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Caution… circle of life discussion… options for raising my own feeder fish

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Magnum Man

Fish Herder
Jun 21, 2023
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Southern MN
So I have raised feeders before… I’ve raised Molly’s in brackish water to feed babies to sea horses I raised 20 years ago… back then I had too many predators to raise my own food ( I had a dedicated 55 gallon for making baby Molly’s…

Today I only have 1 group of predators ( Bichirs ) and having gone that route before, I don’t have as much interest in predators

So I’m thinking raising my own feeders for the Bichirs… I’ve been currently buying Mosquito fish, as I can buy them pretty cheaply, in groups of 20… but they aren’t breeding as fast as they are being eaten right now… the females are pretty big, but the males are about guppy sized, and while the bichirs are just babies, they seem to be catching the females 1st, so at this point I’ve be just resupplying them as feeders… not witnessing any babies

So this has got me looking at a little bigger live bearer… platy’s right now… I can buy those I’m groups of 6 pretty reasonable… the bright orange is either more common or cheaper, and I can get dwarf or standard… the dwarf is a good size right now ( at 8 - 10 inches ) but likely by the time they we’re breeding the bichirs would have no issues eating full sized platy’s

So is there a better path??? Another fish in that size range that would breed easily in pretty neutral water??? I’m kind of running a balance between the Bichirs, and the silver dollars in that tank…

We raise all our own meat, on the farm, so since I don’t really have a good local fish store, I’d like to raise my own meat for the Bichirs
Raising feeder fish takes a lot of space. Even the quickest breeding fish need months to grow.

Buying feeders is a game of Russian roulette, because feeders are treated very badly in the trade, and are often rotten with disease. I used to check the feeder tanks in an American store just over the border when I was crossing a lot, because their feeder livebearers from Florida often included native killies. I had to go through the tortures of the damned to get those fish into shape after what they had encountered in shipping. Parasites, general illness, starvation - they were a mess in need of tlc. I wanted to breed them to get healthy young. But as food? Feed a sick fish to a well fish...

I have never kept bichirs, but is there no dead food alternative to live fish? It would cost a fortune and take time to get a system working with feeders.
I may be able to transition them, once in the aquarium… they were put in the plant tank, in the tilapia set up outside, to keep the bugs out… I’ve been adding mosquito fish to that tank as well, but they have been disappearing quickly out there… they were added (3), when they were about 3 inches… at harvest time, they’ll be moving to a tank in the house… I’ve only seen one at a time, but they are 9 - 10 inches right now… I’ve not seen any dead, so I have to assume there are still 3 in there… I had a dedicated 55 gallon for raising Molly’s for food 20 years ago, and I couldn’t keep up with 3-4 sea horses at 4 inches…

So with red platy’s don’t expect much difference, but maybe I can keep a few in several tanks???
I only ventured into feeders with pike gouramies, and they eat a fish every 4-5 days. They wouldn't adapt.

Even with that, and 3 gouramis, I couldn't keep up with using a 20 gallon with guppies, plus all my culls. But if you fail to supply them, they die too.

In the end, I swore that no matter how interesting the fish was, I would never keep a piscivore again. Only micro-predators and bug eaters for me now.
Set up some heavily planted ponds and breed glass shrimp. If you get local ones from a creek they should be fine over winter as long as the water doesn't ice up.

Egg laying fish llike rainbowfish can produce hundreds of young each week and if you have a few decent sized ponds, the fry will be 1 inch in a month. The drawback to rainbowfish is they are often infected with Fish TB and if the Birchirs eat an infected fish, they can catch it. But if you get rainbowfish eggs or fish from someone like Gary Lange in the USA, they should be clean and free of disease.

If you do breed rainbowfish, get some of the bigger species (Melanotaenia boesemani or lacustris, or Glossolepis incisus). Get a few pairs of each and the adult females can throw out 200+ eggs a week. If you have 4 or 5 prs breeding each week, you get a heap of young. And what you don't use as food can be sold to help support your hobby.

Swordtails grow bigger than platies and generally the bigger females produce more young than smaller females. If you have 10 females and 1 male, you would get a lot of young. Move the young into separate ponds to grow up and sell any you don't use as food.

Common livebearers (swordtails, platies, guppies & mollies) from fish farms are regularly infected with intestinal worms and gill flukes. If you use these fish, deworm them as soon as you get them so they are clean.

You should feed a variety of fish and shrimp so the Birchirs get a more balanced diet. Goldfish and livebearers aren't good fish food to begin with because they have some chemical in them that apparently causes problems if the predator gets too much of it. I can't remember what it's called but it was in a bunch of magazines a while back.

You can also use white bait, blue sardines and river pawns or shrimp (available from the freezer at most fishing shops) and keep them frozen. Defrost one and cut it up and offer it to the Birchirs. Remove anything they don't eat after 5-10 minutes so it doesn't cause ammonia problems.
So I'm sitting here today, wondering why I'm trying to reinvent the wheel... I've been looking at pretty much all the live bearer's, & thought about egg layers that would lay in one of my aquariums with softer water...

then a 10 pound hammer hit me in the head... I'm already raising feeder fish for me... Tilapia... & I plan on trying to breed & raise my own for next years production... duh... I'll already be raising feeder fish, for me. that I'll likely grade somewhat, before they go into the big tanks to raise next summer... no reason my more "predatory fish" shouldn't enjoy the same fish I will be... as I'm grading out the smaller fry / fingerlings... those can go into my other fish tanks as feeders... I really only currently maintain one aquarium with harder water needed for most Live Bearers, & that's my rainbow fish tank... I wasn't wanting to turn that into a live bearer nursery, but I'll have to maintain a holding & breeding tank with harder water for the Tilapia... don't want to turn those into live bearer nurseries... but if I feed out my runt Tilapia... no need for the live bearers at all, right now...
The only drawback to mouthbrooding cichlids is they don't produce many young (10-30) in each batch and you only get one batch every month or two (preferably two so the females can recover). But if you have enough females producing young, then you could have a steady source for the Birchirs too.
I'm thinking southern MN should not be very south, and freezing up is an issue. I'm in southern Canada and we have to design ponds to be over a metre deep so there will be water for fish to overwinter. At our school, the courtyard pond was was 70cm deep, and it froze to the bottom some winters. Winter is November to March.

Watch the Bichirs with cichlids as food, as there is a defensive spine issue. I know people who used convicts, and the predators couldn't eat them. I don't know the species you're raising other than to have read about them.
Yep we could see our 1 st frost this weekend ( heaters in the tanks outside, and likely we’ll be in at least the 70’s for high temperatures for 3-4 weeks yet… the tilapia are blue’s and after handling 3 earlier this week… yes they have dorsal spines… one nice thing about raising my own bigger feeders, is I can choose the size to feed… I’m thinking they would be ok at between 1-2 inches

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