Live Foods: Grasshoppers and Crickets
by Dave Ball
President of the Southern Colorado Aquarium Society
In the last part of this column, I talked about keeping
earthworms indoors and I said I would tell you how to keep some of the other
summertime foods to feed your fish. These foods are just as available as the underground
foods but a little harder to catch. They have to be baited if you have the time or they
may be purchased and maintained in the home.
First Ill tackle the garden pest we all have grown to dislike, the
This little monster and his friends can wipe out the most beautiful gardens in a matter of
weeks. This may not seem like a long time, but ask any gardener if he or she wants to see
a grasshopper. That person will give you a very nasty look and will ask you why. They
dont like those insects at all. My mom was trying to create a very nice flower
garden only to have it ruined by these little pests.
I had this wild idea about feeding grasshoppers to my Oscar. The fish has been raised
since he was about two inches long. At the time I started feeding him grasshoppers, he was
eight inches long. Goldfish were draining my wallet at the time. I was sixteen and still
in High School, a job was totally un-cool to have. A teenagers allowance has no room
for fish food. Then I remembered a trip my parents took us on through the mountains of
Virginia. We came across a state run hatchery filled with trout. For a kid at the age of
eleven this was great. I liked water and whatever I could find moving in it. As we walked
along the different levels, the fish were larger in each successive section. At the last
section were the largest fish and growing next to the pond were some tall weeds. I had
this question in my head as to what would happen if I threw a grasshopper into this pond.
The insect never had chance. The water splashed all over the place. This was fun until a
wildlife worker wondered what was going on. He thought my brother and I were throwing
rocks into the water. Thats how big of a splash the fish were making. We told him
what we were doing. He laughed and watched us for a while. Those fish ate very well that
I told you that story in order to get on with this one. I had this memory of my past
experience on my mind. What do you feed a cichlid that is this big when money is low? I
tried the grasshopper. The only part of the insect my fish didnt like was the legs.
They kicked back and my fish didnt know how to handle this new food. The fish
managed to eat it anyway. The next time I broke off the back legs and the grasshopper was
gone in a flash.
I know grasshoppers have been used as a fish food for a long time, but the question is,
"How do you get them?" When I had just a few aquariums, going outside and
catching them was no big deal. Now it is too large of a task too many fish that
like them and no time to harvest the insect.
The best way to catch them is to use and old one-gallon paint can that has been
completely cleaned out. It has to be spotless. Cut four one inch holes about one-third
from the top, ninety degrees from each other. Make a ring of nylon screen that fits the
can and covers the holes. This should be able to slide over the holes. The next part is to
dig a hole so the paint can fits into it but is deep enough to meet the bottom of the
holes in the can. Open the lid and place a slice or two of apple in the bottom, close the
lid and leave it alone. Grasshoppers will make their way into the can after the apple.
Once inside the sides are too slick to climb up. Check on the can from day to day. Pull it
out of the ground and cover the holes with the screen. Now you have a way to feed
grasshoppers and a place to hold them until the next time you want to feed your larger
The one problem I have with keeping grasshoppers is that no matter how well the
container is designed to hold the critters, some just manage to get out when you want to
feed them to your fish. This can be a pain in the backside. Enter crickets.
Crickets dont jump as far as grasshoppers and are easier to maintain.
They can be caught in the same manner as grasshoppers, but they dont show up that
often. They are best purchased through the mail. Hey, thats where I found my
earthworms. Its a lot easier this way, just look in the back of Outdoor Life
magazine under live baits. I know this sounds extreme but hear me out. Do you have an old
ten-gallon tank with a crack in it? You know, the one that is cheaper to replace then fix.
That will do just fine. Buy or make a screen lid for it. I made mine. Order your crickets
and wait. When they show up put a couple of apple slices in the tank, put in the crickets
and cover the tank. Most companies that sell crickets sell them in different sizes. Pick
what you think is the right size. I just buy the assortment, its cheaper that way.
They dont have to count from particular cages and you normally get more than you
order. Just dont tell them that. They probably know it anyway. Hey, theyre
just crickets after all.
The thing I like about crickets is that you can use that old, almost retired fishnet
that is hanging in the corner doing nothing. Yeah, the one with holes too big to catch fry
but cant be used to strain pasta. We all have one of those. Use it to snag crickets
out of the tank, put your hand over the top, and throw them into the tank you want to
feed. Its that easy.
This may seem like a pain in the backside but, in this age of pesticides and other crud
we put into our environment, this is a good and controlled source of food for your fish.
Remember these fish are in our care, we chose to have them in our homes to give us
pleasure. Give them the foods that they need to be in the best of health. It is a
Give grasshoppers and crickets a try. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but is
really easy to set-up. I only feed these types of food once a week or to a pair of large
fish that might be getting ready to breed. These foods are in a long list of things you
can try to keep your fish in their best condition.