Chili Peppers in Fish Food? What?
A while back, I picked up some Aqueon Tropical Flake Food and saw “Chili Powder” as an ingredient. Usually, Chili Powder is a crushed powder form of a red Chili Pepper. The most commonly used pepper for Chili Powder is Cayenne Pepper.
Wait a second, isn’t Cayenne a hot pepper? Yes, it is, and a whole Cayenne Pepper ranks at about 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This heat rating means is that a pepper ranked as 50,000 SHU needs 50,000 parts of water to dilute 1 part pepper (Capsaicin). Cayenne Peppers are hot, but the world’s hottest pepper ranks in at 2,500,000 SHU.
If you can’t tell, I am what you would call a “Chili Head,” because I love really hot, hot sauces. So, when I saw Chili Powder in my fish food, I started to wonder why it was in there. I started thinking about how Chili Peppers are beneficial to me, a human. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in Chili Peppers, and Capsaicin is what gives Chili Peppers their heat. Although there is no hard evidence to back this up, it is believed that Capsaicin raises your metabolism. It is believed that since high levels of Capsaicin can make you sweat, it raises your metabolism for the time it is active.
So why is Chili Pepper in certain fish foods? I wouldn’t think Chili Peppers would be there to raise the metabolism of your fish. Fish are constantly working out, since they are forever swimming. I also started to think, well, Chili Peppers taste good. Could it be an attractant to get the fish to eat, like garlic does? I mean, I wouldn’t think fish in the wild would have any access to Chili Peppers, since peppers grow on land. It was time to start doing some research.
It turns out, Red Peppers get their vibrant red color from Astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid, which is a naturally occurring pigment in plants and algae. Astaxanthin is supplemented in fish food to help bring out pink to red colors. It is more common to see Astaxanthin as an ingredient in the ingredient list, as opposed to Peppers or Chili Powder. This is because there is a synthetic form available, and it is more commonly used in fish food. I have also seen it listed as Natural Astaxanthin in Cobalt Aquatics Color Enhancing food ingredient list.
Many other animal foods have Chili Peppers or Astaxanthin in them. Red-feathered birds have Astaxanthin in their diets to bring out intense red colors in their feathers. Salmon eat a diet very high in Astaxanthin so they are very pink in color. If your aquarium has a large amount of pink, orange, or red fish, it would be beneficial to feed them a diet high in Astaxanthin to produce those vibrant colors.
If you are looking for food with Astaxanthin in it, most manufacturers list their ingredients online. A few that have foods containing Astaxanthin include be Ocean Nutrition, Hikari, Aqueon, and Cobalt Aquatics.