Storing Dry Fish Food

for the week of 3/5/98

Who among us would snack from a bag of potato chips after it’s been sitting open in the cabinet for a couple of weeks? Probably, and hopefully, nobody. And yet, how many of of would give a second thought to feeding our prized fishes from a can of flakes we opened weeks, months. or even a year ago?

Just like human food, fish food changes over time as it is exposed to air, heat and light. At worst, the food can grow bacteria. mold and fungus that may result in food poisoning. At best, it becomes stale and loses flavor, and fish that once ate with gusto now pick around looking for the “best” flakes. And even if the fish continue to eat well, many of the nutrients – especially vitamins – may have been lost long ago. Here are some basic suggestions:

Buy foods that are well packaged to begin with. Thin, poorly sealed plastic bags may already be nearing the end of their shelf life when purchased, and should be used very promptly. Foods packed in well-sealed cans or jars, and especially those that are vacuum or nitrogen packed have a much longer shelf life.

Don’t buy more than you will use in a month or two. Some hobbyists like to “stock up” with a big can of fish flakes to take advantage of the savings over the price of multiple smaller cans. But how much are we really saving if we lose the nutritional value of our foods by storing them improperly or for too long a period?

If you buy a fairly large can of food, re-fill a smaller container, then seal the large container and keep it in the freezer until the next re-filling is needed. Vitamin loss is much slower at lower temperatures.

Store opened cans properly. The worst possible method would be to leave an open can of food sitting on top of the fish tank – possibly the warmest, dampest place in the house! Fish food containers should be sealed after each use; cans should have their cover screwed back on tightly, and bags should be closed with a rubber band or twist-tie. The sealed container should then be stored in as cool and dry a place as practical.

Refortify older foods. A few drops of liquid fish vitamins may be added to a portion of dry food immediately before feeding, and will greatly improve the nutritional value of foods that have ben stored but are not yet spoiled.

Discard any suspect food. No one likes waste, of either food or the money paid for it. But the alternatives – either poor quality fish due to inadequate nourishment, or even loss of fish to food poisoning or malnutrition – are even more costly in the long run.

“Tip of the week” appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.