Top 10 Live Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish


Top 10 Live Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish

If you are looking for the very best fish food to feed your aquarium animals, most veteran fishkeepers will agree there is nothing that tops live foods. Premium food has many benefits and is very similar to what fish eat in the wild. Fish will eat the food as it moves, which is particularly useful for those who are growing or underweight and require more nutrients. Plus, hunting provides both physical and mental enrichment for your aquarium animals and allows you to see interesting behaviors that might not appear when feeding flakes. Finally, live foods are one of the fastest ways to condition your fish for breeding. Discover these 10 most popular live foods, and how you can culture them at home.

1. Baby Brine Shrimp

Peacock gudgeon fry eating baby brine shrimp

Baby brine shrimp is the best option for raising fish babies or encouraging fish to spawn. These tiny, saltwater crustaceans are born with extremely nutritious yolk sacs full of healthy fats. If you want to hatch them yourself, soak the brine shrimp eggs in warm salt water. This should take between 18 and 36 hours (or 23-28 hours) depending on how hot your water is. If you notice hundreds of tiny, pink dots floating around in your brine shrimp hatchery, turn on the light and attract them. Then, separate their eggs from their shells by shining a light at the base. You can read the complete article to find out our exact method for hatching brine shrimp.

2. Snails

Malaysian trumpet snails

Puffers, loaches, and larger South American-cichlids such as puffers, love snails. For pufferfish, the snail shells help to grind down their ever-growing teeth so they won’t get too long. You can keep a steady supply of these aquatic gastropods by setting up an aquarium or tub that is separate from your main tank. They require hard water that is higher in pH and GH to avoid developing holes in their shells. If you have hard water like us, we use 1-2 inches (3-3-5 cm) of crushed Coral as a substrate. We then give mineral supplements such Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium as needed. Next, we feed Pleco Banquet Blocks or Nano Banquet Food Blocks to our fish food high in calcium. For more information, learn about the top 7 freshwater snails.

3. Vinegar Eels

Egg-scattering fish like tetras and rainbowfish often produce tiny fry that are too small for regular fry. Vinegar eels, which are harmless white roundworms, are easy to cultivate and are great for feeding babies until they can eat baby brine shrimp. Simply fill a wine or other long-necked bottle with 50% apple cider vinegar, 50% dechlorinated water, and a few slices of apple. After the vinegar eels have reproduced sufficiently, you can harvest them by placing some filter floss and dechlorinated waters into the neck of a bottle. This will allow the vinegar eels to swim out of vinegar into the freshwater. Next, use a pipette for removing some vinegar eels. Follow our step-by–step instructions to create your own vinegar-eel culture.

4. Micro Worms

Kribensis fry eating microworms

Banana worms, walter worms, and micro worms are also nematodes or roundworms used as live fish food. They are slightly bigger than vinegar eels but still smaller than baby brine shrimp and therefore can be fed to tiny fry. We like to start our cultures in small plastic containers with instant mashed potatoes. Cut a breathing hole in the plastic container’s lid and stuff it with filter floss to prevent unwanted pests from entering. To collect them, simply run your finger along any sides of the tub that microworms have reached and then place your finger in the tank. For more information, see this tutorial.

5. Daphnia

These aquatic crustaceans measure approximately 1-5 millimeters in length and are a great food source for small- to medium-sized fish. They breed quite rapidly, so to keep the water parameters stable and prevent the population from crashing, we recommend keeping them in as much water as possible. Old tank water, or aged, chlorinated water is better for water changes as they are sensitive to chlorine. Ideal reproduction requires a long exposure of light and cooler temperatures than 68degF (20degC). Daphnia can be fed active dry yeast, green or spirulina powder whenever the water is clear. They are easily harvested by slowly scooping a fine-meshed aquarium net through the water. Learn more in our article about culturing daphnia.

6. Infusoria

What are the most common wild foods for newborn fish? Microorganisms like protozoans and microalgae are the most common. Many fish breeders create their own freshwater plankton cultures (also known as infusoria), to feed tiny fry. There are many methods, but one of the most popular is to fill a large jar with a few quarts (or liters) of old tank water and squeeze in some mulm from your filter media. To feed the infusoria, drop a 1-inch (3-cm) section of banana peel. Warm the water to 78-80degF (26-25degC) for faster results. You should see tiny, moving specks in a matter of days. If the water changes from cloudy to clear, the infusoria will have finished eating all the food that you provided and are ready for harvesting. Suck out some of the water with a pipette and feed them directly to your baby fry.

7. Blackworms

Because live blackworms sink to the ground and are great for bottom dwellers, many breeders consider them the best way to condition corydoras catfish. They can be challenging to propagate at home, so in the United States, farms grow large-scale cultures of California blackworms in man-made ponds. You can usually purchase blackworms either from your local fish store or online directly from the farms. When you receive them, pour out the blackworms into a fine-meshed fish net and rinse them thoroughly with dechlorinated water chilled to 40-55degF (4-13degC). To make sure they are not too crowded, keep them in a wide, shallow container so that the worms are not piled on top of each other more than 0.5 inches high (1.3 cm). The blackworms should be covered with cold, chlorinated water. You can keep your worms healthy until you feed them fish by repeating this process every day.

8. Grindal Worms and White Worms

Once your fish fry have become proficient at handling micro worms and vinegar eels, you can then move on to Grindal and finally white worms. To get rid of mites and other pests, sterilize the substrate (e.g. organic potting soil or peat moss) To heat the dirt, you can either use an oven for 30 minutes at 180-200degF/82-93degC or moisten it and microwave it in 90 second intervals until it reaches 180-220degF/82-93degC.

Cover the substrate with a tub or plastic container and let it cool. If necessary, add some dechlorinated water so that it is moistened further. After cooling, add starter worm culture, food (e.g. bread and yogurt, oatmeal instant mashed potatoes, fish food) to the substrate’s surface. Place a deli cup lid on top of the food. Then cut a breathing hole in the plastic container’s lid and adhere a piece of fabric to cover the hole and prevent pests from entering. The lid should be placed on the plastic container.

Grindal worms do well in room temperatures of 70-75degF (21-24degC), whereas white worms must be stored around 55degF (13degC) in a cool basement or wine chiller. To harvest them, remove the deli cup lid on top of the food, wipe off some worms with your finger, and dip them in a small cup of water to rinse them before feeding your fish.

9. Bugs


Insects are an important part of many fishes’ natural diets. The larvae and exoskeletons of insect insects provide roughage that aids in fish digestion. You can buy feeder insects – like crickets, dubia roaches, and mealworms – from reptile stores, and some people even raise their own dubia roach colonies. Red wigglers, earthworms and other species are available in certain pet shops and bait shops. They can also be cultured at home.

Set up a 5-gallon bucket filled with dechlorinated drinking water outside to capture wild insects without the risk of introducing parasites. Then wait for the eggs to hatch.

Use a fine-meshed net to scoop up mosquito larvae from the water surface, and make sure to harvest every day or else they will develop into adult mosquitos.

10. Live Fish

We personally do not sell feeder fish at Aquarium Co-Op because they have a higher likelihood of spreading disease to your aquarium and most people do not bother quarantining feeder fish. Plus, goldfish and minnows contain high levels of thiaminase and, when consumed in large amounts, can prevent your predator fish from getting enough thiamin (or vitamin B1) and cause all sorts of health issues. The key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies is to give your fish a variety of food and not just one type.

That being said, some hobbyists raise their own feeder fish at home to minimize the risk of infection. For example, livebearers (or fish that bear live young) reproduce very quickly, so removing some of the offspring will help prevent the colony from getting too big. To ensure the breeding of cherry shrimps, it is possible to remove the less colorful individuals. This will allow the line to improve in quality. Feeding live fish or invertebrates is not for everyone, but it is a natural part of a predator’s life.

Most live cultures can be purchased online or from local hobbyists, so find out which foods are well-suited for your fish and give it a try. It is a good idea to always keep extra cultures on hand in case one culture fails. We wish you all the best on your live food adventure. Also, make sure to see our tutorial for baby brine shrimp, which is our favorite live food.