Its time for part II of Reef Diet Basics. In part 2 we will discuss types of food and create our own nutritious reef mix that can be used to provide a nourishing treat for your ocean paradise. Let us first begin by looking at the ingredients that are on the menu. The foundation of the oceanic ecosystems is plankton. Plankton is really a mixture of micro and macroscopic smoothie of plants and animal life.
We can simulate this here at home using easy to find ingredients to provide nutritious food for your filter feeding corals. At your local fish store you can easily find Oyster eggs, fish eggs, copopods, and rotifers. It is possible to grow and harvest your own copopods and rotifers. That is a subject for another time. For now, breathe easy trusting that you can compile the necessary ingredients for a fresh, nutritious plankton smoothie right here at your favorite local fish store. While at the fish store, go ahead and pick up some extra ingredients that will be used later during your meal preparations. Usually there is a freezer where frozen foods are stored. Grab a brick of brine shrimp, a brick of krill, and brick of cyclopeeze shrimp. Once these are in hand, run over to the dry food section and grab a jar of algae flakes, and pellets. Check to make sure, that these jars are for marine or saltwater aquarium. Usually in the same area, you will be able to find a vitamin additive called Vita-Chem. While we are still here go ahead and look for a plastic clip on a suction cup. This is an algae clip and come in handy later. Grab that and run to the checkout counter. As you leave the store, know you are well on the way of providing a large buffet of nutritious food for beautiful reef tank.
Now for the vegetarians of the tank, algae is the star of the show. Normally things like hair algae and brown algae eww! we work hard as reef keepers to prevent. Once it takes hold, it spreads fast and is hard to control. Instead, go to your nearest grocery store and find where the soy sauce is. Around that area you will find a wonderfully, ingenious product call Nori.
Yep, that is correct, the same seaweed that wraps your California roll sushi is what you are trying to locate. Once located you may notice that it is cheap and plentiful. Easy right? Be sure to ensure there are no additives and only seaweed. Now that you have the ingredients for your first course, it is time move on to another part of the market, the frozen seafood isle. Grab some frozen shrimp, squ- errr calamari, an oily fish like cod. If your feeling extra crazy, grab some clams or oysters. I mean we are talking about our aquarium right.
It is worth taking a moment to discuss other ways of procuring fresh food for your reef. Your local seafood market or fish monger will have many of the above items readily available. Hey why not go out an catch some of these items. If your lucky enough to live in an area with fresh shellfish, crabs and shrimp, fish, and maybe even kelp. Make this an opportunity to go out and explore and support your local community. Who knew that feeding our reef tanks would inspire adventure.
Now that we have the ingredients that compose the menu, it is time move to the kitchen for preparation. I love this method because it is economical, supports the local community, promotes variety, and allows large quantities to be made in bulk. I like to pull out the blender. A cutting board and a very sharp knife will also be used. If possible, sharpen your knife. You will cutting of items. I like to take this to practice mindfulness, as I focus on cutting the squid, shrimp, and fish into small bite size pieces. It is very relaxing knowing I am channeling my love into this meal that my marine organisms are sure to enjoy and benefit from. when all this is cut up, place it in a large bowl. Add half the frill, and set to the side.
Next it is time to break out the blender. In the blender I pour in the 3/4 of the bottle of Vita-Chem, brine shrimp, the rest of the krill, the cyclopeeze, fish eggs, oyster eggs, and clams or oysters if you were crazy enough to grab them. Just give it a couple of pulses. You do not need to liquefy it, just break it up to smaller pieces. Although not very appetizing to us, your fish will certainly love it!
You should now have 3 different sizes of the ingredients. Larger meatier chunks from the cutting board, smaller almost mush bits from the blender with a nutritional boost of amino acids and vitamins, and small pieces in the form of the rotifers, fish eggs, oyster eggs, and copepods. I like to use a zip-lock freezer bags for the first and second groups. Since rotifers usually are sold in a plastic fish bag, I find a plastic soup container from your local Chinese takeout make a great way to store them in your fridge.
After you portion out your groups. Place the bags in on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Place the Vita-Chem, Rotifers, and Copepods in the fridge to feeding time. After your bags are frozen, your all done and ready for dinner time.
So your fish have turned to sharks and are circling the tank looking for food. Your corals have their feeder tentacles out. What does this mean? It means feed me! Well look at your fish and smile and say no problem. It is time to cash in on all the time, money, and effort spent gathering the materials and prepping the ingredients. Feeding your fish a variety is easy as long as you stay organized.
What you are going to do is break a quarter size piece from the larger chunks, and the smaller chunk bags into a small container filled half way or so with water. set aside to thaw. I find a shot glass or a small Tupperware container works well for this. I will also squirt some rotifers into the shot glass with the smaller sized chunks.
Once this is thawed it is time to move the food cart to the tank. I like to shut off my pumps to minimize circulation. I am very happy with my power heads that have a controller. My controller has a feed mode that cuts the power for a set amount of time. Once the pumps are off you just add a bit of the small chunks to the water. This is what I like to call the priming. This puts the scent in the water per say and will activate your corals feeding responses. You will know when this happens, because the polyps of some corals will extend cleaner tentacles. I find a turkey baster is good to have. I am lucky to have very long pipettes, but the turkey baster works just as well.
Now, its show time. Wait... before you begin... take your time. This is your time to enjoy your tank. Time to observe, and look over your equipment, your animals, your balance in the tank. OK, NOW the fun begins. Using the turkey baster or pipette, suck up some of the smaller chunks and carefully squirt them on the corals. Make sure they are covered in a small localized cloud. This will ensure that each colony grabs some food and successfully takes in that nutrition and love. Repeat this until all corals were given an initial feeding. Next take some of the lager chunks and spread them in the water column. The fish and invertebrates will eagerly consume nutritious fresh food. Repeat until all corals and fish are fed. Give the corals some time fully absorb the food. Patience is what this hobby is all about.
While your pumps are off, it is time to seed the tank with Copepods. Grab your bottle of copopods and dump them in. Let your tank sit as the copepods settle to the bottom. In the bottle the Copepods form protective coverings called cysts. In this cyst form, the Copepods are "hibernating" until favorable conditions arise. After being introduced into your tank and settling, the Copepods will wake up and spread into your rocks and sand. They will reproduce and create more. Wrasses, Mandarin Gobies, and other fish will pick them off the rocks for a quick snack. Kind of like reef potato chips.
So there you have it, A feast fit for a king, and an amount that could feed an army. Some things I have learned over the years that have helped to make feeding time less of a chore are the following. If you can find ice cube trays with the tiny sections, these work great for dosing out the perfect amount. The little squares when frozen can be added to a bag, and a cube or two into some water in a shot glass is perfect. This also helps when you go out of town and you have someone feeding your fish. You can just say add 3 cubes a day. EASY. I also found that the turkey baster or pipette if you can obtain one work wonders for spot feeding corals. To assist corals in feeding, place food on them and cover with a cup or bowl. This will keep fish, crabs and shrimps from stealing those precious morsels.
Before you are done, take you algae clip and rinse it in water and remove any labels. Now open your pack of Nori and carefully take out a sheet. Now if your hungry and want a dose of vitamins and minerals, go ahead and eat that sheet and grab another. If not proceed to folding the sheet in half, then rolling up into a cigar shape, then folding it in half. Place this folded algae sheet into the algae clip. Place the clip in your tank in a place out of direct flow.
I like to schedule my feedings like Below. This way I do not overfeed, which creates a whole mess of problems. Learning about balance and harmony is what keeping a reef tank is all about.
|Monday||flakes or pellets|
|Tuesday||feed fish large chunks|
|Wednesday||flakes or pellets check algae clip and replace if empty|
|Thursday||feed fish large chunks|
|Friday||flakes and pellets|
|Saturday||Feed coral and fish large and small chunks plus plankton mixutre|
|Sunday||flakes and pellets|
Well that does it for part II of Reef Diet Basics. I hope you are inspired to create your own large quantities of cheap nutritious fish and coral feed using fresh ingredients and love. It is a great feeling knowing what is in your fishes food. No fillers or sediment. Only vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, and fats.