Got a finicky feeder in your marine tank? Nathan Hill reviews a new food that might well solve your problems.
Let me get my cynicism out of the way first, because it’s eating at me. ‘Lyophilised’, which looks incredibly fancy, actually means freeze-dried. Nothing more exciting than that. Dehydrated food.
Except this food really is exciting. Oh my, yes. This stuff has my feathers well and truly ruffled. While I’m usually stubborn about watching any product videos, I took the plunge and was startled to see a Harlequin shrimp — those obligate starfish-feeders that always starve to death — binging on a glob of the stuff.
Masstick comes in a fine powdered form. In the packet (I’m playing with the 42g version), you get three resealable bags of 14g each. To the bags you add 7ml (one and almost a half teaspoons) of RO or distilled water, seal and squidge. You’re aiming to mash it all up into a firm putty.
The putty can then be rolled into bits, dropped in as chunks, or even pushed against the glass, where it will stick and fish will graze on it. While there, it stays firm, not dissolving to slurry, and not giving off powdery puffs of particles with every fish bite. As paste foods go, it is up there as possibly the cleanest. Once made up (14g is a big old portion) you can then freeze it and it’ll stay good for five weeks, so you can keep breaking chunks off, defrosting and feeding.
Because it’s a powder, you can add ingredients of your choice to it. Specifically, I’m thinking worming powders or other ingested medicines. If you want to boost spirulina content, go for it. If it’s in powdered form, and you want to get it into fish, here’s your entry point.
The main ingredient is a shrimp species (Palaemontes varians), that Easy Reefs produce and harvest themselves. To the freeze-dried powder that they make from this, they add micro and macroalgae powders, though beyond that the exact ingredient make up is guarded. What we do know is that there is no fishmeal in the diet (so lower phosphate than some) and that there’s nothing of terrestrial or freshwater origins included. It’s a focused marine food for marine livestock from marine sources, chiefly from their own supplies on an 11.300 hectare nature sanctuary.
If Easy Reefs are protective over some ingredients, the same accusation doesn’t hold for the nutritional profile, which they are proud to scream and shout about. At 52.33 protein, 5.7% fats and 19.59% carbs, it looks a bit protein heavy for herbivore fish, though easy reefs does claim to be a general diet. That said, I watched a video of a tang going at some Masstick on the glass, and it was like a hungry hippo.
Someone looking to criticise the product might look at the 18.6% ash level in the nutritional analysis, but most who do this don’t know what ash content actually means. The confusion is that people often (incorrectly) assume ash to be an added ingredient, like a bulking agent.
From a nutritional profile point of view, ash is the amount of inorganic residue that is left when the organic materials and moisture have been removed. Still, 18% is high (most natural foods have around 5%, while processed foods are in the 10% upwards category), but when you account for things like sodium making up the ash content, it makes a bit more sense.
It looks pricey at first, but when you see how much it makes up, it’s actually good value. And I’m going to finish close to where I started — I saw a Harlequin shrimp eating this stuff. Wow.
There are plenty of paste foods out there now, but Easy Reefs have come in at a heavyweight level to join the fight. I imagine that with a little trial and error, quite a few finicky feeders might start weaning on to this. Good stuff.
Ease of use: 3/5
Value for money: 5/5
Price: Early signs suggest around £12.99 for 42g.
More info: easyreefs.com