When deciding to breed your fish it is essential to condition them and add some live foods to their diet. Live food is rich in important vitamins and has a higher nutritional value than the dried varieties from the aquarium stores. This food also corresponds to the foods that they would go after in the natural environment, so the fish are keen and extremely interested in it. Worms are a great on the fish menu, and there a many types to consider. You can buy these at the pet store but a really cheap solution is right outside in your garden! Earthworms, even though they are not a natural part of a fish diet are very much enjoyed. Simply wash off the excess soil carefully and feed. Be careful that the ground has not been recently sprayed with chemicals or pesticides. Naturally the worms may need to be cut up for smaller fish, depending on the size of both worms and fish. If you are up to the task they can be minced in a blender to make a delicious brew for baby fry. Hopefully an old blender dedicated for fish food would be the right choice.
Other types of worms can be easily cultured. You can buy cultures for White worms and Grindle worms at the local aquarium store. They can be kept in plastic containers of compost and fed with cereal based foods such as bread, oats, porridge and baby foods. These must all be pre-moistened. Other varieties of live food include crickets which are enjoyed by larger fish. The housefly is also a good possibility, but make sure that no insecticide or sprays have been used and the flies have been swatted! Many human foods are also suitable for fish. Fresh or frozen green vegetables such as peas, spinach, cucumber and lettuce are great as supplementary foods. Peas should be cooked to soften them and lettuce and spinach blanched to break down the cellulose and make them more easily digested. Fresh or frozen fish and shell fish such as mussels, prawns and shrimps are all very good foods to add to the variety.
It is important not to overfeed, while this may not cause any direct harm to the fish it will cause serious water contamination and in turn seriously stress or kill the fish. Uneaten food quickly decomposes and ammonia is produced and the filter may not be able to cope with the extra production, the build up of ammonia becomes toxic to the fish. There is such a wide variety of live food available that there is no reason for the aquarium fish diet to consist solely of dried flakes. Live foods are also mainly free or very inexpensive to culture at home and every hobbyist can easily provide some, if not all of these options for their fish. Live foods for your fish are particularly beneficial when conditioning them for breeding. They are high in nutritional value and essential vitamins which have not been destroyed by processing or by leaching in the water as in the dry foods available commercially. Live foods are also better matched to the natural feeding instincts of fish being just like they would eat in their natural environments and they will respond much more eagerly to this food.
There are many worms that fish really enjoy. They can be purchased at the pet store but also be easily cultured at home. Earthworms are an easy no-cost solution and need to be rinsed carefully to remove all soil before using. They can be fed whole or cut up, depending on the size of the fish and the worms. Minced in a kitchen blender they will make excellent food for fry (note: definitely recommend an old one specifically for the purpose). Ensure that the worms have not been gathered from ground that has been treated recently with pesticides or similar chemicals. Earthworms are easy to culture and supply an ongoing economical food source. You just need a plastic container filled will compost rich in organic matter. Keep it moist and add worms. They can be fed vegetable kitchen scraps, fruit, cereals, grass clippings, leaves etc. Egg capsules appear on the surface as small white dots and will hatch as baby worms in a matter of 3 or 4 weeks.
Whiteworms are small and white and range from about half and inch to an inch and a half in size. They can be cultured with a culture purchased from the pet store. Use a plastic container just 8 x 12 inches and 2 inches deep, containing peatmoss or slightly acidic compost. It should be moist but never too wet and covered with plastic or cardboard and kept dark. Put some pin holes in the cover to provide air or the worms will suffocate. They can be fed on bread pre- moistened with water and cereals such as porridge oats, also pre-moistened. Replace any food if it starts to go moldy and experiment with the amount and quantity of food given. Do not remove any worms until the culture is thriving and there are plenty of worms around the food when the lid is lifted. If the culture has the right consistency then the worms will be clean when they are removed and can be fed straight to the fish, if not the culture may be too wet and the worms will need to be rinsed.
Grindal worms are smaller than white worms, growing to only about a quarter to a half inch in size. They can be cultured in much the same way as with white worms, possibly with a shallower container. Grindal worms are not very prolific breeders and care is needed not to run down the culture by taking out too many at once. They are easy to remove as they congregate on the underside of the lid. Feed with moistened cereals, baby foods and bread. Feeding live foods is not only very beneficial for conditioning fish for breeding but also the most economical method.