DIY Reef Chili: Make Your Own Saltwater Fish & Coral Food
Reef Chili was originally a frozen fish and coral food that our very own Ryan Batcheller formulated because he was sick of buying so many different types of food just to provide sufficient nutrition to his entire reef. Fast forward 15 years and Reef Chili is now the #1 selling dry coral food and we have a full line of single-ingredient fish foods that you can mix and match to make your own multi-ingredient fish and coral food that will feed your entire tank.
Why Make Your Own Food?
You can create a superior nutrient-dense food that is perfectly tailored to suit the needs of your entire tank which means one food formula to feed everything in the tank; fish, corals, and invertebrates. Depending on the cost of the frozen seafood locally and the exact recipe you choose, making your own food will typically save you money too. You won't have to store 10 different varieties of food or worry about all of your fish getting the right kinds of foods.
Even if you don't want to mix up frozen food using fresh seafood, you can mix together multiple types of dry foods using your choice of the BRS single-ingredient foods with some Reef Chili powder and your choice of high-quality pellets. A dry mix like this will still be much more convenient and serve up a wider swath of nutrition for your fish and corals.
Insufficient nutrition is the #1 leading cause of fish loss and poor fish health in captivity. The benefits of superior pet food, in general, is something most vets and pet owners will agree is crucial to a long and healthy life in captivity and this definitely applies to your fish and corals.
"Nutrition is our biggest failure and opportunity" - Ryan Batcheller
Nutritious, high-quality foods that are tailored to the animals in your care will increase vitality, improve coloration, build immunity to fend off disease, and likely keep your pets alive much longer!
What You'll Need
It is best to buy the tools and keep them specifically for making fish food for the sake of being sanitary. The knives will take a beating and the food processor will carry that fishy smell with it. Trust us, you will not want to use these tools on your own food thereafter.
- Food Processor w/ cheese grater blade
- Cutting board
- Large mixing spoons
- Disposable pans or containers for mixing
- Quality plastic/freezer bags with thick walls or vacuum sealer with bags
Download a .PDF version of the Reef Chili Recipe
The ingredients listed below can be chosen based on your tank's inhabitants and are designed to be built upon one another starting with the Primary Proteins Mix. Work in progression and add additional ingredients based on your tank inhabitants' nutritional requirements.
The recipe will make approximately 4 pounds of frozen food which was designed to make the best use of the liquid ingredients so you won’t have leftovers. You can adjust the overall amounts just do your best to keep the proportions.
Primary Proteins Mix (Fish Only) - This is the base of all the different recipes and starts with a few ingredients from your local grocery store, two freeze-dried ingredients, and some high-quality pellets to fill in with vitamins.
Herbivore Blend - Many reef fish are herbivores, most notably Tangs or Surgeonfish, various Blennies, Rabbitfish and a variety of others. In order to accommodate these species, simply add some seaweed to the Primary Proteins Mix.
Small Active Fish and LPS Corals - Many small and very active fish have small mouths and small digestive tracts with a high demand for energy. Anthias and Chromis are the most common examples and you want small, nutrient-dense particles which can also be consumed by LPS corals.
Food Supplements (Mature Reef Tanks) - Adding supplements to the food mix has some excellent benefits for both fish and corals. While certainly not required, it is a great idea for biologically established or mature tanks that can handle the additional nutrients.
Coral Food - The last list of ingredients is tailored specifically for corals that need the varying small particle size food suspended in the water column to naturally collect and consume. You don’t need to use everything on this list, Reef Chili alone will suffice.
Preparation and Storage
Keep everything frozen! Be sure the seafood is clean and pure. No shells or tails on the shrimp or other shellfish and be sure to check the ingredients list to be absolutely certain there are no additives or chemicals added. If there is any frozen water encasing the frozen seafood, do your best to chip it off before using it. DO NOT defrost any of the frozen ingredients and attempt to refreeze them; this will result in mushy food.
Work fast, keep all tools as cold as possible, and keep ingredients frozen. In order to save time, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl first, then mix the liquids in a separate bowl. This way you can quickly add them to the frozen mix all at once without having to take the time to measure each one.
- Prepare your mixing trays with a layer of ice inside the bottom tray to keep everything cold as you mix it.
- Measure liquid ingredients in a separate bowl
- Measure dry ingredients in a separate bowl
- Chop frozen ingredients one at a time in a food processor using the grater blade. Blenders or traditional chopper blades tend to create mush instead of chucks. If the frozen chunks are too large, chop using the clever and cutting board before going into the food processor.
- Add chopped ingredients into the cold trays and mix with liquid ingredients and finally the dry ingredients you measured out earlier. Mix fast with the plastic spoons by hand and keep it cold!
- Package into individual flat freezer bags ½” thick or cube trays if desired. Vacuum-sealed bags also work great but are not absolutely required. Portion into whatever your tank can consume in one month.
- Place into the freezer and keep frozen. Share with friends or sell it locally.