CCA – Making Your Own Fish Food – January 2009

January 11th, 2009

The Capital Cichlid Association‘s January meeting kicked off the year with Kurt Johnston describing how he makes his own fish food. Kurt has been in the hobby for over 40 years and is currently the Public Relations Chair, BAP chair, and Swap Meet Chair of the Aquarium Club of Lancaster County. Having a diverse set of interests, he found that making his own food was far more economical, as well as, more nutritious for his fish than the commercial foods available.

He estimates that his recipe costs about 50% less per pound than the average commercial fish food, and even cheaper compared to the premium brands. In addition, there’s no filler ingredients or preservatives that just end up passing through the fish anyways.


To develop his recipe, Kurt spent a lot of time researching the nutritional needs of fish. In general, he found that fish need a highly digestible protein, consisting of roughly 25%-50% of their diet, depending on the species of fish. Their diet should be low-fat, contain 2-5% fiber, and incorporate the full range of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, Omega 3&6, and amino acids. In addition, he found that the essential amino acids and long-chain fatty acids are only found in aquatic meats, such as fish meal, not in terrestrial meats like beef. Also, fish can’t digest grains, so it was important to not include them in the recipe.

After knowing what things his food would have to provide, he began looking at ingredients. Kurt uses all natural products, including a variety of vegetables: peas, broccoli, carrots, garlic, etc… For protein, shrimp and a white fish provide that. He also adds protein through a number of freeze-dried powders, such as shrimp powder, krill powder, etc. Then, the whole mess is stabilized with agar, and frozen in sheets that he can break off and feed as needed.

Even though this is a highly nutritious food, Kurt also believes that fish benefit from a varied diet, so he does feed them some premium commercial foods, as well as, live foods in rotation with his own recipe. All in all, I found Kurt’s talk fascinating, and can definitely see the benefits of making your own food.

Update: Kurt was kind enough to allow me to post his full recipe online here: fish food recipe.

10 Responses to “CCA – Making Your Own Fish Food – January 2009”

  1. Kurt Johnston Says:

    Thank you for the great review. It is always good to see the thoughts of those in attendance when you present a program like this.


  2. Mallory Says:

    Yay, thanks so much Kurt and Kris! I am really looking forward to trying this recipe.

  3. jeffry r. johnston Says:

    Was the picture supposed to link anything in particular on Flickr? Because I have an account but it doesn’t allow me to see anything; it says I need permission. Great post, btw. Thank you for sharing and thanks to Kurt for letting you share. 🙂

  4. guitarfish Says:

    Nope, removed the link. I’m glad you liked the post, thanks!

  5. Mark F. Says:

    Just curious – does the inclusion of paprika in the recipe serve for anything other than color, or is there actually a nutritional benefit? Garlic, I know, both boosts immunity and adds flavor (many fish apparently find it appetizing, just like some of us!), but the inclusion of paprika definitely took me by surprise – so is there a benefit, or is it optional? I ask because it’s the one ingredient, besides all the powdered protien sources, that I don’t normally keep in my pantry.

  6. guitarfish Says:

    My notes from Kurt’s talk say that Paprika provides vitamins A, B, E, and additional fiber.

  7. Kurt Johnston Says:

    Kris got it pretty good. Specifically it provides Excellent A B6 & E as well as good amounts of fiber, C, Omega 3 & 6 as well as the rest of the B-Complex….Nothing was put in the recipe without serving a nutritional benefit. Paprika surprised me too. I’m using it more at home in my own foods now!

  8. Corey Says:

    Funny, I’ve been using peprika in my Frog vitamin mix for years… good for color but also just a good nutritional additive anyways. Is the food specifically for any particular kind of fish, or is this a good base food that you then work more specific died needs on top of? For example contrasting more veggie eaters vs. more predatory fish…

    I wonder how this would work for my tadpoles 😀 lol

  9. Kurt Johnston Says:


    This is a good base recipe. I use it for everything from SA Cichlids to Tropheus. I tell everyone that if you have all omnivores you can go heavier on vegetable matter or if you have all piscivires go heavier on fish/shrimp. I am sure that you can adapt this based on the need of the frogs/tadpoles. I am sure that their nutritional needs are different than fish.

  10. Mark F. Says:


    Regarding the diet of tadpoles, you may also want to check out some of the comments on Utricularia, posted on this site Dec. 10th.

    Do you know the species of tadpoles you keep? Generally speaking, I’d guess that you’d probably want to adjust Kurt’s recipe so that it’s heavier on the veggies, and lighter on the protien (but not completely devoid of it).