Converting Fish To Pellets | Is It "Really" Worth It?

Blakewater

Aimara
MFK Member
Apr 27, 2018
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In the fish keeping hobby, and predominantly in the "monster" fish keeping hobby, a question we often see arise with hobbyists is, "Do I put the effort and risk into converting my fish off of live foods and is it really worth the worry?". I'm sure most of us can agree that compared to "standard" live feeders, most feeding options would be considered better. But the confusion I see most often among hobbyists isn't that they don't believe there are better options.. but, that they feel the pro's of weaning their fish off live aren't worth the trouble and worry of seeing their fish struggling (or the personal satisfaction they get from the show). Even more so, is it worth the added stress of taking it one step further and converting their predatory fish to pellets when they so obviously have no interest in them initially? I recently returned one of my original fish from a friends aquarium("Tank B") back to my tank("Tank A") once again and was given a shining example of why this step can be so important.

I want to add quickly that I had no decision in what my fish was fed while living in Tank B and would never attempt to feed any living creature lower quality food to check a hypothesis. Saying that, Tank B's owner did his personal best to care for this fish and in no way did anything he thought might harm or stunt it. I am simply posting this now because after receiving my fish back and talking with the previous owner I have been put into a valuable position for documentation that could benefit many others who read this.

Backstory:
On December 30th I received (3) Cichla Sp. Brokopondo and added them to my 550 gallon aquarium. These three will be our observed subjects for my data. All three Cichla came from the same vendors stock which had been imported to him all from one collector/farm. The only notable difference between these three Brokopondo were the initial size which they arrived at. Fish #1, who will be our Orange Subject arrived at 5.5". Fish #2, who will be our Red Subject arrived at 8". Fish #3, who will be our Purple Subject arrived at 6".
old photo_LI.jpg
old photo2_LI.jpg

After about two weeks all fish were broken to eat pellets and by February 1st, all fish had gained an even size of about half an inch. By this time I was thinning stock on my tank and decided to sell Fish 2 to a friend who kept him in a 600g aquarium with consistent drip water change systems.

After a few months, my friend began to move away from bass and the fish returned to my ownership on June 3rd. Upon arrival, Fish 2 was only about 10". After speaking with my friend he let me know the main diet this fish had been eating was feeder fish, and occasionally market shrimp, 5-6 days a week. Compare that to the feeding Fish 1 and Fish 3 received in my tank of Omega One Super Cichlid Color Floating Pellets, with occasional market shrimp afterwards, 6 days a week. On June 3rd Fish 1's size was 12 3/4" and Fish 3's size was 12 1/2".

To sum up the information, over the course of roughly 4 months, Fish 1 and Fish 3 showed a fairly similar growth rate of around 6 1/2-7" inches of growth on a diet of mainly
high-grade fish pellets
and actually surpassed the size of Fish 2. Who was originally the largest of the group to begin with. After the same amount of time (4 months), Fish 2 only grew about 2".
After seeing the changes in size, data suggests a diet of pellets grew the two Cichla at roughly 3 times the rate of the feeder fish diet.

6-5 Group8_LI.jpg

So how much more effective is a diet of pellets. The data collected suggests around 3x as effective. Unfortunately, all random variables could not be nullified but the numbers shown suggest that, to really nourish your fish, there is no comparison as to which option is better. I will add, however, that this study did not test for gut loaded feeders or ones bred for personal use.

Hopefully this will help others curious about this subject. Personally, I am always striving to better the diet quality of my fish and is one of the most important factors in an aquarium.
 

Magnus_Bane

Giant Snakehead
MFK Member
Jan 26, 2020
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Canton SD
In the fish keeping hobby, and predominantly in the "monster" fish keeping hobby, a question we often see arise with hobbyists is, "Do I put the effort and risk into converting my fish off of live foods and is it really worth the worry?". I'm sure most of us can agree that compared to "standard" live feeders, most feeding options would be considered better. But the confusion I see most often among hobbyists isn't that they don't believe there are better options.. but, that they feel the pro's of weaning their fish off live aren't worth the trouble and worry of seeing their fish struggling (or the personal satisfaction they get from the show). Even more so, is it worth the added stress of taking it one step further and converting their predatory fish to pellets when they so obviously have no interest in them initially? I recently returned one of my original fish from a friends aquarium("Tank B") back to my tank("Tank A") once again and was given a shining example of why this step can be so important.

I want to add quickly that I had no decision in what my fish was fed while living in Tank B and would never attempt to feed any living creature lower quality food to check a hypothesis. Saying that, Tank B's owner did his personal best to care for this fish and in no way did anything he thought might harm or stunt it. I am simply posting this now because after receiving my fish back and talking with the previous owner I have been put into a valuable position for documentation that could benefit many others who read this.

Backstory:
On December 30th I received (3) Cichla Sp. Brokopondo and added them to my 550 gallon aquarium. These three will be our observed subjects for my data. All three Cichla came from the same vendors stock which had been imported to him all from one collector/farm. The only notable difference between these three Brokopondo were the initial size which they arrived at. Fish #1, who will be our Orange Subject arrived at 5.5". Fish #2, who will be our Red Subject arrived at 8". Fish #3, who will be our Purple Subject arrived at 6".
View attachment 1420750
View attachment 1420751

After about two weeks all fish were broken to eat pellets and by February 1st, all fish had gained an even size of about half an inch. By this time I was thinning stock on my tank and decided to sell Fish 2 to a friend who kept him in a 600g aquarium with consistent drip water change systems.

After a few months, my friend began to move away from bass and the fish returned to my ownership on June 3rd. Upon arrival, Fish 2 was only about 10". After speaking with my friend he let me know the main diet this fish had been eating was feeder fish, and occasionally market shrimp, 5-6 days a week. Compare that to the feeding Fish 1 and Fish 3 received in my tank of Omega One Super Cichlid Color Floating Pellets, with occasional market shrimp afterwards, 6 days a week. On June 3rd Fish 1's size was 12 3/4" and Fish 3's size was 12 1/2".

To sum up the information, over the course of roughly 4 months, Fish 1 and Fish 3 showed a fairly similar growth rate of around 6 1/2-7" inches of growth on a diet of mainly
high-grade fish pellets
and actually surpassed the size of Fish 2. Who was originally the largest of the group to begin with. After the same amount of time (4 months), Fish 2 only grew about 2".
After seeing the changes in size, data suggests a diet of pellets grew the two Cichla at roughly 3 times the rate of the feeder fish diet.

View attachment 1420752

So how much more effective is a diet of pellets. The data collected suggests around 3x as effective. Unfortunately, all random variables could not be nullified but the numbers shown suggest that, to really nourish your fish, there is no comparison as to which option is better. I will add, however, that this study did not test for gut loaded feeders or ones bred for personal use.

Hopefully this will help others curious about this subject. Personally, I am always striving to better the diet quality of my fish and is one of the most important factors in an aquarium.
Honestly this seems about right to me. I've noticed that wild fish will always grown slower then a "pet" fish even if they are the same specie. I think this is mainly do to the fact that a wild fish doesn't eat every single day, often they can go several weeks without eating a good meal in the wild. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying that your buddy was raising em exactly like if they were wild but still being fed only other live foods it's still simulates how allot of wild fish would be living. They aren't being gut loaded like allot of pellet fed fish are (we are all guilty of over feeding sometimes), also the feeders that they eat are only as healthy as the foods they were fed so if you take that into consideration store bought feeders are going to be far less nutritious then pellets are. Granted idk how this would change with the feeders being home bred vs commercial bred.

I used to keep 3 perch as a predator fish at one point. I had the 3 perch for about 6 months and during that time they were fed a mix of pellets and live food. I went fishing in the same spots I caught the perch I got from and all the wild perch only grew from 3in to 5in during the 6 months. The 3 that I had at home grew from 3in to 7in during that same amount of time. The nice thing about perch for this example is that they act allot like wolves. They always stay grouped up and they always stayed in the same hunting grounds, they never stray, you can fish the same spot every single day and the perch will always be exactly where ya found em the first time. The reason I think my 3 grew faster was just do to them being fed daily, having a more nutritious food source then the wild ones had, while also being gut loaded on occasion.



On a side note tho if ya want a really entertaining predator to feed live food to you should get some perch. When I said they act like wolves I mean it, they use tactics. 1 lays in wait/hiding while the others chase the prey to the one in hiding after that it's just a feeding frenzy. Don't think I've ever run across another freshwater fish that hunts this way.
 

jjohnwm

Dovii
MFK Member
Mar 29, 2019
521
891
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Manitoba, Canada
Outstanding thread; thanks for posting! This is the kind of thing I come to MFK to read. :)

While I'm sure there are a lot of variables that haven't been mentioned or considered here...water conditions (especially temperature?), quality and health of feeders, etc...I think that Magnus_Bane Magnus_Bane hit the nail on the head with the observation regarding the growth rate of wild versus captive fish, especially predators. A fish species that grazes on algae or subsists on tiny aquatic crustacea might very well grow faster in nature because of its almost-continuous intake of food in small quantities as opposed to larger individual captive feedings. A predator that takes larger food items might very well go long periods without food, whereas in captivity it is being fed much more regularly, and will show faster growth.

Is that "better"? Not necessarily; back when I was keeping and breeding a lot of reptiles, there were plenty of keepers who fed their snakes to within an inch of their lives, experienced far faster growth rates than mine did on more subdued feeding schedules...and also saw their snakes tend to have much shorter lifespans. This is entirely anecdotal, certainly not a rigid study, but at least worth considering. Might or might not be valid, and might or might not be true for fish.

I'm old school, always thought that natural diets were the way to go...with any animal...and always tried to maximize the quality and health of the foods I used, as well as maintaining as much variety as possible in the diet. I don't care if you find the "perfect" feeder fish species and then gutload each one before feeding; I still tend to think that a varied diet of assorted fish, earthworms, shrimp, insects, etc. will be "better", whatever that means. But it's a lot of work to provide such variety, and if the stuff is collected from nature then increased variety also translates into increased potential for disease/parasite/pollution issues.

In recent years I have leaned more and more towards commercial pellet foods for larger fish and for turtles, and the results seem to be excellent. They're certainly convenient, and seem to be far more nutritionally complete and balanced than any of the stuff available in the bad old days. A few decades ago, commercial turtle diets consisted of dried ant "eggs"...actually ant pupae...and no amount of wishful thinking would make that diet even acceptable, let alone optimal. Pelleted foods for fish were basically limited to Trout Chow, which may...may...have been complete nutrition for trout, but could not possibly meet the needs of all large aquarium fish; yet that's what most of us used.

So now, when I supplement my fish's diet with a few earthworms or whatever, I am thinking that it may be natural, but each individual mouthful is not providing the complete and balanced nutrition that a quality commercial diet will. I have come to look upon those natural foods as treats rather than as perfect food.

It's tough to teach an old dog new tricks...even tougher when you're the dog in question. :)
 

Yuki-Rihwa

Jack Dempsey
MFK Member
May 23, 2020
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A Place On Earth
Commercial pellet foods are mostly for convenient and man made so its packed with correct nutrition.
However, some fish keepers only interest in feeding live stock just because the thrive to watch their fish hunt/attack down its prey.
Some live feeder fish keepers also grow/breed their stock and feed the feeders correct nutrition so their predator fish getting correct nutrition to grow fast too, in some cases the fish look a lot more healthy than fish that fed with Commercial pellet foods and obesity more often happen with pellet feeding fish.
 

dr exum

Goliath Tigerfish
MFK Member
Sep 29, 2007
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Good read, thanks for info!

the floating omega one pellets are what folks like vs the Hikari Food Sticks?

Any update anywhere on your group?
 

Blakewater

Aimara
MFK Member
Apr 27, 2018
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Good read, thanks for info!

the floating omega one pellets are what folks like vs the Hikari Food Sticks?

Any update anywhere on your group?
No updates yet but Ill post one soon! And I personally vouch for Omega One and NLS. I could explain quite a bit on why Hikari products are overpriced and underwhelming with what they offer. Definitely would say theres a good number of better options
 

jeaninel

Potamotrygon
MFK Member
Oct 15, 2014
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california
Interesting thread! I agree that nutrition has a large impact on proper growth. But I'd be interested to know if water change schedules between the two tanks were similar as that would have a large impact on growth also I believe. 😊
 

Ruturaj

Potamotrygon
MFK Member
Aug 6, 2011
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Seattle, WA
Pellets are much more nutritionally dense than any food we can feed, so that's a big factor. Digestibility and conversion ratio highly depends on ingredients used (the density makes difference more for herbivore than carnivores though).

No updates yet but Ill post one soon! And I personally vouch for Omega One and NLS. I could explain quite a bit on why Hikari products are overpriced and underwhelming with what they offer. Definitely would say theres a good number of better options
I find hikari to be okaish priced, NLS or northfin come out cheaper when bought in bulk at least in US. In most of the Asia, hikari is pretty affordable.

Commercial pellet foods are mostly for convenient and man made so its packed with correct nutrition.
However, some fish keepers only interest in feeding live stock just because the thrive to watch their fish hunt/attack down its prey.
Some live feeder fish keepers also grow/breed their stock and feed the feeders correct nutrition so their predator fish getting correct nutrition to grow fast too, in some cases the fish look a lot more healthy than fish that fed with Commercial pellet foods and obesity more often happen with pellet feeding fish.
In most cases just live food can cause deficiency of some nutrients. Gut loading feeders can be a good idea in this case. I guess one thing I would disagree on, IMO a fish fed on high quality pellets would be healthier than a fish fed live.
 

Blakewater

Aimara
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Apr 27, 2018
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Interesting thread! I agree that nutrition has a large impact on proper growth. But I'd be interested to know if water change schedules between the two tanks were similar as that would have a large impact on growth also I believe. 😊
I agree, had I forseen this happening I wouldve kept a daily tack of what the params were. I could however attest that Tank B was set to a drip water change system while I do 50-60% water changes every 5 days. Im not sure exactly what his nitrates were at but mine never exceeded 10ppm
 
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