You may be familiar with salmon in your home because it is a popular item found at meals, but have you ever thought about what living salmon eat for food? Salmon need to have a healthy diet in order to become the fish food that you find on your plate. You may be curious to learn, then, what salmon eat for food.
The stomach contents of a king salmon caught off Stinson Beach. They include crangon nigromaculata, black spotted bay shrimp. © Kirk Lombard.
Two types of salmon
It is important to recognize that there are two main, but different, kinds of salmon that are typically used for food. There are fish that are taken from the Atlantic Ocean and raised on farms, and then there are the wild-caught salmon that are usually found in fresh waters. The following information about what salmon feast on may surprise you, but you will soon be able to display your knowledge about their diet.
Freshwater or wild salmon
Stomach contents of the salmon includes small fish and smelts. © Fisheries Consulting.
Wild salmon that swim the oceans freely have a diet that is typically the same, even among different species. Freshwater salmon have to eat what is available to them in the ocean or water that they inhabit, and those food items are usually plankton or small invertebrates. Other species will eat small crustaceans like shrimps, if available, and some larger species will go after small fish including smelts. All freshwater salmon eat fresh from the ocean, and the differences are usually a result of the size and location of the species.
Farm raised salmon
To be able to keep up with the demand of salmon in most western countries, farmers have been raising salmon for years. Raising salmon allows for a larger and faster production of the fish, and farmers are able to keep an eye on the salmon and their health. Most farmers like to keep their salmon on a typical salmon diet, but others have, controversially, fed the salmon other products such as corn and soybeans in order to make their fish bigger. Depending on your health priorities though, farm raised salmon is typically just as good tasting as freshwater salmon. However, recently, reports have shown that farmed salmon have higher toxin levels than the wild counterpart. So, it’s best to go for wild salmon rather than farmed ones.
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