Fish farmers sometimes in the process of trying to minimize cost of production starve their fishes thinking it’s a better way to reduce the cost of purchasing large quanities of fish feed without knowing that they are indirectly affecting their fishes and losing more money in the process.
Then as a consultant, you start hearing questions like this from some of your clients: Please, For how long can my fishes be starved before they start showing negative reactions? … Smiles!
Well, Starving fish for a day is enough to make them start showing negative reactions. Since catfish for example do feed on one another, starving them will make them exhibit cannibalism more readily.
Also, they lose weight very rapidly if starved. So, starving should be avoided at all cost. Get their feed always ready and serve them at the appropriate time.
How To Tell If Your Fishes are Hungry
Here are some common signs;
- Your fish is digging around the substrate (searching for food).
- Waiting and the top of the aquarium (for feeding time).
- Behaviour changes (aggression).
- Noticeable weight/size changes.
- Slow or sluggish behaviour.
Signs of Underfed / Hungry Fishes
1) If you feed your fish once per day regularly, or even 2 or 3 times per day, if you miss the regular schedule, you can be sure that they are hungry. No, in the wild fish do not usually eat every single day. They eat when they catch food. However, at home, your fish get used to a certain feeding schedule, so missing it will definitely mean the fish are hungry.
2) If your fish are swimming in areas they don’t usually visit, they may be looking for food. If your fish are digging around in the substrate, clearly searching for something, chances are that they are hungry. Fish that go to scavenge, but don’t usually scavenge, or go inspect the top of the aquarium, something they wouldn’t usually do, are both indications of hunger.
3) If your fish is smaller, particular in weight and overall dimensions than that specific type of fish should be, it could be a sign of underfeeding. However, it could also mean that your fish is just small for its type.
4) If your fish is extremely aggressive and very quick to gobble down food once you feed it, you can be sure that it is very hungry. Yes, fish do feed quickly, but if you notice that your fish is or making an extra effort to eat as much as possible in record time, chances are that it has been hungry for a while.
5) If the fish is sluggish or slow, it might be a sign that you have not been feeding it enough for quite a while.
6) Some fish might harass or attack other fish if they are hungry, but this is hard to judge as there can be many reasons for aggression.
Underfeeding and Overfeeding your Fishes… Maintaining the Balance!
As most fish keepers know, feeding time is one of the best times; we all love to feed our fish because it’s one of the only ways in which they interact with us! It’s great to see them notice our approach and come rushing to the side of the tank to be fed…but it’s not so great if they begin to suffer because we’ve been too generous with the snacks!
Aquarium fish will generally do very well if fed once a day… twice if you’re mean with your portions! Aquarium fish also thrive on a little positive neglect…that means letting them go hungry for a day or even two days a week.
This is good for them because they certainly don’t find food with such ease in the wild and they will still thrive if they don’t dine on daily basis and also because it helps with water quality when there isn’t too much food left floating around or rotting at the bottom.
A good rule of thumb when working out how much food to offer your fish is to see what they can dispose of per minute. If they finish all you offer in under a minute then you are giving the right amount of food. If it’s taking more than a minute then you’re definitely offering too much food.
It is certainly more preferable to your fish to be slightly underfed than overfed. Overfeeding results in all kinds of issues…include the following!
- High Ammonia and nitrates in the water; can cause disease and death
- Fin rot; this is a nasty condition where poor water conditions cause the fins of the fish to deteriorate and it can be fatal if left untreated
- Fatty liver due to an imbalanced diet; usually fatal
- Mold and fungal infections; can be fatal
- Clogged up filters
None of these conditions will help your fish to thrive and some will kill them so ensure that you are feeding your fish the correct amount of food and make sure it is of good quality. If you notice uneaten food lying around in your tank, fish it out and re-examine both the amounts you are offering in addition to how often.
Another common issue with fish is too many people taking care of them! Children and visitors should be educated as to what will happen if the fish are overfed and if your children would like to be involved in feeding, ensure that they are well supervised.
In terms of the types of food which your fish should be offered, it’s a good idea to vary the diet as much as possible. Dried food should be changed around two or three times weekly… so if you can, have a variety in stock and switch things around every few days.
Supplement a diet of dry food with some frozen fish food at least once a week such as shrimp or bloodworms; this will ensure that your fish will take as much nutrition as possible from a good variety of foods.
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