If Your Polypterus Won't Eat...

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dbcb314

Fire Eel
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Jun 4, 2007
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[First off, writing about fish is not my forte'. Weightlifting, yes. Fish, no. So bear with me (and my bad grammar) please. Also, I am not an expert or anything close to it. This thread is mostly just to get the ball rolling so to speak. This is a very commonly asked question, and IMO, deserves a sticky. Anne told me to start one since I recommended it be a sticky, so I did. If any of the real experts have anything to add or correct (Anne, Infblue, Cohazard, CDM, Uwe, ect ect ect) please post and I am sure Anne would gladly edit the original post to fix/add things.]


So, your newly acquired polypterus just won't eat. It is ok as it is a very common "problem" for poly owners. Here are some things you should know/do if this is the case.

First Off, CALM DOWN: There is no need to panic or be worried. No fish will starve itself to death if food is present. This is a very basic animal instinct. The poly will eventually get to the point where its hunger will be greater than its stubbornness.

Be Patient: Bichirs can go a long long time without food (as is the case with most predators). They will not die after not being fed for a day, two days, a week, or even longer. I had a measly old Ropefish that went 2 MONTHS without touching a thing. Food would fall right on his face and he would just sit there. You are going to have to be patient with some bichirs, especially if they are used to eating live feeders from a previous owner. You need to train the fish, don't let the bichir train you instead.

Let the Poly Settle In: Imagin if you were chased around by a gigantic net, thrown in a bag, left in the bag for god knows how long, put in a bucket for a long time, and then dumped into a brand new home with a bunch of new roomates. Is the first thing on your mind going to be, "Man I need a cheeseburger." This is essentially what you are doing to your new fish. He isn't eating because he has just been through a very stressful time. Let the fish settle in for a couple of days, he probably won't eat right off the bat. Let it relax, get used to its new home, and settle in a bit.

If Your Poly is Used to Live Feeders: If you got a poly that was only being fed live feeders (like rosies or gold fish) then you may have a more difficult time getting him down to eating pellets (which seems to be what most people want their fish on). IMO, the first thing you need to do is get your poly to eat something dead, like bloodworms, silver sides, shrimp, or krill. Then after you accomplished this, move on to a good pellet.

Eating Strikes: Poly eating strikes are actually pretty common. You will have them for a while, then all of a sudden they will just stop eating for no reason whatsoever. First off, make sure you didn't introduce something bad into the tank (like you added a new fish but didn't quarantine, didn't quarantine feeders, ect) and make sure the other fish are alright. If everything is normal, then the poly is just on a eating strike. Don't worry, no need for alarm, just keep doing what you were doing and eventually he will get hungry again and come back to eating everything in site.

Basic Feeding Information: This comes straight from Anne's Primer sticky http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=65770 and is from post 23.

FEEDING & NUTRITION

Now that you have a bichir what does it eat? In their natural habitat bichirs normally eat small fish,various insect larvae and invertebrates. Bichirs are generally non aggressive, ambush predators but also opportunistic scavengers.Objects to big to be consumed whole are often "deathrolled" till small parts are twisted and ripped off the carcass.The key here is to balance the diet thru a variety of foods with an eye on total nutrition. A varied diet is a good diet for your fish and yourself. Now then what can we feed them? You actually have several options and They will be listed below

The freezer at your local fish store is a smorgasboard of foods which should include:

silversides or lancefish
mysis shrimp
brine shrimp
krill
bloodworms
tubifex worms
squid
beefheart

Simply thaw and feed


Your local market can be a great source of foods check the seafood section of the freezer You can use just about any foods you find there including:

mussels
shrimp
most fish fillets (avoid salmon i think its to oily)

Available at the butcher counter or they should be able to order it for you:

beefheart
and yes chicken gizzards

to prepare the above cut it into strips and remove any fat you can find
fish do not digest mammalian fat well

Live foods include:

some frog species(some frogs release a nasty chemical when bitten)
tadpoles
African dwarf frogs are safe and part of the natural diet
ghost shrimp
earthworms
mealworms feed only the recently shed(white) ones the chiton in the exoskeleton can be hard to digest and in some can result in intestinal blockages.

There is really no reason to feeders except as the ocassional treat.

Various live fish and fry can be used for foods.Caution here unless you raise them any commercialy bought feeders usually rosie reds/tuffies (the albino form of fat head minnows), guppies, bait minnows etc. need to be quarantined before feeding them to your fish for several reasons.

reason 1 They are kept in horrible conditions
reason 2 They are often diseased
reason 3 They often are carriers of parasites

During quarantine dispose of the obviously sick or diseased. The remaining ones feed quality foods a healthy feeder is of course better for your fish.

Goldfish just generally are poor feeders and should be avoided. they are oily not very nutritious and constant feed of them causes fatty deposits on the liver leading to premature deaths.They also contain very high levels of Thiaminase a destroying hormone. While many fish used as feeders contain this goldfish seem to have an abundance of it. Another issue is a spine at the front of the dorsal fin which can lead to problems if the goldfish is swallowed the wrong way (tailfirst). Yet another reason not to use goldfish, goldfish farms utilize copper meds in suspension form to combat diseases in the feeders associated with overcrowding. These copper meds are retained by the feeders for long periods after they leave the farms. Most lfs invariably retain all or part of the feeders shipping water when the feeders are loaded into their bins/tanks. And copper does not dissipate from a closed system.

The key is to balance the diet with a variety of foods listed above not just 1 or 2 items and skipping a meal once you notice a decline in growth rate is good for fish.The sad truth is we as hobbyists tend to overfeed our charges

Pellitized foods

Can be found in various diameters and forms include sinking and floating pellets and sticks
shrimp pellets
worm pellets
even pellets for cichlids will work
spirulina sticks
brine shrimp sticks
Algae wafers(some eat them some just look at them)

When feeding pellets how much to feed?

Under 7'' I let them eat as much as they want several small feedings when young are better then 1 or 2 large feedings.I let juvies eat till theres a slight bulge to there bellies

This really applies to bichirs 7''+ I feed mine twice a day skipping at least one day a week

Approx. 80% of their diet is a quality pellet food the rest frozen with the occasional live feeders after quarantine of course.

How many Pellets?
I start off with total 2 pellets per inch of fish eg. a 7'' fish gets 7 pellets in the A.M. and 7 in the evening feeding is then adjusted up or down so all pellets are consumed. Remember a nice round bichir is a happy bichir

Read the labels and look for this information

NUTRITION FOR CARNIVORES

Below are the agreed upon nutritional requirements for predatory fish

PROTEIN:: 45% or more (this would be the ideal)
FAT:: 3% Min. to 6% Max.
FIBER 2% Min. to 4% Max


Other Threads: Here are some threads about this very same subject as it is quite popular.

http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=158899
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=156933
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=143954
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=133102
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=122109
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=114174
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=75388
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=67829
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30651
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25742
http://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22183
 

Cohazard

Arapaima
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Jul 13, 2005
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:thumbsup: Very well done! I'm sure this will help a lot of the new bichir creature keepers out there!

The only thing I would add is that when a new bichir wont eat, that means it's been subjected to a substantial amount of stress, and should be kept alone for a while (fish should always be QT'd when new anyways).

This eliminates the stress of competing for food with other fish. If the bichir doesn't eat after a few minutes, siphon out the food to avoid it spoiling the tank water, which would cause more stress to the fish.

Although a new owner is anxious to see their interesting fish swim around, or even just to see it, we should give the bichir a good dark hiding spot where it can go and we cannot see it. That will help speed up the settle in time.
 

Infblue

Feeder Fish
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Feb 11, 2006
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good job man :thumbsup:

just wanted to add that for some species and/or individuals that are more shy (especially during the day), one might wanna try feeding at night after lights out to replicate the night environment. After all, bichirs are generally speaking nocturnal.

another trick that Anne mentioned has worked for her is that for a picky bichir, if you have plants (real or fake) in the tank, stick some silversides 1/3 to 1/2 way in between the leaves to hopefully stimulate the bichir's hunting instinct. Of course this probably wouldn't work if you have other fish in the tank competing for food.

another comment about the hunger strike, i have had some bichirs that i would not see eating for months. May be it's eating small amount of scraps and pieces, but i wouldn't be able to tell.
 

Cohazard

Arapaima
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Normally I would say leaving the food overnight is okay (since they are nocturnal), I"ve done this myself with good results.

But if you water is getting cloudy from food overnight, somethign is wrong with your system. Either it's not fully cycled, or you don't have enough filtration (read that also as not enough places for beneficial bacteria to grow).

Make sure the shrimp you feed is fresh too, don't let it defros then sit out too long.

do a water change, and test your water after 24hrs.
 
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cenecker

Black Skirt Tetra
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May 15, 2005
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Eternal, Impenetrable Darkness
Great Info, a much overdue sticky. If I can add a few things -

- Lowering the lights (or just turning them off) for a while can be very helpful in helping polys settle in.
- Obviously temperature has a huge affect on ANY cold-blooded fishes appetite, but I've REALLY noticed a difference with polys. A temp of 80f plus doubles the appetites of my polys.
 

Bichir4Life

Feeder Fish
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Sep 23, 2008
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I just grabbed two bichirs the other day and they are pretty none responsive to sinking shrimp pellets and worms. I don't know if its due to there stress lvl or if it's the colour of my gravel that is throwing them off. I know i jsut need to chill let them get hungry and then they will eat but i was wondering if theres anything i can do to encourge them to eat!
 

Cohazard

Arapaima
MFK Member
Jul 13, 2005
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cenecker;2194353; said:
Great Info, a much overdue sticky. If I can add a few things -

- Lowering the lights (or just turning them off) for a while can be very helpful in helping polys settle in.
- Obviously temperature has a huge affect on ANY cold-blooded fishes appetite, but I've REALLY noticed a difference with polys. A temp of 80f plus doubles the appetites of my polys.

Good tips! :)


Bichir4Life said:
I just grabbed two bichirs the other day and they are pretty none responsive to sinking shrimp pellets and worms. I don't know if its due to there stress lvl or if it's the colour of my gravel that is throwing them off. I know i jsut need to chill let them get hungry and then they will eat but i was wondering if theres anything i can do to encourge them to eat!
I've seen bichirs kept over all colors of substrate, so it shouldn't bother them too long, they will adapt.

Keep in mind their sense of smell guides them twice as much as their vision, so any smelly foods will do. (fresh seafood works for many people)
 

Cholly

Black Skirt Tetra
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Mar 1, 2009
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I tried HBH SuperSoft for predators, both my Senegal and African Knife love it, they actually race out to eat now. I was beginning to despair my knife ever eating anything but live.
 
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