Feeding Mosquito Larvae to Your Fish

Feeding mosquito larvae to tannin aquarium
Mosquito larvae ready to be fed to aquarium fish

Mosquito larvae ready to be fed to aquarium fish

When I was a kid I would catch mosquito larvae from rainwater pools formed in the rock along along Spruce Creek in Salisbury Center, NY.  These I would feed to my aquarium fish.  Later I would catch minnow fry and feed them to the oscars that lived in an antique aquarium I bought at auction for $7.50.  Some day I’ll tell you about that tank, which also included smallmouth bass and who knows what else.  Suffice to say it was a fantastic aquarium and it formed the basis for the passion I still have today, more than 35 years later.

It all came rushing back to me about a month ago when I went to empty rainwater out of my canoe.  The wind had blown the boat off its stand, and there was about 3″ of rainwater in the bottom.  In the water were hundreds, if not thousands of mosquito larvae doing their unique sort of kinked up swimming motion.

The canoe was going to need to wait another few hours before it made its way back to its perch.  There were larvae to be caught and fed first.

Into the house I went, returning with one of my wife’s lemonade pitchers and a dip net from the aquarium room.  After a few sort of half-assed dips at the larvae, I took a big swoop that picked up all the leaf litter on the bottom of the boat as well as the baby insects.  (technically I guess they are not exactly “babies” but whatever.)

It wasn’t long before the pitcher was teeming with larvae and we were headed to the “Tannin Tank”  my latest project and home to a group of checkerboard cichlids, some apistogramma species, three bleeding heart tetras and a single bloodfin tetra.

Netted Mosquito larvae ready to be fed to aquarium fish

Netted mosquito larvae ready to be fed to aquarium fish

Since the aquarium was set up with decaying leaves and pods from the Amazon river basin — part of my “tinter” project, I figured a bit more mulm or bottom crud would not hurt.  Still, instead of dumping the water from the pitcher in, I dipped the larvae out.  I put  them in the tank about 20 at a time and sat back to watch and to shoot video.

The bleeding heart tetras smashed the top of the water as soon as the larvae left the net.  They ate so fast that their stomachs became distended.  While that was fun, the real joy came in finding the single larvae floating among the leaves and sticks and watching the appistos stalk and take them.  I secured a few good shots of that, which are shown in my most recent Fincast.

I won’t delve into it much here, but a trip around Google showed the aquarium community likes the idea of feeding these buggers to their collective fish –as long as they don’t grow into flying insects, which can carry nasty diseases. I addressed all of that in the video.  There is lots of commentary on the web about how beautiful the fish become on this diet.  Since I’ve only done it once, I can’t verify that.  But it’s well, food for thought.

In the meantime, I’m planning to be more systematic about collecting these guys for more feeding.  The fish enjoyed it even more than I did.

By the way, I eventually put the canoe back on the rack.



John Carlin is a fish geek who is also a local newscaster. Fish+Newscaster=Fincaster.

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