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Cheaper Fish Food?

I have fish that are eating me out of house and home! Fish food is ridiculously expensive for just a mixture of wheat flour and fish meal. Does anyone have recipes for making your own inexpensive fish food?
Editor's note: We asked readers for advice on all kinds of pet foods.

Go Natural

You have a few options if you want to feed your fish more cheaply. The primary thing you should do is try feeding them less. This doesn't hurt the fish, as their wild habitats are _much_ less food rich than your fish tanks. Freshwater fish can live up to three weeks without eating, and marine fish need even less food. Fish food consumption needs are nowhere near those of mammals and mammalian pets. You might want to start feeding them every other day. When you feed, it should only take your fish a few minutes to eat whatever you give them. If it takes them 10 minutes to get it all eaten, and they look swollen up when they're done, you're feeding them too much.

Second, you can purchase fish food from online and mail order sources. I use Pet Warehouse (, 1-800-443-1160). They are quite good for food and a lot of supplies. Mail Order Pet Shop ( 1-800-366-7387) is also good. These sources carry many of the exact same brands you can get at your local shop, but much cheaper.

Finally, if you have large fish that just eat a lot of food, you might try making up some frozen beefheart for them. Combine 1 tbsp of wheat germ, and a 4 oz. slice of beefheart (from your supermarket) in a food processor. You might also add some liquid fish vitamins (from mail order). Process until you get pieces that are small enough for your fish to handle. Add a little water if the mixture is too dry to spread out. It should be about like tuna salad. Spoon the mixture into a ziploc bag, and press it out until it's about 1/8" thick, then freeze it. You can break off pieces for your fish when you feed them. The whole process is a little neater if you toss the beefheart in the freezer for about half an hour (till it's slightly frozen) prior to the processing step; it keeps blood from getting everywhere.

You might also experiment with egg whites (not yolks) and frozen peas. To prepare the peas, boil them slightly, them squeeze out the soft inner part from the skins. Feed your fish the inner part. Your fish may not like your new food at first, or ever, but you'll have to try to find out.

Homemade Doggy Diet

I have two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Male 10 years old, female 5 years old. Ever since I got them as puppies at 8 weeks of age, they have not eaten dog food. I have always made their food. Recipe below

1 1/2 # ground beef
1 large bag stir fry frozen vegetables (purchased at Costco)
1 cup dry instant brown rice

Cook ground beef until well done. Place in large bowl and chop into small pieces. Cook vegetable until they just come to a boil. Add to ground beef and chop vegetables small (my dogs hate carrots so I have to chop them up small or they spit them out). Cook 1 cup dry brown rice with 2 cups water in microwave at high for 15 minutes. Add to ground beef and vegetables. Makes five 1 pound servings. Put 1/2 pound in each dog dish. Add 1/2 cup cottage cheese, multi-vitamin pill, 500 mg Vitamin C, 1 Omega-3 fish oil cap (purchased at Costco), and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Mix all together and feed dogs.

That was breakfast. For supper, they get:

1 cup quick oats
2 eggs

Stir up raw eggs into microwavable bowl, add 1 cup quick oats and 2 cups water. Cook on high for 4 minutes, take out and stir, then cook on high for 2 minutes. Makes 2 servings. Place 1/2 of mixture in each of two bowls and add milk. Be careful not to have it too hot. So add enough milk. Then they get another vitamin tablet.

Throughout the day, they get vegetarian bones from Trader Joe's. I have been told by three vets that I have the healthiest dogs they have ever seen. Their coats are smooth and silky, which is kind of hard in southern California because of the dry weather. Also no allergy problems.
Yvonne D.

Catch 'Em Early

I found a cheap way to obtain fish food when I was raising fish. During the summer months I would place a pie tin in the back yard with water in it. Check it daily and when you see mosquito larvae in it dump the pan in a net and rinse them off. Swish the net in the tank to release the larvae and watch the fish fight over them. Make sure you check your trap daily so that the larvae never get a chance to morph into adults.
Ed M.

Is 'Gourmet' Worth It?

We have cats and here are some things I stick to when buying cat food. There is not a central agency that monitors the nutritional value of pet food. According to my vet, it's best to buy pet food made by a well known company, such as Purina, that is known to do research to produce food that is good for your pet. My vet said you can buy the super-expensive brands like Science Diet if you want to, but any Purina brand is probably just as good nutritionally. The advantage of Science Diet is that it is easily digestible and leads to less "pet waste", but to me, the cost is just too high! One obvious thing I just learned last weekend--you can buy a 3.15 lb bag of Cat Chow for $3.79 or an 18 lb bag of Cat Chow for $9.00. That's $1.20/lb vs. $0.50/lb!!! I think the best way to save money AND protect the health of your pet (VERY important) is to buy well-known brands of pet food that you can trust, and buy the biggest bag you can store!!
Scott M.

A Cautionary Note

I just wanted to make a little note about saving money on pet food. Although certainly we should try to save money by using coupons and making wise choices for any item, please make sure readers realize that it's not fair to our pets to skimp on their nutrition or make uninformed decisions about their nutritional requirements. We should all know well ahead of time that owning pets is a luxury and we should make sure we have enough money, time and love to take care of them well before we even think of acquiring one. Pets do not have the chance to make nutritional choices unlike humans, and may eat the same diet their entire lives. This makes it even more essential that what they eat is of high quality and nutritionally adequate.

Most commercial pet foods labeled as nutritionally complete are adequate for the species for which they were intended. Ideally the diet has gone through feeding trials. As recently as the 1970s, veterinarians were seeing health problems and severe diseases caused by malnutrition in cats and dogs from some cheaper commercially available diets, or from owners feeding dogfood to cats because it was cheaper. Although nutrition-related problems are less commonly seen now in cats and dogs, there are still many disease conditions that can be prevented or improved by a high quality diet or specifically formulated diet.

In exotic pets (birds, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, fish, etc.), the problem of inadequate or inappropriate nutrition is still the most common cause of disease we see today. Taking care of other species involves a good deal of research and learning about their specific needs. Feeding them is not an intuitive process! Each species may have very specific requirements. Although there are some acceptable homemade recipes for pet food out there, most involve considerably greater expense and effort to prepare than most commercially available diets. Please be careful out there when feeding only home formulations to your pets. Health problems from inadequate and improper nutrition can show up as acute or more chronic problems that will only cost more in veterinary bills later.

Get advice from your veterinarian about what is appropriate for your pet. Even some big brandname petfoods out there are very reasonably priced. Pets give us so much in terms of companionship and love, isn't it worth spending a little more money and ensuring their health and happiness?
M.C. in Natick, MA

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