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This the text of the article that appears in the Marine Fish and Reef Annual 2000 published by Fancy Publications. In the past, the generally accepted practice advocated minimal feeding of reef aquariums. This was based primarily on the notion that reefs are very nutrient poor, reef inhabitants especially corals could generate all their energy requirements through photosynthesis and fish could survive by picking off of live rocks. Adding food would only increase the bio load of the tank, increase nutrients and dissolved organic matter. Feeding regimes were oriented towards feeding the top of the food chain - the fish, and the recommended practice was to feed sparingly once every 2-3 days. The natural coral reef is an ecosystem with a complex food web, comprising i. ii. primary producers (phytoplankton, zooxanthelle, algae) that convert the solar energy, carbon dioxide and water into chemical energy stored as sugar, and consumers which either eat the producers, or the by products of producers, or consumers lower in the food web
Food provides the energy necessary for vital functions to sustain life, for growth and reproduction. For an organism to thrive, the total energy demand must be met. Only a small portion (10-20%) of the food energy is converted into useful energy, with most being lost as waste and heat. Thus as we move up the food web, the amount of lower forms of food energy required to sustain the organisms higher in the food chain increases dramatically. In a typical reef aquarium, the complete food web does not exist in quantities large enough to sustain the ecosystem without any additional energy input. We typically provide this in the form of food that we add to the aquarium. However, in the past we have focussed only on feeding the highest members of the food web - namely the fish, leaving the other inhabitants of the reef to derive their energy requirements through other channels in the food web. This model assumes that the rest of the organisms can either derive all their energy through other pathways in the food web, or their demise or reduction in numbers is inconsequential to the proper functioning of a reef aquarium. This model of reef keeping also makes it difficult to keep organisms with specialized feeding needs - sponges, filter feeders, etc. Over the last year or so, there has been a significant shift in the feeding approach to reef aquariums. The trend now is to try to feed the complete range of life forms that inhabit the reef aquariums - fish, corals, filter feeders, microscopic life forms, etc. Contributing to this shift in paradigm are several factors:
those housing symbiotic zooxanthelle 2. and there is a wide variety of fish food available ranging from frozen foods to dry foods catering to the needs of the wide variety of fish available in the aquarium trade. a better understanding of the feeding and metabolic requirements 2. So. the role of feeding may play an important role. along with a discussion on some "new" products that have recently hit the aquarium hobby and may have the potential to increase the range of food available to the entire food web. Hermatypic corals (with zooxanthalle). micro fauna The feeding and nutritional requirements of the organisms in a reef tank is varied and often very little is known about the specific nutritional needs of the organisms. The broad categories are: Fish. filter feeders and detrivores. availability of "better" protein skimmers 3.1. Ahermatypic corals (without zooxanthelle). better understanding of the role of detrivores. In fact. Corals Corals can be classified into two types. it is not even clear how much. Hermatypic . .Autotrophic and Hetrotrophic.those without symbiotic zooxanthelle Hermatypic scleractinian corals (primarily SPS corals) use two modes of feeding . For the purpose of looking at the feeding requirements of the reef life forms. should corals and other organisms be fed. The dietary needs of the fish can be easily satisfied by anyone or a combination of these and any fish whose dietary needs cannot be easily met should generally be avoided. and substitutes have to be found. This article will present some information on feeding habits of reef organisms (gathered from research articles). Ahermatypic . As we strive for greater biodiversity in our reef aquariums. rather than focus on this I will later just discuss a few "new" food items that have recently shown up in the market and have made it easier to keep certain fish alive and healthy. 1. how often. and look at how an aquarist can try to meet their feeding requirements. availability of a wider range of foods that can meet the requirements of the range and variety of reef organisms 4. It is often difficult to duplicate the diet of the organisms in the wild. Fish Meeting the feeding requirement of fish is by far the easiest. this article will divide them into several broad categories (based on type and size of food particles ingested).
7-0. Evaluation of the gut contents of a Monastrea coral contained copepods. but there is a wider range on the degree to which autotrophic sources of nutrition are used. polychaetes and other zooplankton. etc. bacteria 1.4mm.5-2 mg of C/L ). and 10-20% by feeding on DOM and bacterioplankton (Sorokin 1995). etc. Corals with larger polyps (e. Consume DOM (dissolved organic matter) via active transport of molecules through cell membranes To determine what corals feed on in the wild. mucus production. Euphillia species. The large polyped corals (eg. research indicates that the scleractinian corals rejected algae and other plant material.Zooxanthelle are unicellular algae that live within the coral polyp. eggs of slow moving larvae of inverts. researchers evaluate the gut content of corals in the wild and also experiment with the animals in laboratory.) also typically have large mouths and can be fed small pieces of shrimp and other chunky food . with the general rule being . These modes of feeding are: 1.5-3 X 106 cells/mL. stylophora) also captured Artemia nauplii up to 1. etc. The size of prey captured by the polyps can be larger than the polyps. These are basically a form of zooplankton. The polyps easily captured nauplii of size 0. and DOM ranging from 0. Research indicated that even if plant material was ingested it was not digested and regurgitated. and may ingest passively floating particles of detritus. The corals spend energy for the following functions: respiration. Most researchers are of the opinion that octocorals are in general weak predators compared to the scleractinians. polyps hunt more efficiently at night. and are the primary producers that produce food energy via photosynthesis. 10-20% predation. detritus. Predatory prey capture by the polyps (zooplankton capture) 2. ostracods. Hence corals need to provide the additional energy needs via other means.5-4 mg/L. Sedimentary filter feeding using mucus nets (bacterioplankton) 3.g pocillopora. forminifera. Suspended organic material ingested by corals via sedimentary filtration included bacteria. cataphylia species. Interestingly. growth and reproduction. even in corals with polyps active in the daytime. menatodes. The autotrophic mode of feeding involves the translocation of the photosynthetic products produced by the symbiotic zooxanthallae to the coral polyp tissues. For the purpose of feeding we can further classify the hermatypic corals into small polyped and large polyped corals. as a rough average scleractinian corals could compose their energy balance as follows: 60-70% via photosynthesis. The other mode of feeding used by the corals is the hetrotrophic mode of feeding.the smaller the polyps the more important the role of autotrophic feeding. Research in predatory feeding has shown that. protozoans. feces of fish. Hermatypic corals posses the unique ability of making use of all hetrotrophic modes of feeding known in sedentary benthic animals. Research has shown that the total energy demand cannot be met by photosynthesis alone. The hermatypic soft corals are basically similar in respect to the scleractinians. Some of the laboratory experiments were conducted using artemia nauplii as food. In ambient conditions on the reef (with wet bio mass of zooplankton ranging from 0. and for most hermatypic corals the ratio of gross photosynthesis to respiration is slightly greater than one. mysids.9mm. Respiration accounts for 60-70% of the energy budget of the coral.
Feeding the small polyped corals is a more challenging task. blended food mix. and fan worms. and can be "trained" to open at specific times of the day. fan worms. rotifers. Ahermatypic Corals Corals from the genus Tubastrea. They need to be fed almost daily. Nori and Other Seaweeds . marine worms. etc) has increased the population and size of sponges. and hence the autotrophic mode of feeding is non existent in these corals. non photosynthetic gorgonians. However. chopped sea food . The tubastrea species.fish. In a well fed aquarium the needs of these organisms may be indirectly met. Detrivores feed either on the detritus or ingest bacteria on them. Filter feeders typically feed by trapping small particles by processing large volumes of water through their body or appendages. making these corals more difficult to keep in reef aquaria. Anemones and mushroom anemones (e. it has been the experience of many aquarists that adding supplemental small particulate food (phytoplankton. by feeding consistently at the same time every day. shrimp. plankton surrogates. Recent research has shown that Dendronepthya and other soft corals from the Red Sea obtain most of their nutrition from phytoplankton (Fabricus et. etc). sea squirts. that will simplify and make it easy to provide nutritional sources of food and attempt to satisfy the feeding requirements of a wide spectrum of the food web. al 1995).g. copepods and amphipods. scallops. a coral reef aquarium also contains a host of other life forms such as sponges. Rhodactics species) can also be fed in a similar manner. Aquariums housing these corals require strong currents and large amounts of planktonic food. corals and other invertebrates. Dendronepthya. Filter Feeders. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that adding food targeted towards meeting the specific needs of these creatures is beneficial. In the following section. Detrivores. is one of the easier ahermatypic corals to keep due to the large polyp size and its ability to accept larger pieces of food. squid. or organics coating the detritus particles. and other microfauna In addition to the fish. sea squirts. etc. do not harbor symbiotic zooxanthalle.(silversides. I will discus some of the "new" products that have appeared in the aquarium trade. and one that is more open to debate. All the food energy requirements have to be met by hetrotrophic modes of feeding.
dulse. laver) available in most oriental grocery stores and health food stores. It grows fast enough to use as an additional supply of fresh live seaweed for tangs and other herbivorous fish. There is a large variety of naturally dried seaweed (kelp. these sheets of dried algae can be attached to rocks with a rubberband. roasted. Now even my anthias relish nori !. It is available in sealed jars with unlimited shelf life. Nori (the Japanese term for laver) is sold as dried sheets in various colors from deep brown or red/purple to black-green. The common means of providing this was to use land based leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Phytoplankton Phytoplankton are free floating microscopic plants that grow in the upper regions of the ocean where sunlight is plentiful.just stay away from the flavored variety. Laver is cultivated as a major food crop in the Orient. These small plants. A wide variety of seaweeds are also available through the aquarium companies (e.g. and I was able to wean them on to other foods. which are composed of algae. a seaweed of the genus Porphyra. The primary difficulty was in getting them to feed. I have found most tangs start accepting nori very quickly and I have been able to maintain tangs in full-bodied form (without shrunken stomachs) using nori and other seaweeds. flavored etc. the phytoplankton population is very low to non-existent . Sweetwater Zooplankton A few years ago I had trouble keeping the Red Sea Anthias Squammipinnis alive for any significant period of time. Several aquarists have reported being able to keep the Gracilaria growing in sufficient quantities in their lighted sump and refugium.either it gets consumed faster than it can . The Sweetwater Zooplankton was very readily accepted by the anthias as food. a group of marine red algae) which is used extensively in oriental cuisine has greatly contributed to maintaining the health of herbivorous fish. and some of these are excellent food for tangs. To feed the fish. For use as food in the aquarium. or attached to a "lettuce" clip. e. it needs to be stored in a refrigerator and will last for up to a month. There are several hundred species of phytoplankton.(also known as Laver. Anthias are planktivores that feed in open waters and require feeding several times a day. the plain dried form is preferred. and in most well established reefs there is very little macro algal matter available. Tangs need to graze continuously.ipsf. Once opened. and the largest group of primary producers in the ocean. Sweetwater zooplankton consists primarily of cultured daphnia (water fleas). Ocean Nutrition's Seaweed Selects). are the bottom of the food chain for the entire ocean. In my personal experience.com) has recently started supplying live natural seaweed (Gracilaria and Ulva species) under the trade name Tang Haven.g Julian Sprung's Veggies. although fish will eat the roasted variety . in plain dried form. Indo-Pacific Sea Farms (www.The use of Nori . In a typical reef aquarium. tangs.
without all the hassles of growing your own cultures. among others. The phytoplankton is specially processed to remove the nutrients used for culture. Phytoplankton serves as the primary food source for a lot of reef organisms. When feeding with phytoplankton most researchers recommend feeding in doses such that the concentration of phytoplankton is in the 10. I have been using 10-12 drops of the concentrated algae in my reef. The microalgae paste is highly concentrated using a low gravity centrifuge. Isochrysis. Different creatures may have different tastes and may prefer one species over another. and a food grade cryopreservative is added to prevent freezing and lysing of the algae cells when kept below freezing temperatures.000-100. The other benefit of live phytoplankton is that they will be able to swim. Inland Seafarm (www.asp) .com/fish/aqfm/1998/april/features/1/default. Feeding can be easily accomplished by adding a few drops of the paste directly to the tank and letting it disperse in the water currents.netscape. Phytoplankton come in a wide range of microscopic sizes. I turn the skimmer off.seafarm.aquariumfrontiers. remain in suspension longer. to keep the food from being removed by the skimmer.com) manufactures a cryo preserved algal paste .under the trade name Instant Algae. every 3-4 days. and also take in some of the nutrients from the tank. and sold in a liquid form which can be stored in the refrigerator. Nannochloropsis and Isocrysis species in 4 sizes (12 ml.reproduce. 500 ml. Craig Bingman reported some success in keeping dendronephtya using the cryo preserved algae (http://www. Knowing the concentration in the phytoplankton product one can . or gets removed by skimmers. The paste remains liquid when frozen and can be kept for several months in a refrigerator freezer. Another product that has recently become available is DT's Marine Phytoplankton. In an article in Aquarium Frontiers. Based on the study on Dendronepthya (Fabricus et al 1995) the range of size suitable for corals is the range 3 to 20 micro meters. Although phytoplankton can be cultured at home. The product claims to have a shelf life of upto a month in the refrigerator. DT's marine phytoplankton is live and of the Nanochloropsis species of algae. for several hours when feeding micro algae.com) is a supplier for the cryo preserved micro algae.brineshrimpdirect. Examples of strains of phytoplankton are Nannochloris. This is also easy to add to the aquarium. 100 ml. 1000 ml). Tetraselmis. in a number of different algal strains.triggering the feeding response.000 cells/ml range. The disadvantage is that the product shelf life is limited and the cost is higher. Another sources for live phytoplankton is Liquidlife (http://sites. Brineshrimp Direct (www. In contrast to the cryopreserved phytoplankton.net/liquidlifeusa). Recently several products have appeared in the market that have the potential to simplify the process of phytoplankton addition. this phytoplankton is live and provides the added benefit of live food . Studies using a mix of phytoplankton species have been shown to produce increased growth and survival when compared to animals fed a single species. the process is often beyond what an average aquarist wants to get involved with. and currently offers Tetraselmis MC2. and provides another easy and convenient method for adding plankton to the aquarium. The best strategy for feeding phytoplankton may be to use a mixture of several different species. This is a very easy and convenient way to add phytoplankton to the aquarium.
then determine how much of the product to add. most suppliers of live phytoplankton do not provide this information. However. Other Useful Food Products and Food Additives . I started to notice increase in the number of sponges and filter feeders in my tank. along with increases in other micro inhabitant populations. these phytoplantkon products can also be used to enrich artemia. sponges and tunicates. the existing sponges increased in size. I have been adding a "pinch" or two of Artificial Plankton and Rotifiers (APR) that is made by OSI and available through Aquatic Eco Systems (www. Also. and an enrichment food for Artemia and rotifer culture.com). sponge and tunicate populations. It usually clears up in an hour or so.esvco. Research indicated that even if plant material was ingested it was not digested and regurgitated. These could potentially be used in reef aquaria to feed the filter feeders and even some corals. research indicates that the scleractinian corals rejected algae and other plant material. and increase in feather dusters. oyster and other seafood. as another solution to addressing the addition of phytoplantkton to reef aquariums in an easy manner. These feeds are available in sizes ranging from 5 microns to 250 microns. The spray dried product has the advantage of being convenient to use. osyter. and as a food supply for rotifers.aquaticeco. there may be indirect benefits to these corals from the increase in other microfauna resulting from the feeding of the phytoplankton.com) sells a spray dried phytoplankton product. and other aquaculture that may be very well suited for feeding reefs. larval fish and invertebrate food. does not require storage in the refrigerator and has a long shelf life. fish food. Artificial Plankton & Rotifers There is a large variety of artificial foods designed for the aqua culture of shrimp. This has interesting implications for the hobbyists since it could lead to the conclusion that "green water" or phytoplankton may not be a suitable food for hermatypic scleractinian corals. However. In addition to providing additional food source that can be directly added to the tank. Several aquarists including myself have observed increase in the polyp extension of corals. so I just aim to make the water turn a light shade of green. Interestingly. The disadvantages are that spray drying may impact some of the chemicals in the phytoplankton and reduce their nutritional value. Over the last two years. The spray dried phytoplankton is intended for use as food for corals and other invertebrates. clam. Spray Dried Phytoplankton ESV (www. Aquatic Eco systems also has a wide range of larval feeds intended for clam. This was my first foray into attempting to feed the filter feeders. After using the APR.
Rather than try to feed the fish. I also use other natural dried sea weeds that I have been able to find in the oriental grocery stores. a few drops of algal paste. The basic idea was to create a one shot food recipe that will take care of the complete spectrum of life forms in the tanks. and shrimp. squid. HUFA enrichment products available from aquaculture supply stores. since the coral polys are more active . decapsualted brine shrimp. some artificial plankton and rotifers. is another excellent source of nutrition for marine fish and invertebrates. spirulina powder. some yeast and a few drops of Selco. The exact proportion of each is not really all that important. and also feed the tank occasionally directly with this. Place the mix into the freezer bags and spread it thin in the bag to allow breaking off pieces easily. and other fish food I have laying around. Do this while its dry and it breaks up into nice small pieces. Additionally decapsulated brineshrimp eggs can be used. Then I add back the rest of the nori. the remaining sea food mix. broccoli. First throw the nori (and other seaweed) into the blender and shred into small pieces. and freeze. These fatty acids are an essential part of the diet for most marine fish larve. mussel.aquaticeco. and carrots. I just try to make sure that there is enough variety to satisfy the wide range of life forms in the tank. Some other ingredients that I have added to the food include fresh fish. sea scallops. Another useful food additive is the Omega-3 fatty acids that are important part of the diet of most marine animals. I prefer feeding at night before the lights go out. freeze dried plankton. inverts and filter feeders separately I wanted a concoction that would satisfy most needs with single feedings. The omega-3 fatty acids that are of interest are the highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA). I feed about a 2" square piece of this food every day in my 180G tank. vitamin drops. This can be fed as spirulina food flakes. or in the powdered form to be used in a food mix. and pick up several shrimp. Chop it in the blender so as to give some larger chunkier pieces. There are several products such as SELCO. Here a recipe that I (and several other hobbyists have used variations of this) have been using. dried blood worms. and any other raw seafood that is available. supplemented by specific target foods occasionally. Aquatic ecosystems (www. I have seen the tangs eat the pieces of spinach. along with some spirulina flakes. It is often recommended that brineshrimp and rotifers be enriched with omega-3 fatty acids before feeding. Then. The finely blended stuff along with the other micro sized food will work fine to feed the filter feeders and corals. I have recently experimented with adding broccoli. I use the decapsulated brineshrimp eggs as an additive in my food mix. fish. brine shrimp. DHA and EPA.Newly hatched brineshrimp are an excellent food source for a reef aquarium. and the larger pieces along with the nori works well for the fish. carrots and spinach to the mix. remove most of it to leave a hand full in the blender and add half the seafood mix along with some water and blend it into a fine liquid paste. A reciepe for homemade food mix I have been feeding my aquarium more heavily than the average aquarist for the past two years. I basically go to the sea food section in the grocery store.com) is an excellent source. clams. The other main ingredient I use is Nori. and the other invertebrates such as star fish. Spirulina algae.
Conclusion Many reef aquarists have started feeding their tanks more heavily than in the past. References: Sorokin. and adding food targeted towards the specific needs of the complete food web. Our problem is to balance food input and export/assimilation to keep the level of dissolved nutrient low. and in the general health and appearance of fish and invertebrates.. A.edu/faculty/s/b/sbj4/aquarium/reeffood/feeding. Springer Verlag. increased population and size of sponges and filter feeders.I. increased diversity in the population of the microfauna. Genin and Y. providing enough time for your aquarium to adjust to the increase in food. Fabricius.psu. New York. http://www. (1995): Coral Reef Ecology. USA. Increase in feeding should be gradual. Benayahu. Flow-dependent herbivory and growth in zooxanthellae-free soft corals.htm . E.personal. A good sand bed fauna and a good skimmer will generally help in keeping the nutrient levels low and allow you to feed at levels that suits the wide diversity of life in the reef aquarium.at night. 2nd Edition.in the form of greater polyp extention in corals. So. The aquarium will adjust by allowing the exisiting animals to respond to the increase in availability of food by increasing their population. This increase is not going to take place instantly. K. 1995. There is enough anecdotal evidence to indicate the visible benefits of feeding in these reef aquariums . Limnol Oceanogr 40(7):1290-1301. Y. and occurs over a period of time. should you rush in and start feeding your reef aquarium heavily ? NO !.
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