Homemade gelatin food allows us to easily mix a variety of nutrients, supplements or medication together. The following recipe is specific to fish, shrimp & snails, but may be adapted for any animal.
Homemade Gelatin Food Recipe
Start with two packets of unflavored gelatin (or try your hand at using the calcium-rich food grade Agar-agar… or both). A packet of gelatin equals 1/4 ounce/7 grams/1 Tbsp/4 sheets of leaf gelatin.
You can add approximately:
4 cups of veggies – pureed (or chopped if your creatures can handle them that way)
1 cup dry food (flakes, powders, etc)
1-3 jars of baby food (my fave is organic peas)
1/2 c of pureed seafood and/or trimmed beef heart
1/4 – 1/2 clove of garlic (just chuck it in with the veggies & puree)
A drop of liquid baby vitamins or fish vitamins
1/4 tsp Liquid calcium, or snip open a couple of human liquid Calcium supplements & squirt the contents in.
The baby food can be heated in the microwave & the gelatin added to that, or you can dissolve the gelatin in hot liquid. Water is acceptable, but you can also get creative there, as long as its hot liquid. Make sure it is dense, like the baby food. Juices, etc will dissolve into the water column too quickly.
Agar-agar is made from pressed seaweed and offers an impressive difference in nutrient content over animal gelatin. It sets very quickly with or without refrigeration. Agar-agar seems to work best if it’s cooked with the rest of the ingredients. The problem with that is the extra cooking reduces the nutritional value of said foods, and it’s more difficult to figure out how much Agar-agar you need. You may opt for an Agar-agar mix using only powdered ingredients, such as shrimp powder, spirulina powder, powdered vitamins, Naturose, etc. The powder should be mixed with the Agar-agar at about a 3/1 ratio. You can layer this mixture over a gelatin mixture, or serve alone. This may result in more escaping into the water column, so feed very sparingly.
As a general rule, you can set two cups of liquid using 2 tsp. of Agar-agar powder, 2 Tbsp. of Agar-agar flakes, or one bar [VegCooking.com]. For aquarium use, you may wish to add more than the standard amount of Agar-agar for a more firm result. If you’re substituting powdered Agar-agar for gelatin in a recipe, use an equal amount. If you use acidic fruit (such as oranges), the mixture will require more gelatin.
Freeze in thin sheets to be broken off, or pour into small ice cube trays. The small, fancy ice cube or Jello trays work well. A little goes a long way.
What about Carrageen? While it is made from seaweed, it doesn’t gel firmly enough for aquarium use, in my experience. I would class it as more of a thickener than a gel.
Nutritional Analysis of Gelatin (7 g serving)*
Calories – 23.4 (from protein)
Animal Protein – 6 g
Folate – 2.1 mcg
Choline – 2.7 mg
Calcium 3.9 mg
Iron – 0.1 mg
Magnesium – 1.5 mg
Phosphorus – 2.7 mg
Potasium – 1.1 mg
Sodium – 13.7 mg
Copper – 0.2 mg
Selenium – 2.8 mcg
Ash – 0.1 g
Nutritional Analysis of Agar-agar (7 g serving)*
Calories – 21.4
Carbohydrates – 5.65 g
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – 6.15 mg
Omega-6 Fatty Acids – 0.28 mg
Vegetable Protein – 0.5 g
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) – 0.35 mg
Vitamin K – 1.7 mcg
Riboflavin – 0.03 mg
Niacin – 0.03 mg
Vitamin B6 – 0.03 mg
Folate – 40.5 mcg
Choline – 4.43 mg
Calcium – 43.8 mg
Iron – 1.5 mg
Magnesium – 54 mg
Phosphorus – 3.7 mg
Potasium – 78.8 mg
Sodium – 7.15 mg
Copper – 0.05 mg
Selenium – 0.53 mcg
Ash – 0.28 g
*Nutrient data for this listing was provided by the USDA.
Since gelatin foods fill pets up quickly, it’s important to note the nutritional superiority of Agar-agar over animal gelatin. We should also consider how filling gelatins are when formulating our recipes, to ensure that they are packed with highly nutritious food so the animal isn’t eating too much gelatin alone. We can do this by using pureed ingredients and powdered foods.
You can play with how much and what you put in there, this is just a starting point. For Carnivores, you would naturally want to concentrate more on protein, for example. Cover crucial vitamins, minerals & proteins, along with natural color enhancers when applicable. Please see our article on Formulating Your Own Fish Food for tips and a chart of both the nutritional requirements of fish and suggested nutrient sources.
Homemade fish food is great for making freeze-dried (Brine Shrimp, Krill, Seaweed, etc) and other light foods sink. Be sure to stir slowly to avoid introducing air bubbles or it won’t sink (frozen sinks better than refrigerated). Alternately, stir up a storm if you want it to float.
This is also a fantastic way to get fish to eat medication, although I would expose medication to as little heat as possible.
Note to Discus fans & other high-temperature fish: According to Rocky Mountain Discus, gelatin recipes will dissolve too quickly at the higher tank temperatures.
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