collect a starter culture in most small
streams. I use old aquarium water mixed with pond water to start em off.
Add the scuds and collect all year if you don't get a hard freeze. Scuds
are preferred by pygmy sunfish, YOY fish and killies. Cost Free with a
little hustle 

Earthworms: Those ole red wrigglers or those giant night crawlers all
make great food for all your fish .If it will fit in their mouth worms
work! Collect them late at night or purchase them mail order. They are
truly Gods gift to fish. They are durable, clean and easy to set up in a
home colony.  I buy mine from  Smiths Earthworms off of the NFC website
at http://nativefish.interspeed.net/. You can with a little effort find a
good source for worms check your local bait store or your yellow pages.
Cost: usually about $9 a pound delivered from any breeder
Ok now head to your local bait shop. Not only will he be a source for
fish for your home aquarium but they are a SUPER place to get Organic
Shiners: Typically fathead minnows or Golden Shiners. Great food for
larger Sunfish, Bass , Pikes or what have you. Cost $1.75 a dozen or so.
Waxworms Tough little larvae perfect for the sunfish and company. Cost $2
a dozen or less.
Frozen fishes: you will find a variety of interesting baits that are
suitable for the home Aquarius or the local Bass. About $4 a pound
Small cups of a dozen or so worms. If you don't want to do the bulk thing
get em by the dozen. Cost about $2 a dozen lasts for 2-3 weeks in the

Now I intentionally left out the most common live reared foods like
Daphnia ,brineshrimp , bloodworms and the like. I left them out because
most folks know about them already and rear them. I seek to expose folks
to common unloved alternative food sources.  They are a resource that is
waiting to be tapped in to. Fish of all kinds await their first taste of
the now trendy Organic Cuisine. So don't dissapoint them.

Until next month good luck and good fishing.

Robert Rice
Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the NFC
Check out our Exotic Removal Program and Breeders Program at our website
website  http://nativefish.interspeed.net/