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Preventing Freezer Burned Reef Foods

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I feed a few different frozen foods and it takes a while to go through them, even with my heavy feedings. I keep everything sealed up and try to get all of the air out of the bags for the flat packed stuff, but I am still seeing quite a bit of freezer burn, even with the blister pack cubed foods. I think a lot of it has to do with the defrost cycle and the constant thaw/freeze cycles. The food seemed to last longer when I had a bunch of bottles of water in the freezer to minimize cycling.

 

What does everybody do to minimize freezer burn with their frozen foods?

Any recommendations for quality frozen foods that don’t freeze solid? I got some stuff from ATM a while back, but they stopped making it. Fish and corals seemed to like it and it made feeding so much easier. Just take what you need, add a little aquarium water to warm it up, and you were ready to go.

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Freezer burn is more or less unavoidable.  

 

Sublimation is the process of evaporation as it happens during the frozen state.  This moisture, evaporated from your frozen food, will re-condense and crystalize on the food.  The drying and the water crystalization both cause damage.  In essence, freezer-burn is the uncontrolled freeze-drying of outer portions of the food.  (Which is destructive to the food, which is why freezer-burned food tastes bad.)

 

Buy in smaller quantities whenever possible.

 

Divide what you buy:

  • Keep a smaller (eg. week-sized) portion for daily feedings in an accessible container.  
  • Double bag the larger, unused part of the food and keep it in a deeper part of the freezer where it isn't being repeatedly opened and closed, which can accelerate freezerburn.
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Sound advice @mcarroll! Dividing your frozen food when you first bring it home could really help, cutting up the blister packs is easy enough, the larger food packs might be a little tricker, but should hold up better in the long run.

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So far unavoidable for me.

No matter how I pack it.

 

I have still used it.

It's not harmful.

 

It just alters taste to humans with our food...doesn't seem to be an issue for fish.

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Unfortunately, buying smaller portions isn’t possible as I am already buying the smallest portions available. If I knew someone close by, I’d split the food up. One of the struggles of having a pico or nano tank, finding appropriately portioned foods, chemicals, and filtration.

 

I’ve been thinking that an icepack lined styrofoam container would help with the defrost cycle. Minimize the effects from the freeze/thaw cycles. I have everything in a stryofoam container now, but it is very thin and not really effective. The flatpack of LRS and OVA defrosted enough to reform its shape.

 

Splitting up into smaller portions is something else I was considering. I think a trip to the thrift shops to look for a vacuum sealer might be prudent. I don’t want to split the entire pack into single portion cubes as that will accelerate the sublimination due to an increase in surface area. Maybe splitting the pack up into two week or month sized portions might help. Keep the larger portions in the styrofoam container with the smaller portions stored separately for quicker access without exposing the larger portions to warmer air.

 

Now that I’ve got everything transferred over to my “enormous” tank (jbj 20-RL, from 1.7 gal display and 4 gal total system volume. A fivefold increase), the real answer is to add more fish and coral so I go through food faster. I just need to work on my phosphate reduction or allow my nitrates to build up a little so everything is in ballance to stop my diatom issues.

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13 minutes ago, Clown79 said:

It just alters taste to humans with our food...doesn't seem to be an issue for fish.

The problem is that portions of it got so dried out that there is no way to use it; there are sections that will just float because they are so dried out. There is also a loss of nutritional value as things breakdown and cells leak during the slow refreezing due to crystal formation damaging cells.

 

For people, I think it is more of a texture issue than flavor.

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What about a vacuum sealer ? I've been thinking about getting one to see if it helps. 

 

Oops @Beer beat me to it

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@BeerHow long is it taking you to use up one pack of food then?  Total?  And what container/packaging are you keeping it in?

 

I keep my food (currently Rod's Food, 2 oz. size...a flat-pack something like 2" x 3") in the freezer, inside a paper sack.  I have had no problems with freezer burn even though it's been in there at least a few months.  (I only have 1 fish to feed...and it's an algae eater that has LOTS to eat in-tank, so it doesn't get fed by me very often.  Plus it's in rotation with two other foods.)

 

Does 

37 minutes ago, Beer said:

Keep the larger portions in the styrofoam container with the smaller portions stored separately for quicker access without exposing the larger portions to warmer air.

You've got the right idea!  🙂

 

Here are some things:

 

If your food literally appears to have thawed out in the freezer, there is definitely a question about freshness.  

 

Freezerburn is a similar worry, but not identical since its effects are more localized.  Freshness matters for the nutritional factors that are most important, so this is worth paying attention to.  

 

You should have a secondary thermometer in your freezer too BTW...don't assume it's the correct temperature in there...verify it. 

 

Keep in mind that the defrost cycle in the freezer will periodically pump HOT fluid through the freezer's cooling system for long enough to melt any ice present – that's the idea of a defrost cycle.  This may include the door-seals.   So if your food is just laying on the freezer bottom, or near the front...

 

Because of this and everything else, the container that your food is packed in definitely matters.

 

Something that can hold in freezing air while the defrost cycle runs is what's needed...some kind of secondary layer that can be insulating.  E.g. a paper sack.

 

A Rod's Food ziplock (e.g. one form-fit to the food w/no air gaps to allow much sublimation) with all the air pushed out after you take a piece for feeding, and which is re-zipped and kept in a paper sack should actually be really good protection.

 

A vacuum sealer is a major hassle and a not-insignificant expense to operate.  

 

But if you have any kind of irregularly shaped food item it might be the best bet since, like the Rod's Food package, the food item also needs direct protection from air for the freezerburn issue.  

 

Keep the vacuum packs inside something else like a paper sack, or a bigger ziplock that can hold some air through the defrost cycle though.

 

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59 minutes ago, Beer said:

The problem is that portions of it got so dried out that there is no way to use it; there are sections that will just float because they are so dried out. There is also a loss of nutritional value as things breakdown and cells leak during the slow refreezing due to crystal formation damaging cells.

 

For people, I think it is more of a texture issue than flavor.

Ya I throw those pieces out.

I only use what still looks good.

 

Unfortunately here, they don't sell frozen food in small quantities, I end up throwing out a lot and buying new

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I feed a few different frozen foods, so it takes quite a while to go through them. Maybe six months to a year.

It may be a moot point with the larger tank once I start adding fish and more coral, but I’d like to avoid tossing a bunch of it like Clown79.

 

It wasn’t a complete defrost. The pack was stored vertically and slumped a bit. One side (the lower side) is thicker now, maybe twice as thick as the higher side.

 

I did notice a split in the LRS bag, which is why that one saw the worst damage. The blister packs have problems as well. With those being completely sealed, it makes me think it is more of an issue with the defrost cycles.

 

If the local club meetings weren’t an hour and a half away on Saturdays (and wasn’t in danger of being dissolved if we can’t get new board members this month), I’d try to work something out with the only other member that runs nano tanks. She is another hour and a half in the opposite direction. A three or six hour round trip to split some food seems a bit excessive.

 

If I can find a vacuum sealer and bags for $5-10 at a thrift shop, it might be worth it. Otherwise you are right, the cost and work of the vacuum sealer would outweigh the cost of tossing 1/3-1/2 of three or four $10 packs of food once or twice a year.

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On 12/31/2018 at 10:39 AM, Clown79 said:

So far unavoidable for me.

No matter how I pack it.

 

I have still used it.

It's not harmful.

 

It just alters taste to humans with our food...doesn't seem to be an issue for fish.

Not a problem for any fish I have ever kept. Just use within a year I think or expiry date.

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On 12/31/2018 at 12:13 PM, Beer said:

The blister packs have problems as well. With those being completely sealed, it makes me think it is more of an issue with the defrost cycles.

Air space above the food/beneath the foil as well.

 

I'd cut down on the number of different foods if I were in your shoes......I hear you about the tank upgrade though!

 

One good one at a time, then switch if you want.   Something like Rod's Food is a great all-around if you just want one.  Fish eggs (like Reef Nutrition's ROE) are also a good all-in-one.  I never do more than two...two is a lot. 😉

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I rotate through a lot of frozen foods, but I haven't found freezer burn to be too problematic.   

 

Day 1 Mysis

Day 2 Squid

Day 3 Carnivore Cuisine

Day 4 Remove filter sock and feed cyclops cube, put in new sock when feeding is done

Repeat

 

At that schedule, each blister pack lasts me about 4 months, and I buy a number at a time, so I probably have some that stay in the freezer for a year before getting used up.  I used to use LRS, but my LFS no longer carries it.  That stuff is pretty oily, and I found it to be less susceptible to freezer burn than most other frozen slabs.

 

I think the only tricks to avoiding freezer burn issues are to

a) keep your freezer cold - the colder it is the less the food sublimes - should be 0°F or colder

b) keep your freezer full - the less air space, the less often it cycles and the less the temp fluctuates

c) minimize how long the freezer door is open, obvs

d) remove the amount of food you are going to use and immediately put the rest back in the freezer to prevent any thawing

e) when you buy frozen food, don't let it warm up.  If you get it from an LFS, bring a cooler with a freezer pack or two for transport

f) don't worry about freezer burn...  the fish don't seem to care

 

 

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Fill a zip lock back half full of water and freeze standing up.  Divide your foods into 1 month portions, seal in a zip lock getting out as much air as possible.  Place the food ziplock into the bad of frozen water, top with more water, remove all air possible and freeze.  Every month thaw out a bag to use.  The zip locks can be reused.  This is how I store things long term. 

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