How to Train an Ambush Predator to Eat Prepared Foods
It is well known that feeding saltwater, ambush predators feeder fish that are grown in freshwater environments are lacking in certain fats and nutrients. Getting a new marine fish to accept prepared foods can be tricky. The only other option is to rear saltwater feeder fish, but this is no easy task. Mollies can adapt to saltwater, be fed a marine-based diet, and will breed readily, but keeping up a steady supply is hard, especially for voracious feeders such as lionfish and groupers.
Having kept a wide variety of saltwater predators, I finally came up with a solution that is both easy and nearly guaranteed to work. I start the new fish with standard freshwater feeders such as guppies, goldfish, and ghost shrimp. These freshwater feeders should be gut-loaded with marine foods to try to pass along as many marine fats and vitamins as possible leading up to the full conversion. The way I introduce these feeders is the most important part. I scoop them out of their holding tank and into a net. I then submerge that net into the display aquarium housing the saltwater predator while holding it steady inside the display at mid-water level. The feeders eventually make their way out of the net, swim around a bit, but are eaten in short order.
After doing this day after day, the predator eventually learns to associate that net with food. After a while, the predatory fish will start to swim up to and even inside the net to gulp down the feeders before they scurry out of the net. It is much easier to corner and consume those feeders in the net then chasing them all over the display. At this point, it is time to make the switch to some prepared foods.
Once the predator has been going into the net to get their food for a week or two, I swap out the feeders for frozen surrogates. If I have been using feeder guppies or goldfish, I instead defrost some silversides of comparable size and place them into the net. Dethawed, frozen krill is a good substitute for ghost shrimp. If the predator were eating several feeders at a time, it would be a good idea to introduce the frozen substitutes in a 50/50 mix with the feeders. But eventually, the predator can be weaned onto eating any food that is placed into the net. I have successfully trained numerous species of grouper as well as lionfish (both dwarf species and volitans) to accept even cubed prepared foods such as Ocean Nutrition Formula One.
Offering a variety of marine foods to a saltwater ambush predator will ensure that they get the nutrition that they need to live a long healthy life. Given this technique a try. The worst that has ever happened to me is that the predatory fish ruined a few nets along the way, but they are cheap enough to replace. Good luck!
Steven Pro has had an aquarium for as long as he can remember, but didn't get into marines until sometime in the early 1990's. He started working full-time in the ornamental aquatics industry in the summer of 1995, primarily doing design, installations, and on-going maintenance of aquariums. He has also worked previously for Red Sea and IceCap Inc. Along the way, he was a contributor to WetWebMedia, had over 40 articles published with more on the way, spoken at over 60 clubs and conferences, and co-hosted MACNA 19. He is currently the President of MASNA.
-Jesus did not come to the world to condemn the world, rather, He came to give us life, a life more abundant! That through Him we would be saved.
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thanks for sharing
Nice technique. I have done the same thing with feeder tongs, using at first live guppy to frozen guppy to silverside or live ghost shrimp to frozen ghost shrimp to frozen krill or jumbo mysis. This has worked well for me with dwarf lions and anglerfish.
Handy! I was wondering how this was done
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