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Agar agar...failed?


Johnnyonthespot

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I decided to try to make a batch of food with agar agar, since my fish are prone to excessive gulping -> floating. The recipe was essential .75 cups of food, .75 cups of water, and 1.5 TBSP of agar agar. I boiled .5 cups of the water (the rest was used for blending), mixed in the AA, dissolved it mostly then mixed in the food at a reduced heat while mixing for about 4 minutes. I refrigerated it, sliced it, then moved it to the freezer.

I'm finding a few things that are making me uneasy and worried. First off, the consistency is less firm than it is just, flakey. Not that it isn't moist, it's plenty moist, because when I cut it it leaves a wet spot. When I put it in the tank, it doesn't hold together too well and a few flakes end up breaking off typically. I'm also finding the "cubes" I cut out don't cut straight and are very rough.

My biggest problem is with feeding. They seem to have a hard time chewing it. Gabby (smaller one) can't get much in, and sometimes after a little while she spits it out (like minutes), then re-eats it. I can't cut the chunks too small because they just...break it. I'm also a little worried that this long chewing time makes them eat less, because once they're done eating, they dig around more obsessively than normal for more food (or so it seems). Does that make any sense, or do they pretty much eat what they can and the chewiness really doesn't matter?

Did I screw up this batch or is this normal? Should I be worried? Did I just not add enough AA? I was worried about over-saturating it, but now I'm worried it's just....not a good quality. Thanks in advance :)

Edited by JohnnyOnTheSpot
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A couple of points:

1. The agar needs to be melted on high heat, in water, first. This is crucial.

2. Once you add everything, keep it on high heat and stir for a minute or so before reducing it to medium. Then, you can stir for a few more minutes before removing it from heat and pour.

3. The consistency of the food should be about the same as a nice shake...thick, but you can still pour it.

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I might make a new gel today. If I do I will film it. Lots of people seem to get lost with making the gel with agar which is so simple! I think the boiling and mixing is sometimes being underestimated.

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Thanks for the replies, gonna try and tackle everything.

I always thought the food to water ratio should be 1:1. Is this wrong?

I thought I melted it on a high heat...it was boiling. How would I know if I messed it up? I used flakes, btw.

So what should I do? Make a new batch? Is what I'm feeding them now not good?

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I'm going to explain myself a little better, and hopefully my flaw in reasoning will come out. I use 1:1 for a few reasons. First, I read it somewhere, possibly here, don't remember. Second, I make a small batch because I'm feeding two small fish. I end up adding about 1/4th to the food to be able to blend it, otherwise it ends up looking like a chopped salad. I find to get it very fine and liquidy, I need to add water. Then, I still have to boil some, and anything less than .5 cups is just silly to try and boil, I'd probably lose half of the water before I got the AA in.

What part of that is wrong? Is 1:1 just a problem? My consistency I aim for?

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I've never seen a 1:1 ration for gel foods. I just add enough water to melt the binder (gelatine or agar agar, whichever you choose). I'll add a little more water if the blended food mixture seems extremely thick, but usually the 1/2 cup or so mixed with the binder is enough liquid.

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OK...try this recipe and go from there so that you know what sort of consistency works (for me)

1 can low sodium tuna

2 jars baby food peas (8 ounces total)

This you puree.

2 tablespoons of agar agar in 3/4 cup water. Boil water, then add agar to melt. Then add the puree. Stir slowly after that until mixture comes to a boil again. Then, turn heat down to medium. Stir for another minute or two. Remove from heat.

After a few more minutes, you can add crushed up vitamins and probiotics (pre-dissolved in a little bit of water) and stir slowly to mix well. Then you can pour in a pan and let cool.

It should solidify within 15 minutes, but won't complete the process for a few hours. After about an hour, you can stick it in the fridge.

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I've heard negative things about the baby food, like that you lose a lot of the nutrients in it. I've also never used tuna, only shrimp. The recipe I was using was this:

About a 1/2 cup of spinach and peas, 3 shrimp, slice of pepper, a baby carrot, TSP of paprika, clove of garlic, scoop of freeze dried blood worms, some multivitamin and acidophillus. I picked the ingredients I used for multiple reasons after some research, and I'm pretty happy with those.

I'd be willing to swap the shrimp with tuna, and anything aside from the peas I'd be willing to replace really as I don't know what's best.

I'm absolutely horrid with measurements, what does the food to water ratio end up being roughly? Would I be able to use the baby food as my liquid and puree everything with that? Do I even need to puree it into a liquid, or just a ton of small chunks?

I hope what I'm asking makes sense lol.

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I had some issues with this! I've been using vegetarian gelatine (Dr Oetker vege-gel I think) which is powdered rather than using flakes you need to melt. I've always made gel food one small batch at a time, pouring it into an icecube tray to make 12 individual 'chunks'.

I usually cook whatever veg I'm using, then blend it up (adding tinned fish if I'm doing a fishy one) and use a measuring jug to get about 150ml of puree to 1/2 sachet of gelatine. It's difficult to say how much veg that actually needs .. I just got there with trial and error and now I know roughly how much of what to do by eye!

When using vege gel, I found I needed more puree, and it needed to be wetter. So maybe 200ml puree and 50ml water (I use the water the veg has cooked in), which then goes in the pan. Once it's getting hot, stir in the vege gel and get it boiling/simmering for a good few minutes.

I found once it starts to cool, it sets very quickly, so for filling up the trays I was putting the pan on and off the heat to keep it mobile.

I guess that's probably not all that helpful when in comes to melting agar and such, but just wanted to throw in another option :P

Ooh and another thing - the first batch of gel food I made with vege gel was inedible! I initally tried 1 sachet of gelatine per batch of food, which was way too much. The fish chewed on it for ages and just spat it out. Less is more!

Edited by viking_snail
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Join the club, Johnny. I've used an entire bag of agar in 4 or 5 batches of food, and it has never gelled. I've melted the agar before adding the puree, I've pureed and then added the water and cooked, I've cooked it longer, I've added more water, I've added more agar, I've tried different recipes, and I can't think or anything else to do. I get something with the texture of cream of wheat that disintegrates in the tank water.

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Join the club, Johnny. I've used an entire bag of agar in 4 or 5 batches of food, and it has never gelled. I've melted the agar before adding the puree, I've pureed and then added the water and cooked, I've cooked it longer, I've added more water, I've added more agar, I've tried different recipes, and I can't think or anything else to do. I get something with the texture of cream of wheat that disintegrates in the tank water.

This one I can hope to solve. If you are having this issue, then it sounds like your mixture doesn't have quite enough agar, shakaho. I usually do 1 TABLESPOON per cup (final) of food. If I have to melt down more than two tablespoons of agar, I use at least a cup of water to do that for a couple of minutes.

Edited by dnalex
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That's what I used, Alex. I can't believe that's there's something wrong with the agar I bought, but I can't think of any other reason. It's not like it gels weakly, it's just mush.

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I use 1.5 TEASPOONS of powder agar per 1cup. When it doesn't set it is because there isn't enough water in it. I think the agar only binds to the water. I also cook the entire mixture, boiling it all for 3minutes. I don't melt the agar separately.

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I've heard negative things about the baby food, like that you lose a lot of the nutrients in it. I've also never used tuna, only shrimp. The recipe I was using was this:

About a 1/2 cup of spinach and peas, 3 shrimp, slice of pepper, a baby carrot, TSP of paprika, clove of garlic, scoop of freeze dried blood worms, some multivitamin and acidophillus. I picked the ingredients I used for multiple reasons after some research, and I'm pretty happy with those.

I'd be willing to swap the shrimp with tuna, and anything aside from the peas I'd be willing to replace really as I don't know what's best.

I'm absolutely horrid with measurements, what does the food to water ratio end up being roughly? Would I be able to use the baby food as my liquid and puree everything with that? Do I even need to puree it into a liquid, or just a ton of small chunks?

I hope what I'm asking makes sense lol.

I'm bumping this in hope of specific replies. There's a lot of great information in here, just still concerned about baby food, the ratio, consistency of the food, etc, mentioned here. Thanks for the help so far!

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Ok, sounds good, thank you!

I'm actually getting really worried about this batch. Gabby is back to bottom sitting fairly frequently, no matter how much she seems to eat, and both of them just have obviously less energy. This will sound stupid, but could the lack of energy be cause by OVER eating, and them just feeling very full? Gabby also seems to be breathing heavily, which freaks me out.

Their poops are normal and the eat fine, just takes them forever to chew. Based on the information I've provided, where did I seemingly go wrong?

I have a lot of questions I'm hoping to resolve before I make a new batch on Friday.

-Would the assumed fatigue of my fish be caused by under eating or over eating? They dig feverishly after the morning feeding, but I just fed them and now they're kind of moping around. Gabby is on the bottom a lot and Bernie is just drifting (did hover just above the bottom for a minute or so).

-What ratio should I aim for, food:water?

-The food crumbs a lot when it enters the water, still maintaining I'd say 90% of it's integrity. Is this normal when using AA or did I screw up?

-Is baby food a good source of the nutrients typically provided by peas, and would that allow me to puree my food (replacing water)?

I'm really concerned I screwed up my fish. They're behaving differently and the only new element has been the change in food. I didn't change the recipe at all, except not having a baby carrot to throw in, aside from replacing gel with AA. I'm just really worried and don't know what I should do.

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As you know, I am a huge fan of agar, but I don't think that gelatin is necessarily bad, at all. I went down the agar road because I had goldfish that were not liking the gelatin too much. If your fish do well with your previous gelatin-based gel food, I would not change it :)

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Well the reason I switched is because they obsessively gulp, and I was hoping the AA would tame that. Even if I do make a new gel batch, I'm still concerned with my recipe, in particular the ratio I'm asking about and the usage of baby food.

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I don't think the agar will fix the gulping, to be honest. As for using baby food, I use it for everything lol because I am lazy and don't want to puree up fresh veggies. Any vegetable baby food is fine :)

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I didn't think it'd help gulping, I was just trying ANYTHING to maybe stop what makes them want to gulp, or at least would alleviate their buoyancy issues.

Ok, say I use the baby food. What would you make the food to water ratio? Hahaha I just don't know what the ratio should be!

Edited by JohnnyOnTheSpot
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