‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’
As anyone schooled in the culinary arts will tell you, preparing food for human consumption can be an exquisitely delicate process. Around the world the most common method used for processing food for the table is heat; and in this regard, heat can serve as either a useful tool—or a destructive force.
Every one of us has enjoyed the experience of sitting down to a well-cooked meal: not only does it look, smell, and taste good, but it also retains maximum nutritional value. Whereas overcooking a meal renders it unappetizing, if not downright inedible! And it is not just the taste, texture, and appearance of the food that suffer from the too-enthusiastic application of heat; more importantly, the vitamins and other key nutrients contained in the food will also undergo a drastic diminishment.
This same principle applies to the preparation of the most common commercial feed for aquarium fish: flake food.
Fish Nutrition: The Basics
Out in the wild, the fish inhabiting the world’s lakes, rivers, seas, and oceans do not rely on some Master Aquarist to furnish them with a perfectly balanced diet, appropriate to their species, on a strict schedule. Fending for themselves, most manage to seek and find exactly the food required to meet at least their most basic nutritional needs and to stave off starvation.
Within the constrained, artificial ecosystem of an aquarium tank, however, it is impossible to replicate precisely what Nature provides effortlessly. To keep their fish healthy and happy, diligent aquarists must turn to appropriate substitutes that mimic as near as possible a “natural” diet for their fish. And when it comes to fish food—as with the makeup of the aquarium water itself—it all boils down to simple chemistry.
Fish do not need a great deal of carbohydrates, fiber, or fat in their diet. Even the type of fat they ingest matters: polyunsaturated fats (such as are found in brine shrimp) are best. Too much in the way of carbs can actually hinder a fish’s growth. And a little fiber in the diet goes a long way in helping a fish’s digestion—especially for carnivores, which can tolerate much less of it than herbivores.
The most vital components of an aquarium fish’s diet should include:
- Minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, which promote healthy bones, teeth, and scales;
- Protein to sustain a fish’s growth and general health; and
- Vitamins—in particular vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, H, and K, among others—which together play a vital role in digestion, metabolism, bone growth, blood formation, breeding, stress-reduction, the prevention of disease, and the strengthening of the immune system.
It cannot be emphasized enough how important vitamins are to a fish’s overall health. The problem is that while the molecules making up minerals and proteins are relatively stable, vitamin molecules are fragile things, easily destroyed by heat, light, and prolonged exposure to air.
Fish Food Options
In an ideal world, an aquarist would feed his or her fish only what they might naturally find and eat in the wild. But this scenario would prove not only expensive and inconvenient, but possibly dangerous to your fish as well. For example, live tubifex worms are both nutritious and delicious to fish; but, depending on the source, you also run the risk of introducing harmful bacterial or parasitical organisms into your tank.
Similarly, newly hatched brine shrimp are easily digestible and remain an excellent source of vitamins and other nutrients, especially for baby fish; but then again, they can be relatively pricey, and you need to go to the trouble of hatching the artemia eggs in a separate container before feeding them to your fish.
A good alternative to live feed is giving your fish frozen fish foods (such as blood worms, brine shrimp, krill, kelp, algae, etc.). The freezing process preserves both nutrients and flavor very well. Depending on your needs, however, the cost of these frozen products can quickly add up.
It is always a good practice to vary your fishes’ diet from time to time with some of the aforementioned feeding options. After all, humans would get bored with even filet mignon if we were forced to eat it every day! Yet, for the reasons stated above, it is hard to beat fish flakes as a staple, daily diet for your aquarium fish—at least in terms of cost, convenience, and nutritional value.
Fish Food Flakes: A Better Approach
And why not? After all, for many decades aquarists of all skill levels have been buying aquarium flake food to promote growth, enhance color, and maintain the health and vigor of their fish, with seemingly satisfactory results. But bear in mind that not all fish flakes are created equal.
The one obvious drawback to conventional aquarium flake foods brings us back to chemistry: the process of preparing it commercially involves subjecting the raw ingredients to contact temperatures of around 300°F. This amount of heat inevitably obliterates a certain percentage of vitamin molecules, and renders some heat-labile components into the nutritional equivalent of cardboard. This is not to say that conventional flake food is inherently bad; rather, the hot-cooking process simply decreases the potency of the flavor and nutritional value of the raw ingredients.
But there is another way! At Brine Shrimp Direct, our Aquanix Premium Fish Food Flake product employs a novel Cool Cooking Methodology that gently dries select ingredients at the exceptionally low temperature of 135°F, delivering a fish food with a superior texture, flavor, and nutrient payload. In addition, a proprietary attractant used in all our Aquanix Cool Flakes ignites an immediate feeding response in fish. Yet Aquanix contains no artificial colors or preservatives.
Compared to pelleting, extrusion, and conventional flaking processes, drying at lower temperature ensures better retention of essential vitamins, lipids, flavorants, and amino acids, while maintaining the integrity of marine proteins and attractants. It even preserves the viability of beneficial bacteria, which facilitate the conversion of fish waste and uneaten food into harmless microbial biomass and carbon dioxide. So aquarists will see an improvement in their water quality as well.
Our process also allows us to use fewer fillers and binding ingredients—and instead concentrate on what fish really like! The result is a full-bodied, water-stable fish food flake diet that is packed with high-quality, nutrition-rich ingredients sourced from around the world.
So next time you go shopping for aquarium fish food, treat your finny friends to a “night on the town”—with Aquanix Premium Flake. Think of it as the difference between eating lunch at a high school cafeteria versus feasting at a 3-star Michelin-rated gourmet restaurant. Your fish will thank you!
What’s on the Aquanix Menu
This premium flake diet features a combination of fresh-frozen mysis shrimp with high-quality marine proteins, garlic, high-DHA marine oil (SELCO), color enhancers (astaxanthin), and vitamin C. The formulation is suitable for both marine and freshwater species of aquarium fish.
Ingredients: Mysis shrimp, marine fish protein, torula yeast, brewer’s yeast, soy protein, egg, wheat gluten, casein, krill, spirulina, garlic, lecithin, SELCO DHA oil, paracoccus, vitamin and mineral premix, choline, vitamin C, carophyll.
Made with clean, fresh Canadian nightcrawlers (Lumbricidae sp.), Cool Earth is formulated as a premium maturation diet for freshwater fish, with natural sources of carotenoids and astaxanthin.
Ingredients: Yeast and yeast extracts, soy, egg, wheat gluten, earthworm, casein, krill meal, kelp (rockweed), spirulina, paracoccus, insect meal, lecithin, carophyll, vitamin and mineral premix, stabilized vitamin C, beneficial bacteria.
A favorite of professional breeders, Cool Color is ideal for both carnivorous and omnivorous freshwater fish, including cichlids, angels, and more aggressive omnivores. It is the closest thing to natural prey in flake form you can find on the market. Your fish will go wild! Made with generous amounts of fresh-frozen brine shrimp—a mainstay of marine aquaculture—Cool Color also contains natural paracoccus and carophyll to further enhance the natural colors of your fish.
The nutritional advantages do not end there. We fortify the mix with de-shelled artemia to create a diet with complex proteins and important enzymes that are found in your fish’s natural diet and that aid in digestion. To this we add a high-quality marine fish oil to provide your fish with an excellent source of essential fatty acids.
A 2% inclusion rate of spirulina compliments an already great amalgamation of natural sources of carotenoids and other pigments that maintain vibrant colors in your fish. The addition of spirulina is also seen as a putative immuno-stimulant to increase disease resistance in captive fish.
Ingredients: Fresh-frozen brine shrimp, fish protein hydrolysate, soy, yeast protein, wheat gluten, torula, egg, wheat flour, casein, marine plankton, lecithin, spirulina, paracoccus, fresh-frozen Arctic copepods, shell-free artemia, hi-allicin garlic, marine fish oil, mineral mix, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beneficial bacteria, choline, carophyll, niacin, riboflavin (B2), D-pantothenic acid, thiamine (B1), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid, menadione (K3), biotin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin E.
Formulated for both marine and freshwater fish, Cool Garlic contains allicin, a chemical compound that gives garlic its distinctive odor. A putative antimicrobial and antiviral agent used by fish breeders for centuries to optimize the health of captive fish, garlic extract has been shown to be effective in the prevention of marine ich (or “white spot disease”). This specially prepared flake can be used intermittently with other feeds as a prophylactic measure. It is well-suited for herbivorous and carnivorous fish.
Cool Garlic also contains Arthrospira platensis (blue-green algae) and stabilized vitamin C—which have both been shown to act as immunomodulators in fish feed trials. Paracoccus sp. bacteria (a source of astaxanthin) rounds out the key health-related compounds within a balanced matrix of marine, plant, and terrestrial proteins.
Ingredients: Highly digestible marine fish hydrolysate, soy, yeast and yeast extracts, egg, wheat gluten, casein, garlic, frozen mysis, spirulina, kelp (rockweed), lecithin, paracoccus, marine fish oil, vitamin and mineral premix, carophyll, stabilized Vitamin C, and beneficial bacteria.
A soft-bodied, naturally green, leaf-like flake, Cool Green is formulated for the diet needs of both marine and freshwater species of herbivorous and omnivorous fish. It provides plant-eating fish with a wide array of plant proteins and natural color-enhancing compounds (such as astaxanthin) derived from spirulina (Arthrospira platensis), kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum), Chlorella spp., Schizochytrium limacinum, Paracoccus carotinifaciens, and garlic.
Ingredients: Yeast, soy, phytoplankton (spirulina and kelp), egg, casein, wheat gluten, wheat flour, paracoccus, insect meal, chlorella, garlic, schizochytrium, carophyll, fresh-frozen daphnia, phospholipids, marine fish oil, vitamin and mineral premix, beneficial bacteria.
Derived from fresh-frozen and high-quality ingredients like Pacific krill and North Sea Arctic copepods, the protein-rich ingredients comprising our popular Cool Cichlid Flake are gently dried so that the nutritional value and natural flavorants, remain largely intact from start to finish, igniting the powerful feeding instinct in both aquarium-kept and wild fish. Our proprietary cool cooking methodology results in a full-bodied, water-stable flake that won’t fall apart—making it a great choice for tank busters!
Ingredients: Fish hydrolysate, fresh-frozen zooplankton, yeast, soy, egg, casein, gluten, krill, fresh-frozen Arctic copepods, spirulina, phospholipids, marine fish oil, paracoccus, stabilized vitamin C, vitamin and mineral premix.
A robust, full-bodied flake that can be ground up and used for small and medium-sized fish, Cool Mix is a careful blend of five of our most popular Aquanix formulations:
- DHA-enhanced Cool Mysis
- Krill-rich Cool Cichlid
- Cool Color, a brine shrimp-backed, color-enhancing formula with over 600 ppm astaxanthin
- Cool Garlic, containing proven immunomodulators and the health benefits of allicin
- Cool Green, made with spirulina, kelp, chlorella, and schizochytrium
This powerful blend of marine and plant-based protein formulations make Cool Mix a widely accepted, multi-faceted diet suitable for both freshwater and marine community tanks.
With Aquanix Flake, all the care, time, and money that our customers spend on their show and reef tanks will be equaled by the pride that we at Brine Shrimp Direct take in our product. We’re confident that you’ll see the added value in your fish, in their health, and in their appearance!