Why I Made Homemade Fish Food (or My GAPS Fishtank)



Not my tank. Photo courtesy of http://bit.ly/1IYvcZD

(*update posted at bottom*)

I broke all of my established animal “rules” when we got our 10 gallon fresh water aquarium. As a a homeschooling mama, long time public educator, and aquarium lover since I was small, it was not hard to justify the educational value of some soothing tropical fish in the living room, especially fun ones that give live birth. Life cycle!

Aquariums are some maintenance. But who cares? This was a small one. I figured that we aren’t eating the things, and no one actually expects them to live long anyway. We filled the tank with plastic plants, and grabbed a generic can of fish food from the local pet store.

I was a bit concerned about Ellie touching the fish food in a can, full of fake dye and soybean products and who-knows-what-else-is-corn, but meh. I shrugged it off.

Bad choice. Bad, bad choice.

Nope. They didn’t make Ellie sick. I know that is where you think I am going with this….but I am not. They made me sick. To the stomach. When I discovered the nasty little red thing sticking out of the little Molly’s butt was not a ‘boy part’ that I shrugged off, figuring I knew nothing about fish anatomy, but in fact… intestinal parasites. My fish have worms?! BAH!

Laugh with me won’t you? Because aside from my blatantly obvious ignorance of fish anatomy, the story gets oh.so.much.better!

I didn’t realize the fish were infested with parasites until last night when a bloated belly Molly died quite suddenly, and another developed sudden scoliosis. Scoliosis! Over night?? In a FISH?! Good heavens.

Cruddola. I knew this meant a problem and not fishy genetics, so I hit Dr. Google for fish advice.

Revealed: intestinal parasites due to poor gut health. :SNORT

One or more of our fish arrived home from the pet store infected with camallanus worms. These nasty worms have a bad reputation for being nearly impossible to eradicate, and have developed resistance to conventional treatment of over the counter medication. :SNORTagain.

They thrive in fish with poor diet and damaged intestinal health, due to being fed store food rather than a real food diet. :DOUBLEsnort.

Treatment includes making food for them at home. Food that includes bentonite clay, garlic, finely diced veggies, and gelatin.

By this time I was torn between laughter and horror. Shoot me now. I have GAPS FISH.

Thanks to google I began reading things like ‘don’t bother, just euthanize’. And ‘the entire tank and all sterilized parts must sit dry for at least one week before treating again. Otherwise start fresh.’ This was looking worse with every site I read. Not to mention the mixed information on whether or not this little parasite could actually harm humans. All of the warnings to not dispose of these fish in your sink or toilet as the worms will infest your water source sealed the deal. Bye, bye aquarium.

I announced to the girls that I was sorry but it looked as if all the fish would die and we would have to just start fresh or maybe not have an aquarium. And tears ensued. Ohhhh the tears. And the questions.

Why can’t we save them? Too sick.

Isn’t there something we can do? Nope. Medicine in the store doesn’t work.

But what CAUSED it?

Crappola. The cat was out of the bag. The crappy crap crap food is what caused it.

We fed the fish junky food and it made them sick?

Why, yes, children. Yes, we did. :TRIPLE.quadruple.MONSTER.snort

Nothing like children to hold you accountable on everything. I mentioned my animal rules? There are three.

Rule 1.  Animals will serve a purpose or we will not have them. 

Rule 2. We will take care of our animals properly, providing for them as God intended, and in a manner that shows we are good stewards of their health. 

Rule 3. If we can not afford to do number 2, or do not have the time to do number 2, we will not have them.

As you can see, in order to justify the budget expense of an aquarium (number 3), I had to fudge number 1 a bit by focusing on educational value. Understandable to most. Would not have been as a big of a deal if I had followed number 2. All made for a wonderful conversation with the children on how we were going to now handle this little dilemma. (Not really wonderful. More like hilarious and ironic.)

Based on the “rules”, I had to try and heal the fish. I now had to do better because I knew better. I had taken on the responsibility of the fish, and thus…I had to do number 2. Could I have scrapped it all? Of course. But the lesson behind it, and making the right choice, meant so much more to my girls. That was what I wanted to teach them. That made it a valuable life lesson. And besides, life feels so much happier and my soul smiles so much easier when I choose hope. Even when it’s for Larry and Fisher, our pet store bottom feeder fishies.


Homemade fish food. In case you didn’t believe me.

And that is how I cam to spend my afternoon…making homemade fish food. I used this awesome website and recipe, and from there I temporarily mixed up some fish food gummies that included: gelatin, diced zucchini, kelp, garlic, spirulina, clay, and a shot of fulvic acid. A crunchy friend mentioned a local weed (plantain) as a natural dewormer for livestock and I plan to throw some of that in tomorrow. Another crunchy friend said they just killed a bunch of hookworms on a creek crawdad with raw garlic. So I threw some of that in the tank and so far the fish haven’t died, but my living room smells like I am warding off vampires.

Will I continue to make homemade fish food if these buggers live? I have no idea. That previously linked website actually sells real food for fish which I may just BUY.

Meanwhile it appears even fish have hope. 😉 Pass it on!

~ Nichole


I am so sad to say that our white molly with scoliosis ended up finally passing a couple weeks ago. Otherwise, everyone else in the tank is doing terrific, including Tinka, the baby red molly who was born in the tank after we brought mama home from the pet store pregnant. It took about 7 days for the fish to realize when I feed them the new food that they must go to the bottom of the tank to eat, rather than swim directly to the top. And as you can see by the photo, they love their real food.

You know how when you put that neon colored pet store food in the tank it clouds everything up and makes it nasty if you over feed, killing the fish? Well, this stuff doesn’t work the same way. If you over feed, you just give it an extra day or two for them to mop up the extra, because it floats around the tank like pseudo-plankton for them to filter out. I very much recommend the extra money on the Bottom Bites from this site. Unless you want to make your own. Your fish will live longer and be healthier, so you will save in the long run.

fish2Glub glub! No more leaky gut fish! 🙂

Time to head back to the pet store for real plants and new tank members, as promised to the girls.

Know someone with a fish tank? Pass it on!

  1. This is hysterical! I was laughing out loud, but at the same time agreeing with everything you said. I did the same thing when I had a fish. My dog is on a GAPSish diet too.

  2. I was nearly in tears by the time I got to GAPS fish!! Great lesson here. Oh, dear…

  3. We have a GAPS cat and still I laughed right out loud! Thank you so much for this reminder of treating our pets as God intended and the blessings that come from that. Sometimes I tease my children that there is NO~Thing in our cat’s food that they couldn’t eat, and I snicker while they stand there wondering if I will ever trick them! LOL! I wouldn’t but it’s fun to remind them that she eats “real” food too!

    • What do you feed your cats? We are still trying to figure out how to feed our cats. That’s a hard one, too. We bought some junky cans to fill in for not having food one day because I didn’t want to make an extra stop and they chose to starve rather than eat it. Smart kitties!

      • feeding cats naturally is really easy once you get them used to it! They are pure carnivores! So you give them a mix of muscle and organ meats (raw– freeze for 10 days if you want to make sure they are parasite-free), including the bones, skin etc., from different sources. You can also do some cooked meat in a pinch (or when you use gizzards & necks in making stock). Add a dash of yogurt or kefir, fermented veggies or purreed veggies (to simulate them eating the intestines of herbivores), and brewers yeast & garlic powder to ward off fleas. I’ve also given our cat some stock or very fatty scraps of meat the kids couldn’t finish. It’s almost free to feed our cat since we have plenty of meat thanks to GAPS, and she eats it all whole so we don’t even have much prep. I lob a hunk of raw chicken (gizzards & necks are $1.88/pack at Walmart) or a glob of the ground cow organs we get from our butcher into her bowl, ta da! She will only eat (organic grain free) kibble if it’s ALL there is and she is very hungry lol.

  4. we plan to let our cat outside once she is older so she can hunt on her own. The nice thing about feeding them meat is that it also preserves their taste for it & they will want to hunt.

  5. Hi Nicole, Firstly, thanks for sending people to us to get water filters that leave healthy water.

    My first water filtration lessons were learned in the late 70’s when I was half-owner of a breeding and wholesale tropical fish business. The biggest lesson I learned was that if you put fish in tap water they frequently died! And if they lived, they sure couldn’t breed. Gee, I wondered, what’s that water doing to us?

    Give your cat two bowls of water – one filtered and one not. Many will never drink unfiltered tap water but will find some source outside instead.

    Real plants are critical to a balanced in a fish tank. Get some to plant and some that float.

    • Hi Timothy!
      It’s no secret in the groups I run and with my clients that I love Friends of Water as a resource! 🙂 What interesting information about the fish and the cat water. I recently wondered why our cat was drinking more from puddles then his bowl! For the fish tank I am finding it is hard to keep the live plants thriving, and some of it is due to the fish eating them. I will have to investigate into that more. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Hi Nichole,
    that’s a terrific post, thank you.
    I’m setting up a tank for my grandson and I’d like him to understand what it means to care for a pet fish.

    “Animals will serve a purpose or we will not have them.” could not agree more.

    Thanks, Bob.

  7. I make raw cat food every 3 weeks for our 3 cats. I started because our elder cat began showing symptoms of neuropathy from diabetes. She also was having seizures. After a year on a raw food diet, she walks and moves quickly without stumbling and can jump up on a chair. She even climbed a tree. A younger cat chronically vomited any brand of regular food, but on a raw diet, she hasn’t thrown up in months.

    I recently began giving the dog raw meaty bones and supplementing her grain free food with raw meats after a trip to the vet due to symptoms of severe arthritis. She could barely move. The raw meaty bones and decrease in dry food has caused her appetite and activity levels to bound back to what it was when she was 2 or 3 years younger.

    Our cat food recipe is no more expensive than buying regular canned or dry food. The litter box doesn’t stink at all. The cats are healthier. It does take my time – about 2 hours every 3 weeks to make a batch.

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