In days gone by, hard-pressed aquarists had a difficult time of it if they wanted to keep their fish in optimum condition. Trips to local streams and ponds were made to collect live foods such as daphnia and various worms. Earthworms were cultured or dug from gardens and every fish-keeper had a secret recipe concocted in the kitchen from such items as chopped liver, spinach and hard-boiled eggs. The only prepared foods available were the inaccurately named “ant eggs” (actually dried ant pupae) which as a staple food were pretty much useless.
All that changed in the 1950s when the German scientist, Dr. Ulrich Baensch founded the Tetra Company in Melle, Germany. Baensch pioneered the development of flake fish foods and produced the first commercially successful product – TetraMin® flake food. Made from four different types of flakes and fortified with vitamins it was named after tetra – meaning four and the last syllable of vitamin.
TetraMin® revolutionised the hobby and soon aquarists had a vast selection of prepared foods from which to choose. Flakes, granules, tablets and now crisps, compete for shelf space at every pet shop and, along with frozen foods, mean there is no longer any need to collect or culture live food in order to keep pet fish hale and hearty.
Flakes and granules tend to float and so many bottom-feeding fish such as catfishes and loaches can miss out and slowly starve. Assigning them the role of scavenger is neither approriate nor humane. Tablets (which sink) should be fed at the same time; this ensures that these fish get sufficient food. Nocturnal fish should be fed when the lights go out.
One tablet on the market is Tabimin, from Tetra. Sold in the distinctive Tetra style yellow plastic tubs it comes in three sizes containing respectively 120, 360 and 1040 tablets. The blurb on the front proclaims proudly – “Complete food for all bottom feeding tropical fish – for energy, colour and vitality”.
These are bold claims! The fact that no single food can be described as complete is acknowledged on Tetra’s website where it states – “Feed Tetra FreshDelica to your fish 2-3 times a week to add variety to their diet.” Any food will supply fish with energy of course and colour too for that matter and vitality isn’t measurable in any meaningful way.
The marketing bull can be forgiven if the product itself is sound and fortunately in this case Tetra has no worries. These tablets really are superb. If the time taken for your fish to consume their food is any indication of quality (and I think it most likely is) then these tablets are the very best. Dropping a tablet into a tank of corydoras produces an immediate response as the sensitive noses of the fish pick up the scent. Within seconds there is a pile of fish clamouring to get at the tablet and within a few minutes it’s gone.
It’s not just catfish that seem to get excited over this food. Sand-sifting cichlids such as kribs (Pelvicachromis pulcher) and rams (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) can’t get enough of it. Even gouramis and live-bearers will join in the feeding frenzy and shrimps devour it greedily. A particularly entertaining sight was several young Tatia intermedia chasing a tablet around the sand rather like little seals trying to balance a ball on their snout!
The ingredients give little clue to Tabimin’s attraction:
- Milk and milk derivatives
- Fish and fish derivatives
- Vegetable protein extracts
- Molluscs and crustaceans
- Oils and fats
- Various sugars
A varied selection then, ideal for omnivores which most bottom feeders happen to be. The nutritional information is a little more enlightening:
- Protein 43.0%
- Oil 5.0%
- Fibre 1.5%
- Ash 9.5%
- Moisture 8.0%
Clearly heavy on protein. This makes it an ideal food for growing batches of corydoras fry.
Of course the “min” in Tabimin stands for vitamins and there are plenty of those:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin E
L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate by the way is a posh name for vitamin C. So again all the bases covered it seems.
So, all good news then? Well not quite, there is one thing that somewhat takes the shine off this product. Price. A 108g tub, which contains 360 tablets has a Recommended Retail Price of £10.20. That’s almost 3p per tablet! If we take Tetra at their word and feed as much as your fish will eat in a few minutes (probably a couple of tabs) three times daily then you’ll need to buy a new tub every couple of months. If you have one tank that’s not too bad but many hobbyists have multiple tanks. I’m probably not typical but I have a couple of dozen tanks, most with lots of hungry catfish in them! I can easily go through a tub a week if I feed every day. As I’m not made of money I have to restrict the feeding of this product to my young fish that benefit from it the most. I feed the adults with it only once a week.
Even so the product is so good and so effective that I would still recommend that anyone with catfish or loaches get some. If you have a community tank with corydoras catfish then a tablet dropped in after lights out will ensure your fish get all the nutrients they need and not have to rely on scavenging leftovers. Were it not for the rather high price this would be a five star product, even so I give it 4 stars.