Q.how do I widen their diet?
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.