Live Food Culturing for Pond and Aquarium Fishes


White Worms

Fruit Fly Culture Media



California Black Worms

Grindal Worms


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NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.

Culturing White Worms

Culture Container.
First you have to have a home for your worms. The worms don't seem particular as long as it is dark and damp. Some use wooden boxes covered with a piece of thin wood or plastic. Plastic boxes are perfectly acceptable provided that they do not let in light. If the box is plastic then you need to make a few small holes in the lid so the culture can "breathe". NOTE: As the worms get over crowded or too wet you'll notice them climbing the sides and right out the holes you punched. If there isn't enough food to go around they'll climb out too.
Culture Media.
Again most everything works but some not as well as others. General purpose potting compost, available from garden centers, works well provided that it does not contain too much gravel or peat or fertlizer or addiditives. I stay away from it.. White Worms do not like acidic conditions so go easy on the peat moss. I use a mix of potting soil and plain old garden soil about half and half. Fill the container to a depth of about 2-3 inches with the compost and gently firm it down. But for your best success, try shredded coconut fiber. Not the stringy stuff but the finely ground stuff. In the event your gardcen centers don't have it, commercial worm bedding at the fishing counter at your wallmart or etc works nearly as good. In the event you can't find either e-mail me and I'll provide some. (NOT FREE)
Culture Moisture.
The culture media must be "damp" but not "soggy". Wet enough to stick together but can't squeeze any water out. Wet bedding encourages pests. Note: Whole fresh garlic plants help with these pests.
Culture Temperature.
60F / 16 C is optimum as below 35F / 2C they stop breeding and above 75F / 24C the worms will die.
Feeding an established Culture.
I get best results with cooke oatmeal, kind dry and not hot or even warm..Some say a mix of dried potato flakes and dried milk . Most say they get the best results by using dried mashed potato flakes. Any fine oat based cereal or very damp white bread cut into small squares and placed on the surface of the culture medium. Don't dampen the food as it seems to mold too fast. Wait until all the food is eaten before adding more..
Starting your new culture.
Prepare a container as described above. Make a depression in the medium just large enough for the starter culture. This depression should be roughly in the center of the box. Then empty the starter culture into the depression and very gently firm in.

Add a small amount of food on top of the culture and let them be.

The box must be completely light proof and kept moist!!

A new culture will take at least 8 / 12 weeks to get established. So do not harvest too soon. At first the worms will eat very little and you may find that the food will grow a white hairy fungus. If this is the case carefully remove the uneaten food taking care not to remove worms that are attached to the base of the rotting food. Replace with fresh food. You can increase the number of cultures by adding some worm filled media from your new culture once it is established, as you did to start your first culture.
Collecting worms.
There are a thousand way to do this. None of them very good. My favorite way is to scrape them off the sides of the container with a small flat object or an index finger and swizzle them into the tank. I also use a small, clean flat screwdriver or pen knife and pick them up from around the edges of the food pile. Then I drop them into a small shallow container of aquarium water to rinse them off. Pour that through a coffee filter then empty the filter into the fish tank.
1) White Worms do not like light. They must be kept in complete darkness.
2) Keep the compost damp not wet..
4) Try not to disturb the culture compost too much. This action seems to send the worms underground for some time<.BR> 5)They must be kept cool. Very cool. Heat will kill them.
6) The culturing of White Worms is not an exact science. I have described what works for me. The size and quantity of containers will depend on the food requirements of your fish. It is a simple production line that needs to supply the demand.

If you Bought White Worms Here is Extra some INformation

Now I've no idea how much experience you've had with white worms so here is a few tips. White worms don't wiggle and squirm like regular worms. In fact if you watch then move, you'll swear they are dead. They aren't. You'll likely have several of them climbing up the sides of the bag they are in. Don't wash them out with water or try to pick them off with your fingers. Just open the bag, prop it upright, upside down in the bedding, and the worms will probably return to the bed. Most important, don't let the container set in the sun. If no one will be home to get the mail have the postoffice hold them there for you. Culture pretty much the same, but bedding from shredded coconut fiber, to get off to a fast start, I suggest burying about a tablespoon of cooked oatmeal in the bedding.

NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.

This is Fish Food and NOT FOR PEOPLE

Fruit Fly Culture Media

Fruit fly culturing is really pretty simple. All you need is a glass or plastic container with, sealable, with a way to get air inside. Mason jars with with coffee filters over the top works well. Clean water or soda bottles with cotton stoppers also do well. Or there are all kinds of commercial products available. After you put the food in the container you'll need to add something for the flies to climb on and lay their eggs own. Just about anything will do. Seltzer packing material, plastic non soaped pot scrubbers, coffee filters,

Food, food for your flies is also available commercially, but I prefer to mix my own. Recipes are below.

Below are some alternative to commercially produced culture media for fruit flies.

8 bananas
1/4 cup sugar
rolled oats (oatmeal)
1 packet bakers yeast

Put banana and sugar in blender and mix until the banana is liquified. Mix in oatmeal until it becomes firm, but still moist. Put mixture in wide mouth quart canning jars. Add a few bits of bakers yeast to the surface.

1 cup banana (about 2 bananas)
1 cup apple sauce
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 cups oat meal

RECIPE #3 ( I use this one the most)

Add the following ingredients to standard 24 oz. or 32 oz. containers or insect cups:

½ cup of warm water
½ tablespoon of white sugar
1 tablespoon of powdered milk
4-6 tablespoons of instant mashed potatoes
5-15 granules of bakers yeast

First dissolve the sugar into the warm water. Then add the powdered milk and stir well. Add the instant mashed potatoes. The amount of instant potatoes that you add will depend on the humidity level where the cultures are stored and how well the cultures are ventilated. Not enough instant potatoes and the medium will be too wet and you won’t be able to successfully remove flies from the culture. If you add too much instant potatoes and the medium will dry up and the culture will stop producing. I’d recommend starting with only four tablespoons and then increasing from there if needed. After adding the instant mashed potatoes swirl the container around in your hand so that the potatoes mix well with the other ingredients, then let it sit for a few minutes. Once it solidifies sprinkle the bakers yeast on top and then add 25-50 fruit flies. Alternatively, the dry ingredients can be mixed together in a large bag in the same proportions as above and mixed in containers with equal parts water and medium. This strategy works well if you are making a large amount of cultures.

RECIPE #4 (I also like this one.)

½ Cup Instant Mashed Potato flakes.
4 tsp. Cornflower.
2 tsp. Active yeast
½ tsp. Sugar.
Apple Cider Vinegar.
I mix all the dry in a larger portion and when needed add in the Apple Cider Vinegar before I use this. The Apple Cider Vinegar has 2 uses, first it is a good mold inhibitor, and second it helps bind the items together. When ready to mix the dry with the Vinegar you will want to mix it in a 1:1 ratio, it will be the consistency of a dry paste. You don't want it to be too wet, or it will foul your culture.

NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.

Gammarus, Scuds

Gammarus, also known as Scuds, is a shrimp-like crustacean. It is an easy to culture live food that is an excellent size for many larger tropical fish. Even adult guppies can eat scuds. Cichlids and many killifish love them.
Size: This crustacean reaches about 1cm (0.4 in.).

Description: This shrimp-like, freshwater crustacean lives on decaying plants and detritus also eating algae and other microorganisms. It is gray to green in color.
Environment: This species survives happily in aquarium quality water. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 0°C (32°F) and high as 35°C (95°F) but prefers temperatures ranging from 20-30°C (68-86°F). pH is not important. Culture containers (the author prefers 32 gallon plastic trash cans, preferably yellow or white colored) should be aerated and provided a good food source, such as plant cuttings or tree leaves.

Geographic Range: Various species in North America, Europe and Asia.
Uses: This live food species is an excellent live food for most large tropical fish. It has the advantage of surviving aquarium conditions indefinitely so that it can be fed in abundance without fear of water fouling (do not, however, feed too many without adequate aeration since this organism will compete with fish for oxygen).

Culture: Culturing scuds is simple in any container that can hold water. The author uses plastic garbage cans. Culture instructions follow:
1) Fill a plastic garbage can or an aquarium with aged water. Place about 5cm (2 inches) of dried leaves. Most tree leaves are good, but you should avoid oak leaves. Dried mulberry leaves are excellent. Place the container is a sunlit location. Aerate the water lightly. Scuds can survive winters outside in most of North America, but reproduce best at 20-30°C (68-86°F).
2) Add a starter culture of Gammarus; a few dozen will be enough.
3) Scuds feed on rotting leaves and microorganisms take grow on any surface. Provide adequate surface area to increase the population size by placing rolled up plastic screening in the culture container. The author uses plastic coated water cooling pads.
4) Within four weeks there will be enough scuds to harvest. Harvest by netting them with a fish net or by picking up the plastic screening or cooling pads and shaking over a bucket.
5) Feed the culture with additional leaves as they are consumed or decompose. Periodic, partial water changes are beneficial.
6) Cultures are long-lasting and sub-culturing is necessary only when production declines. Nevertheless, it is wise to maintain a replicate culture in case of a disaster

NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.


Microworm Culture Instructions:

Microworm Culture is made from oatmeal, it will NOT smell good. When the smell gets really bad (2-8 weeks) it is time to start a new one. If you keep it balanced, it can last for a long time. The one I use is well over a year old, in fact it was the stater for yours.

When you receive your culture stand it for about an hour some shaking will have occurred during shipping. Once the medium settles you should see worms left on the side.

To harvest use a piece of coffee filter a plain paper towel, napkin, gauze or cuetip to wipe the worms off the side. Then dip the coffee filter in the tank and swirl around. You need good eyes and lighting to see the worms you can use a flashlight to help illuminate them, they will look like dust particles in a shaft of light only you can see them wriggling, they will eventually sink to the bottom and remain alive for about 30 hours for your fry/small fish to eat at their leisure.

In your culture worms will continue to crawl up the sides and you can wipe them off 2-3 times a day, you can also simply swish the lid around in the tank if they are crawling on it too. You want high sides on your container the more room they have to crawl the easier they are to harvest.

NEVER put culture medium in your tank, this is what the worms are eating and is rotting food, it will foul the tank, a little bit here and there wont hurt but don't scoop up a glob of it.

If you are not getting enough worms from the side you can use a couple layers of coffee filter or strong paper towel on top of the medium I have included a couple of pieces for you and some are already on top of the culture. Lightly dampen the coffee filter add to the top, once it appears to have worms crawling on it, lightly dampen another piece and lay it on top make sure this piece has a corner NOT touching the culture. In an hour or so you can remove this piece of coffee filter and swish around inside your tank leaving tons of worms inside, then squeeze out excess water and put right back in the culture, you can reuse this piece for a couple of days then make a new one. This method is a little messier than harvesting from the sides, so you may just want to start another culture.

To Start New Culture.

you will need:
A plastic bowl with lid!
Culture medium (oatmeal, mashed potatoes, cornmeal, a piece of bread) Gerbers Baby Serial with oatmeal works the best for me.
A bit of an existing culture
Step 1 - Slice an X in the lid of container
Step 2 – Place culture medium (oatmeal) on bottom of container, you want a thin layer the more sides you have the easier to harvest worms.
STEP 3 - Add original culture, I recommend using a plastic spoon to spread the existing culture thinly over the entire new mixture. Keep covered with lid.
Wait 2-7 days and this culture should be thriving. =)
You can also add another spoonful of oatmeal every week or so as your worms eat up the old mixture (you will see it getting thinner.)

If you get mold growing on your culture remove that part, sometimes if the drop of old is not big enough for the new culture, mold will start to grow before the worms get to the edges, the worms are what keeps the food from getting moldy. A bit of yeast when starting the culture usually stops the mold but may start the works fermenting.

Q: how moist is the mashed potatoes/oatmeal when you add it to start the culture?
A: Your oatmeal/mashed potatoes should be prepared (cooked according to package directions and cooled before you add the starter amount) as if you were going to eat it, I have even used the flavored instant stuff cooked in the microwave. That means it can be easily stirred but not soupy. Your culture will become soupier as weeks go by and that is OK. I can usually maintain a culture for about 8 weeks but that varies based on size. When it starts getting really soupy add another tablespoon or two of cooked oatmeal and you will prolong the cultures life for a couple more weeks. Don't let your culture get too dry or the worms will start drying out and dying like mini slugs.
Q: do I have to keep them in a dark place? is sunlight harmful to them?
A:No, but you do need to keep a lid on them, the warmer the better, but you may have to add a few drops of water to keep it from drying out, I usually find just by using the same stick to wipe off the sides accomplishes this, but if you see it starting to dry out add a few more drops. Also you can dampen a strong paper towel or a piece of coffee filter and lay it on top off the culture, this will keep it damp enough and you can use your popsicle stick to wipe worms off this if needed. You can also add 2-3 layers of coffee filter, top layer should be oatmeal free enough to dip right in your tank. IF it is gooky with oatmeal do not do this, stick to the "clean" worms on the sides.
Q. Worms not crawling yet.
Hi, there are a couple of possibilities for worms not crawling yet.
First hold your culture under direct light The light above the stove is a good choice, does it seem to glisten? If so your culture is going just not crawling yet. If you don't see it glistening try putting a little bit from the top into a clear cup of water, do you see worms wriggling in it? Hold this under the light too. If so it is OK. If NOT is probably a dead or crashed culture, let me know, I will send you one replacement at no charge.
If you do see that the culture is live.
The oatmeal may have been a little to deep the thicker it is, the longer it takes for them to crawl. Don't worry about changing it. They will eventually spread through it all and start crawling.
Also if the culture is not warm enough, try 78 Degrees or higher, set them directly in sunlight like a plant, make sure you add a drop of water if you do this because the sunlight will dry it out. Don't let the culture get dry, if you see it getting dry add a drop of water from your fish tank.
If you have no sunlight set the culture on the stove (NOT ON A BURNER) turn the oven on the lowest possible setting, watch the culture, the warmth should help induce the crawling. Do not leave worms unattended if you do this. (I forgot about my once and came back to a cooked bowl of dead worms!)Give it about a 1/2 an hour or so, if it doesn't work you will just have to wait for mother nature.
You can also try spreading a spoonful or two of the culture into a new container, this way the worms in that portion will run out of room and start crawling faster, spread only about an 1/8 of an inch in this bowl, (this culture will die out sooner than the thicker one you originally made.)
Also your culture should have a lid with a small X or hole in the top, set something on top of it for a day or two, sometimes lack of oxygen will also make them crawl. (Don't cover the hole for too long they do need air to breathe.)

NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.

California Black Worms

Raising and Handling
California blackworms can be cultured and easily maintained in a small aquarium or deep pan filled with 2 to 3 inches of springwater (or aged tap water). At room temperature in the laboratory, populations double in about 3 to 4 weeks or less. Using a disposable plastic pipette, transfer a few dozen, undamaged, healthy worms into the aquarium. Never attempt to handle or transfer worms with forceps or hooks. They are easily injured by these instruments.

Next, add enough strips of brown paper towel to just cover the bottom of the container. The towel serves as a fibrous substrate of decomposing material, both for the worms and for numerous microscopic organisms that may cohabit the culture, such as bacteria, protozoans, rotifers, and ostracods.

Add sinking fish-food pellets as the primary food source for this simple aquatic ecosystem. Start by adding one or two pellets. After a few days, add one or two more, but only if the others have been consumed. Do not overfeed, since decomposition of uneaten food may contaminate the aquarium and cause a mass die-off of worms. Worms are not harmed, however, by irregular feeding or long periods of starvation.

Replace water lost to evaporation by adding springwater (or distilled water).I recommend continuous, gentle aeration, and this becomes increasingly important as biological decomposition of the paper occurs and as the worm population increases.

As the paper towel disintegrates and waste residues accumulate, replace the culture water regularly (about every two weeks) by slowly decanting it down a drain. Be careful not to lose remaining paper and worms at the bottom. After rinsing the paper and worms again with springwater, and decanting, refill the aquarium to the original level and add new pieces of towel. I suggest the occasional "harvesting" of surplus worms; these can be used for classroom experiments, as live food for fish, or for starting duplicate cultures. I strongly advise the maintenance of at least one duplicate culture. If you follow these procedures, the worms reproduce continuously by asexual reproduction (fragmentation), and cultures may be sustained for years.

Handling the worms is easy, but you should follow certain important precautions. Capture and handle the worms (or worm fragments) while they are immersed in water. Using an eyedropper or plastic disposable pipette, simply suck one or two up, along with a little water. Never pick up or handle the worms with forceps, hooks, or metal probes because even a slight injury by pinching or poking causes them to self-fragment (autotomize). However, if blackworms do become "dismembered," you need not discard the pieces—just save them for further experiments.

NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.

Grindal Worms

Starting A Culture

Put up to an inch of potting soil into your culture box, give it a good squirting with your mister, wet it to about the same moisture content as freshly turned dirt. Punch a few small holes in the lid for ventilation. Add your starter culture. Feed the worms about a half teaspoon daily of the baby cereal, increase this amount as the culture grows, but try not to overfeed (leftover food will spoil and fungus) give it another squirt of water to moisten the cereal. As you feed the worms, gradually spread the food out into a larger area of the culture as it grows. When the culture is very heavily populated with worms you can start harvesting (usually after about 2 weeks). Harvest by wetting a small piece of plastic and sprinkling some of the worm food on it, the next day the plastic square should be covered with worms, you can then dip this into a cup of water, the worms will fall into the cup and can be fed to your fish. You can use a turkey baster or an eye dropper to dispense the worms.
Grindal worm cultures last for a long time and don't usually need to be recultured until the potting soil has soured or production has trailed off. When it's time to reculture just harvest a few worm and repeat the above steps.

Now I do it a bit differently. I put them in a plastic dish with some kinds soil in it. Some ppl use foam setting in some water. I then sprinkle some uncooked oatmeal on them, put a lid on it and come back in a week. A small piece of clear plastic on top of the food does help in collecting them though.

There are many places on the Internet that is full of ideas about about to culture these guys tho.

Want to get some Grindals, here is a great source.

NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.

Banana Worms
You'll need nothing to begin with as our cultures are fully functional when shipped.
A Banana Worm culture is easy to keep. The worms are around 1mm or so in length and I use them for feeding the very smallest killifish fry. I now use Banana Worms, Walter Worms and Vinegar Eels exclusively for feeding most of my fry eliminating the hassle of hatching brine shrimps and the associated mess involved.
Later you will need a plastic container with snap-on lid. The lid will need some tiny holes drilled in it to ensure an air supply to the culture. I use plastic disposable sandwich containers that measure approximately 130mm x 130mm x 50mm. These can be easily obtained from most supermarket chains but any similar sized container will be just fine.Gerbers Mixed Cerial Babyfood (or supermarket ‘own brand’ equivalent) to half fill the container when mixed with cooled aged water A piece of ripe banana mashed.ORBaby cereal with banana to the same quantity, A dedicated spoon for use only with Banana Worm cultures.

Cross contamination between cultures will cause you problems.Use a childs soft paintbrush for harvesting the Banana Worms from the sides of the container. Again, only use this brush for Banana Worm cultures. Q-tips and finger tips Mix the cereals together and add the water and banana to achieve a consistency that is neither ‘rubbery’ nor ‘sloppy’. Then add the culture over the surface and put the lid firmly on. After a couple of days, you will see the worms are climbing the sides of the container. They can then be harvested using the paintbrush and then swirled into the fry container. Be very careful not to collect any of the culture mixture as it will contaminate the fry container. A culture that has been going for a couple of weeks will start to have a pungent smell. At this time, start a new culture and add some more cereal mix with banana to the old culture so that it will last a couple of weeks more. This will ensure an uninterrupted supply of the worms. Keep the culture at normal room temperature in a dark place.

NOTE: DO NOT keep any live culture anywhere that it could come into contact with food or utensils used for human food preparation.

Culturing Vinegar Eels
Vinegar eels are a extremely tiny aquatic nematode (about the size of microworms or smaller), really a worm, not an eel. They are found naturally appearing in vats of vinegar. They make excellent food for fry of nearly all species of aquarium fish. Their advantages over microworms is that they are slightly smaller and they live longer in the aquarium. Their disadvantage is the somewhat more complicated harvesting methods that are required.
To start a culture of vinegar eels will require the following:
A quart or larger jar or bottle
Apple Cider Vinegar
A small piece of apple
A cloth cover for the jar, or a sponge type stopper for a bottle
A starter culture

To start a culture dilute your apple cider vinegar half and half with water, (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water will also work), add a small slice of fresh apple, add the starter culture and put all of this in a clean bottle or jar. Cover the jar with a cloth cover , a sponge stopper or even a paper towel. Don't use metal lids as it is reported to kill the culture.
Store this culture in a dark place and wait a couple of weeks. You should be able to hold a magnifying glass up to the culture jar and see millions of vinegar eels swimming around in the jar. That's it! All you need to do now is look at the culture from time to time to make sure it is still "cooking". If you notice a drop in production you can add a little vinegar, a small piece of apple or possibly even start a subculture.
To harvest the eels I usually use a turkey baster to slurp a portion of the eel culture and squirt it into a coffee filter that is placed over a cup or small jar. Be sure to save the drainage to add back to the culture as it probably contains a lot of baby eels. Once the vinegar mixture drains I will rinse the filter once or twice with clean water to get rid of the vinegar residue, all you have to do is squirt some water in the filter just like you did with the culture mixture. When it's done draining you can now invert the filter into a small container of water and swish it around good to loosen the eels. Now you can use a dropper or baster to dispenece the eels from the water into your fry tanks.
Note: Small adult fish such as Guppies, Tetras and White Clouds love these tiny eels also.

Another method of harvesting these guys:
Pour a some of your vinegar eel culture into a small "long neck" bottle. Fill up to the point where the neck starts. Place a plug of clean filter floss into the neck and then fill the rest of the way to the top with clean fresh water. A few hours later many eels will have migrated thru the floss into the freshwater and can be easily harvested. Seems the vinegar and water stay separated so you don't have to worry about getting vinegar into your fry tanks. When you are through return the culture mixture back to the main jar. Now that sounds a lot more simple.

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