I use very little commercially prepared flake or pellet foods to feed my fish except for the ones contained in my Beef Heart recipe. Apart from the live foods I produce and the ones I collect from the ponds, all my fish from fry to adults get Beef Heart (grated to size) prepared as described below. It is suitable for any fish that eats insects, worms, or is carnivorous in the wild; even the so called vegetarian ones like my newly acquired Siamese Algae Eaters just love it and can be noticed chasing the bits and pieces when I feed the fish.
The cost is fairly cheap (between $2.50 and $5.00 per two-cup bag), which lasts approximately 7 days in my fishroom. Cost depends on the price you pay for the Beef Heart (currently I pay $1.29 when I buy 25 lbs at a time) at my local butcher's shop. I find Beef Heart to be readily available and very convenient, although it is time consuming to prepare. The other ingredients are purchased at a supermarket or grown in my garden.
This recipe is one I learned years ago when I lived in Montreal, from Hans Roth of the Montreal Aquarium Society. My methods are similar to those that Hans used, his original recipe is the Single one shown below. One of the main ingredients missing in my recipe is beef liver. Hans used ½ lb of liver per 5lbs of heart. I have modified the original recipe in that I use a combination of flake food and trout chow. I also use fresh carrots the �carotene' is very good for enhancing colour in your fish.
Beef Heart Recipe
|Tetra Min Flakes
|Paprika (Red Pepper)
|Beef liver (optional)
|Finished Product (1 L milk bags)
Start by preparing the beef heart. I get mine from my local butcher's shop and it's usually frozen. I make the Quad recipe and start with 25 lbs of beef heart. I leave the heart out overnight to thaw slightly; I have learned from experience that it is easier to trim when the heart is slightly frozen. First, cut the heart into four large segments. I cut it up using the large valves as guides. Next, cut the heart into smaller pieces and start trimming off the skin, fat and blood vessels. This is quite a lengthy process � approximately five hours for a 25 lb batch, depending on how fussy you are and your dexterity with a knife. You will be left with approximately 60% to 70% of the heart once trimming is complete. As the pieces are trimmed out, place them on a flat cookie sheet and put them in your freezer, as they grind up better when semi-frozen.
Next, prepare the spinach and carrots. Cook the spinach for five minutes after removing most of the coarse stems. Then place spinach and water in a blender and blend into a fine mixture (make sure the blender cover is on or you'll wear the mixture � ugh!). Prepare the carrots by peeling and dicing them, cook for ten minutes and liquefy in the blender as for the spinach.
Now gather together the dry ingredients: trout chow, flake food and paprika. Mix them thoroughly by hand. Place the combined dry ingredients in a bowl and add water (approximately 1½ cups per cup of trout chow) a ratio of 1½:1. Allow the dry ingredients time to soak up the water, then pour into your blender and liquefy the mixture. As you complete each blender-full, put the portions into a large container (I usually use the turkey roaster). You'll use the roaster pan eventually to combine all the ingredients.
The next step is to grind the semi-frozen beef heart pieces putting them through the grinder twice, using a coarse then a fine disc.
Now for the final step in preparing your mixture. Take the ground up heart and add it to the other ingredients in your roaster pan. Add the spinach and carrot mixtures and combine all ingredients thoroughly. This is done by getting into the mixture with both hands and mixing up all of the ingredients. When you are satisfied that all is uniformly mixed, you are ready to add the gelatine. Prepare the gelatine by dissolving the packages slowly into hot water (3 cups water to 6 pkgs of gelatine); do this twice for the Quad batch. Now add the gelatine into the mixture and hand mix thoroughly into the food so that it is all covered. The gelatine is all protein and very sticky, its use is to bind all of the mixture together.
You are now ready to bag up the Beef Heart mixture. I use 1 litre milk bags that are saved for that purpose. I find them to be excellent. Unfortunately, here in BC the milk jug has taken over from the milk bag, so substitute a suitable bag. A fish bag 6½ X14 inches would work well. To get the mixture into the bags, a large funnel type gadget used for ladling jams/fruit into jars during canning season works well. Simply put the funnel into the bag and grasp it around the edge, then using a one-cup measure put two cups of the food into the bag. I fold the bags down halfway before inserting the funnel to keep the food off the sides at the top of the bag, which hinders sealing. Now seal up the bag ensuring that as much air is squeezed out of the bag as possible. I use a Phillips �Sealabag' Electric Bag Sealer which has a vacuum cycle for extracting the air, to seal the bag. Once the bag is sealed, cut off the excess portion of the bag, my sealer does this for me. Next press the bag as flat as possible, this will tell you if there are any leaks and makes it easier for storing and for use. The finished size of my sealed bags is approximately 5½ X 8½X ¾ inches. Place the bags in your deep freeze lying flat and freeze for future use.
To prepare the Beef Heart for grating, take the milk bag and break it up into three or four equal size pieces; I do this by scoring the block with a hammer and chisel and then striking the frozen block over my work bench. I caution you not to use the edge of the deep freeze or the dining room table unless you want to end your marriage. Take each of the smaller pieces and put them into a separate bag � a good use for used fish bags. Place the broken up pieces back into the freezer until ready to use.
To feed the fish simply grate up the Beef Heart into the proper size for your pets. I use three different size graters; a cutter that makes small slivers the width of the block and a knife to get the heart to the size to feed my fish. Grate up and feed the heart while frozen, the small worm-like pieces are eaten vigorously by the fish. Feed enough but do not over feed. Any uneaten food should be removed after feeding.
Of course many other ingredients can be added to the mixture like Kelp, Bone Meal, Torula or Brewers Yeast (I add ½ Cup each in my Quad batch) or multiple Vitamins, all obtainable at a Health Food Store. The paprika, by the way, helps keep the mixture a natural red, because the spinach tends to make the mixture look unappetisingly green.