Although commercially prepared fish food is convenient, we've
found that our hundreds of pond fish enjoy variety in their diet
as much as people do. They seem to eat almost everything we eat,
so they get something different every day. This article describes
the people foods they prefer over the commercially available
fish foods, although we offer both.
Manufacturers of the various dry mixes each have their own
fish food formulas, so we alternate among several brands in case
some trace elements are missing from any single brand. As a general
rule, people foods are a lot less expensive ounce-for-ounce than
commercial fish foods. Just be sure to offer a wide variety to
insure your fish get all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Our fish like every kind of breakfast cereal we've tried so
far: corn flakes, wheat flakes, bran flakes, oat flakes (and
Cheerios), puffed rice, muesli, and wheat germ. They'll also
eat any kind of bread, crumbled to the appropriate sizes. We
give them the more nutritious varieties like whole wheat, rye,
bran, and multi-grain. They love uncooked oatmeal, as well as
any grain like kasha or couscous, plus white, brown or wild rice,
either raw or boiled in plain water.
Of the cooked foods, their favorite is hard-boiled egg broken
into bite-sized pieces, a great source of protein. They enjoy
bits of boiled potato, canned corn kernels, carrots, peas, beans,
and other cooked green and yellow vegetables.
Goldfish were developed in China, which is also where pasta
originated, so we experimented to see if our fish would eat pasta.
They eat any kind, probably because all varieties are essentially
made from the same grains. The most convenient varieties are
already bite-sized, like orzo and digitali, but
you can easily break the others down to the right size for the
size of fish you have before cooking, or cut them after cooking.
(Sometimes we see two fish biting opposite ends of the same length
of spaghetti or macaroni. They look for all the world like the
two dogs eating a strand of pasta toward each other in the film
Lady and the Tramp.) Simply boil the pasta in water. Please
don't add tomato sauce, garlic or any other flavoring, no matter
how well you cook.
You can, however, add grated cheese to your fishes'
diet, with or without the pasta. The smallest fish love cheese
that's grated fine, to the size of grains of salt or sugar. The
larger fish prefer it grated in strands of various sizes, possibly
because of the resemblance to worms. Every kind of hard cheese
we've grated is accepted by our fish, so we're pleased to see
they're not as picky as restaurant critics. Groceries sell cheese
already grated, but you can grate your own very easily. We use
an old-fashioned hand grater that has a different cutting surface
on each of its four sides, and so offer four different shapes
and sizes to our fish. Cheese provides lots of calcium and protein,
both needed in your fishes' diet.
We also occasionally offer bite-sized pieces of any kind of
meat or fish, either raw or cooked with no other ingredients.
As a special treat when we have them, we give our fish fancy
seafoods like lobsters, shrimp, crabs, clams, mussels and snails,
all rich in protein. Much less expensive but still appreciated
by our fish are dog food and cat food-both the moist variety
in cans and the small dry kibble biscuits in packages. (Our fish
relish cat food even more than our cat does. We're tempted to
advise the manufacturer to re-label the cat food as fish food.)
Goldfish, koi and other pond fish supplement all these foods
with the natural foods found in every pond: algae, underwater
plants, insect larvae and adults, and sometimes their own progeny,
as fish do in nature. If your pond has very few fish, this natural
food could be enough to sustain them. But those of us with hundreds
of fish can take advantage of their omnivorous nature by alternating
foods from our kitchens with commercially prepared fish foods,
making feeding our fish easier on the budget.
One reminder about feeding: Fish become hungrier in the fall,
so be sure to feed them enough every day in this season to satisfy
their increased appetite. They have to fatten up in order to
store enough body tissue to make it through the winter, because
they won't eat again until spring. When they seem less interested
in food, stop feeding them altogether. Their body processes and
metabolism slow down so much in cold weather that they can survive
without food for months, like hibernating bears. Fish are cold-blooded,
so they don't have to burn calories to create body heat. In winter
they don't expend lots of energy dashing around the pond as they
do in warm weather. If you were to continue putting food in the
pond in winter, it would rot at the bottom, creating methane
and other noxious gases that could endanger the health of your
fish. Resume feeding when you see them becoming more active in
spring, because they'll be voracious then. They'll need plenty
of energy for their exhausting breeding rituals.
You can read articles about breeding fish and many other subjects
about water gardens on our Geneva Area Pond Club's colorful web
site at http://ponds.meetup.com/1/about.