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Thread: Feeding controversy

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    Registered Member Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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    Default Feeding controversy

    Hi, as I will be setting up my 1st discus tank in a year or so I have started to bone up. I have recently joined a local (Italian) discus forum called Mondo Discus. I was invited to read a thread that has been going on for the last 18 months or so about Discus feeding. It highlights a few issues that, if true, could be concerning and their solution may be controversial; I would like to say that I have no "hippy-dippy" inclinations and I don't wear hand woven organically grown hemp sandals, but I am a veterinary surgeon so animal wellbeing is of paramount importance.
    Basically it says that discus is basically an opportunistic carnivore who will feed preferably on small crustacea, insects and fish fry if available, seasonally also taking advantage of fruit and other plant/algae. It has a very short intestine, practically incapable of utilizing any form of polysaccharids, relying mainly on protein for it's anabolic and energy requirements (to a lesser degree on lipids and practically zylch on carbs). While most omeotherm (warm blooded) animals rely mostly on carbs (ruminants being the most obvious exeption) to fulfil their energy requirements, fish rely on protein. For this purpose they have more efficient biochemical pathways, and less metabolic expenditure to excrete the resulting waste (they don't have to transform the ammonia in to less toxic catabolites, they excrete it as such through their gills).
    So the first concern is what is any type of polysaccharide (wheat, corn, etc.) doing in our fish food? It will pass straight through their gut and just encourage bacteria to multiply.
    Second concern is the quantity/quality of the protein. Ideally it would all be of fish/insect/crustacean origin and in high percentage. But this does not tell the whole story, fish meal can be made mostly of leftovers such as skin, very high fish protein content, not very nutritious (like eating your leather shoes). The higher proportion of protein that passes through undigested will also feed the bacteria and increase the NH3/NO2/NO3 in the tank. Because only part of it is digestable you have to feed a greater quantity, compounding the problem; because of the lower nutritional value and higher metabolic expense to digest it you actually have to toss even more in the tank!
    Also bulk manifacturing processes involving high heat, a proportion of even the better quality protein is de-facto unusable.
    When it comes to fats, as highlighted also in one of the stckies here, a moderate ammount of polyunsaturated fatty acids of fish origin are essential for many metabolic processes. Saturated fats of warm blooded animal origin are totally foreign to their physiology, easily leading to hepatic steatosis (fatty liver).

    As I am going to embark the process of growing out 10 or so juvies I have to question the rationale behind stuffing the fish with beefheart or carb loaded commercial granules.

    I am going to get my fish direct from one of the best show-winning breeders in Europe (as advised by a member on this forum, thanks again Argentum from Saudi Arabia!) but not with the aim of growing them as quick and big as possible, just as healthy as possible in order to enjoy them for the longest time. If they miss out on 1/2 inch growth so be it, but for the reasons explained it may actually work out better.

    I understand the need to avoid underfeeding, nutritional deficiencies and stunted growth. The results of these issues are obvious to the eye but the opposite extreme, although more subtle, may be equally insidious. In the quest of fulfilling the full growth potential within the brief period before maturity are we stuffing our fish with unhealthy food that may induce rapid growth but be damaging for long term health?

    Their quest for a fish food closer resembling what, by the above logic, discus should be fed has been so far vain, even NLS has been found wanting. I suggested to look at North Fin.

    But they have come up with an equally shocking and surprising answer: CAT FOOD

    But not just any cat food, specifically Orijen six fish cat food. They say that if a discus food came with a list of ingredients like the one I copied below many of us would not hesitate. Some of them have been using it for 6 months or so and seem chuffed.... We will have to wait and see. Ciao from a bewildered Italian
    Your thoughts greatly appreciated





    Whole atlantic mackerel, whole atlantic herring, whole atlantic flounder, whole acadian redfish, atlantic monkfish, whole silver hake, mackerel meal, herring meal, blue whiting meal, herring oil, whole green peas, whole navy beans, whole red lentils, alaskan cod meal, pollock meal, sunflower oil, whole pinto beans, whole chickpeas, natural fish flavor, whole green lentils, whole yellow peas, safflower oil, lentil fiber, freeze-dried cod liver, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, whole carrots, whole apples, whole pears, dried kelp, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, choline chloride, zinc proteinate, mixed tocopherols (preservative), copper proteinate, chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rosehips, juniper berries, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product.
    Last edited by Paul Sabucchi; 12-13-2016 at 08:21 AM.

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    Administrator and MVP Dec.2015 Second Hand Pat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Paul, if I read your post correctly your main concern is the ingredients which make up most fish foods so I would suggest making your own. If you look about the forum you will find many recipes. Some are beef heart based, others mainly seafood based and many a mix.
    Pat
    Your discus are talking to you....are you listening

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    Registered Member Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    I totally aggree with you that making your own is the guaranteed way of being sure of what goes in the food, but maybe not the most practical, I will definitely prepare my "mammal free" meal but I would like to have alternatives to vary the diet. I would like to make clear that I am in no way besmirching the work and experience of people who have been breeding discus for decades with stellar results by using long time staples such as beefheart or tetra granules (just to mention two). I am just trying to rationally understand if these concernes, raised amongst others by people who are not only discus keepers but also marine bioligists, nutritionists and food industry manifacturing engineers, have any base. As you may have understood I am very meticulous about my animals and try to acquire a sound knowledge base. When I hear someting that goes against the grain it catches my attention but I lack the practical experience of long time discus keepers to say if there may be any substance to the argument and this is why I am asking your advice. I am looking for scentific papers about the effect of a rapid growth aimed diet have on discus long term health and lifespan but coming up empty. To oversimplify thieir argument, they ask if it was ideal to feed a child on an extreme diet aimed for maximum growth and weight gain. I am a total novice to duscus but I can safely say that in companion animal nutrition things have moved on a fair bit from this way of doing things, that is now even started to be reviewed as far as production animals are concerned.
    Some of the lads here have also pointed out that the majority of mainstream processed discus foods are of a quality comparable to a mediocre food used in the fish farming industry, that retails at about $1000 a metric ton but they retail it at a price that exceds fresh lobster at a 3 star restaurant. How come Orijen utilize such prime ingredients and retails it at a far lower price (pound for pund) just because it is destined to cats? They do appear positively impressed by North Fin cichlid formula, unfortunately not sold here yet (but it can be shiped from the UK -at least untill Brexit!). The benefit of your experience always welcome, kind regards from Italy
    Last edited by Paul Sabucchi; 12-13-2016 at 11:28 AM.

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    Registered Member bluelagoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Unfortunately,makers of pet food need to use binding agents.Whole wheat,corn,rice and gluten are used to keep it all together.There's no benefit for it in their diet.I found that gelatin or shrimp is a great binder for home made foods.

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    Administrator and MVP Dec.2015 Second Hand Pat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Actually many here on the forum find making their own food not only practical but also the least expensive way to go. Have you actually make your own food?
    Pat
    Your discus are talking to you....are you listening

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    Registered Member Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Quote Originally Posted by bluelagoon View Post
    Unfortunately,makers of pet food need to use binding agents.Whole wheat,corn,rice and gluten are used to keep it all together.There's no benefit for it in their diet.I found that gelatin or shrimp is a great binder for home made foods.
    This is what I have always been told unil now, but how come those clever compatriots of yours at Champion Petfoods in Edmonton manage to make (cat kibble size) pellets without using any kind of added starch? Can you ask them to make them in 2 mm size so we over here don't waste too much by having to whizz it in the coffee grinder? I apologise if I appear annoying, like a little kid always asking "why?". But I am a novice to discus (I actually have 2 tankfulls of mbuna, where we strive to feed the lowest animal protein diet and it is frowned upon if your fish overgrow!) so it is a whole new game for me and an answer like : "because it has always been done this way" leaves me unsatisfied. I nevertheless appreciate any contribution to the discussion. A heartfelt Ciao from Italy

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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Cats fed a diet of mostly fish loose essential B vitamins which causes them to have health problems.

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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    For the money nothing beats a good beef heart mix for growing discus. It has been proven time and time again. They grow large, they have great color, they spawn often, the spawns are large, and they live a long life. Not sure what else you could want.

    -john
    Please check out http://forum.discusnada.org/

    SOS Crew Texas

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    Registered Member Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Quote Originally Posted by John_Nicholson View Post
    For the money nothing beats a good beef heart mix for growing discus. It has been proven time and time again. They grow large, they have great color, they spawn often, the spawns are large, and they live a long life. Not sure what else you could want.

    -john
    That is exactly the practical feedback I was hoping for. Thanks keep it coming

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    Registered Member Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Quote Originally Posted by pitdogg2 View Post
    Cats fed a diet of mostly fish loose essential B vitamins which causes them to have health problems.
    That only applies to raw fish, although the raw ingredients of the cat kibble in question are mainly raw fish, the level of heat used even in the gentlest form of pellet extrusion will inactivate the thiaminase (cold extrusion being unfeasable for bulk production). It is an enzyme = a protein is denaturated as even a low level of coocking will disrupt it's secondary and tertiary structure.
    Beyond that it was being suggested to feed it to the fish, not the cat. I suppose it is safe for a fish eating fish to eat another fish, even raw! Ciao
    Last edited by Paul Sabucchi; 12-13-2016 at 01:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Quote Originally Posted by john_nicholson View Post
    not sure what else you could want.

    -john
    lol

    +1

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    Registered Member Hart24601's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    You could call and ask the manufactures of the fish and cat food your questions, they very well might have answers that we in the hobby can speculate or debate all we want but never really figure out without some sort of inside perspective. Most places are pretty friendly if you ask in a nice way and phrase things as not to disparage their process or product. Perhaps you will get Orijen to make fish food.

    That being said from cost/results perspective as John said the homemade mixes are cheap and have produced a lot of nice fish. It is possible another food could exceed the growth or longevity? Sure, however it would take one heck of an experiment with a very large and well thought out sample size over a long period of time and good statistics to eliminate genetic and other variables. I can't imagine anyone willing to spend the $$ or time on that when homemade mixes produce such nice fish and it seems unlikely there would be a significant difference.

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    Registered Member Paul Sabucchi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Hi, I got in touch with Champion Petfoods and their commercial strategy is aimed only at the cat/dog sector for now... Pity. Quite rightly it has been pointed out that homemade food can give the freedom of using good quality fresh ingredients and ot is relatively cheap, I do find indicative that the cat kibble made with top quality fresh ingredients is sold at a fraction of the cost of fish food made with inferior ingredients. At least there are premium brands such as NLS or NORTHFIN that use more "non terrestrial" proteins and less carbs. Also want to look into Tropical's Soft Line America (I currently use their Africa Herbivore for the mbunas and the ingredients seem good). Still trying to learn about discus nutrition, as much as I value the (few) academic papers available, the studies al cover only a short period of time (typically 60-90 days) so one more reason to consider the experience of who has been keeping discus for decades, very confused...

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    Registered Member Hart24601's Avatar
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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    Realistically while it's fun to think about, do you have any reason to suspect commercial diets are inadequate besides speculation? While their may be downsides in theory it would seem that there are examples of great fish raised on many types of diets. We look at beefheart and the many recipes people use including turkey and fish substitutions - some add a greater variety of greens and some add vitamins while other don't however many people growing out don't really notice or comment on one formula producing fish that are markedly different. It's not like someone is producing 9" fish consistently while others with the same line only get 6" and the secret is the diet. Most of the homemade food ingredients are decidedly not from discus natural environment but work very well with these fish (proven over generations of fish strains at commercial facilities) and is affordable. I have not heard reports of fish fed black worms (freeze dried, live or frozen) or other food sources being any larger, more colorful or longer lived from homemade food. I think Hans did a growout on his flakes and saw no differences and I believe I have read others growing out discus on commercial foods with no noticeable changes.


    Aside from the expense factor, which could just be because of a smaller market, the above would indicate to me that discus are highly adaptable and I am not sure you will see tangible results from your quest!

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    Default Re: Feeding controversy

    [ I suppose it is safe for a fish eating fish to eat another fish, even raw! Ciao[/QUOTE]

    They been doing it since the first fish swam.

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