Q.how do I widen their diet?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Marine -

I have a Pea­cock snake­head and he is lov­ing blood­worm but won’t en­ter­tain much else. I’d like to get him onto both good qual­ity flake and frozen/live foods. Any ad­vice please? JACK SHERBURN, EMAIL

A‘Hunger makes the best sauce’ is a good maxim when keep­ing car­niv­o­rous fish. Blood­worms might well be tasty but they’re not par­tic­u­larly nu­tri­tious, and your goal is to get your snake­head weaned onto as var­ied a diet as pos­si­ble. The greater the range of foods a preda­tory fish con­sumes, the smaller the risk it will suf­fer from some sort of nu­tri­ent de­fi­ciency.

This con­trasts with stan­dard com­mu­nity fish that can do well for their en­tire lives on good qual­ity flake foods, such foods hav­ing been care­fully de­signed to sat­isfy the nu­tri­tional needs of small, om­niv­o­rous species like barbs and tetras. Preda­tory fish­keep­ers have to think about diet much more care­fully, be­cause some types of foods are no­tice­ably lack­ing in cer­tain nu­tri­ents. The most no­to­ri­ous ex­am­ple of this is prob­a­bly the en­zyme thi­ami­nase, which breaks down vi­ta­min B1 (thi­amine) and preda­tory fish fed a diet con­tain­ing a lot of foods con­tain­ing thi­ami­nase end up get­ting sick in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ways.

With your Pea­cock snake­head, Channa pul­chra, there’s no par­tic­u­lar rea­son to as­sume your fish will starve it­self to death if you de­cide to lay off the blood­worms for a while! This species, like most snake­heads, is re­ported to take a wide range of foods. While I’ve not kept this par­tic­u­lar species, I’ve kept a sim­i­lar one, and it hap­pily con­sumed earth­worms, river shrimps, and all the usual chunky seafoods such as white fish fil­lets, cock­les, and prawns (th­ese lat­ter used spar­ingly be­cause they con­tain thi­ami­nase). In­deed, earth­worms are of­ten the very best foods for get­ting shy car­ni­vores set­tled in be­cause they seem to be ir­re­sistible.

Flake and pel­let foods are a bit more of a mixed bag so far as snake­heads go, but once a snake­head has learned to con­sume a range of fresh or frozen foods, you should find it’ll try car­ni­vore pel­lets and the like if of­fered at the same time. Proper car­ni­vore pel­lets con­tain a good se­lec­tion of nu­tri­ents, and should make an ex­cel­lent sta­ple.

So, it’s more about get­ting your Channa in the mood to try some­thing dif­fer­ent. A good ap­proach is to skip feed­ing the fish for at least a cou­ple of days. While most fish can go with­out food for long pe­ri­ods if they’re in good shape, after a few days with­out be­ing fed they’re usu­ally more will­ing than usual to try some­thing new. If the food isn’t taken within a few min­utes, re­move it and try again the next day. Don’t leave high pro­tein foods un­eaten in the tank be­cause of the strain they place on the fil­ter. NEALE MONKS

Snake­heads can of­ten be weaned onto car­ni­vore pel­lets, but it might take a bit of per­se­ver­ance.

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