Peter Kacalanos

 Gourmet Guide to
Healthful Fish Foods
from your Kitchen

by Peter Kacalanos
Co-leader, Geneva Area Pond Club, Switzerland


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 Enjoy.




WGI ONLINE Journal Table of Contents

Water Gardeners International
Home | Join WGI | Members' Exclusive | Gateway to Water Gardening