foods and feeding

vegetables for Ancistrus (bristlenose plecostomus)

While some people think that bristlenose catfish can survive off the algae or even fish faeces found in the aquarium, truth is that Ancistrus require regular feeding, like any other fish. In addition to prepared foods (see below) vegetables are a necessary addition to their diet. 

Some frozen vegetables may be used; frozen peas (thawed, skinned and crushed between your finger tips), frozen cut beans (blanch) and frozen Brussels sprouts (blanch) can all be used. In fact, peas are eagerly taken by most of my fish species, with the exception of killies and hara catfish.

However, feeding dark green leaves is strongly recommended. Bok choy, guy lan, Romain and kale are all easy to find, inexpensive and very nutritious (kale is the best for nutrition, and one kale plant will supply you with all the garden veggies you need for a year for a half-dozen bristlenose). Iceberg lettuce isn't very useful except to culture infusoria.

To use the leaves, you: wash, freeze, blanch, chill, serve.

Use the dark outer leaves. Rinse and pat dry. Arrange the leaves single-layer on a tray, separate the layers with a tea towel. Freeze, then collect the leaves and bag them is a zipper bag. This gives you a supply of leaves for use whenever you need them. The freezing softens the leaves, making them more accessible to the fish.

Take as many frozen leaves as you need for a feeding and blanch. Put the leaf in some cold water and bring to a hard boil. Turn off the element, but leave the pot until the the water slows to a simmer. Drain the hot water and add cold water to chill. Since the leaves float, use a stainless steel fork (the long-handled bar-b-q type make life very simple) to hold under water.

It takes a few paragraphs to explain it, but it's easy to do. The blanching/cooling of the leaves is to prevent a bacterial bloom in the water. Some tanks are more prone than others, but it is a useful precaution to take.
Other suitable vegetable foods include lightly boiled squash, carrot and stinging nettle. Zucchini and cucumber are popular, but are messy and smell foul.
^^a young male bristlenose plecostomus sharing a leaf of kale with
endlers livebearers and red cherry shrimp
food storage:
^^sealed storage Bulk foods are an effective way to save money on food costs, but it's important to store foods properly. Prepared foods should be kept in the freezer in air-tight bags. Store small amounts of food in resealable containers for feeding. Keep food out of sunlight.
recommended prepared foods:
 ^^critter crumbs Made by Pamelajo, available from Canadian Aquarium Connection  "...made with natural ingredients! Main ingredient is a medley of vegetables. (Peas, green beans, broccoli, sweet potato, & red peppers) Sweet Potatoes provide carrotene, a natural colour enhancer. A small amount of Salmon provides Omega 3 Fatty Acids; Spirulina for it's antioxidant properties"
^^bottom bites, made by  All Natural Pet Care"...This low-temp dehydrated food is highly concentrated and packed with premium, naturally-sourced nutrition, including seaweed, vegetables, seafood, crustaceans, larvae, earthworms, garlic and herbs, plus stabilized vitamins & extra calcium (ingredients naturally provide trace elements - we do not add copper)."
^^Organic Flaked Veggie Mix
"... a human-grade mix contains a blend of certified organic, gently-dried vegetables, flaked small and ready to feed...  This convenient mix contains: Organic Dandelion Greens, Organic Spinnach Leaf, Organic Green Bell Peppers, Organic Green Leaks, Organic Bok Choy, Organic Romaine Lettuce. Also... available with 25% mixed seaweed at no additional cost..."
^^spirulina wafers Available in bulk at many pet stores, spirulina wafers are a handy stand-by for stretching the food budget. I get mine at Prairie Pets Foods and Supplies.

live foods
^^microworm culture: fresh and tasty. The culture should smell of fresh yeast and be mold free.  Microworms are easy to culture. Use moist white or whole wheat bread (no nuts or seeds) sprinkled with yeast. Add the microworm starter.  Seal the container (poke small holes in the lid for air flow)  and leave in a warmish place, like the fridge-top.  Get a starter culture at menu@stormiidae
^^yeast is available at most supermarkets
 collecting and feeding: gather micro worms from the sides of  the culture containers with a small brush. Collect in a small dish, add dechlorinated water and serve with an eye dropper. This method prevents possible contamination of the culture, and prevents the possible cross-contamination of aquariums.
^^storage: store your cultures in see-through containers for easy monitoring.
^^prevent contamination: using a fine mesh screen on the storage container allows for air flow while preventing insect vectors. 

Vinegar eels
  ^^another easy -if difficult to see- live food to culture, vinegar eels are tiny nematodes, roughly half the size of microworms. Perfect food for the tiniest fry, vinegar eels are also eagerly taken by many adult small fish. These nematodes stay in the water column, towards the top, and will survive in the aquarium for several days, giving fry easy feeding opportunities.
^^everything you need
 Easy vinegar eel culture:
Mix apple cider vinegar half and half with fresh water and add apple slices. Add starter culture. Cover to keep out fruit flies but allow air flow. Stash somewhere out of the way for a few weeks and give the colony time to establish.
Using a turkey baster or something similar, transfer enough culture to fill a long-necked bottle to the neck line. Add a plug of aquarium filter floss. Fill the remaining space with fresh water. The nematodes will pass through the floss into the fresh water to get to the surface. Using a turkey baster, pull up the fresh water and feed directly to your fish. Keep the neck filled with fresh water and continue to harvest for a day or two.

Windowsill cultures: daphnia, copepods and midge larvae
^^'sill cultures 
^^use it or lose it. Daphnia easily overpopulate themselves into oblivion.  Regular thinning is essential to maintaining a healthy population.
Vases, porch buckets and small 1& 2 gallon aquariums are idea containers. Cover with screen to keep out mosquitoes,  midges and other aquatic insects; or leave a culture or two uncovered to encourage  them - blood worms are a form of midge larvae, after all.
 ^^restart the culture in a fresh vase when the algae builds up
 ^^perfect for otos and bristlnoses
 Recommended reading: daphnia: John Clare, B.A., Ph D., midges: BC Adventure
Get a starter culture at CAC Auction or Canadian Aquatics
 ^^turkey basters are a handy harvesting/maintenance tool. Collect live foods with the baster, and replace the water with water from an aquarium.
 ^^double-fabric brine shrimp nets are useful for harvesting from larger containers and tubs.  Creative Commons License This work by Storm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.