With Spring fast approaching here in Norway It got me to thinking what are the best free natural food sources that I can either find, cultivate, grow or source for free that I can provide for my shrimp.
(You can see a summer Update on this idea here )
The keyword here is free so I am not allowed to use seeds or get items from artificial sources that I just couldn’t find where I am.
The collection method is entirely up to you and I think some of you will be shocked at some of my methods of collecting that might only apply to me or people in my location.
So I started to brainstorm the idea of free and what that really meant, free is 100% natural, I did mention cultivate above because I think if you can find something local to you and make more of it with a little bit cultivation then more power to you for finding a great resource.
What soon became apparent when I started to think about my list is mines will be different from yours simply because of the differences in location and the resources available to us because of this.
I do live next to a river that no doubt has a whole manner of goodies I could use from plants that are probably edible to insects and small fish etc BUT in the interest of keeping my Aquariums pest free I will ignore that resource for now.
We are still a meter deep in snow here but things are starting to thaw out so I took a mental walk through my Garden and into the forest to see what I could remember from years gone by on what was available.
We have lots of trees but most of the leaves on them are no good as shrimp food, simple because certain trees sap is toxic to shrimp and I would rather not take the risk, pine trees as an example are evergreens and never lose their needles even in the coldest of countries, this is because their sap has an antifreeze element in it.
This antifreeze would no doubt kill everything in our tanks in a matter of hours probably ..so whatever you find always do a ton of research on it first and if you have multiple tanks only test your new food on one tank at a time.
So here is my list of which I will no doubt add to over time as I discover new things
- Alder Cones
- Dried Leaves
- Dried Branches
BioFilm is one of the ones on the list that is truly free and you don’t have to ever do anything to get it in your tanks because it happens naturally.
You can test this for yourself if you put a leave in a bucket of water for a week and then go back to it and pick it up, the leaf will feel slimy compared to before, this is biofilm.
But you may be wondering what is BioFilm Mark? Biofilm is a complex structure like a matrix that has different types of bacteria, algae, pathogens and all manner of things living in it.
The matrix that forms between the layers can protect the inhabitants from predation and in some cases stop drugs affecting them so its a good idea if you think of this matrix as a kind of biological shield.
This Biofilm just so happens to be one of your shrimps favorite foods and this is where the meaning of giving shrimp GRAZING area comes from, a grazing area for biofilm to grow on.
Of course in an aquarium environment, this biofilm is on everything even when we cant see it, Think of this like a lawn of grass where the shrimp would be sheep that would constantly be eating away at the biofilm to keep it down.
One of the questions I get a lot is Mark how can I increase biofilm in a shrimp tank and the answer would be to give it some food right..and the same applies for us here in the free natural food guide.
But we have to use what is available, Three of the things on our list Nettle, Dandelion, Pollen can all be dried in some way and ground down into a fine powder, this is your biofilm food too.
Just remember to feed this stuff in moderation as you do not want to pollute the tank.
In at Number two on our list is the common European Nettle, I am a big fan of Nettle because it is known for having one of the highest mineral and vitamin contents of any plant in Europe.
Did I mention that the shrimp absolutely love it?
Well they do, The Nettle leaves must be blanched or steamed with the youngest newest leaves holding the most nutrition.
For feeding, I recommend a thumbnail-sized piece for 20 shrimp, if they don’t eat it take it out because Nettle leaves are also used as a organic plant fertilizer.
Another added bonus is that Nettle leaves are antibacterial because they contain formic acid in the stinging hairs, this is actually what makes the sting sensation when you are stung.
This is also why I recommend blanching or steaming over boiling because boiling will take out a lot of the good stuff from the Nettle.
In the spring and summer here in Norway I collect buckets and buckets of this stuff to make my own brand of shrimp food.. not bad for free eh 🙂
Of course, you do get stung a lot but you do get used to it after a while and I have even heard people say its invigorating ..you know you are alive that is for sure.
Pollen is classed as a super food and rightfully so because like Nettles it is jam-packed full of goodness and when the conditions are right I can get lots of it for free.
Well lots of it as in enough for my shrimp, Here we get dust storms of pollen that can literally look like someone has thrown a bag of yellow flour out of the tree, it can be that dense.
This is where having a 4-meter wide trampoline next to those trees comes in handy, I have a food source and a method of collecting it which awesome.
All I need to do is take a brush and pan to it for collection.
The way to feed this type of pollen is to feed every tank a very small amount every night at lights out, this feeds the young and adult shrimp but it also feeds that BioFilm like we mentioned above and that will help to promote it more.
You get two food types in one here if you collect the dandelions at the right time of the year, the leaves can be collected and blanched or steamed like Nettles.
The large yellow flowers can be feed as they are which your shrimp will also love because of the flavonoids and free pollen floating around.
The only part I wouldn’t use is the stem that’s like a drinking straw with the white sticky sap, throw that part away.
In the Victorian times in the United Kingdom, they used to eat these leaves in Salads before the more tradition salads were found.
A good example of this is beetroot was originally used for its salad leaves and now we use the bulb part as a food instead.
I personally don’t like the taste of the leaves too much so I can see why it went out of fashion so to speak but the shrimp do seem to like it.
I am lucky enough to have a few really good Alder Cone trees right in my garden.
These are more of a grazing type food than something the shrimp will eat immediately, they will eat everything that grows on this because all an Alder Cone is really is wood.
They are known for tannin’s which in themselves is a great reason to use them, the tannins can help shrimp with mineral absorption so I am told and because of the shape of the cones, they are good for growing mycelium in hard to get to places.
This is beneficial to young shrimp because the adult shrimp cant reach down into the inner parts of the cones but baby shrimp can fit right in there.
They also can lower the pH a little but I do warn you that you would have to add a lot of them to really see any result from doing this.
Dried leaves are a great source of food for shrimp and I briefly mention above about it before, whats important to note here is the leaves have to be dried and they have to be brown.
This removes all sap which you normally wouldn’t be able to feed your shrimp.
To give you an example of the trees I have in my garden I will list a few, Birch, Willow, Cherry, Apple, Horse Chestnut, Acorn, Oak, Maple and a plum tree ..all these leaves dried and brown can be used.
I have boxes of dried brown oak leaves that I use and I reckon they are better than Indian Almond Tree Leaves. (I also Have an Indian Almond Tree in my home )
Now, why do all these work? it’s not the actual leaves that work its because they are fibrous and this gives something for the Biofilm to grow on and BioFilm is the food source as we mentioned above see I told you it is all connected:)
7.Dried Branches Or Bark
This works the same way as alder cones do in that mycelium can grow on the decaying bark and provide the shrimp with a free food source, I will go into more detail about why mycelium is so important to shrimp and why without it they struggle just to live.
Again all branches and bark have to be dead so don’t go out pulling things of trees because that could harm the tree and your shrimp.
So far I have used alder tree bark which has a lot of tannin in it and I have used oak tree twigs, I have also seen some people use birch bark but again you must make sure it’s dried.
There are other things I could add to this list of free things I could collect and as an example long cut dried grass could probably be used because we do use barley in our tanks a lot.
But I don’t think its fair if I list something I haven’t used yet but it can definitely go on the potentials list of free stuff.
Also, let me know what you use and where you are from because we could probably do this for other areas of the world to, I might even do a know list of safe leaves and let people comment on it so we can get a database going of whats good and what not.
This list I could update every few weeks when we get more information in.
Whatever you do choose please remember and do a lot of research on it before it goes near a tank because I would hate for you to lose shrimp over something like this.
So be safe and don’t get stung too much but go out and enjoy the weather if it’s good and soak up that vitamin D because that’s what I am just about to do.
Happy Shrimp Keeping
Marks Shrimp Tanks