Hikari First Bites Fry Food -- A Product Review (Powder Food Ideal for Egglayer Baby Fish, Including Betta Babies)
My first experience with baby fish was when I was five years old...we
had a little ten-gallon tank and somehow a batch of neon tetras managed
to hatch out without getting eaten. By time we found them there were
about twenty left, but since no one in the family knew how to take care
of them that number swiftly dwindled to three, the only survivors. Now,
I've been raising many different types of fish for seven years, selling
them locally and over the internet on various fish fancier sites.
Basics of Breeding
The first thing everyone should bear in mind about breeding fish is that fish have a LOT of babies. Try to avoid breeding if you don't have any plans on what you're going to do with them. Live-bearers such as guppies, platies, mollies, and swordtails have anywhere from 20-50 fry per batch. Egg-layers such as danios, barbs, and bettas can have 200-300 eggs in a batch which, if taken care of properly, can ALL hatch out.
Live-bearers take practically no work to breed...slightly more work if you want the babies to survive. The most common fish to spawn in an average home aquarium is guppies. Just about any female guppy you buy in a pet store WILL BE pregnant. You can tell she's pregnant if she's got a big round belly and a black spot right behind her abdomen. If she's black and you can't see a spot, just assume she's pregnant. Any female that's ever been in contact with a male is just about guaranteed to be pregnant, and she only needs to be bred once to produce three or four batches of around thirty fry apiece. If you want babies, you should buy a breeding net at the time you purchase your guppies, then transfer the babies into the net as soon as you see any. Do not put the female in the containment net to have her babies, most live-bearers hate to be contained and guppies especially are likely to stress out and die if you lock them up. The babies should then be fed two or three times every day...four if you can, but most of us have jobs outside of maintaining an aquarium. If you don't want to keep the babies, leave them in the normal tank and they'll almost definitely be eaten by the other fish. This may sound cruel, but it happens too fast for the babies to know and does increase the general health of your adult fish.
Most egg-layers require more specialized surroundings to spawn, of which I'll only give a brief outline. I have numerous people ask me when we're getting female bettas in, because they want to breed them. First, if you want to breed bettas, do plenty of studying on them first or you will end up with dead breeders. When the male is ready to breed he will build a nest of bubbles at the surface of the water. Add in a female betta whose belly is rounded out with eggs. I generally check on my breeders every 15-30 minutes. As soon as you see eggs in the bubble nest, remove the female without disturbing the nest; the male is extremely protective of the eggs and is likely to kill the female if she stays in the same tank. The male will then take care of the eggs until they hatch out and the fry are free-swimming. Second, bettas take more room than about any other egg-layer there is. I generally get 200 good fry from one spawning. The females can all go into a tank together, but the males must be separated out into their own containers as soon as their gender can be determined. NOTE: Adult bettas need AT LEAST a gallon of water to themselves, don't believe what you hear about betta cups and betta vases, they are inadequate and will cause your betta a short and unhealthy life.
Every species of fish has its own breeding specifics; all of which should be thoroughly researched before you try raising them yourself. The upside is that breeding them is very rewarding, enables you to cheaply stock your own aquariums, and allows you to sell or give fish to local people that are generally much healthier than the ones that get shipped into pet stores.
About Hikari First Bites
First Bites is the only locally-sold commercial baby food I've been able to find. It may seem expensive at first, I paid $4 for only 10g of the stuff. However, bear in mind that a tiny little fry eats very little; my first package lasted over six months...translate that to a home aquarium instead of an avid hobbyist's fishery, and it'll last you next to forever. The second package lasted me about three weeks, but the cat declined to comment.
Live-bearer fry are generally quite a bit larger than egg-layer fry and can get away with normal flake food crumbled up small; however, as with any young animal, they will do much better with something specially formulated for babies. I usually feed my live-bearers a combination of decapsulated brine shrimp eggs, live brine shrimp, and a special food that is made by someone who then sells it on eBay. Unless you're planning on going into large-scale breeding operations, these options probably do not appeal to you. For these I recommend First Bites; it's available at most pet stores and has always worked well for me.
I was introduced to First Bites on my first foray into egg-layers. I wanted to attempt breeding a pair of veil-tail bettas I'd acquired locally and at the time had little trust in online shopping...especially since I would have had to go through my mother to do it (I was all of twelve). The local pet shop owner produced a little green packet filled with a fine powder, assuring me it'd work well for my fish. Well, they were right. Now I use First Bites for the first couple of weeks of all my egg-layer fry's lives. I continue to use it with much success with my crown-tail bettas, gold barbs, zebra danios, and angelfish.
Generally, I feed my fry three times a day. It is exceedingly easy to give them too much in a feeding. For each feeding with First Bites I usually stick the end of my index finger into the powder, then brush it off into the water. That's all it takes, whatever sticks to your finger. If the little ones finish it all off (it looks like a thin layer of film on the water) within thirty seconds, I'll give them another dose. Careful! Overfeeding will cause your water to get cloudy, and especially in a containment net food that settles to the bottom can cause problems as it starts to rot.
I usually feed First Bites until the fry are approximately 1/4 inch long, then start substituting normal flake food (crunched up small) for one feeding for a week, then two feedings the next week, then put them completely on adult food.
In short, I feel this is the best fry food available commercially and is ideal for fish enthusiasts from the single home aquarium sort to the "build a new house just for the fish" sort. It lasts forever, it's easy to feed, and it gives your fry an excellent jump-start in life.
NOTE: My opinion vouches for the product's uses with freshwater fish only, as I have very little experience with saltwater fish
Additional products you might be interested in
For grade flake foods as fillers or short-term feeding try Wardley flake food. If you don't mind paying a little bit more for the next step up in flake food quality you may want to try Tetra Flake Food: The Rich Mix for your community tank. Larger fish need larger food, for the carnivore in your life I suggest Tetra Jumbomin Sticks. If you're headed out of town for a few days and don't want to hire someone to take care of the fish, give Wardley Weekend Feeders a try. Finally, for additional fishkeeping information check out An Introduction to Fishkeeping by Gina Sandford.
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