I have had aquariums of one sort or another most of my life. There is something about that encapsulated ecosystem with plants, fish, shrimp and other critters swimming, tunneling or crawling about that captivates me.
I currently have a 75 gallon aquarium with a variety of critters and figured I’d share some of my favorite fish foods. This post includes Amazon affiliate links.
I have some fish that are grazers, biofilm eaters and bottom feeders that often get neglected in the aquarium. These include Otocinclus, Pygmy Corydoras, and Stiphodon Gobies like the beautiful Blue Neon Goby. I decided to try Repashy Gel Foods to supplement these fishes diets and find them to be exceptional. I keep mine in the refrigerator and when needed mix a little powder with hot water in a small heat proof dish. Once it is form I cut a suitable sized chunk and drop it in. The food can also be poured on a piece of driftwood or other aquarium safe surface and once dry put it in the aquarium. The fish love it and all my picky eaters are plump and healthy.
Tip: For firmer gel use less water. If the gel is a little softer than I like I can firm it up two ways. I put it in a sandwich bag in the refrigerator, on a paper towel. This wicks off some of the water and firms it up in a few hours. I have also put my heat proof dish in the oven on the lowest setting and set a timer. After an hour or so I end up with an extra firm disk (round dish) that the fish can pick at for a day or so.
Here are a few of my favorite Repashy items:
Repashy Soilent Green – great for grazers and fish that like plant matter, algae and biofilm. My Otocinclus and Stiphodon Gobies love this, but everyone including the Gouramis, Cardinal Tetras, Pencil Fish, Endlers, shrimp and dwarf crayfish will munch it too.
Repashy Community Plus – is a great food for omnivorous fish and inverts of all types. I alternate feedings with the Soilent Green. Sometimes I mix them, or create two batches at the same time and quickly pour them into one dish for a swirl of two kinds of food.
There are many more varieties available at the Repashy Store which I highly recommend. There are also food for reptiles and salamanders which are more meaty or insect heavy and might be suitable for certain types of fish. Be sure to let me know if you try any of these awesome foods.
Freeze-dried foods can fit a niche when you don’t have access to live foods, or frozen. I generally alternate them with flake, tablet, gel and frozen foods to offer some balance and avoid bloat. Which types of dry critters you use will vary by the type of fish you have but here are a few currently on my shelf.
Hikari Bio-Pure Freeze Dried Blood Worms – Blood worms are actually the aquatic larval phase of one or more types of insects, most commonly the midge fly. Fish love them fresh, freeze-dried or frozen – though I find the frozen tend to ‘bleed out’ as the freezing process breaks the cell walls. They should not be used alone as they do not provide a complete diet.
Tip: I sometimes soak freeze-dried foods in a container first and then pour them in to make sure the guys on the bottom get some. You can add vitamins like Vitachem to the water you are going to soak them in. When I have had sick fish and didn’t want to dose the whole tank I have soaked them in ‘garlic water’ – water I let sit in the refrigerator with a smashed clove of garlic. You can use Garlic Guard instead. The food is essentially a sponge so you can experiment with adding other things to the soak water like spirulina algae and color enhancers and then feed these powered-up foods to your fish.
The Fluval 07 Series canister filters are arguably some of the best filters of their type on the market.
I have two Fluval 307’s on my 75 gallon tank. Why? Well, for starters I like redundancy. I also wanted to experiment with different filter media – one of the filters uses mostly chemical and mechanical media with foam pads and activated charcoal plus resin mixes i.e. Chemi-Pure, Fluval Clearmax Phosphate Remover and Purigen. The other filter also has foam pads, but I put in more biological filter media like Seachem Matrix and Marineland Ceramic Filter Rings. As you can see I like to use a mix of products. 🙂
As far as the filters go they are very well designed. I hadn’t had a canister in several years and this one is definitely a step up. Once it is set up the media is easily replaced without having to disconnect the hoses. The units have 3 trays to allow use of various filtering media as well as internal sponge filters to reduce particulate accumulation on the tray media. The canister’s head and seal are all easily opened and closed. The unit is quiet and uses very little electricity (about 15 watts for the 307) which meant I was able to use hook each one up to some old UPS battery backup units I had and have the filters keep running when we had a power outage.
The hoses are not the typical ones. These are ‘ribbed’ and accordion-like is the best way to describe it. They work well and the only gripes I’ve heard are from people trying to connect them to other items like inline heaters and UV sterilizers that have standard tubing. It can be done, you just have to sort out the measurements. Fluval has a new inline UVC clarifier of their own now but I haven’t tried it yet.
I set the filters up in an overlapping pattern and adjusted the nozzle directions to try to get the water flowing all over the tank and avoid dead spots.
The final result is a healthy tank that is forgiving of my occasional overly generous feedings.
I am very pleased with how well the Fluval 307 filters perform and the design excellence. If I ever manage to get some additional aquariums I plan to try out their other models and series.
As a final note let me say I am not independently wealthy. This equipment was purchased in stages over a year and I used some gift cards and reward points I’d accumulated. I also was fortunate enough to trade some tools I wasn’t using with a guy I met at a SCAPE club meeting which meant I didn’t have to pay for the aquarium, stand or gravel.
Since I am on the subject a quick plug for the SCAPE (Southern California Aquatic Plant Enthusiast) club. If you are in the area they have regular meets with auctions and trading. If you attend a meeting you can request a membership card as they have negotiated discounts with some local fish stores. The online forum has a Tradewinds subforum where people will seek to buy, sell, trade and even give away items; members will sometimes team up to negotiate group buys. The members actively trade and breed a wide variety of fish, plants and live foods. You can find them on the SCAPE Forum and their Facebook Group page. There is an unofficial Discord channel created by some members though it isn’t as active as the other two options.
A few months ago my CO2 regulator valve died and almost took the fish with it. I decided to forgo the CO2. I have some bucephalandra and they started to get hair algae as the plants that required CO2 faded away. I added a few less demanding plants to suck up the excess nutrients and started using Seachem Flourish Excel which provides some bio-available carbon and seems to depress the algae a little. I also started using Seachem Flourish Advance Growth Supplement which has some plant hormones that can stimulate root growth.
It took a while to eradicate the algae. I had otocinclus, nerites and shrimp on patrol but with the excess light and nutrient build up it was an algae-tastrophy waiting to happen. It took some time and a lot of muttering but it finally turned around.
My tank is a little on the wild and disheveled side. I have never really had a carefully manicured tank like some of the incredible ones I see on the international aquascaping contest websites, but maybe one day I will. Still, the tank is healthy. I spend some time watching it every day. It is relaxing and I have always enjoyed watching the fish and other critters doing their thing.
Algae is a common problem in aquariums. It flourishes anytime there are enough nutrients and light to meet its needs. There are a lot of ways to combat algae; some revolve around making sure algae doesn’t get what it needs to grow. Others include targeting outbreaks with manual removal, or spot treatments with hydrogen peroxide.
Other things we can do:
make water changes to reduce the waste products they feed on
reduce our fish stocking density
check our lighting fixtures & bulbs
put timers on our lighting so doesn’t run longer than needed to ensure plant health
introduce plants that will compete with algae for the available nutrients
add inhabitants to the aquarium who love to munch on algae
We’ll talk about some of those other methods in future posts but for now, I want to introduce you to a few of my favorite algae eating critters for planted aquariums.
Note: the list of suitable algae eaters can vary depending on your tank setup and your fish selection. I have smaller peaceful fish including Rasboras, Neon Tetra, Rummy Nose, Pencil Fish, Celestial Danio, Guppies and a few types of shrimp in a densely planted tank. My recommendations below are based on this type of community tank.
Otocinclus are small peaceful catfish native to South America and often referred to as dwarf suckers, oto cats, or just plain otos.
I’m not sure what it is about otos, but like a lot of people with planted tanks I find them fascinating. I started with three in my 29 gallon and now am up to about eight. They scrape at the algae on the glass, suck at algae on the plant leaves and eagerly tackle any other food scraps in the tank. They are good tankmates for a variety of peaceful fish. They like clean but established tanks, with plants, some algae and biofilma thin, film of bacteria and other microorganisms that adheres to a surface in a sort of conglomeration. Under a microscope, you might see these on leaves and other surfaces where they feed on various substances. Other animals like some shrimp, snails, and fish may then graze on these microscopic gardens..
Otos do best in established planted tanks, with peaceful tank mates and in groups of three or more. Remember that you need to make sure otos have enough to eat. People sometimes think suckers and catfish survive just on scraps and I have seen oto cats get skinny and die from neglect.
Tip: Some of my absolute favorite foods for Otos, other algae eaters and biofilm grazers -like Stiphodon Gobies- are Respashy’s Soilent Green and Community Plus gel foods. In fact these Repashy foods are so darn good I just decided I’ll be adding a post just about them.
Next on the list of algae warriors are the shrimp. I have a few types in my tank but two of the most productive algae grazers in my tank are the Amano and the Cherry shrimps – members of the Caridina & Neocaridina genus respectively (note: there are other family members and color variations of these shrimp species that may be just as effective, these are the ones I have in my tank).
These are hardy and active shrimp and a good choice for first-timers. They tend to grow bigger than Neocaridinia and while I have heard anecdotally that big shrimp may prey on smaller species I have not seen this behavior; some of my Amanos are 1 1/2″ long and I haven’t seen them bother the tiny baby Cherry shrimp in my tank.
Having said all that – they are greedy! They are always on the lookout for food and when I drop tablet food into the aquarium the Amanos will grab it and try to drag it into a hidey-hole so they don’t have to share.
One thing to keep in mind with both the Amano and Cherry shrimps is that if you have lots of other food in the tank they won’t be as enticed by the algae. Why? Well just imagine if I gave you a choice between your favorite food, and a small hard biscuit that I told you had the same nutritional value – which would you rather eat? Don’t overfeed, and you’ll notice that as the day goes on the Amanos will be furiously picking at many types of algae and biofilm while they wait for your next feeding..
Cherry shrimp are a peaceful, hardy and industrious shrimp from Taiwan which is very popular among planted tank enthusiasts. There are a wide range of color morphs that have resulted from selective breeding and culling which include red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet, black. Within those colors you’ll find yet more intense and brilliant variations with names like Blue Diamond or Sapphire, Bloody Mary and striped or patterned varieties like Rili. They breed readily and can be a fascinating addition to an aquarium.
Cherry shrimp are omnivores that feed on biofilm and algae. Like the Amano they’ll eat all of your prepared food gladly, so if you want them to help control your algae you’ll need to find a balance. I haven’t verified this with any sophisticated testing but if these things were as big as Amanos I think they’d eat twice as much algae. It is pretty amazing to watch how fast their tiny legs pick and shove food into their mouths.
Shrimp will scavenge and help clean the tank but be sure they are getting enough food! Two of the foods I use are Shrimp Fit and Shrimp Cuisine. The Shrimp Fit is a powder and will help grow biofilm and provide sustenance for the baby shrimp. I’ll add another blog post soon just about shrimp.
Zebra Nerite Snails
The Nerite Snails that are commonly sold for freshwater tanks are interesting and hard working. They are hardy though they seem to have a relatively short lifespan in freshwater aquaria of about a year.
One of the key selling points of these snails is not only how much algae they eat but that with their strong rasping teeth they are able to remove the harder spot algae from the aquarium glass. Another benefit of these snails is that they need brackish water to reproduce so you don’t have to worry about hordes of babies – unless you are adding salt to your aquarium. I’ve read that they can lay sesame seed sized eggs, attached to various objects in the tank but I have not had that occur in the 8 months I’ve had them.
Keep in mind that since algae and biofilm are primary food sources for these snails they will do better in an established tank with some algae growth. Probably best not to introduce them into a brand new tank.