Salmon Care and Feeding Guidelines

Salmon Care Guidelines
Food and Feeding
Fish Condition
Troubleshooting Common Salmon Care Problems

Food and Feeding
Fish food will be provided when you pick up the eggs. Storing the fish food in a refrigerator is not necessary but may help to prevent mold growth. Do not "freeze dry" fish food.

Depending on your tank temperature, your eggs should hatch in late November to early December. The sac-fry will remain on the bottom of the tank or in the gravel. Do not start feeding them at this point. They will feed off their yolk sac for approximately one month. Once they have absorbed most of their sac they will swim up in the water column and begin searching for food. Don't be alarmed if all don't swim up at the same time -- some will take longer than others. Once approximately 80% are off the bottom and swimming, you should begin feeding. Follow feed schedule provided with food.

BioVita Starter #1 for approximately two weeks. Feed the fish often, as much as every half-hour, during this critical learning period for getting fish to eat an artificial food. Be careful not to overfeed. At this early feeding stage most food will not be eaten. Total daily food amount: ¼ tsp. per day. See ration instructions below.

BioVita Starter #2 for approximately two weeks (weeks three and four). Fish should be feeding well by now. Distribute total daily food amount over several feedings, five to six times per day. Total daily food amount: ½ tsp. per day. See ration instructions below.

Biodry 1000 1.2 mm, 1.5 mm, 2.0 mm, 2.5 mm. Follow feed schedule provided in your packet to determine when to switch fish to the next food size. You can experiment by feeding a few of the next-sized pellets when the fish appear close to the size shown in the food schedule. They are ready for a larger pellet when they are able to eat the food without spitting it out. Distribute daily amount over several feedings, five to six times per day. Feed amount: Consult the feed schedule for the appropriate amount.

Important Feeding Note: To ensure that fish receive their daily food over multiple feedings throughout the day, divide the amount to feed into the number of feedings you are able to do. This portion is called a "ration." Fish should receive either their entire ration or be fed until they are satiated (they are full and no longer actively feeding), whichever occurs first. It is not uncommon that early in rearing, fish may not eat their entire ration but should once they are feeding well. If fish are not eating their entire ration you may need to increase the number of feedings and decrease the ration amount to accommodate what the fish need. As the fish grow, this will change, so you will be able to increase the ration per feeding and decrease the number of feedings. Observe your fish while feeding -- their behavior will let you know what they need and if you need to make adjustments.

  • Feeding on the weekends: We understand that it is not possible for someone to care for the fish 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the event that someone is at the school to feed the fish on weekends, please do so. If not, however, please feed the fish late on Friday and early on Monday.
  • Feeding during holiday breaks: It is required that feeding the fish is continued over all holiday breaks including, but not limited to: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Please make arrangements for the fish to be fed on a daily basis during holiday breaks.

Fish Condition
Signs of problems that may indicate disease or other stresses include changes in behavior -- not eating, lethargy, remaining close to the surface or the bottom of the tank, increased gill activity, no startle response (when you make sudden movements or noises the fish will normally react immediately). You should check water quality parameters (temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, etc.) to determine the source of problem. Most problems in fish tanks are caused by overfeeding. Following the feeding schedule for the number of fish in your tank should eliminate any problems related to water quality.

It generally is better to underfeed fish than to overfeed them. If you err, it is better to err on the side of underfeeding. Overfeeding leads to wasted food, which can negatively effect water quality. Salmon require clean, cold water so wasted feed is much more of a concern than underfeeding. Even underfed salmon will grow. They just need a little food each day to grow and be healthy. Keep in mind that wild fish do not often have the opportunity to feed until they are full in the wild.

Beginning in late April or early May, you should observe changes in the color of your fish as they begin the smoltification process. They will lose the par marks (dark, vertical bars on the side) they had as young fish, by losing scales and beginning to look "silvery." The change in physical appearance is accompanied by physiological changes that make the fish want to leave the river and swim downstream to the ocean -- or in this case, a Great Lake. This is the time when they need to be released so they can imprint on their natal river (record into their memory the place they will return to spawn) and begin their life in the Great Lakes.

Troubleshooting Common Salmon Care Problems

Water Quality

Poor water quality can be serious issue. In the early stages of rearing it is important to remove any dead (white) eggs on a daily basis. Dead eggs promote the growth of fungus which release fungus spores in the water and can affect other live eggs in the aquarium.

The key to keeping the water clean is to feed only enough food so that it is all eaten immediately. Feed that falls to the bottom will not be eaten by the fish and can dissolve in the water causing it to become cloudy. The uneaten food is a nutrient that can promote the growth of harmful bacteria.

Signs of fouled water include cloudiness and suspended particles of food and feces. Uneaten food and feces should be siphoned out of the tank daily. If the water becomes cloudy it should be replaced.

Clear, apparently clean water can have harmful levels of ammonia. Ammonia is a metabolic product the fish produce as they eat and grow. Ammonia levels should be monitored with a simple test kit. When the levels approach 0.0125 parts per million you should stop feeding the fish and replace the water.

Always keep in mind that salmon naturally inhabit clean flowing water. They do not tolerate poor water quality and will become sick and die if the water quality is not maintained.

Dead eggs
Pick out any eggs that die using tweezers or a turkey baster. Dead eggs will be white and/or fuzzy. It is important to remove these eggs since they can cause additional eggs to die and contribute to poor water quality. Replacement eggs

Replacement eggs
Will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. A Fish Loss Report must be turned in along with thorough Water Quality Data Sheet. Mortality is a natural part of the salmon life cycle and the life cycle of all wildlife. The loss of fish eggs or fish in your tank can be used as a teaching moment for students. Contact a hatchery biologist to discuss your individual situation.

Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS)
EMS is a pathology caused by a vitamin B12 (thiamine) deficiency in the adult salmon. The adults pass this syndrome on to the eggs and the fry may suffer some mortality as a result. Symptoms of EMS include spinning and lying on their side on the bottom. Some portion of your fish may act this way for the first couple of weeks after they swim up. It usually is a small portion (less than 20%). Once the fry start feeding they will get all the thiamine they need from the food.

High ammonia levels

  • Stop feeding your fish!
  • Clean your tank, syphon off excess food and fish waste at least twice a week
  • Closely monitor the ammonia levels
  • Exchange 1/4 of the tank's water daily until levels are acceptable, continue the exchange once a week thereafter
  • When levels are back down to an acceptable level, resume feeding the fish