I experienced two instances this week that highlighted one of the “problems” with the aquarium hobby and how we can approach the hobby. One instance was receiving an email question, and the other was one of my longtime friends discussing his recent experience with a large national chain.

The question I received was, “What is the best way to feed Frozen Brine Shrimp cubes?” Now, if you are an experienced hobbyist, stop and think for a minute how you would answer this question. I’ll bet that your answer will follow my own “rule of thumb”: ask 5 people in this hobby, and you will get at least 7 different answers! And, all of them will work in certain circumstances!! How did I answer this question? Well, of course I answered with three different answers:

    1. I would say the majority of aquarium hobbyist pop out the cube or break off a piece of a flat pack and soak it in a Tupperware container filled with some water from the aquarium. Once it defrosts, they pour it into the tank.  This way certainly will work, but what are the possible problems with this method? The first is that you might walk away and totally forget about the frozen brine shrimp until the next feeding and find a stinky container of defrosted shrimp. If you were feeding a large aquarium or several aquariums, this can get stinky and messy. When I worked at a wholesaler, we found the best thing to do was defrost a two pound flat pack still in the plastic bag, then pour it into some water and feed the fish with a turkey baster. The second issue is that there is always a fair amount of “torn up” shrimp pieces in the frozen mass, and pouring that into the tank may contribute to pollution problems. (Just to complicate the issue even more, if you are feeding a mini-reef tank, the broken up pieces make one of the better foods for lots of filter feeding animals and crabs.)
    2. Or, you could take the defrosted brine shrimp and pour it into a brine shrimp net, and gently rinse it in tap water to wash out the smaller bits, then feed the shrimp to the tank. Much less pollution added to the tank. I suspect that less than 10% of hobbyists do it this way. About the only problem with this method is the amount of time and labor it takes.
    3. But what do you do if you are in a hurry? A third option is to use flat packs only, just peel back a portion of the plastic wrapper, and then place the exposed portion into the aquarium and start swishing it around, defrosting it in the tank. I have been told that fish do not have temperature receptors in their mouths, so the coolness of the food is not an issue. Also, frozen foods will not swell up like freeze dried foods, so it presents little danger to those fish which are a bit of a glutton. Feeding in this manner is obviously putting all the “debris” in the tank along with the shrimp. But, it is probably the best method to control portion size and not overfeed the aquarium. It also gives you a chance to really look at your fish and see if any are not eating or have sores from fighting. Are some fish too timid to get their share of food with the mix of fish you have? The longer you spend looking at your aquarium, the better.  As for how the fish like this method, I have had the fish literally come up and eat right on the block of food, not waiting for the shrimp to float away. Bigger fish even try to pull it out of your hand! What are the problems with this method? Maybe the fish do feel the cold (though it does not seem to slow down their eating), we are adding some pollutants to the tank, and worst case scenario, you forget to put the flat pack back in the freezer and defrost the whole bag!

Having read the text above, what method do you use to feed frozen foods? I am sure there are several more successful methods out there.

As I mentioned, my longtime friend had an interesting experience with a large chain store when he went in and attempted to buy a few smaller African Cichlids and a couple of Tinfoil Barbs.  The clerk informed my friend that the African Cichlids were very aggressive fish and would not sell him the Tinfoils to put in the same tank. I admire the attempt to educate the customer, but this is one of those cases where there is no absolute right answer. My friend was polite enough not to point out he had owned a pet store for 20 years and has worked in aquarium maintenance for the last 15 years. Now, this is better than getting a clerk who is oblivious to the needs and temperament of the fish and will sell you anything you point at in the tanks. But, this just is not a hobby where a dogmatic approach will work. I know this totally frustrates newer hobbyist because they want help, and they want to do it the right way. Everyone will go through a learning curve, but we certainly want to minimize any suffering the fish have to experience because of our lack of knowledge. The key is to find the right people, either working in the stores, answering the phones, or blogging on the web, and ask them the questions for an experienced answer. I have a quote on my desk that reads, “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects” (Will Rogers). All we can do is try our best to be educated on this great hobby and then pass along what knowledge we have obtained.

For newer hobbyists, this is where it pays to act like a four year old: keep asking, “Why?” until you have exhausted several sources and received an answer to your question. With the web, it has never been easier to contact other hobbyists. Approach the hobby with the wonder of a four year old and enjoy your hobby, do not treat it like a job.  Expect several versions to questions, and DO NOT act like a two year old if the answers are not what you want to hear!

About The Author Don Roberts

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