(This article was originally published in "Cichlasoma power" Vol. 14 No. 1 pp. 16-17, the journal of the Cichlasoma Study Group.
While visiting Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, I made an astounding discovery: fish eat other foods than what comes out of a fish food canister.
Juan had demonstrated to me that his cichlids ferociously attack his homemade mixture that he calls fish food. Even a banana thrown into his monster bin made the water boil and soon disappeared among the creatures within.
The glob of pink matter is a source of pride for Juan. His own concoction, he told me, was made of various items, such as red snapper, oysters, clams, etc. He kept it in the freezer until a chunk was craftily chipped out of its container and tossed with the skill of Kareem Abul Jabbar's "sky hook."
It certainly did smell and look good. And the fish certainly did agree with the way they quickly devoured the substance. I was tempted to take a bite myself, when Juan wasn't looking, of course, except that a theraps species got there first and took a chuck out of my nose. That was the impetus. That was the idea I took home with me. I was going to build the best damn fish food in the world and, by gum, my fish were going to love me for it.
Upon returning home, I hit the nearest grocery store. I bought the finest ingredients: oysters, clams, tuna, salmon, mussels, herring and frozen whole cod. I had the makings of a wonderful recipe floating around in my mind as I began to drool and make my way to the check-out counter. On the way home I bought a few dozen nightcrawlers. What fish could resist good, old-fashion worms? At home, the worms must have had a sense of their immanent doom and I felt a bit guilty as I forced them back in the blender glass container, placed the lid on the top and switched the machine on.
It was a horrible sight at first, one I shouldn't describe, but I will. The worms squeemed and tried to escape the ferocious blades, but it was useless. They met their doom as they were sucked into a whirlwind of chopped fellow worm bodies.
I retrieved several frozen chucks of diced beef heart from the freezer and began to open every package, every can and dump the contents into the blender. Because of the large amount of ingredients, I had to make several batches of the goop and then blend them all together in a large bowl. The odor was almost overwhelming. Not a pleasant one, however.
But I decided that fish eat strange substances and they are probably used to eating stuff that smell strange. If fact, I was sure they relished it. Moving over to a nearby fish tank, I watched for any frenzied action as the fumes of my concoction wavered over the top of the tank.
No reaction yet. But it was early. They just haven't had a sample to taste yet. Pouring the mixture out into several cookie sheets, I slipped them into the freezer to solidify. My interest in fish at an all time high, I sat quietly in a chair and waited while reading copies of FAMA, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and my favorite, copies of Cichlasoma Power.
Visions of fish slapping the surface in joy filtered through my mind. They would certainly put on another six or seven pounds a piece and would be spawning simultaneously on every rock and pane of glass. True cichlid heaven.
It took longer than expected for the homemade food to solidify. You know the old saying, "a watched pot never boils." Well, in my case, it was "a watched cookie sheet of homemade fish food never freezes." I went to bed.
The next morning I sprang from bed in anticipation. (A little lie here. I never spring from bed. In fact, I often find it difficult to get up in the morning.) To the freezer and, one hand one the door, I flipped the frozen cookie sheet out and onto the counter. It looked like peanut brittle. I never liked peanut brittle but I was sure the fish did. Besides, this wasn't peanut brittle, it was finely-crafted fish food, just like the kind Juan makes.
Firmly grasping one edge, I broke off a chuck and threw it into the fish tank. I watched for the fish to leap from the water to grab a mouthful. They hid.
Well, perhaps it just takes time. It is probably an acquired taste, like anything else. I waited. The stared at the unfamiliar chuck thought they had been sucked into a sewer. I came back and checked that evening. The food was but it was lying at the bottom tank now, partially dissolved turning the water foul. Maybe they'll get hungry, I said, and heven eaten by morning. I tore off a chunk of my tanks. Perhaps this bunch was just fussy.
I was startled the next morning couldn't find my fish! They still there, I just couldn't see The water had turned so cloudy. I was sure the fish would be dead. As I changed a good the water, I found the chuck the bottom of each of the tanks After several tries over weeks the same results were found tried Juan's banana trick. M "What is this? Do you think monkeys?."
Well, at least it was a learning experience. Meanwhile, does anyone ideas what to do with twenty of homemade frozen fish food?