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The Question Of Feeder Fish


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I have been puzzling over this issue quite a lot over the past few days from a couple of incidents at work, and I wanted to put some ideas out there for you guys and I hope this stirs up some discussion, both good and "bad". I wasn't sure where to put this thread, please excuse me if it's in the wrong area!

I first started thinking about this after a customer asked if feeders with ick would infect the predator fish with ick too. I honestly had to say I didn't know, but that "sick food" would just be no good anyhow, and not worth the risk in my opinion. My coworker tried asking about this on our local fish forum, but got the response that "ick is always present in a tank anyways". I did a bit of reading on that and found out that this "ever-present ick" thing is bunk, though.

And then, I read one of Fishguy2727's articles about "naturalism" in the aquarium and how eating feeder goldfish is not natural at all, and I thought, holy cow, he is so right. Oscars don't eat goldfish naturally....IS there ANY predator fish that has a naturally-occurring population of small goldfish to eat in the wild?? This led to so many other questions in my mind: If not mini goldfish, what do they eat?

And why are feeder goldies the feeder of choice? Goldfish breed rapidly and prodigiously, but so do a lot of other small fish - why are "feeder tetras" not offerred, but always goldfish? Also if, as the Aquarium Wiki states: "Goldfish carry the chemical thiaminase, so if goldfish are fed to other animals as Feeder Fish, then that carnivore may develop a serious vitamin B1 deficiency". Isn't that proof enough that goldfish ARE an unacceptable main source of food?

And with the ability of goldfish to be long-lived, does it not make more "ethical sense" to produce feeders of a shorter-lived variety?

Could a predator fish thrive on other foods? Is there a way to keep a large predatory fish healthy without offering it feeder goldfish regularly? (This is a question I'm especially interested in).

Is feeding them sick, malnourished feeders more harmful than helpful? and if feeder fish are such an important aspect of the diet, then why are they treated so terribly in shops and the owners of the predator fish so blase about this fact? Isn't that like...buying dog food made from week-old chicken parts??

:blink:

Sorry about all that. Sometimes...my brain won't...stop.

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I heard a lot of big carnivore fish get disease from feeder fish and I think I got the fish lice from feeder fish rosy red minnows. I thinks mature, eggs, and larvae froms of parasites travel with the feeder fish. I think if the store wants to make money on feeder fish, they need to have tons of them in limited tank space and I think it would be very hard and time & money consuming to keep them healthy from store point of view.

I went to Big Al's and I saw young guppies as feeder fish too. Honestly, one of the biggest reason people like feeding feeder fish is that they enjoy watching bigger fish rip them apart which is very cruel. They always have this excuse 'well it happens in real environment'. In real life it's not in display for enjoyment for people and it's not poor goldfish that go through it and they're put in a very unfair situation where there is no other way but to die (It's not like they're given chance to swim away from the tank). I think people who enjoy watching pirahnas tear up one small goldfish and say 'cool', 'awesome' is genetically born with cruel and gory mind.

Edited by stevey87
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  • Regular Member

I have thought about that too, the monetary side of things, and I still can't come up with a reason to not provide proper care for the fish. From the perspective of someone who has to clean out dead fish from tanks almost every day, the math just doesn't make sense to me. If you order 200 feeder fish, and jam them all into a twenty gallon tank with one 150gph filter, pull out twenty dead ones a day, and sell maybe fifty or sixty of the 200 ordered, HOW does that make sense? Doesn't it make MORE business sense to keep them ALL alive and sell them ALL than have to absorb the accumulated cost of hundreds of dead fish every month?

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Feeders are an enrichment not a staple diet. The prepared diets should provide sufficient b vitamins to compensate for the issue of feeders.

Goldfish grow fast and can be mass produced in temperate regions so they have filled the feeder niche, and to get the pretty ones there are lots of not so pretty ones to get rid of. Every fancy fish we see at market has had 100 or 1,000 siblings discarded. There is a reason goldfish farms are often also turtle farms. It's the circle of life.

Sick feeders will get the other fish sick. In theory there is a possibility that if all the ich was encysted on the feeder and went directly into the stomach of the fish without any hatching maybe they wouldn't pass it on but doubt full.

If you put all your feeders into 3 ppt salt you won't have ich or other ciliates and instead of dying due to poor husbandry they'll at least they will fill the niche they were intended for.

Goldfish live a long time but so do chickens and cows not to mention Tuna. I don't think the ethics of long term potential for life comes into play in my mind.

Where goldfish are a economical for feeders is their fast reproduction cycle and fast growth. You can get a feeder to size in a couple months. For a population to be self sustaining each adult needs to replace itself once, that leaves countless offspring to be fodder for the food chain.

Try mass producing tetras...

Oscars don't naturally live in aquaria or eat pellets and bubble eyed goldfish aren't either.

Best fishes

David

www....................com

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Thanks David,

Yeah, I guess when you really start to think hard about it, absolutely nothing we do is ethical and we have no right to domesticate any animal for our own enjoyment, no matter how kind-hearted we are about it.

How can prepping the feeder tank with salt at 3 ppt possibly save them all from underfiltration and ammonia poisoning? I thought dissolved salt created more ammonia as well? I do sneaky water changes when I can at work for them, so instead of 25% change once a week, they can get two or three 25 - 50% changes, but they still gasp at the surface and mass amounts of them die each day.

I'm pretty ignorant of fish breeding procedures, but I do know about the culling process, so I get that there are plenty of "ugly" leftover goldfish that people don't want as pets. What makes mass-producing certain tetras a much more difficult endeavor? Is it the fact that you can't just put a bunch into a pond for a year in some place like China and have hundreds of them reproduce without much effort?

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HAving a preditor fish myself ..my other forum ..is strongly against "feeder fish " of any kind ..they are mass produced and live in poor conditoins ..carring a "ton " of parasites external and internal ..Flukes for one which are a pain to kill as they live up to generations I strongly belive feeding feeders pose a risk (unless you raise your own and treat them yourself..it is still a risk IMO)..I had to train my puffer to eat frozan ,dead food ..even feeding earthworms from your outside garden poses a risk of unwanted toxins and disease..keeping a tank parasite and disease free is hard work ..certain steps are taken by using caution and q'ing a new fish and treating for flukes (as 95% or more DO have flukes)...and not cross contaminating tank to tank ...I know people that do this to keep there fish safe ...but then they plop a feeder in for lunch :blink: ..Hello am I missing somthing??

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Tetras do not breed in captivity, usually, is what I have read..Mostly, the tetras that you find at pet stores are from the wild..This is what I have read....They only breed in natural waters..besides, tetras are hard to keep, sensitive to pH and temperatures....I have personally never seen or heard of teteras reproducing in a tank..pardon me if I am wrong...but seriously they do not reproduce like guppies or mollies do..they dont...

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I have read in Aquarium Fish International that breeding zebra danios is "easy", but having never bred anything myself, I could not say for sure. I guess compared to breeding tetras, goldfish probably are much more simple and the more obvious choice for feeders.

Heidi, what's the predator forum you are on? I'd love to check it out as a source of information on feeder-alternative nutirition. Even though I don't have a predator fish myself, I too have a difficult time believing how so many people are so nonchalant about the state of their fish's food. I guess they probably don't think about it much. I'm sorry to say that I didn't start thinking about it much myself until that customer asked me about passing diseases along. *ashamed*

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When you get into the exotic predator area many people use feeder fish as part of that hobby is watching fish get eaten. (Piranha, gars, cichlids etc)

Serious hobbyists have dedicated feeder systems and treat for ich and flukes (salt and prazi) which isn't all that hard you just have to have the set up for it.

Many tetras are mass produced in captivity in florida and SE asia (neon tetras, lemons, black skirts, white skirts and all their died versions, etc etc.). There are many nicer tetras that still come from the wild but their markets are limited so there's no use in commercial breeding them.

Over all its still hard to beat the production that is achievable with goldfish at an inch a month.

My day job is working with zebrafish, they are easy to breed but they are not the fastest growing fish in the world and they don't get very big and need tropical conditions. Temperate species will usually win in the feeder market as you can do large mass spawnings and raise very large stocks all at once where as tropical tend to do smaller more frequent spawnings. Usually where zebras meet the feeder market is as tiny little fry for small predators or babies. I raised belonesox once and the fry were the hardest thing to keep fed. If they didn't have little feeders they would eat each other. At first they needed baby guppies and a lot more than I could raise for them. That's a fish that's not really worth the effort in my fish room.

Best fishes

David

www....................com

Edited by Ichthius
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Not to drag the topic off of goldies, but wouldn't it make sense to feed bait minnows (if you feed live at all) instead of goldfish? Minnows are more of a "natural" prey, pretty much all over. Wouldn't that make a little more sense?

I wouldn't live feed anyways, I'm just saying.

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Good question.

Goldfish are Chinese minnows, the cyprindids:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprinidae

Feeding a rosy red or an goldfish to an oscar is essentially the same thing...

Don't get me wrong, I don't usually feed my Frontosa colony feeders but if I'm raising a stock of home grown fish and have to cull I'd rather them go to the frontosas than euthanizing them and dumping them out in the garden.

Best fishes

David

www....................com

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I have read in Aquarium Fish International that breeding zebra danios is "easy", but having never bred anything myself, I could not say for sure. I guess compared to breeding tetras, goldfish probably are much more simple and the more obvious choice for feeders.

Heidi, what's the predator forum you are on? I'd love to check it out as a source of information on feeder-alternative nutirition. Even though I don't have a predator fish myself, I too have a difficult time believing how so many people are so nonchalant about the state of their fish's food. I guess they probably don't think about it much. I'm sorry to say that I didn't start thinking about it much myself until that customer asked me about passing diseases along. *ashamed*

it's the Puffer Forum .. :) ..it might even entice you to get a puffer :rofl

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I have read in Aquarium Fish International that breeding zebra danios is "easy", but having never bred anything myself, I could not say for sure. I guess compared to breeding tetras, goldfish probably are much more simple and the more obvious choice for feeders.

Heidi, what's the predator forum you are on? I'd love to check it out as a source of information on feeder-alternative nutirition. Even though I don't have a predator fish myself, I too have a difficult time believing how so many people are so nonchalant about the state of their fish's food. I guess they probably don't think about it much. I'm sorry to say that I didn't start thinking about it much myself until that customer asked me about passing diseases along. *ashamed*

it's the Puffer Forum .. :) ..it might even entice you to get a puffer :rofl

LOL, that wouldn't be hard to do, I love puffers, they are such adorable beasts!

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Rosey reds are just a color morph of the fathead minnow, a baitfish.

In the wild a predatory fish will eat appropriately sized native species. So an oscar for example may eat many types of tetras, many invertebrates, and even terrestrial species that get washed into the water.

Goldfish grow fast and are very easy to breed, especially in temperate regions (as mentioned). They are also thought of as feeder fish (like how they are thought of as bowl fish).

I am not sure how true the thiaminase idea is. I think it is a relatively common enzyme, not something unique to goldfish.

Yes, any time you transer a disease into a tank it can infect the fish in that tank. However, in general, for an illness to break out not only does the pathogen need to be present but the fish also need to be stressed. When not stressed their immune system is strong enough to deal with most pathogens. In addition, although ick may not stick around in the tank forever, there is generally always some sort of pathogen present. These are not sterile environments. So even if it is not ick, if the fish are stressed something is likely to take root and cause illness.

I have not seen it, but I have heard of people finding places that sell feeder tetras (but since they are more valuable as pets than feeders it is not a good idea for the store to sell them as feeders at the price of feeders).

My reasons for never feeding live foods are that they increase aggression, can introduce all sorts of pathogens, and are not nutritionally complete or balanced anyways. I have fed all my predators prepared foods for quite a while not, can't say always. For the past few years it has been NLS exclusively. The following species have been fed nothing but pellets, and perhaps a little frozen, while under my care (at home or work): oscars, jaguar cichlid, jack dempseys, peacock cichlids, bichirs, tiretrack eel, many catfish, snapping turtle, aquatic basking turtles of various species, crayfish, axolotls, newts, African butterfly fish, clown knives, arowanas, South American redtial catfish, tiger shovelnose, ropefish, spiney eels, black ghost knife fish, many other cichlids (everything we carry at work), and many others. There are very few species that simply refuse all sorts of prepared foods and require live food. The only one I can think of is the needlenose gar. This is in reference to freshwater, in saltwater effectively all the fish are wild caught and many require different diets, at least at first.

Thank you for checking out my blog. I appreciate it.

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And just so you guys know, all the stuff at nnnn is captive bred (according to them when I worked there). So if it is there it is captive bred. Almost all freshwater now are coming from big farms in Florida and somewhat Asia. I think they may have a few exceptions, but in general that is the case.

Things like tetras are not very easy to breed for most hobbyists, but on a farm it is not as big of a deal. The usual limitations are water quality to trigger breeding and culturing foods to feed the fry once they do breed.

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What is nnnn?

There are still tons of wild caught coming out of South America, a friend of mine is setting up an export station in Peru. I'm hoping to get to go build the holding system for him... will work for plane ticket and collecting trip ;)

Best fishes

David

www....................com

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What is nnnn?

There are still tons of wild caught coming out of South America, a friend of mine is setting up an export station in Peru. I'm hoping to get to go build the holding system for him... will work for plane ticket and collecting trip ;)

Best fishes

David

www....................com

Take pics when you go

:please

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I strongly dislike the idea of wild caught specimens, both fresh and saltwater, and I'm quite glad to hear that many popular aquarium fish are being successfully bred on farms. I'm trying to find out which fish my store offers are wild caught and which are captive bred, and stopping import on the wild-caught fish immediately.

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Most marine fish are not being bred at all in captivity yet, not to mention anything close to a rate high enough to supply the demand. ORA produces most that are, I think in total there are 50 or so species that have been bred commercially.

For freshwater most of the common stuff is captive bred. Most of the wild caught are so because they have either never been bred in captivity, or at least not commercially (or again not enough to supply the demand). I have heard they keep wild collecting cardinal tetras because they are simply so abundant in the wild. But nnnn has recently started carrying those as well. If they are actually captive bred then they may be much hardier than their wild caught counterparts (and therefore worth the $4 a pop since they are more likely to live in general and nnnn has a 14-day guarantee on all their fish).

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Guest jake n bake

i think there fed to oscars,piranhas and other carnivorious fish be cuz there many of them and cheap. I dont feed them to my oscars becuz their not healthy and not nutrisous. Also som people say "it natural". Not even close, oscars and piranhas live in South America and goldfish live in china. In south america in the rivers, fish have a chance to swim away but piranha owners have tanks (stuck between a wall and a piranha). And finally its also cruel to goldfish becuz piranhas like warmer temperatures, there throwing lets say 18 degrees Celsius goldie into a 28 degrees celsius sauna with piranhas. Bloodworms, shrimp pellets, and even regular flakes are good. Please no goldies, not worth it and not nutrisous anyways so please, save a life by not buying fish as feeders nex time your at the store. Tyvm

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Are you keeping the pea puffers or something larger?

Best fishes

David

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I have an Abei Puffer named Steven AKA Satan ...they are about 4" to 6" ..they are on the small side as far as puffers go ...but are known to be more on the aggressive side ..he has attacked my hubby a few times ..fingers look real good to him I guess :)

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I strongly dislike the idea of wild caught specimens, both fresh and saltwater, and I'm quite glad to hear that many popular aquarium fish are being successfully bred on farms. I'm trying to find out which fish my store offers are wild caught and which are captive bred, and stopping import on the wild-caught fish immediately.

Most Puffers are caught wild ....sad I know ..They also do not breed well or most likly never in captivety (mind you there is all sorts of different Puffers )..that need fresh to brackish to full Marine thtoughout there lives ...most pet stores local herre will not carry them for that reason ..my Abei is Strictly fresh (thank goodness) ..a green Spotted needs to steart fresh and work it's way up tp marine throughout it's life ..very tricky to start breeding thse guys in perfect conditions when you do not know the age or what they are use to :(

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Captive salt is making progress but it's still cheaper to pay someone in the South Pacific to collect fish and if done sustainable in a quality of quantity method wild collection can continue.

It's great to see ORA filling come of the common niches but one thing about most hobbyists want the newest rarest coolest fish that no one else has. That's what keeps them coming back to the stores weekly to look over the new shipment like a bunch of junkies looking for a fix.

About 6 years a go I took a live foods course at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Ft Pierce FL. That's where ORA is, I got to check some of their operations out but they were very hush hush about certain areas as I'm sure they had techniques they didn't want getting out.

The people who taught the class are the ones who produce the conchs that ORA sells.

Best fishes

David

www....................com

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We had an oscar for 10 years. The first couple of years we did feed it "feeder" fish we were very careful as well as lucky. But after a while he got to where he would not touch them. So he was on a cicklid(sp) diet pellets for the last 8 years. He was still a joy to watch and he would eat right out of my husbands hand. He was 16 inches long when we re-homed him with someone that had a 120 gallon tank for him.

The only reason oscars do not eat goldfish is cause there are none in the wild where they come from. But it is still natural for oscars to eat fish that are smaller then they are.

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