Top 10 Live Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish

Top 10 Live Foods to Feed Your Aquarium Fish

If you are looking for the very best fish food to feed your aquarium animals, most veteran fishkeepers will agree there is nothing that tops live foods. The premium food is similar to the natural diet of fish and offers many benefits. The food moves and attracts fish to eat it. This is especially important for growing or overweight fish who need more nutrients. Hunting is a great way to enrich your aquarium animals’ mental and physical health. It also allows you to observe interesting behaviors that may not be possible when feeding flakes. Live foods are a great way to breed your fish. These 10 live foods are easy to cultivate in your home.

1. Baby Brine Shrimp

Peacock gudgeon fry eating baby brine shrimp

Baby brine shrimp is the best option for raising fish babies or encouraging fish to spawn. These tiny, saltwater crustaceans from the Artemia genus are born with highly nutritious yolk sacs that are packed with proteins and healthy fats. If you want to hatch them yourself, soak the brine shrimp eggs in warm salt water. This should take between 18 and 36 hours (or 23-28 hours) depending on how hot your water is. If you notice hundreds of tiny, pink dots floating around in your brine shrimp hatchery, turn on the light and attract them. Then, separate their eggs from their shells by shining a light at the base. You can read the complete article to find out our exact method for hatching brine shrimp.

2. Snails

Malaysian trumpet snails

Puffers, loaches, and larger South American-cichlids such as puffers, love snails. For pufferfish, the snail shells help to grind down their ever-growing teeth so they won’t get too long. For a steady supply, you will need a separate aquarium to house your ramshorn, bladder, and Malaysian trumpet snails. They require hard water that is higher in pH and GH to avoid developing holes in their shells. We prefer to use crushed coral for substrate. If we have soft water, we can then add mineral supplements such as Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium. We then feed Pleco Banquet Blocks and Nano Banquet Food Blocks as well as other high-calcium fish foods. Learn more about the 7 most popular freshwater snails.

3. Vinegar Eels

Egg-scattering species such as rainbowfish, tetras, and killifish tend to produce tiny fry that can’t be eaten. Vinegar eels, which are harmless white roundworms, are easy to cultivate and are great for feeding babies until they can eat baby brine shrimp. Simply fill a wine or other long-necked bottle with 50% apple cider vinegar, 50% dechlorinated water, and a few slices of apple. After enough vinegar eels have been produced, you can harvest them. To allow the vinegar-eels to swim out from the vinegar into fresh water, add some filter floss and dechlorinated liquid into the neck. Use a pipette or a spoon to remove the vinegar eels. Follow our step-by–step instructions to create your own vinegar-eel culture.

4. Micro Worms

Kribensis fry eating microworms

Walter worms and banana worms can also be used as live fish food. They are slightly bigger than vinegar eels but still smaller than baby brine shrimp and therefore can be fed to tiny fry. We prefer to start our cultures using small plastic containers filled with instant mashed potatoes. To prevent pests from getting in, make a hole in the lid of the plastic container. Then stuff it with filter floss. To harvest them, just swipe your finger along the sides of the plastic tub where the microworms have climbed up and then dip your finger directly into the tank to feed the fish. For more information, see this tutorial.

5. Daphnia

These aquatic crustaceans measure approximately 1-5 millimeters in length and are a great food source for small- to medium-sized fish. They can reproduce quickly, so we recommend that they are kept in as much water possible to maintain stable water parameters and avoid population crashes. Use old tank water or aged, dechlorinated water for water changes since they are very sensitive to chlorine. For optimal reproduction, they prefer long exposure to light and lower temperatures (around 68degF (20degC). Daphnia prefer to be fed through filters. If the water is not cloudy, you can feed them active dry yeast or green water. It is easy to harvest them by slowly squeezing through the water a fine-meshed aquarium mesh net. Find out more about how to cultivate daphnia.

6. Infusoria

What does the majority of newborn fish eat in nature? Most often, microorganisms, such as protozoans, microalgae and invertebrate larvae. Therefore, many fish breeders make their own cultures of freshwater plankton (i.e., infusoria) to feed tiny fry. There are many options, but the easiest is to fill large jars with a few quarts or liters of old tank water. Then add some mulm from filter media. Drop a 1-inch (3cm) piece of banana peel or half a teaspoon of instant yeast into the jar to feed your infusoria. To get faster results, heat the water to between 78-80degF and 26-27degC. Within a few days, you will see small, moving specks. If the water changes from cloudy to clear, the infusoria will have finished eating all the food that you provided and are ready for harvesting. Take some of the water out and use it to feed your baby fry.

7. Blackworms

Because live blackworms sink to the ground and are great for bottom dwellers, many breeders consider them the best way to condition corydoras catfish. They can be challenging to propagate at home, so in the United States, farms grow large-scale cultures of California blackworms in man-made ponds. Blackworms are usually available at your local fish market or online directly from farms. After receiving them, scoop out the blackworms and place them in a fine-meshed net. Rinse them with dechlorinated water at 40-55°F (4-13°C). You want to make sure that they aren’t too full. Keep them in a large, shallow container. Place the container in the fridge with a lid. To keep your worms alive until they are fed to your fish, repeat this process of rinsing the worms every day with prechilled, dechlorinated water, or else they will quickly foul the water.

8. Grindal and White Worms

After your fish fry are no longer dependent on vinegar eels or micro worms for food, you can start to use Grindal worms (about 0.25 mm in size) and eventually white worms (1 mm in size). To get rid of mites and other pests, sterilize the substrate (e.g. organic potting soil or peat moss) You can use an oven to heat the dirt for 30 minutes at 180-200degF (82-93degC), or moisten the substrate and microwave it in 90 seconds intervals until it reaches 180-200degF (82-93degC).

Cover the substrate with a tub or plastic container and let it cool. If necessary, add some dechlorinated water so that it is moistened further. After cooling, add starter worm culture, food (e.g. bread and yogurt, oatmeal instant mashed potatoes, fish food) to the substrate’s surface. Place a deli cup lid on top of the food. Then cut a breathing hole in the plastic container’s lid and adhere a piece of fabric to cover the hole and prevent pests from entering. The lid should be placed on the plastic container.

Grindal worms do well in room temperatures of 70-75degF (21-24degC), whereas white worms must be stored around 55degF (13degC) in a cool basement or wine chiller. You can harvest them by removing the lid from the deli cups, wiping off the worms with your finger and rinsing them in water.

9. Bugs


Insects are an important part of many fishes’ natural diets. The larvae and exoskeletons of insect insects provide roughage that aids in fish digestion. Reptile shops can sell feeder insects such as mealworms, dubia-roaches, and crickets. Some people even grow their own dubia-roach colonies. Red wigglers, earthworms and other species are available in certain pet shops and bait shops. They can also be cultured at home.

You can harvest insects from the wild, but not introduce potential parasites, by placing a 5-gallon bucket with dechlorinated water out and waiting for them to lay their eggs.

Use a fine-meshed net to scoop up mosquito larvae from the water surface, and make sure to harvest every day or else they will develop into adult mosquitos.

10. Live Fish

We personally do not sell feeder fish at Aquarium Co-Op because they have a higher likelihood of spreading disease to your aquarium and most people do not bother quarantining feeder fish. Plus, goldfish and minnows contain high levels of thiaminase and, when consumed in large amounts, can prevent your predator fish from getting enough thiamin (or vitamin B1) and cause all sorts of health issues. The key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies is to give your fish a variety of food and not just one type.

That being said, some hobbyists raise their own feeder fish at home to minimize the risk of infection. For example, livebearers (or fish that bear live young) reproduce very quickly, so removing some of the offspring will help prevent the colony from getting too big. To ensure the breeding of cherry shrimps, it is possible to remove the less colorful individuals. This will allow the line to improve in quality. Feeding live fish or invertebrates is not for everyone, but it is a natural part of a predator’s life.

Most live cultures can be purchased online or from local hobbyists, so find out which foods are well-suited for your fish and give it a try. We recommend that you always have extra cultures in case the first one fails. Best of luck on your live food journey, and make sure to check out the tutorial for our favorite live food, baby brine shrimp.