Let’s face it, the most common fish-feeding regimen is twice a day—once in
the morning before rushing off to work or
school, and once in the evening when we
return. Twice-a-day feedings may be fine
for many marine fish species, but for those
that are adapted to grazing or foraging
continuously throughout the day, this may
be grossly inadequate and may lead to
nutritional deficits and, eventually, death
Many anthias species are in this category.
Anthias tend to feed by continuously
snatching zooplankton drifting in the water
column. That means that in captivity, they
must be fed numerous times throughout
the day and often must be enticed to feed
initially with live food, such as mysid
shrimp or adult brine shrimp, before they
can be weaned onto frozen items. It’s not
necessarily that their nutritional needs can’t
be met in the aquarium. It’s just that their
eating habits tend to conflict with the time
constraints (and, perhaps, the motivation
level) of the average hobbyist.
A potential solution to this problem is
to use an auto feeder to dispense feedings
throughout the day. While many of these
devices are designed to dispense dried
foods, such as flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried items, some can be used for gradually
dispersing frozen food, such as frozen
cyclops, over the course of several hours.
Oftentimes, death by starvation for
the mandarinfish is a prolonged event,
sometimes occurring over the course of
many months, so the aquarist may be
inclined to think all is going well until
the specimen suddenly perishes. Some
dedicated aquarists manage to keep these
fish alive for relatively long periods, but for
the average hobbyist, these little beauties
are a poor choice.
Similarly, seahorses will often accept
only live foods (or wean from them
very reluctantly) and require multiple
The orange-spotted filefish Oxymonacanthus
longirostris is an obligate coral-eater that
should be avoided at all costs by aquarists.
MP. & C. Piednoir
Many butterflyfish, such as Meyer’s butterflyfish Chaetodon meyeri, also feed solely on coral
polyps, making them all but impossible to keep in aquaria.
Live Foods Only, Please!
This next type of problem feeder will
only accept living foods or may be difficult
to wean from live foods onto fresh or
frozen offerings. Such feeders often fall
into the previous category of needing to eat
constantly throughout the day, as well.
The biggies that come to mind here
are the mandarinfish Synchiropus spp.
(and other dragonets) and the seahorses.
Mandarins feed continuously on tiny
crustaceans such as amphipods and
copepods, buzzing around the rockwork
like little piscine hummingbirds in search
of prey items. For all intents and purposes,
they don’t even recognize non-living items
as potential food sources. Trouble is, once
they’ve exhausted the supply of tiny fauna
in the tank—an inevitability in most home
aquariums—they begin to starve. And most
aquarists don’t have the wherewithal to
culture a steady supply of living foods to
supplement the tank.
Mandarinfish, such as Synchiropus picturatus, often slowly starve to death in the aquarium for lack
of the copious amounts of tiny live foods they depend upon for sustenance.