Zach has experience making homemade fish food flakes and likes to share tips for other hobbyists.
Easy DIY Homemade Fish Food
If you are what you eat, then your vegetables are what your fish eat, right? Well, while this thinking doesn't hold up for most of life's circumstances, it does apply to Aquaponics! This cutting-edge and soil-less gardening practice relies solely on fish byproducts, so doesn't it only make sense to feed aquarium fish with something substantial and all-natural? Why yes, it does!
In this article, learn how to make your own fish food to keep aquarium occupants looking and feeling their best. Aquaponic gardeners and fish keepers unite! Today, we're talking about homemade fish food!
Fish are no different than terrestrial animals when it comes to diet. There are some that are mainly herbivores, many that are omnivores, and also a handful that are carnivores. So, if you're wanting to please your fish with homemade food, it helps to first understand what type of eater they are! While the list below won't explain the specific needs of each individual species, it will at least serve as a general guideline as to what your fish should be eating!
- Herbivores: Many aquarium algae eaters (ottocinclus and plecostomus), as well as some tropical species and African cichlids, fall into the herbivorous category. While these fish may occasionally eat meat proteins, the majority of their diet consists of plant matter.
- Omnivores: The majority of aquarium fish for sale will be listed as having an omnivorous diet. These fish will readily take both animal and plant matter and should be fed both regularly for continued health. Generally speaking, omnivores normally take in more plant matter, so animal proteins are usually limited to around 20–40% of their diet.
- Carnivores: Like herbivores, there are few aquarium fish that are actually labeled true carnivores. The reason for this is that even carnivorous species tend to eat plant matter in the wild. So, for vitality and longevity in the aquarium, these fish should be typically fed with 60–70% animal matter and 30–40% plant matter.
Ingredients: Plant Matter
For vegetables and plant matter, I prefer to use produce that was organically grown. As pesticide residues can adversely affect aquatic and microbial life, it's best to leave conventionally grown produce out of the picture.
- Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach, Romaine Lettuce, Kale, Sushi Seaweed, and Chard provide a rich and nutritious plant base for any diet. Chalked full of vitamins and minerals, these greens simulate the natural aquatic flora consumed by fish species.
- Garlic: It turns out that garlic is somewhat of a "superfood" when it comes to fish. Besides its ability to stimulate the appetite of even the most finicky eaters, garlic also maintains fish health by providing anti-bacterial properties.
- Miscellaneous Fruits/Veggies: On top of your leafy green base, it's a good idea to add a few additional fruits/veggies to your food. Doing so will ensure that nutrition is derived from a variety of sources instead of just a few. This variety in nutrients will keep fish looking and feeling their best. Broccoli, zucchini, carrots, apples, pears, peas, and oranges all make for great additions to homemade fish food.
- Spirulina Powder: This food additive is a favorite among those who make their own fish food. Composed of cyanobacteria, spirulina powder is rich in minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Natural pigments also help captive fish show their best colors.
- Potato or Corn Starch: A tablespoon or so of either will be added to the mixture for binding purposes. The starch holds the mixture together so that it creates flakes when dried.
Ingredients: Animal Matter
When choosing animal proteins, try to seek out wild-caught or organically produced options. Conventionally farmed fish and other aquatic life are typically fed a poor diet and can lack nutritional value compared to their wild, free-range counterparts.
Simple Omnivore Recipe
This homemade fish food recipe provides a complete and nutritious flake food for most tropical aquarium inhabitants. The finished fish food for this recipe is pictured at the top of this article!
- 1 lb spinach
- 1/2 lb broccoli stems
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 whole zucchini
- Stringy guts from one winter squash
- 1/2 lb sunfish fillets (skin on)
- 4 earthworms
- 1 Tbs corn starch
Use what you have on hand to create your own version!
- Fish: Other fish are generally acceptable for use in making your own fish food. Wild-caught specimens contain a variety of nutrients and proteins, providing a hearty base for any omnivorous or carnivorous diet. To minimize disease and pathogen contamination, always use a species of fish that is different than the ones you're planning to feed it to!
- Earthworms: Earthworms are an excellent source of proteins and are a fairly inexpensive option for fish food. If you don't want to blend up live worms, just rinse them off and pop them in the freezer beforehand!
- Miscellaneous Animal Matter: Brine shrimp, blood worms (mosquito larvae), and other bulk frozen foods offer variety to the fish food. Buy from only trusted sources to reduce contaminants and pathogens.
The process below outlines how to make fish food flakes. If you're interested in making frozen food, you'll want to follow the procedure outlined in another guide on homemade cichlid food.
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- Prep your ingredients. Leafy greens should be rinsed and harder veggies (aka broccoli, carrots, etc.) parboiled. Any frozen ingredients should be thawed. Fish should be descaled, but with bones in.
- Blend it. That pretty much says it all! Place all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture has reached an even consistency.
- Strain the mixture. Using a spatula, squeeze the mixture through a medium-fine mesh. This process is the most labor intensive, but will remove any large pieces of bone/veggie that are too big for fish consumption.
- Dry it out. Dedicate three to four hours for drying your fish food into flakes. This process begins by covering large baking trays with wax or parchment paper. (The paper will prevent the dried food from sticking to the pan.) Next, pour the refined mixture onto the sheets and spread into a very thin layer (1/8–1/4" thick). Place in an oven set to 150°F and allow to dry for 3-4 hours, or until the mixture is thoroughly crumbly.
- Break it apart. The sheets will come off in large chunks. Break them down with your hands until they reach the desired size. Store in dark and cool environment. In an airtight container, the fish food will remain good for over a year.
There you have it—the freshest and most natural flake fish food around! Best of all, it was you who made the food. Now, just sit back and watch as your fish take on enhanced coloring and improved health! Remember, you control the fish in the tank, so you might as well have control over their diet.
Thank you for reading this article on how to make fish food flakes. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have!
The video above is the homemade fish food show in this article being fed! The setup it's being fed to is an aquaponic ten-gallon aquarium. To learn more about aquaponics, be sure to read the articles linked below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Zach
Terry on August 12, 2020:
Hello have you ever thought about using Azolla? I have several pond that I use for feeding my Tilapia in the summer in my aquaponic system but when winter come it get too cold and dies off.
Rose Gundelach on March 17, 2020:
How much Spirulina powder do you add?
Victor Pellet Mill on May 29, 2019:
raw materials can be plants,vegetables,grains, meat,vitamin,etc
Jess on July 05, 2018:
I have a huge 60 gal tank and I spend so much on food for those guys. Added to the expenses of my lizards I spend about $40 a month on food. I can’t wait to cut it in half
Athul .C. A on December 16, 2017:
i am going to give Earthworm every day
P.Smith on December 06, 2017:
Just the info I needed because I started with one male and one female. One year later I have more than I can count. I don't have the heart to flush them so I better learn how to feed them.lol
Chris on August 10, 2017:
You can solve most problems with food at the bottom of the tank by adjusting how much you feed. Also regular weekly water changes and gravel vacuuming to remove uneaten food.
FV on March 14, 2017:
Carlson: Get bottomfeeding fish, like cory, pleco, or schrimp.
carlson akwa on November 29, 2016:
The tips are good. But I have a worry . when you feed your fish with the fish food, the small particles that falls to the bottom of the fish tank start fermenting and after 1 or 2 days, the water is contaminated. So how can this problem be solved
Ughetta Parenti on August 05, 2014:
Excellent article and I will be putting this into use. Have made a few small batches of dried food and wanted more info.
Dianna Mendez on February 15, 2013:
I can see where this would be a popular article with famlies with pet fish. It would be fun to do, yet cut down on expense. Years ago we had an aquarium of beautiful fish and this would have been used in our home. Excellent advice and tips.
Theophanes Avery from New England on February 07, 2013:
Wow, didn't know you could make your own fresh water fish food. I only have three guppies so I don't think I'll be needing quite so much, but maybe when they have babies I'll give this a try. :)