Culturing live foods is a little like cooking: Just as there are many ways to make any given dish, there are many ways to culture live foods for your fish. So while the directions given here have worked for many aquarists, if they don't seem to produce a sufficient yield of live food for you, you may need to tinker with them a bit -storing your grindal worms at a slightly warmer temperature, for instance, or feeding your white worms potato chunks instead of baby cereal.

Brine Shrimp (Artemia)

 Live brine shrimp are highly nutritious and universal favorite of hobbyists to feed their aquarium fish. They are available at many aquarium stores, or can be easily hatched at home using purchased brine-shrimp eggs. There are also frozen and freeze-dried forms available.


The larvae of midge flies, these worms take their name from their deep red color. Fish love them, and in the wild, bloodworms are a staple in the diet of many species. They're also highly nutritious, and some studies suggest that fish whose diets are supplemented with blood worms grow better and have higher spawning rates.

Efforts to culture bloodworms have been largely unsuccessful, so if you want to feed them to your fish, you'll have to either collect them in the wild by sieving the mud at the bottom of ponds, or buy frozen or freeze-dried varieties. Bloodworms are very rich, and some aquarists believe they should be used only as an occasional treat, because the overfeeding them has been linked to constipation.


Larger fish, such as goldfish, can be conditioned on chopped up earthworms. You can buy these from a bait shop or dig them up yourself, but if you choose the latter, make sure you take them from an area that you know to be pesticide-free.


Fish that subsist largely on vegetable matter should be conditioned   with it, too. Blanched lettuce, spinach, peas, and zucchini are good choices, as are cucumber slices (remove the seeds first to prevent them from floating around the tank). You can bind the vegetables to a rock using a rubber band, or use a plastic vegetable clip (available at an aquarium shop) to attach small pieces to the side of the tank.

 White Worms

These segmented round worms are a good source of protein and fat and are often used to condition most fish. White worms live in damp soil and can often be found in large quantity in compost heaps or piles of wet and decaying leaves. They can also be cultured following the directions for grindal worms. However, store the culture box in a cooler place-white worms seem to reproduce best at a temperature of about 60°F.

Use tweezers to harvest them, and rinse thoroughly before feeding them to fish. Because of their fat content, and the fact that fish love them so much that they tend to gorge on them, some breeders advise feeding them no more than twice a week; otherwise, fish could become obese.

 The Role of Commercial Foods in Conditioning Fish

Prepared foods may have their limitations, but that doesn't mean you should stop offering them to your fishes completely, even during the conditioning process. Because they contain a wide array of nutrients, many aquarists feed prepared foods to their brood stock twice daily during conditioning, supplementing it with several smaller feedings of live foods throughout the day.

 A note on overfeeding

Beginning breeders, knowing fish must be well fed to get them in breeding shape, will often dramatically increase the quantity of food they give at each meal. Unfortunately, quantity does not equal quality, and rather than getting their fish in shape for spawning, such a strategy often does the opposite. Overfeeding can result in sluggish, overweight fish and health problems such as fatty liver disease, one of the most common killers of fish in captivity. And overweight fish won't have the energy needed to produce healthy broods—if they even have the energy to spawn.

 Instead, feed fish small amounts of flake food-no more than the fish can eat in two minutes—once or twice a day, supplemented by small quantities of live foods two or three times a day.


If you have tried unsuccessfully to spawn a compatible pair of fish that you know to be of reproductive age, the problem may be timing. While some fish (particularly livebearers), can be bred in captivity all year long, other species seem to reproduce more reliably at certain times of the year.

The reproductive rate of many African cichlids falls to almost nothing in the winter (although they can sometimes be coaxed by setting tank lights to mimic a summer light cycle). And other fish, such as Red-Tailed Black sharks, seem to have their own internal spawning clocks, going months at a time without breeding, no matter how much conditioning they undergo.

By following the proper feeding habits for your fish you will allow them to be healthier and have a much better survival rate. DO not skimp on the diet for these mating fish by trying to sustitute sub-standard food in an effort to save money. If you want healthy fish then you need to feed them what they need. Simple flakes will not be enough for many aquarium fish who are being used for breeding purposes.

Buying your white worms, brine shrimp, and other potential food items can often be purchased online for less money then you would pay a local aquarium shop, if one even exists in you local area.

Feeding your fish properly is vital to the health and lifespan of your aquarium fish. If you do not know what your fish needs to eat then you need to learn about your specific breed and off of the viable food options available. Not all aquarium fish eat gold fish flakes. 

Food nutrition can be very complex, and it is complicated if you raise numerous breeds of fish. By keeping an aquarium journal you can track the diet, health, and progress of the fish in your aquarium.