While dosing phytoplankton into aquariums has become increasingly widespread in the United States, most Australian aquarium keepers are yet to discover the great benefits of this practice.
What is phytoplankton?
Phytoplankton consists mainly of microscopic single-celled alga and it is the very base of the food web in aquatic ecosystems. It feeds everything from microscopic zooplankton to multi-ton whales. Small fish and invertebrates also graze on phytoplankton and then those smaller animals are eaten by the bigger ones. So, while phytoplankton is tiny, it’s importance and impact are huge.
In our aquariums we try to replicate a reef ecosystem the best we can, however, often lacking the very thing that all ocean life is based on.
Too much of the same thing
Many reef aquarium keepers and breeders, who understand the importance of live food for their fish, are familiar with using phytoplankton. They culture it as feed for their rotifers, pods and other zooplankton. Most people, however, culture a single species alga and the most common genera for that is Nannochloropsis. This is a great little alga and is very easy to grow at home, but the problem with that is- the lack of variety. It is like being on potato-only diet for humans- you will get some important nutrients and will survive, but due to the lack of others, you won’t really thrive. Another thing to consider is that different marine invertebrates can have a preference for different algae- usually, it’s what they have adapted to eating in the wild.
Why variety in size matters
Another thing missing is the variety in size. Nannochloropsis cells are only between 3 and 5 microns in diameter, making it one of the smallest algae available. Zooplankton, larval fish and filter feeders come in all shapes and sizes and so should the food that they eat. While Nannochloropsis is excellent for the early larval stages, it is less sufficient for the critters larger in size- e.g. adult pods, fish fry and bivalves.
Many studies have been conducted on algal feeds- and they all seem to show a similar correlation -The greater the number of algae species in the feed, the higher the growth, survival and breeding rate of the animals consuming it.
Then how many?
So, what is a good number of algal species to culture at home if you are serious about aquarium keeping? While 1 is better than none and 2 is twice as good, then 3-4 species would probably offer enough variety to keep your aquarium thriving. If you’d like to give culturing algae a go, then the recommended species for home growers will be discussed in the next article.
However, if you consider growing a variety of algal species at home to be too much of a hassle, but still want your aquatic life to get the amazing benefits of dosing phytoplankton, then do your aquarium a favour and purchase some fresh high quality multi-species phytoplankton online. We recommend MicroMagic set and forget subscription as the easiest and most cost-effective way to get phytoplankton for your tank. With this subscription you receive a bottle of fresh laboratory grown mixed phytoplankton every fortnight.
MicroMagic Marine 5 species mix is designed to cater for most reef invertebrates, consisting of 2 species of golden-brown flagellates, 1 green, 1 yellow-green alga and 1 diatom, with particle size ranging from 1 to 35 microns. With 5 species of live algae, MicroMagic provides the nutrition that your aquatic invertebrates need, in the most natural form, and helps to keep your aquarium thriving from the ground up.