Feeding your Cichlids the right kind of food is very important if you want them to be as healthy as possible and to show their naturally brilliant colors. Often times, if not almost exclusively, Cichlids’ color appears washed out because of a poor or incorrect diet. Not all fish foods are created equally, and therefore, it becomes necessary to use discretion when selecting the food you will feed them. You want to avoid foods that have any mammalian fat, and those containing high amounts of protein should be fed in small amounts. I personally recommend you only get foods with 40-48% Min. Crude Protein, 2-8.5% Min. Crude Fat, and 2% Min. Crude Fiber (and no more than 8%). But any flake food containing Spirulina is recommended above any other type.
Spirulina is an extremely nutritious blue-green algae that is gaining popularity in health food stores of late. In fact, Spirulina is the oldest cultivated blue-green algae in history, dating back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Coincidentally, Spirulina also grows naturally in Lake Malawi. Health enthusiasts use Spirulina supplements (1 TBSP 2 x daily) because of its high vitamin content, including Vitamins A, C, B-12, Iron, Calcium, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, and Zinc.
An alternative to buying your fish food from a local fish store (LFS) is to make it yourself. This can turn out to be much cheaper than commercial foods, and just as nutritious.
The European Shrimp Mix:
One such alternative is the highly acclaimed “European Shrimp Mix.” This recipe is recommended by many European breeders and hobbyists, and even appears in Ad Konings’ book Enjoying Cichlids. He recommends it for virtually all African Cichlids. This recipe is reputed to increase color, help give them size, and mature properly.
Some aquarists feed it almost exclusively to their fish, while others prefer to use it merely as a supplement to a good quality flake food. CAUTION: You should never suddenly change your Cichlids’ feeding regimen or food. Instead, gradually introduce the new food, observing them carefully in the following days to make sure it sits well with them. Because of the high nutritional value of the shrimp mix, you should not feed it more than once a day.
- 2 lbs. Whole ShrimpYou want to get regular whole shrimps, heads and all. The cheaper ones are preferable, they just need to be full-sized.
- 2 lbs. Green Peas These should be frozen green peas.
- 2 tsp. Spirulina Powder You can find Spirulina powder at Health Food Stores. Just make sure you get the pure powder with no added herbs or other products.
- 100 gms. Gelatin Powder You can find this at health food stores as well. It’s best if you use the vegetable form rather than meat as it’s more easily digestible.
- 10 drops Liquid Multi-vitamins These can be any good quality freshwater aquarium concentrate. If you are unable to find liquid multitamins for fish, you could alternatively try the liquid vitamins that are marketed for birds and other pets.
- Place them in a blender or mincer and grind them to a fine paste.
- Place the mixture in a bowl and add the Spirulina powder and liquid multi-vitamins and stir well.
- Dissolve the gelatin, following the directions on the box, making sure there are no lumps in it. It must be an easily flowing, sticky mass without any lumps. Lumps of gelatin can be dangerous for juveniles.
- Slowly add the shrimp-pea mix to the warm gelatin. Be sure to mix it completely before it cools. The best way to do this is to mix the food scoop by scoop with the hot gelatin, preventing it from cooling too quickly by keeping the gelatin still on low heat.
- When ready, the mixture is poured onto a baking tray or into small ice cube containers and placed in the refrigerator to cool for several hours.
- The hardened mix is then cut into pieces of convenient size, and frozen in plastic zip-lock bags. After the mix has been frozen, it cannot b cut easily.
This recipe should last the average Cichlid hobbyist many months. By freezing it in several Zip-lock bags, you can keep the food fresh until it is completely consumed.
Spirulina Flake Food
This recipe is somewhat of a derivation of the European Shrimp Mix, but is really good for fry. This recipe is made with Spirulina powder and Agar.
- Mix the dry Spirulina powder and dry agar together then add boiling water while stirring until you have a smooth thick consistency.
- You can experiment with different combinations of Spirulina and agar, but a 3 part Spirulina to 1 part agar ratio is about right.
- You have to be attentive when mixing, as the agar will turn lumpy very quickly.
- Place the blend into small zip-lock freezer bags before it sets.
The finished product can then be stored in the freezer. Do not use gelatin as the resulting product will be like rubber, and the fry have difficulty digesting it. The agar-based product is also softer and easier for them to eat. When it’s time to feed the fish, cut the blend into small squares and place in the aquarium.
You can also experiment with this recipe by adding different vegetables. I have found that a really good additional ingredient is zucchini. You will need to peel it first, then grate with a cheese grater, and boil it before adding it to the Spirulina-Agar mixture. You might also try this with spinach.
AquaCon’s Homemade Fish Food Recipe
Start with ANY greens, fruits and vegetables you can find. An example would include, but not be limited to: carrots, broccoli, yams, oranges, apples, Romaine lettuce, etc.
- Put all the above in a blender or food processor.
- Slowly add shrimp, crab legs (both with shells), and/or smelt. Do not use any fish that would contain high levels of oils, like herring or mackeral.
- Blend mixture as fine as possible.
- Add liquid vitamins or crushed tablets. You can also add Selco or Selcon. The mixture should have the consistancy of mud. Add some liquid to thin it up if it appears too thick. Carrot or sweet potato juice works well for this purpose as it is high in vitamin content. You can also use clam juice or water.
- Next: Boil 100-150ml of water and add the same amount of unflavored gelatin. Mix the gelatin and vegetable mixture together. Pour the resulting mixture into a rectangle pan and allow to cool. You can place the mixture in the freezer but be sure to score the mixture before it is completely hardened to make it easier to separate later.
- After the mixture is frozen you can separate the pieces and place them in freezer bags for use as needed.
Garlic Food Recipe
There are several brands that now offer a flake food aimed at treating your fish for internal parasites. This is no more than a regular flake food with garlic. Don’t be misled into thinking that it doesn’t work just because it’s a simple trick. Garlic really does fight intestinal parasites. This is one of the simplest recipes to make. Here’s how to make the food, compliments of Dr. Terry Fairfield:
- 1 pound of pollack or catfish fillets
- 1 pound baby food (green beans, carrots, squash, etc.)
- 1/8 pound raw shrimp (this is the glue)
- Garlic cloves (this is the medicine)
- Mix and puree the baby food, the shrimp, and the fish together using either a food processor or blender.
- Now add 0.1% of garlic by the weight of 1 pound. Use minced garlic.
- Mix the concoction well and then spoon it out into ziplock freezer bags.
- Flatten it all out so that it’s 1 – 1 inch thick and then freeze it.
- To feed your fish, scrape small slivers off using a knife.
This food should not be used as a primary food but should be used to supplement another quality flake food. The liquid vitamins could also be added to the recipe to up its value.