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Old 03-19-2016, 11:06 AM   #1
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Raising Feeders for American Cichlids

For years I've been schlepping minnows back from the pet stores around here to feed my chichlids. There are presently 3 Convicts, a Jack Dempsey and an albino Oscar with seemingly insatiable appetites in my main tank. Can anybody raising their own feeders offer any suggestions or tips?

I recently started a 10-gal feeder tank with snails and ghost shrimp to supply invertebrates for some figure-8 puffers. Those guys have healthy appetites as well, going through $30 worth of store-bought snails last month alone. Might it be doable to also raise feeder fish for the big boys in there as well?

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Old 03-19-2016, 11:13 AM   #2
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We have a 29g molly tank to raise feeders for our oscars. But we only use them as a treat. We feed cichlid pellets and other foods daily. The minnows from the pet store don't have enough nutrition for daily feeding, and I'm told that comet goldfish can actually be detrimental as feeders.
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Old 03-19-2016, 11:31 AM   #3
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I considered the minnows a treat sort of thing as well, couple times a month at most. I'm really interested why one species (you are saying "mollies") would be preferable over another, or as you mentioned, to be avoided. I'll be sure not to try goldfish - thanks for the tip!
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Old 03-22-2016, 02:13 PM   #4
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C'mon - there's gotta be somebody else around here giving their cichlids live feeders!
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Old 03-22-2016, 03:09 PM   #5
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Feeder fish really aren't necessary, the fish do fine on the prepared foods IMO. The problem with feeder fish is that they are usually raised in poor conditions and have all kinds of diseases.

White clouds are easy to breed, they're what I'd go with. Guppies/livebearers work as well.
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Old 03-22-2016, 03:09 PM   #6
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C'mon - there's gotta be somebody else around here giving their cichlids live feeders!
Most don't. Its just too iffy and no nutritional value. Plus its hard to get them off of it.

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Old 03-23-2016, 12:53 PM   #7
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Plus its hard to get them off of it.
It's hard to get me to stop after I see them delightfully chasing their prey.

No too worried about nutritional value. They're not exactly in training for the fish Olympics or anything like that. I believe there's good value in allowing them to satisfy their natural instinct in this way - fun for all!
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Old 03-23-2016, 06:41 PM   #8
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The only advice I can give on this is to gut load the feeders with NLS or some other nutritional food right before you feed them. What are you feeding them to.
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Old 03-23-2016, 09:52 PM   #9
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Hey, if I over-think this enough it could become a whole new project with a life of it's own!
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Old 03-24-2016, 04:57 PM   #10
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How about raising redworms in a composting bin? You kill 2 birds with 1 stone, and don't run the risk of introducing disease to your fish.
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Old 03-24-2016, 05:29 PM   #11
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I do mollies because my wife likes them anyway, so I have them in a 29g tank, which gets over crowded quickly. I was told by one of our LFS that guppies, mollies, and other live bearers are the safest bet and provide a bit of nutrition. But, like you, I feed them live fish because I love to watch the chase. And, because mollies are nearly impossible to get rid of any other way.
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Old 03-24-2016, 08:26 PM   #12
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Well, I went ahead with guppies. Those things are quite the prolific little buggers. Babies in the tank after 3 days!

Blame the puffers. Those gregarious little beasties ate $30 worth of snails last month! That's what got me started down the feeder tank path.
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Old 03-25-2016, 12:55 AM   #13
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I definitely wouldn't continue down the feeder route with store-bought anything, not because of cost even, but because you're rolling the dice every time with disease.

I've looked into feeder fish as an option and read that mollies/minnows/guppies as being decent sources of live foods, depending on the size of your cichlids.

Right now, I personally do worms and crickets and it seems to work well. With the exception of my largest oscar who wants no part of crickets (don't ask me why), the rest seem to like them (my black ghost knife goes nuts all you see is exploding cricket pieces like a low budget horror movie)
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Old 03-25-2016, 08:28 AM   #14
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Have tried crickets a couple of times. My oscars, all about 8", ignore them. They share my water garden with 3 red-eared sliders, a couple bichirs, and a couple eclipse catfish. Everything else eats the crickets, but the oscars don't seem to care. My wife sometimes feeds earthworms to the turtles. Will try them for the oscars. But, as acewiza says, half the fun of feeder fish is watching the oscars devour them. If I put a dozen 1/2" mollies in the pool, they're all gone in a few minutes. The oscars go crazy.
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Old 03-25-2016, 11:27 AM   #15
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I definitely wouldn't continue down the feeder route with store-bought anything, not because of cost even, but because you're rolling the dice every time with disease.
Yes, absolutely! I was probably very lucky for many years until I had an ick outbreak a couple months ago. It definitely came from the pet store, showing up several days after bringing home some minnows for the gang.

I also like the idea of having our own supply handy right here, no time-consuming errands involved. They can be arbitrarily given or withheld at will in any amount. It recently got to the point with 1 Oscar, 1 JD and 3 Convicts where I would bring home 30-40 feeders and they were all gone in less than a day. Probably not healthy for them to gorge themselves like that.
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Old 03-25-2016, 11:34 AM   #16
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My wife sometimes feeds earthworms to the turtles. Will try them for the oscars...
Yes, my aquatic crew gets earthworms on a randomly infrequent basis after I've been working in the flowerbeds or digging a hole for some odd reason. The catfish seem to love them, JD and Convicts eat them too, just not as gleefully. The Oscar doesn't touch worms for some reason.
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Old 03-25-2016, 01:15 PM   #17
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The quality of your feeder fish starts with the parents of the feeder fish. If you get crap parents, you will have crap offspring however, if you start with better quality fish ( no matter the specie) and feed them well and care for them like they mattered, they will produce better quality fry for you to feed your fish and the whole disease and "chances" issues goes way down. In my case, I was breeding 13 pairs of Oscars so I was also breeding comet goldfish to feed them. It was just more reasonable back then. But I started with adult comets and the chances of them being sick when you get them are diminished due to the fact that they lasted that long to become adults and you see how they acted and looked like so you knew what you were getting. But you have to take into consideration what size tank(s) you have available for this endeavor. If you are only feeding a few fish, this is not a practical fish to use as feeders. If you only have a few fish, livebearers are a better way to go (IMO) and you don't start with the feeder livebearers from the local stores. You start with a good pair or trio ( or 2) so that you know what you are starting out with. As I said before, treat them like you are treating your other fish. This will help ensure you are getting better quality fish to feed to your other fish.

As for the argument Live VS prepared food, I would bet there isn't one prepared food out there that is more nutritious than live food. Some might come close but there are things like natural acids and vitamins in live foods that just can't be duplicated in prepared foods. But doing this does come with some POSSIBLE bad side effects. The fish might start to reject prepared foods and if you run out of live, you might need to be starving your fish to get them back into prepared foods. The fish MIGHT come down with a disease that the feeder is carrying. These are just 2 POSSIBLE examples but if you are feeding better quality live foods, the chances of the second go way down.
Breeding snails comes with some great benefits as snails are one of the most common carriers of many diseases so buying them weekly increases your chances of bringing something in with them. The disease uses the snail as the intermediate host so it doesn't hurt the snail but does transfer to the fish that eats the snail. So make REAL SURE you are getting disease free snails to breed.

Hope this helps.
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Old 03-25-2016, 01:52 PM   #18
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Thanks Andy! I believe I was sort of intuitively thinking alot of the things you mentioned above, but having never really been there, not 2 sure.
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