When most people think of pet fish, they probably think of koi ponds or exotic tropical fish in an aquarium. Bass and other gamefish don’t exactly spring to mind as attractive pets.
However, bass are becoming increasingly popular as aquarium pets. They are lively and it is entertaining to watch them swim back and forth in their aquarium.
Caring for bass is a little different from caring for tropical fish. They need a different living environment and have different feeding habits. Unfortunately, because bass are not very common pets, it can be difficult to find advice about what to feed them.
Here is everything that you need to know about maintaining a healthy diet and environment for your bass.
What Will Captive Bass Eat?
If there’s one thing that you can say about bass, it’s that this is not a fish that is a picky eater. Bass is known for its considerable appetite and diverse tastes.
Here are a few things that you can feed your captive bass. Most of these are either the same or similar to what a bass would eat in the wild.
1 – Worms
There is a reason fishermen use earthworms as bait—gamefish, including bass, love earthworms. Your bass will probably love these wriggly treats. Two types of worms that bass love in particular are nightcrawlers and bloodworms, but any worm will do.
You can dig them up in your garden if you’re lucky enough to have one, and you can even freeze dead earthworms to give your bass as a treat out-of-season (preferably in a different freezer from where you keep your food). Alternatively, you can get earthworms from a bait shop.
2 – Shrimp
Freshwater shrimp are a natural part of the food chain in the environments that bass tends to live in, so it is only natural that they will go for this treat in captivity. Although it can be a little expensive to keep feeding your bass shrimp on a daily basis, you can give it shrimp as an occasional treat.
You can buy fresh or frozen shrimp, preferably with the shell and head still attached, at the grocery store. If you really want to entertain your bass, get a live whiteshrimp or other kind of shrimp from the bait shop. Bass are attracted to movement so even those living a life of luxury in a fish tank like to hunt for their food every so often.
You can also try feeding your bass some other crustaceans, such as cockles. Hard shells are usually no match for the bass in the wild, so they will be just as ravenous in captivity.
3 – Insects
Bass don’t just eat animals that naturally live in the water, they are fans of insects and bugs as well. Two common types of bugs that bass like to eat are crickets and mealworms.
You can get insects at most bait shops. If there are no bait shops near you, many pet stores sell crickets because they are common meals for reptiles as well as fish. The only trouble is that you have to secure the cage if you are buying live crickets to avoid a great escape taking over your living room!
4 – Live Fish
In the wild, bass are the fearsome predators of the aquatic world. They will eat everything from large trout to baby birds that make the mistake of swimming in front of their path.
Captive bass in fish tanks don’t lose their voracious appetites and killer instinct. That is why occasionally feeding your bass live bait will keep it entertained and satisfied.
You can even raise bait for your bass in the same tank so that they have a constantly reproducing source of food. Just get males and females of whatever species you are supplying for your fish.
Common bait fish for bass include minnows and crayfish. These are also easy fish tank pets to keep (even easier since you know they’ll get eaten soon anyway).
Raising live fish for your bass does take extra effort, but it will keep the fish happy.
5 – Whitebait
This is another common bait that bass also love to snack on in captivity.
Whitebait is the name for any small fish that is not yet fully grown. It is usually no longer than two inches.
You can catch your own whitebait, although many municipalities have strict regulations around capturing and eating these fish because of their vital ecological niche. You can also get whitebait at most pet stores. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s good bait, then the bass will like to eat it.
6 – Pellets and Feed
Obviously in the wild, bass don’t eat dried fish food or pellets. However, they can eat this food in captivity.
Bass will eat anything, including flake food and fish pellets. You can buy special gamefish feed at bait stores, tackle shops, and hatcheries, or try feeding your bass regular fish food.
Some bass that were raised in the wild may have trouble adjusting to dried fish food and pellets. Try mixing more recognizable food into their diet and changing your feeding technique until the bass learns that food comes in all forms.
Can My Bass Eat Frozen Food?
Sourcing fresh fish, crustaceans, and bugs for your bass will take up time, clog up your storage spaces, and cost you a lot of money. You may be wondering if you can just order frozen shrimp or bloodworms in bulk and have a food supply on hand.
The good thing is that you can feed bass a variety of things, including frozen food. You can alternate between feeding your bass freshly caught animals, frozen food, live bait, and dried pellets.
Alternating your food sources will help your bass stay healthy and keep your wallet in good condition since fresh bait is far more expensive than frozen seafood or fish pellets.
How Much Does a Live Bass in a Fish Tank Eat?
How much your bass eats will depend on how large it is. For example, largemouth bass in captivity can be 15 to 25 inches long, depending on how long they live and how well they are fed.
Most bass eat about one third of their body weight per day. Some eat as much as two thirds of their own body weight in a day, particularly if they’re still young and growing.
That means that you will probably need several pounds of food for your bass each day. Before getting a bass for your fish tank, be ready to handle the expense and the hassle of going to the bait shop every few days to pick up more food.
Since bass have such voracious appetites every day, they also produce a lot of waste. Be ready to clean your fish tank’s filter every few days to keep your bass in a healthy environment.
What Is the Best Way to Feed a Captive Bass?
While bass in the wild are self-sufficient and hunt when they are hungry, bass in captivity thrive on a fixed routine. Feed your bass once a day and try to stick to a specific time.
When you feed your bass, you should have enough food to make up at least a third of its body weight on hand. Feed it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time and give it as much food as it can eat—the bass knows how much its body needs.
Sometimes, it takes the bass a bit to get used to new foods, particularly wild bass that are seeing fish flakes for the first time. If you’re noticing that your bass is not interested in its food, try switching its diet up and adding meals that are closer to what it would eat in the wild, such as worms and shrimp.
Another way to get your bass interested in food is to agitate the surface of the water. These natural hunters are trained to go after movement so mimicking the behavior of live fish, or feeding it live fish in the first place, will get a disinterested bass to remember that it is hungry.
When a Bass’s Appetite Becomes Too Much…
Bass are big fish and used to being the rulers of their ecosystem. This means that even when captive in a fish tank or pond, they will go after smaller species and hunt them.
Unless you are trying to create a hunting ground for your bass, don’t put it in with smaller fish such as crappies and koi. It will probably eat your other pets.
Feeding Bass in Fish Tanks
Bass have big appetites in the wild and in captivity. They can eat anywhere from a third to two thirds of their body weight per day.
Luckily, these fish aren’t picky eaters. They will eat everything from frozen bloodworms to fish flakes to live shrimp. Feed your bass a mix of dried food, frozen fish, and fresh bait to help it stay healthy. Feed it once a day at the same time to maintain a healthy feeding routine.