Top 10 Live Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish

Top 10 Live Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish

If you are looking for the very best fish food to feed your aquarium animals, most veteran fishkeepers will agree there is nothing that tops live foods. The premium food is similar to the natural diet of fish and offers many benefits. Fish will eat the food as it moves, which is particularly useful for those who are growing or underweight and require more nutrients. Hunting is a great way to enrich your aquarium animals’ mental and physical health. It also allows you to observe interesting behaviors that may not be possible when feeding flakes. The fastest way to raise your fish for breeding is with live foods. These 10 live foods are easy to cultivate in your home.

1. Baby Brine Shrimp

Peacock gudgeon fish eating baby brine shrimp

Baby brine shrimp is the best option for raising fish babies or encouraging fish to spawn. These tiny, saltwater crustaceans from the Artemia genus are born with highly nutritious yolk sacs that are packed with proteins and healthy fats. You can hatch them at home by soaking brine shrimp eggs into salt water. It should take 18 to 36 hours, depending on whether the water temperature is 74-82F (23 to 28degC). To attract brine shrimp, shine light on the bottom of your hatchery and let them out. Follow our exact recipe for hatching brine shrimp by reading the full article.

2. Snails

Malaysian trumpet snails

Many fish – like puffers, loaches, and larger South American cichlids – enjoy eating live snails. The snail shells are a great way to keep pufferfish from getting too big. To produce a steady supply of these aquatic gastropods, set up a separate aquarium or tub as your breeding factory for bladder, ramshorn, or Malaysian trumpet snails. They require hard water that is higher in pH and GH to avoid developing holes in their shells. If you have hard water like us, we use 1-2 inches (3-3-5 cm) of crushed Coral as a substrate. We then give mineral supplements such Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium as needed. Next, we feed Pleco Banquet Blocks or Nano Banquet Food Blocks to our fish food high in calcium. Learn more about the 7 most popular freshwater snails.

3. Vinegar Eels

Typically, egg-scattering fish such as tetras, rainbowfish, and killifish produce teeny-tiny fry that are too small to eat regular fry food. Vinegar Eels are harmless, roundworm-like white worms that can be cultured quickly and are ideal for feeding babies while they grow up to eat baby salt shrimp. Fill a wine glass or any other long-necked vessel with half an apple cider vinegar, half dechlorinated waters, and a few apples slices. Once the vinegar eels have reproduced enough, you can harvest them by adding some filter floss and dechlorinated water into the neck of the bottle so that the vinegar eels swim out of the vinegar into the fresh water. Use a pipette or a spoon to remove the vinegar eels. Follow our step-by–step instructions to create your own vinegar-eel culture.

4. Micro Worms

Kribensis fry eating microworms

Banana worms, walter worms, and micro worms are also nematodes or roundworms used as live fish food. These nematodes are slightly larger than vinegar eels, but smaller than baby brine shrimps and can therefore be fed to small fry. We like to start our cultures in small plastic containers with instant mashed potatoes. Make a small opening in the lid of your plastic container and cover it with filter floss. This will keep unwanted pests out. Simply run your finger along the plastic tub’s sides to harvest the microworms. Then, dip your finger into the aquarium to feed the fish. This tutorial will provide more details.

5. Daphnia

These aquatic crustaceans measure approximately 1-5 millimeters in length and are a great food source for small- to medium-sized fish. They breed quite rapidly, so to keep the water parameters stable and prevent the population from crashing, we recommend keeping them in as much water as possible. Use old tank water or aged, dechlorinated water for water changes since they are very sensitive to chlorine. For optimal reproduction, they prefer long exposure to light and lower temperatures (around 68degF (20degC). Daphnia are filter feeders, so whenever the water is no longer cloudy with food, feed them active dry yeast, green water, or spirulina powder. It is easy to harvest them by slowly squeezing through the water a fine-meshed aquarium mesh net. Find out more about how to cultivate daphnia.


6. Infusoria

What are the most common wild foods for newborn fish? Microorganisms like protozoans and microalgae are the most common. Therefore, many fish breeders make their own cultures of freshwater plankton (i.e., infusoria) to feed tiny fry. There are many options, but the easiest is to fill large jars with a few quarts or liters of old tank water. Then add some mulm from filter media. Drop a 1-inch (3cm) piece of banana peel or half a teaspoon of instant yeast into the jar to feed your infusoria. To get faster results, heat the water to between 78-80degF and 26-27degC. Within a few days, you will see small, moving specks. If the water becomes clear and turns cloudy, it is likely that the infusoria have consumed all of the food you gave them. The culture is now ready to harvest. Use a pipette to extract some water and give it to your baby fry.

7. Blackworms

Live blackworms are a great food for bottom dwellers because they sink to the ground, and many breeders believe they are the best way to condition corydoras catfish. It can be difficult to propagate them at home so farms in the United States grow large-scale cultures in man-made lakes. Blackworms can be purchased at your local fish shop or directly from farms online. After receiving them, scoop out the blackworms and place them in a fine-meshed net. Rinse them with dechlorinated water at 40-55°F (4-13°C). You want to make sure that they aren’t too full. Keep them in a large, shallow container. Pour in just enough cold, dechlorinated water to cover the blackworms, and place the container (without a lid) in the refrigerator. Keep your worms alive until you give them to your fish. Rinse the container with cold, dechlorinated water every day.

8. Grindal and White Worms

Once your fish fry have graduated from vinegar eels and micro worms, you can move onto Grindal worms (about 0.5 mm in diameter) and then eventually white worms (about 1 mm in diameter). You will need to sterilize the substrate, such as organic potting soil, coconut fiber, or peatmoss. The dirt can be heated in an oven for up to 30 minutes at 180-200°F (82-93°C), or you can moisten it with water and microwave it in intervals of 90 seconds until it reaches 180–200°F (82–93°C).

Place the substrate in a plastic container or tub and cover until it has cooled; add a little dechlorinated water to moisten it some more if needed. Afterwards, add the starter worm culture and some food (e.g., bread and yogurt, oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, or even fish food) to the surface of the substrate. Cover the food with a deli lid. Next, cut a hole in the lid of the plastic container. Then attach a piece fabric to the hole. Place the lid on top of the container.

Grindal worms do well in room temperatures of 70-75degF (21-24degC), whereas white worms must be stored around 55degF (13degC) in a cool basement or wine chiller. To harvest them, remove the deli cup lid on top of the food, wipe off some worms with your finger, and dip them in a small cup of water to rinse them before feeding your fish.

9. Bugs


Insects and larvae make up a large part of fish’s natural diets. Their exoskeletons provide excellent roughage, which helps fish digestion. Reptile shops can sell feeder insects such as mealworms, dubia-roaches, and crickets. Some people even grow their own dubia-roach colonies. Red wigglers and earthworms are available at certain pet stores and bait shops and can be cultured at home as well.

To harvest insects from the wild without introducing potential parasites, set a 5-gallon bucket of dechlorinated water outside and wait for the mosquitos to lay their eggs.

You can scoop up the mosquito larvae using a fine mesh net. Make sure you harvest every day, or they will become adult mosquitoes.

10. Live Fish

We personally do not sell feeder fish at Aquarium Co-Op because they have a higher likelihood of spreading disease to your aquarium and most people do not bother quarantining feeder fish. Plus, goldfish and minnows contain high levels of thiaminase and, when consumed in large amounts, can prevent your predator fish from getting enough thiamin (or vitamin B1) and cause all sorts of health issues. The key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies is to give your fish a variety of food and not just one type.

That being said, some hobbyists raise their own feeder fish at home to minimize the risk of infection. For example, livebearers (or fish that bear live young) reproduce very quickly, so removing some of the offspring will help prevent the colony from getting too big. To ensure the breeding of cherry shrimps, it is possible to remove the less colorful individuals. This will allow the line to improve in quality. Feeding live fish or invertebrates is not for everyone, but it is a natural part of a predator’s life.

Most live cultures can be purchased online or from local hobbyists, so find out which foods are well-suited for your fish and give it a try. We recommend that you always have extra cultures in case the first one fails. We wish you all the best on your live food adventure. Also, make sure to see our tutorial for baby brine shrimp, which is our favorite live food.