Planted Aquarium Expert

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Grow Your Own Live Fish Food – 4 Easy Types

Galaxy Rasbora would thrive on live foods

Image provided by Swimming Creatures store on Amazon. They have an amazing online store.

You can purchase this fish by tapping here. 

Live Food #1 Daphnia

Daphnia Starter Culture

You can purchase this starter from Carolina Biological Supply Company and Amazon Seller.

Tap here to view and buy. 

How big to daphnia get? Will they fit in the mouths of my fish?

Daphnia sizes are from 0.3 to 0.6 millimeters or (.08 inches to .2 inches.) .08 is probably the size of a printed period (.). These should fit in to just about any mature size fish. If you look at the picture to the left you’ll get an idea of the size of the adult daphnia.

I bought some a week ago and found that my fish couldn’t see them. Too small.

What do daphnia eat?

Daphnia live on algae, bacteria, and protists (protists: single-cell organism that is neither plant, animal or fungus). 

You will need to grow daphnia food if you want to grow daphnia.

To grow food for daphnia, find a glass or translucent container (a small unused aquarium would work perfectly). You should place this container near bright light but away from direct sunlight.

To the container, add lettuce, spirulina, yeast or best, farm animal dung. Fill your container with conditioned water and your choice of the mentioned ingredients. Let this mixture ripen a few days near bright light to turn a light green and then add your daphnia.

Keep your daphnia culture at room temperature.


If you are successful, in no time, your green water will be filled with daphnia.

Live Food #2 Bloodworms

Image above: Bloodworms being sold by kelvintaminus0116 an eBay seller.

You can buy them 100 for 18.99 (twenty cents each). They are large enough that one could feed 1 to 3 fish, depending on fish size.  Tap to view.

A Bloodworm – (ugg)


I have good news and I have bad news…

After doing a ton of research, I concluded that finding and harvesting bloodworms as a live fish food is not worth the effort to an average (read busy) aquarist. I could change my mind later, but for now, this is what I’ve decided.

What I mean by this is, either you put in a great deal of effort to find bloodworms or bloodworm eggs in your area or you can try to grow them in a bucket outside your home by hoping to attract the adults to lay eggs in your bucket water.

Growing them in a bucket?

Growing them in a bucket at home might give you a dozen a week. But, a strong caveat: I suspect that if you live in the desert, like I do, you’re out of luck. Where I live it’s hot in the summer (115 F is not unheard of here) and it is freezing in the winter.

I believe that the bucket method could grow mosquito larvae in my area (instead of bloodworms). Of course, that would be a different article section.

If you live in a wet area, you might try hunting for bloodworms. We don’t have ponds here, so no hunting for eggs or larvae will be happening.

Best way to collect bloodworms

Let’s be honest. It is so, so much easier to buy them live, online. Why spend the time and effort to find and grow them?

So, bottom line, buy live bloodworms online and have them mailed to you. This is realistic and much easier.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

P.S. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but I find handling bloodworms fresh, frozen or dried to be extremely irritating to mucous membranes. Try not to touch your eyes after handling them, like I always seem to do.

Live Food #3 Brine Shrimp

How to grow brine shrimp to adults:

Here is my “down and dirty” take on growing brine shrimp from eggs to adults.

1.  I have grown a LOT of brine shrimp. My information here on a lot of experience.

2.  To grow baby brine shrimp, just follow the directions listed above. Remember the baby brine shrimp are tiny, so large fish won’t be able to see them.

3.  I’ve grown brine shrimp to adulthood by using a large plastic tub filled with salt water. A small aquarium would also work. I purchased and used a saltwater hydrometer to make sure the salinity would stay in the correct range for brine shrimp to grow to adulthood. I made sure there was strong water movement by using an air pump and air stones. Feeding them a good portion of spirulina algae every day will get the job done.

4.  If I remember right, it took 2 to 4 weeks to grow the brine shrimp to adulthood (It’s been 30 years since I last did this).

5.  To keep the cycle going, I added more brine shrimp eggs to the water every 3 or 4 days or when I harvested some brine shrimp. You will get babies and adults using this method.

6.  To harvest the brine shrimp, turn off the air pump to allow the egg cysts (shells) to fall to the bottom of the container. Then, to catch the brine shrimp, use a regular fish net instead of a brine shrimp net. This will allow most of the babies to fall back into the water.

If you are past a certain age, or if you watch a lot of cartoons. Odds are you’ve heard of “sea monkeys.” Sea monkeys are small creatures in kits marketed towards kids, promising them they could hatch and grow their own little civilization. Sea monkeys were actually hybrid versions of artemia (brine shrimp), a group of primitive crustaceans.

The bad news is you can’t create an empire of sea people to worship you. You can grow artemia species into delightful live food for your freshwater fish.

It’s anticlimactic, but such is life.

Artemia Salina – Brine Shimp

Artemia salina is the scientific name of brine shrimp, one of the most popular live fish food for aquariums. Despite growing in saltwater, the species is safe to feed to freshwater fish. They are incredibly adaptable and can survive up to 30 minutes in freshwater. This gives plenty of time for your fish to eat their live treat.

Brine shrimp produce dormant eggs. These eggs are available in most pet shops and online. Just be careful to purchase eggs that are labeled as high quality and have a high hatching rate.

How to grow baby brine shrimp as a live fish food (I’ve done this):

If you are just hatching baby brine shrimp, just about any container of a quart or more will work. If you are growing brine shrimp to adulthood, you’ll need a container of five gallons or more.

After picking your container, fill it with dechlorinated water because chloramine found in normal tap water will prevent the hatching of the eggs. Keep the container at room temperature. Bubble the water by connecting an air pump and an air stone to provide oxygen and water movement. Add one tablespoon of sea salt per pint (2 cups) of water. Or better yet, buy a hydrometer so you can make certain you have enough salt in the water. Your last step is to add brine shrimp eggs. An eighth of a teaspoon per pint of salt water will work. Brine shrimp eggs usually hatch within 24 to 36 hours.

You don’t need to wait much after that since small fish absolutely love eating freshly hatched brine shrimp. However, if you are interested in growing them to adulthood, you can always move them to a different tank, and slightly increase the temperature, to encourage breeding. Feeding them isn’t an issue either, as adding Spirulina algae, brewer’s yeast, or cooked egg yolk.

Live Food #4: Microworms

Live foods from Amazon? Yep.

Tap the picture to price or buy

6 popular facts and  information about caring for a Green Spotted Pufferfish.

pufferfish green spotted

Were you surprised by the unusual cleanliness of growing brine shrimp? Don’t worry, nasty is back with a vengeance.

Panagrellus redivivus

Microworms are the common name of a particular type of nematodes, specifically Panagrellus redivivus. They are tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye, but are an ideal food for fry. This is essential, as fry have a high mortality rate, and a rich source of protein can make the difference to whether they live or die.

Plenty of stores sell microworm starter kits, but you must make sure it’s any of the aforementioned panagrellus variants, as others have the potential to sicken your fish.

The requirements for growing this species are quite simple. First, any waterproof container with a lid is good enough, as long as you poke holes in the lid, to keep good airflow to oxygenate your culture. Despite this, ventilation should be done through small holes. Otherwise, the particular scents overflowing from the container will attract many undesirable visitors.

How to start a microworm culture

To establish the culture, you will require food for the microworms. There are several types of foods you can feed your microworms. An oatmeal/yeast mix is by far the most common pick. Cook the oatmeal in water to make a thick paste. Place the cooked oatmeal at the bottom of the container in a layer approximately one-half inch thick.

Next, add a light sprinkling of active dry yeast and mix it into the oatmeal carefully. Now you can add the starter microworm culture.

The yeast will grow on the starch as the oatmeal decomposes, and the microworms will feed on the yeast. After three to seven days, you will have microworms covering the top of the oatmeal and the sides of the container.

It will smell exactly as awful as it sounds, so keep it away from the kitchen or dinner table.

Harvesting Microworms

Harvesting your newly prepared fishy gourmet meal is quite easy—wipe the microworms onto your fingertip (sorry, but that just sounds gross) or a Q-Tip, then swish them into your aquarium.

If all goes well, your culture will survive from two weeks to a month while you enjoy the fragrant perfume of your culture!

Conclusion? Live fish food possibilities are endless.

These four species are far from being your only options—hobbyist websites explore a plethora of viable alternatives, ranging from infusoria to ants, and anything in-between. Even regular mosquito larvae or fruit flies are a popular choice, as they are full of protein and nutrients.

As you can see, the world is full of possibilities when it comes to feeding your freshwater fish.

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