Sad Fish: Are you skipping fish feedings and does it have a negative effect?

Is skipping fish feedings unhealthy for your fish?

  • Yes

    Votes: 93 12.0%
  • No

    Votes: 364 47.1%
  • Not sure

    Votes: 158 20.4%
  • Depends

    Votes: 147 19.0%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 11 1.4%

  • Total voters
    773

Pete Giwojna

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I can tell you that seahorses definitely benefit from occasional fasting days. Overfeeding your seahorses on a lipid-rich diet of fortified frozen Mysis can be harmful to their long-term health. It's entirely possible to kill these amazing animals with kindness by feeding them too much of a good thing.



Because of their lazy lifestyle, our pampered ponies are susceptible to a debilitating affliction commonly known as "fatty liver disease" or hepatic lipidosis when they are given a diet that's excessively rich in HUFA (highly unsaturated fatty acids) and other lipids. Mature seahorses that are no longer breeding are at greatest risk from hepatic lipidosis. Young seahorses need a high-fat diet to sustain their rapid growth and development, and breeding pairs that are churning out brood after brood of fry likewise need all the energy they can get. But once they reach sexual maturity, their growth rate slows markedly, and nonbreeding adults that receive a high-fat diet will begin to store excess fat in specialized cells called adipose tissue (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). Eventually these fatty deposits will begin to infiltrate the liver cells, hence the name fatty liver disease (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). In severe cases, adipose tissue can become so thick that it can literally hides the internal organs, cloaking them within a cocoon of fat, and distending the abdomen (Tamaru, Sep. 2001). When the seahorse's liver or hepatopancreas becomes badly infiltrated with fatty deposits, it interferes with the organ's ability to perform its vital role in digestion, food absorption, and detoxification of the blood, which has dire consequences for the affected seahorse.



Hepatic lipidosis normally does not kill its victims quickly. Ironically, due to the impairment of digestion and food absorption it causes, fatty liver disease is typically associated with chronic wasting and emaciation. Most often, the affected seahorses literally wastes away and eventually succumbs to some opportunistic disease in their weakened state.



Unfortunately, hepatic lipidosis is far more common than most seahorse keepers suspect. Of the necropsies Dr. Martin Belli has performed on hobbyist's seahorses, fully 38% of them had fatty livers (Belli, per. com.).



Avoiding overfeeding, fasting adults once a week and using relatively low-fat enrichment products such as Vibrance II for mature seahorses that are no longer breeding are simple ways to prevent fatty liver disease.



If, like me, you find that fasting your seahorses is stressful on the aquarist, there is another alternative that both you and your seahorses may find more palatable. Fasting day always made me feel like a heartless heel, as I described in my new book on seahorses:



"The only thing I don't like about this extremely nutritious diet is the obligatory fast day. The problem with fasting is that my Mustangs don't seem to realize it's good for them -- that it's absolutely in their own best interests, essential for their long-term health. Whenever I make an appearance on fast day, they insist on parading back and forth in front of the glass in their greeting colors, begging for a handout. Before my butt hits the upholstery, both of them will be dancing at the feeding station, impatiently awaiting their gourmet shrimp dinner. When it doesn't materialize, they forlornly abandon their post at the lunch counter, and come up to stare at me through the front glass. When I still don't take the hint, the female paces back and forth at the front, looking her brightest and most conspicuous, as though trying to attract my attention, while the male reverts to his drab everyday attire and dejectedly resumes his futile vigil at the feeding station. If not for their well-rounded cross-sections, one would think they were dying of hunger, making it difficult to resist their puppy-dog antics. Just sitting there ignoring them makes me feel like a first-class heel. Sheesh--talk about your guilt trips…Dang! I hate fast days." (Giwojna, Jun. 2002)



Lately, however, I've found a way out of that dilemma. It's a fun alternative to fast days that I feel is far easier on the hobbyist and his pampered pets alike. Nowadays, rather than fasting my seahorses, I offer them a meal with a nutritional value that's virtually nil instead: unenriched, unfed adult brine shrimp. As you can imagine, brine shrimp in this condition have very little fat content and should be considered nutritionally barren for all intents and purposes.



So once a week, instead of depriving my seahorses, I now serve them up a generous portion of unenriched adult brine shrimp. They get the thrill of hunting and eating live food and I get the fun of watching them chase after it. Instead of going hungry, my seahorses get to fill up on empty calories, while I get to avoid a guilty conscience. It's a win-win situation. Everybody's happy.



It's a neat way of "fasting with a full belly," which I feel is healthy for the seahorses in more ways than one. Not only does it help guard against hepatic lipidosis from a high-fat diet, it also provides a little extra excitement and behavioral enrichment for the seahorses and helps improve their quality of life in captivity.



However, if you want to try this, it's important to observe a couple of important precautions. Remember, there is always the chance that you can introduce disease into your aquarium along with the live brine shrimp. Live Artemia (brine shrimp) are known disease vectors for a long laundry list of fish pathogens, and should be treated with caution in that regard - especially if obtained from your local fish store (LFS). The aquarist who relies on live foods for his seahorses MUST take special precautions to eliminate this potential danger!



Fortunately, there are a couple of simple measures that can minimize such risks. If you raise your own brine shrimp, remember that decapsulating Artemia cysts, removes all known parasites and pathogens, effectively sterilizing brine shrimp eggs. Large public aquaria routinely go a step further, disinfecting live foods by administering a 10-minute freshwater bath and then rinsing it thoroughly through a 100-micron strainer before offering it to their seahorses. Home hobbyists should do the same (a brine shrimp net will suffice for the strainer). Brine shrimp -- the chief offender as a disease vector -- tolerate this disinfection process extremely well. Many of the preferred live foods, such as Red Feeder Shrimp from Hawaii (Halocaridina rubra), Post Larval Shrimp (PLS), brine shrimp (Artemia sp.) and live Mysis are now available from High-Health facilities, which greatly minimizes the risk of disease contamination, and seahorse keepers should take full advantage of these safe vendors when purchasing live foods.



So there is an entertaining way us seahorse lovers can avoid the fast-day blues -- just be sure to take sensible precautions when you do so!



Best wishes with all your fishes, everybody. Stay safe and stay healthy!



Respectfully,

Pete Giwojna
 
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Mark Novack

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Fish on the reef must forage constantly. They eat enough until they are eaten by something larger. The aquarium is a veritable buffet. I have, however, lost fish because of forgetting their essential staples. Sponge eaters need sponge in the diet, lots of sponge. Few obligate eaters will survive for more than a year unless their requirements are met. They get the calories and drop dead in apparent perfect health from a deficiency.
 

alimac122

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I bought this:
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and my kiddos get pellets 3x a day without me even thinking about it. Then around every other day(ish) I feed frozen mysis. So far its a good system and everyone seems happy. The only problem i've seen is that i have a shy lemonpeel angel, and she is skiddish when i drop the mysis in. Maybe if I hand fed 3x a day ever day, she would be less shy. But that's my only qualm.
 
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1stNoel

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I have two automatic feeders, so my fish get fed everyday. I also provide a buffet of frozen food once a day (and very rarely skip).

The longest I've ever gone without providing the buffet is 3 days (when I was away for the weekend).
 
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Leib

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After 10 years in saltwater and 30 years doing freshwater this is our (me and my dads) result. When me and my dad originally started keeping a reef tank we would feed twice a day a mix of different warms soaked in vitamins and garlic we never fed nori for our tangs or anything else. We fed daily,occasionally we went on vacation we would hire someone to feed the fish. We never had alot of money so we would hire any random person to feed them (not a professional reefer) after 1 or 2 vacations we realized we would come back with almost all the fish food we left the guy (to feed our fish). Our fish were at the point where they were so skinny they would die (these vacations were around a week long) with that in mind we realized a week without food is a no no!! Now we occasionally are gone for a day or 2 and the fish handle that well. we Fed them right before leaving and right after we would arrive back home. So with that in mind health wise they would do well for over 10+ years. With that said a day or two is fine. Now another issue we ran into was not feeding enough we now feed twice a day nori,once a day warms,once a day pellets (large pellets for big fish small pellets for our school of anthias.)Last but not least we feed dr.g refrederated food
After changing there diet we have a tank of thriving thick fish our nitrate and phosphate are hard to manage but the health of the fish pays off. Not to mention with changing this we fixed a massive problem we had, battling hlle (head and lateral line erosion) and battling hith (hole in the head disease!!!) On our sailfin tang.
After changing his diet it's at the point where it's almost completely healed!!!
feeding often with a good balance of nutrition has worked for me. let me know what you think!!! (Will be happy to hear from you if you have any comments or questions!) Happy reefing!!!
 

SMB

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When tropical storms hit the reefs many fish just take a break and shelter in place. They do fine with not eating for a few days.
I've had a Shrimp Goby who has lived in a tunnel with it's shrimp for a year and I have never seen him eat!!!
 

sp1187

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1. Do your fish ever go without a daily feeding and if so why?
current tank: yes, I fell asleep before it thawed out.
old predator tank: yes. I don't think morays or lions need daily feeding.

2. Do you think missing feedings has a negative effect on your fish?

no, but it could have a negative effect on your other inhabitants.

3. What's the longest your fish have ever went without a feeding?

over a week when I had morays and lions. this was back in the early eighties when feeding goldfish was "ok".
2 snowflakes & white mouth all over 12" long.
volitan lion 8".
I'd buy a dozen goldfish and feed the tank.
 

Cl0wnfish

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I DO NOT feed my fish everyday; more of a skip one day, feed ,then skip 2 days, feed, skip a day, feed. I am totally sporadic with my feeding and have had all fish in tank 4+ years with great color etc. I will say I have lost emerald crabs and hermits because of this and I have to be more cognizant to prevent loss of scavengers.
 

fishbulb

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Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting has been shown to increase the lifespan of humans, mice, Drosophila, nematodes and every other species examined. There's no way reef animals are only group to not benefit from caloric restriction.

That being said, feeding my fish is when I interact with them most and I enjoy. And they're already living longer than they would with predation in the ocean, so I feed them a lot. :)
 

Pongo

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I usually get home from work at 5:20 in the evening and as I walk in the room the fish are already gathered at the end of the tank where I feed.

If I don't feed them by 6:00, the blue hippo tang will whip her tail and eject water out of the tank onto the floor.
If I haven't fed them by 6:30, an even larger splash of water goes over the side.

Miss a feeding? No, my floors can't take it.
 

Oarphilly

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I always stuck with one frozen cube a day. Was worried if I did more I'd start getting more algae, but maybe I should double up to see if everyone seems happier. If I can see through the glass still.
 

TAL

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I believe in feeding them every day. Missing a day is not going to kill a healthy fish however. Some fish like anthias need to be fed more frequently. I would never intentionally not feed a healthy fish.
 

How often do you clean your filter socks?

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