Friday, March 25, 2011

Dinner for 1,200

From the desk of Richard Brown, General Curator

When you think of feeding an aquarium, most people think of feeding their fishes at home flake food. But at a public aquarium, like the Flint RiverQuarium, the food requirements of the various species on display are extremely diverse. Though the nutritional requirements of many species are similar, there is also quite a bit that needs to be taken into account.

Larger Fish
Larger fish need a variety of cut food. This is kept in the “walk-in” freezer in the food prep area. Salmon and mackerel can be filleted and chopped. Smelt, silversides, capelin, and squid can be fed whole. The Blue Hole typically gets a bucket full of fish or squid with chopped fish at the bottom for the smaller species like bream. Also, we add a couple of medium cups of pellet food that is especially purchased for the sturgeon.

Smaller Fish
Smaller fish get chopped food like smelt, silversides, superba krill, and Pacifica krill. The smallest fish, like the cave tetras, get flake food and pellet food. Seahorses get mysids and live Paleamonetes shrimp. It has been found that the seahorses need the calcium and vitamins in these types of food to thrive.

Octopus and cuttlefish sometimes take frozen food, but often have to be trained to take it as they are used to live food in the wild. When raising them from babies, they have to be feed live mysids and then slowly weaned away from them. This is an expensive food and has to be flown in from facilities in Florida and Louisiana who produce or collect them.

Many snails, including murex, oyster drills and moon snails  are carnivorous. These will eat thawed fish chunks.

Our amphibians, both frogs and salamanders, eat live crickets and worms.

Our turtles eat turtle pellets and cut food, but the gopher tortoises receive specially made house salads.

Lizards get live crickets with calcium dust and pinhead crickets for smaller animals.

Larger alligators usually dine on thawed mackerel and chicken hindquarters. The smaller gators prefer thawed fish.

Snakes eat their food whole and enjoy frozen rats and mice thawed in warm water.

Perching birds eat a variety of seeds, salads, live mealworms and crickets.

The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary found that there has to be Thread herring in the diets of shore birds for them to survive long-term in captivity. This entails feeding some out whole for the large shorebirds, like the Great Blue Heron, and filleting some for the smaller shorebirds, like the Ibis and the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. Also, we provide beef, which comes in sausage chubs, for the herons and egrets. This replaces small rodents, amphibians and reptiles that they would eat in the wild.

Food Enrichment
Calcium is dusted onto crickets to prevent calcium deficiency in reptiles and amphibians.
Vitamins are added to the fish once a week for the Blue Hole to help prevent goiter and other vitamin deficiency diseases. We also use Nekton, S vitamin powder put in gel capsules. We do this ourselves, putting about 30 vitamins into the thread herring once or twice a week.

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