One of the most common mistakes in fish breeding is feeding fry for fast growth instead of optimum growth. The growing fry are stuffed with protein because it makes them grow fast, with little regard for a balanced diet, let alone a species-appropriate feeding plan.

There is a ‘double negative’ impact when this method is used in home aquariums. Not only are the fry at risk of nutrient deficiencies due to the lack of a well-rounded diet, they’re also being forced to develop rapidly without enough supporting nutrients to keep up with the accelerated growth rate. Every aspect of growth and development suffers from an unbalanced diet, including bone structure, organs, fin and scale development/size, color, immune response, and lifespan. It inevitably results in a fish that can’t possibly reach its full potential on any level.

Different species have different sizes of fry and may need to grow out a bit to be able to eat some of the following selections. You should be able to find out what is normally recommended when you research your particular species.

Most fry begin life eating microscopic organisms such as tiny crustaceans and algae, then move on to larger items like insect larvae. Once they start growing you can increase the size of the fish fry food accordingly. Some species can be ready for larger foods in a matter of weeks. For example, my Bristlenose Pleco fry are eating seaweed flakes, homemade fish food and blanched zucchini as soon as the male lets them out of their cave. Most of my Livebearers are grabbing at food bigger than they are within a month. My Goodeid Livebearers are eating what the adults are fed practically from birth.

Fry (Baby) Fish Foods for Optimum Growth & Development

It’s important to balance a growth diet based on the specific needs of the species you’re breeding. Once you’ve determined that, increase the protein requirements (vegetable or meat sources) by about 20%.

Top 10 Natural Fry (Baby) Fish Foods for Optimum Development
We raise threatened and endangered fish species (like these Skiffia multipunctata) in our aquariums, making survival and healthy growth that much more critical.

The following recommendations are not listed in any particular order as their suitability varies by species.

  1. Baby Brine Shrimp – Newly hatched with the egg sac.
  2. Decapsulated Brine Shrimp Eggs – The most important thing to remember when feeding decapsulated Brine Shrimp eggs is to purchase them from a reputable source that decapsulates properly and thoroughly.
  3. Eggs – A messy option reserved for the smallest fry.  Hard-boiled egg yolk is most often recommended, but grinding up the egg white is less messy and still offers a high level of protein.
  4. Green Water
  5. Infusoria
  6. Paramecium
  7. Vinegar Eels
  8. Moina – The smaller of the Daphnia species.
  9. Microworms – Supplement with bio-encapsulation (gut-loading) with powdered seaweed & algae.
  10. Ground Freeze-Dried Krill – One of the most complete protein sources available along with growth-supporting, bio-available minerals. Krill boasts unsurpassed levels of bio-available Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (HUFA) and Essential Fatty Acids (EFA). Astaxanthin, a carotenoide, is abundant in Krill. This natural immunostimulant also offers anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
  11. Cyclops – A microscopic crustacean rich in Astaxanthin and Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (HUFA).
  12. Dehydrated Powdered Vegetables – If you dehydrate them yourself and run them through a coffee grinder, you’ll get a customized, premium blend of nutritious veggies for your omnivores and herbivores. Good growth choices are Kale, Peas, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Turnip Greens, Shiitake Mushrooms, Carrots and Spinach.
  13. Powdered Mixed Seaweed/Algae – The most complete and nutritious plant matter on earth, seaweed offers 56 bio-available minerals and trace elements, a high level of vitamins, vegetable protein, and anti-microbial properties.
  14. Fresh Vegetables – Many veggie-loving fish will pick away at blanched vegetables. Bottom feeders like Ancistrus Plecos will go crazy for blanched Zucchini, for example. One of the most important things vegetables offer is the opportunity to graze throughout the day, providing constant nutrition like fry would receive in the wild.
  15. Bee Pollen – This choice may surprise many breeders but it is a premium source of nutrients and it’s high in protein, with a side order of immunostimulant.  A friend of a friend did a controlled experiment in which he raised fry entirely on bee pollen with great results. I wouldn’t suggest going quite that far with it, but it’s obviously a fantastic choice as part of a complete diet plan.

You can combine any number of these foods into homemade fish food. Gentle drying and grinding it up in a coffee grinder will bring it down to size.

??? What do you feed your fish fry for optimum growth and development?  Please share your experience or questions in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Live Fish Food Cultures for the Home Aquarium
Top 15 Natural Foods and Herbs for Breeding Fish


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4 thoughts on “Top 15 Natural Fry (Baby) Fish Foods for Optimum Growth

  1. I’ve been studying fish growth and survival rates and found your fish food. It’s been a turning point in my project and in a few years may be a star in my thesis. Thanks 🙂

  2. Now that’s knowledge. So much fish info comes from fish farm research where they just want to grow them out as fast as possible or other sellers for the same reason. It isn’t a surprise their fish are sickly and stunted.

  3. Never once thought about grinding up the bottem bites. Good idea! I use about half of your list but I didn’t always. I believed in the protein protein protein and more protein advice. Not only are my fish healthier now but my water is also cleaner so that helps to. I entered some fish in shows they looked so nice and I did pretty good with awards. It’s all in the learning like anything else.

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