I have been experimenting with several brands and diets and glad to have found one that yields good results and fits my requirements. But first, let's talk about what is good on the market today and most of all what these foods are made of. Here, I will be focusing specifically on dry pellets as my chosen staple food for ranchu (read "Ranchu Food: Soft Vs. Hard Vs. Flaky").
There is an abundance of goldfish food available in the U.S., of which I chose only a few, based on their popularity among goldfish (ranchu) keepers and breeders and my own experience. These brands include well known Hikari and Saki-Hikari by Kyorin, Co; Omega One by OmegaSea, LLC and less known in the U.S. Ranchu Kizoku Sinking Pellets, Hatori Ranchu Food and a new "face" on the market since May, 2012, Azayaka Ranchu Sinking Pellets by Mishiro. More variety is great, but it also means more difficult to choose. In fact, selecting the right dry pellet brand for ranchu was as time consuming for me as choosing a cereal for my breakfast. It takes time reading labels on boxes with cereal, comparing sugar content, along with fiber, etc, and then looking at the list of ingredients for its simplicity and value. I do the same for my ranchu.
Fish, squid, shrimp and krill are the sources of marine animal proteins and are the prime ingredients that I am looking for in ranchu food. At the same time, I do not always look for food with the highest protein content. Here is why: goldfish, much like any other organism require high calorie intake when they are young and active and less when they are older. In addition, since goldfish are ectothermic (cold blooded), their digestion and absorption of nutrients are directly linked with water temperature. Lower water temperature - less activity. Also, one must be aware that food high in protein results in more ammonia being secreated by the fish as byproduct and may affect the water quality.
Ranchu fry and BBR must be given food with highest amounts of marine animal proteins, of up to 50-70%; CBR, tosai and nisai ranchu also require food with high level of these proteins, of up to 50%. But when ranchu transition to an oya age, they must be given food with lower protein content of only 30-40%. In addition, when the water temperature drops below 64 F (18 C) all my ranchu regardless of their age, do get pellets that are lower on proteins and fats, making sure that these proteins are from marine animals and are easily assimilated.
I keep reiterating "marine animal proteins" derived from fish, squid, shrimp and krill as oppose to hard to digest by goldfish "land animal proteins" from chicken or beef, or "plant proteins" from soy, corn, rice, barley or wheat. Proteins are not equal. Marine animals like fish and squid are the best sources of essential and most digestible by goldfish proteins.
Fat is another important component in goldfish diet. Dietary fats or lipids are a major source of energy and essential fatty acids are necessary for a number of biological processes. But again, the amount of fats given to the fish must depend on their age, activity levels and the water temperature.
Plant ingredients and cereals apart from proteins contain carbohydrates, a necessary energy source for goldfish, although carbohydrates have to be present in moderation. In fact, excess of carbohydrates and sugars in particular, could cause internal organs damage and failure. There is also fiber as part of the carbohydrates, that provides roughage. Too much fiber will move the gut content faster, preventing normal absorption of nutrients. Furthermore, digesting complex carbohydrates like starches requires bacteria that lives in the goldfish gut. Some bacteria will release gases during the process, which could affect buoyancy or even aid in developing a swim bladder decease (SBD). Floating excrement with gas bubbles trapped inside is likely indication of digestion problems. That is why, I am very careful when looking at the amounts of wheat, rice or soy products in the dry pellet formula, and I definitely do not want to see grains as the primary source of proteins, as these proteins are less suitable for goldfish.
Considering the above, let's look at some choices. Below are descriptions and nutritional information that I could find on the products that I think worth comparing. They are rated (★★★★★) according to their ingredient composition and based on my own experience. I also rated ($$$$) these foods on how expensive they are if purchased in the U.S.
★★★★★ AZAYAKA RANCHU SINKING PELLETS
Four different formulas and several pellet sizes, sinking. Product of Japan.
$$$$ Juvenile formula for fry. Ingredients: krill meal, whole fish meal, squid meal, starch, krill extract, squid liver oil, yeast, soybean lecithin, calcium phosphate, paracoccus beneficial bacteria, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein min 52%, crude fat min 8%, crude fiber max 4%, crude ash max 19%
$$$ Growth formula for young fish. Ingredients: whole fish meal, krill meal, shrimp meal, squid meal, starch, flour, soybean oil, yeast, fish oil, shell fossil powder, calcium phosphate, seaweed, paracoccus beneficial bacteria, garlic powder, turmeric powder, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein min 51%, crude fat min 8%, crude fiber max 5%, crude ash max 17%
$$$ Balance formula for adult and breeding fish. Ingredients: whole fish meal, krill meal, wheat germ, beer yeast, soybean oil, flour, alfalfa meal, garlic powder, fish collagen, calcium phosphate, seaweed, chitin-chitosan, plant polysaccharide, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein min 38%, crude fat min 4%, crude fiber max 5%, crude ash max 13%
$$$ Color enchanting formula. Ingredients: whole fish meal, spirulina, krill meal, wheat germ, beer yeast, soybean oil, flour, alfalfa meal, garlic powder, fish collagen, calcium phosphate, seaweed, chitin-chitosan, plant polysaccharide, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein min 40%, crude fat min 4%, crude fiber max 4%, crude ash max 13%
★★★★ RANCHU KIZOKU D SINKING PELLETS (a.k.a. Japan Ranchu Lord Type D Pellets)
$$$ One pellet size, sinking. Product of Japan. Ingredients: whole fish meal, squid, seaweed, soy, krill, yeast, vitamins and minerals, EPA and DHA essential fatty acids. Analysis: crude protein - min 48.1%, crude fat - min 8.4%, crude fiber - max 4.4%, crude ash - max 14.1%
★★★★ OMEGA ONE GOLDFISH PELLETS
$$ Three different pellet sizes, sinking. Product of the USA. Ingredients: whole salmon, whole herring, whole shrimp, wheat flour, wheat gluten, fresh kelp, lecithin, astaxanthin, vitamins, natural and artificial colors, preservatives. Analysis: crude protein - min 33%, crude fat - min 8%, crude fiber - max 2%, crude ash - max 8%
Three different formulas, three different pellet sizes, sinking. Product of Japan.
$$$$ Saki-Purple color enhancing formula. Ingredients: fish meal, wheat germ meal, soybean meal, wheat flour, brewers dried yeast, starch, dried bakery product, gluten meal, fish oil, spirulina, vegetable oil, rice bran, seaweed meal, astaxanthin, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein - min 45%, crude fat - min 7%, crude fiber - max 3%, crude ash - max 20%
$$$ Saki-Green growth formula. Ingredients: fish meal, wheat germ, flour, beer yeast, starch, gluten meal, soybean meal, fish oil, vegetable oil, seaweed powder, probiotics, carotenoids, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein - min 45%, crude fat - min 5%, crude fiber - max 3%, crude ash - max 20%
$$$$ Saki-Red extreme color enhancing formula. Ingredients: fish meal, spirulina, wheat flour, wheat germ meal, soybean meal, brewers dried yeast, dried bakery product, gluten meal, fish oil, phaffia dried yeast, extracted marigold flower meal, vegetable oil, astaxanthin, rice bran, seaweed meal, probiotics, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein - min 46%, crude fat - min 7%, crude fiber - max 2%, crude ash - max 19%
not rated HATORI RANCHU FOOD
$$$$ I have not had the chance to use this food and can not grade it based on the inconsistent ingredient list provided by the seller. As this food is very high on protein, I would feed it to only young fish like fry and BBR. However, listed pellet size 1.6 mm thick and 2-5 mm long would prevent from feeding very young fish without crushing the pellets. Sinking pellets imported from Thailand. Ingredients: "pepper squid", fish meal, vitamin A and B, "fiber", soybean, wheat, lecithin (on the label misspelled as levithin), cod liver oil, minerals, "alga deep". Analysis: crude protein min 69.2%, crude fat min 3%, crude fiber max 8%, crude ash max 10%
After learning and trying and observing most of the above foods and their affects, I leaned toward Azayaka Ranchu Sinking Pellets. So far, I have been getting great results feeding this brand to my ranchu. My tosai growth rate is increased with the use of Azayaka Growth Formula. At five months they have reached over 4 in (10.2 cm) in length, their excrement is not as large and does not float, which indicates good nutrient absorption and healthy digestion. So far these are the best digestion results I have noticed. I also like that I can switch between different formulas and different pellet sizes, knowing that I feed quality ingredients and not too much protein of plant origin (read "Amino What??"). Being not the cheapest food, Azayaka is not the most expensive either. It was a surprise for me to find out that Saki-Hikari (purple bag), which I was buying for years, cost me more ounce per ounce than Azayaka.
Concerning other brands. Although, I do like Omega One Goldfish and Ranchu Kizoku Sinking pellets and still use them for added variety, I noticed with some of my ranchu that these pellets cause some buoyancy problems if fed as a staple. The problems go away after changing the diet. Especially, it is noticeable with Omega One Goldfish Pellets and Omega One Sinking Super Color Kelp Pellets, which are not mentioned in this review. Because of that, I use them only to supplement. As far as Hikari and Saki-Hikari, I stopped using these brands. Apart from being fairly expensive, their formulas contain too much wheat and soy products (read "Amino What??").
After all, I believe that Azayaka is a perfectly balanced ranchu food that is also suitable for any variety of round bodied fancy goldfish. This made me to pursue the idea of making it available to goldfish keepers outside of Japan, where it is gaining great popularity. I was lucky to find a supplier directly in Japan and am able to offer a good price on my blog for freshly delivered to your door Azayaka Ranchu Sinking Pellets.
In conclusion, regardless of the goldfish food choices you make, remember to feed them with a variety of foods. Make it a combination of different dry pellet brands, gel food, bloodworms, few vegetables and definitely your own grown wall algae. All this will ensure a complete diet for your fish, stronger immune system and longevity, and definitely a sense of accomplishment for you.