Feeding aquaponic fish can seem complicated, but knowing is half the battle! Fish food will be the main input in your aquaponics system, therefore it’s important to get it right. This is not only down to the health of your fish, but also because the fish food then becomes the waste and the waste feeds the plants.
In the natural world, fish seek out food that will provide them with their nutritional needs. Each species of fish has developed certain nutritional requirements which must be met in order to survive and each needs the correct balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. As the fish cannot search for its own food, they are reliant upon you – the farmer, to understand and meet these requirements and be sure they are being met.
If you want to include a multiple fish varities in one tank, you need to ensure they have similar dietary requirements – i.e. all herbivores or all omnivores. Feeding aquaponic fish is easier when you keep it simple!
Fish feed for specific breeds are available which contain all the relevant nutrients, and if used these are often the most expensive part of your aquaponics system (bar the setting up costs), however there are lots of benefits to investing in a good feed as they mimic the nutrients the fish would get in nature, meaning optimum growth and hardiness to disease.
It is sometimes argued that the use of commercial fish food negates the idea of aquaponics being sustainable. To some extent these arguments are correct. Fish feed is made from fish, and the natural fish populations are slowly declining. However, the industry is evolving and alternative options are available. As an aquaponics farmer, if you are able to seek out feeds that do not contain fish meal, then you are supporting a more sustainable approach.
Taking things a step further, many people have become interested in eliminating the use of manufactured feeds altogether and making their own. However great care needs to be taken if you choose to take this route, especially if your aquaponics farm is for commercial use – deficiencies in any one component can affect the health of both your fish and plants.
If you are a home grower, you can make your own by grinding vegetables, grain and fish bones until it becomes a fine mixture. This can either be used fresh or dried into pellets. Supplementing some homemade feed with commercial is a good way to bring down the costs whilst maintaining good health.
Another easy to grow supplement is red/composting worms. These multiply quickly and are ideal as a treat or occasional protein boost for the fish.
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