Areas for Experimentation
In a hobby ripe for discoveries by interested aquarists, the area of nutrition offers near unlimited opportunities for new innovations. The introduction of new food items to the hobby, whether on a small-scale or, perhaps, on a commercial level, will benefit both those involved in the keeping of aquatic animals and the animals themselves. If you decide to experiment, be sure to consider species that have not been widely used as food sources. For example, in recent years a wide variety of fresh and saltwater invertebrates have been introduced to the hobby. Many of these, especially freshwater and marine shrimp, might be useful food sources for other animals if they can be easily bred in large numbers.
Those who collect invertebrates or plants for use as food for their pets must be completely familiar with the natural histories of the species that are to be collected. Many plant and insect species are toxic or otherwise harmful, and non-native pets may lack the instincts to discern this.
You may also wish to consider local species of small animals as food resources for your pets. Many types of insects, crayfish, sow bugs (which are actually crustaceans that live on land), and the like are easily collected or trapped and will readily reproduce if provided with the right environment. Remember that the crickets, mealworms, and other animals that are now produced commercially were originally wild species that someone decided to study and eventually to breed on a large-scale.
If you do not have the time or interest to breed your own food animals, collecting may offer another option. Where such is legal, fish, insects, and aquatic invertebrates may be collected and will provide valuable dietary variety to your pets. Almost always, a new food item will elicit great interest from captive fish and invertebrates, and one cannot help but feel that the animals are benefiting from more than just the nutritional value of the food item.
One of the most effective ways to collect marine animals is through the use of a seine net, and terrestrial invertebrates can be captured in large numbers by running a butterfly net through high grasses. Crab traps, minnow traps, and insect traps are also available in a great variety of sizes and styles. See the chapter concerning live foods for a more complete discussion of this and related matters.
Whenever collecting food animals, be sure to check the laws in your area and be aware that the use of pesticides may compromise the value of the insects that you capture. Other dangers are the possibility of introducing parasites or predatory invertebrates to your aquarium. Be sure to very carefully check any living creatures that you collect, and to remove those that might bite, sting, or poison your pets.