How to Culture Microworms for Fish Fry
Live foods are extremely useful when breeding fish because their enticing movements encourage the babies to eat and grow at a faster rate. However, some fish (such as betta fish, ram cichlids, and rainbowfish) produce miniscule offspring that are too small to eat traditional fry foods like live baby brine shrimp or crushed flakes. Instead, you can easily start a culture of micro, banana, or walter worms to keep the babies happy and healthy.
What Are Microworms?
A micro worm is a common name given to a nematode, or roundworm, found in the Panagrellus species. The most popular types used in the aquarium hobby are (in order of smallest to largest):
– Panagrellus sepinthicola (Banana worms) – Walter worms, Panagrellus Silusioides (Walter worms) – Micro worms, Panagrellus redivivus
They measure between 1-3 mm and 50-100 millimeters in length. This is slightly smaller than vinegar eggs. (By contrast, the size of newly hatched brine shrimp is 450 microns. This means that even tiny fry can eat nematodes like noodles. Female roundworms reach maturity when they are 3-4 days old and can produce 300-1000 live young in their lifetime, depending on the species.
Close-ups of micro worm starter culture and banana worm starter culture
How to Start A Micro Worm Culture
Micro, walter, banana and micro worms have almost identical care requirements. The rest of the article is therefore referred to all three types of roundworms as “microworms”. Do not follow the instructions below for grindal or whiteworms. They are annelids and will require a different setup.
1. These materials should be collected:
– Starter culture of micro, banana, or walter worms. (purchased at a fish club auction or local fish store, AquaBid.com or another online source). – A few small plastic tubs/deli containers measuring approximately 5 inches (13 cm) or larger with taller sides. – Dechlorinated water at ambient temperature
1. Cover the bottom with a layer of mashed potatoes flakes, about 0.5 inches (11.5 cm). Mix the mixture with a little bit more water until it becomes light and fluffy. The mixture should not be too dry and crumbly nor wet and soupy.
Note: In our experience, adding yeast does not seem to help or hinder the growth of the culture. Also, we prefer to use instant mashed potatoes or baby cereal because they don’t produce a smelly odor like oatmeal and some other mediums do.
1. The mixture should be spread evenly into the container. Next, add one spoonful starter worm culture. Place the worms on the medium.
1. To allow roundworms to breathe, make a small cut in the lid’s center (approximately 0.5 cm x 1.0 cm). Cover the hole by taping on a small patch of fabric or stuffing it with a wad of filter floss. This stops flies and other pests from getting into the container. The container should be sealed.
Notice: Some people prefer to cover all of the holes in the lid with a pillowcase, even if they are making a bigger worm culture.
1. Label the culture with the type of roundworm you’re using, as well as the date it was created because the cultures have an expiration date (see below). The container can also be stored at room temperatures. 2. Repeat Steps 2-5 to create multiple microworm cultures, just in case one of the cultures crashes. It is possible for the medium to become moldy, spoiled, infested with bugs, or full of worm waste.
How to Harvest Microworms for Fish Feeding
Some worms may climb up the walls and out of the medium, making it easier for you to collect them. You can wipe the sides of your plastic tub with your fingertip, a cotton cloth, or a cheap kids’ paintbrush. To feed the fish, simply dunk them directly in the tank. Micro worms can live for between 8-12 hours in water. To avoid problems with water quality, do not feed them too much. It’s okay if a little potato mixture gets into the aquarium because the omnivore fish will eat it along with the roundworms.
Hobbyists discovered that microworms may sometimes be too small to feed.
How to keep the microworm culture alive
The culture will become more and more contaminated with worm poop over time. This makes the medium extremely runny. Make a new culture by repeating Steps 2-5 from the above section and adding one spoonful of worms from the old culture. Because of the high nutrition, protein, and fat content, we recommend switching to live baby brine shrimp when the fry reach sufficient size. Find out how to make your own brine shrimp by reading the article linked below.