The various micro-worm cultures are a great way to get your fry off to a good start. They are small in size and their wiggling attracts the fry and gets them eating at the crucial first days. The worms also stay alive in the water for a while giving the fry plenty of time to eat them. These cultures are very easy to take care of and every breeder should have at least one variety. For just a few minutes a week you can keep them going for years. I have had my cultures since 2008.
There are various places to get cultures online or maybe you have a fishy friend that will share some with you. You will find three kinds usually offered.. Micro worms, Banana worms and Walter worms. They are all about the same and just differ in size. Best of all they all take the same care. I like to have all three sizes so there is a size for every fry. They can be fed in rotation or all them in solution at each feeding. They are good in a pinch when the brine shrimp fail. Before your culture arrives, you will need to get a few things that will make maintaining your culture easy. They will need food, culture medium or bedding and additional containers if you want to start more cultures. We recommend that you have on hand the following:
- * Yeast – This is food for your cultures. Get the larger jar instead of the packages. You will go through it and it is more economical this way.
- * Salt Shaker – Get a cheap shaker and put your yeast into it. Much easier to shake a little than measure or pinch.
- * Oatmeal – This is the bedding or culture medium. Get the cheap oatmeal that is whole oats.
- * Coffee Grinder – You really need a simple and inexpensive coffee grinder just for the fish room. You can grind up your regular pellet food to a fine powder to feed fry and you will need it to grind your oatmeal up. If you only have one and share it with coffee for you to drink.. clean well before use so no coffee gets in and again after to get the oatmeal out.
- * Plastic Containers – To make additional cultures pick up some of the plastic food storage containers. Again, they do not need to be the expensive ones.. but some of the cheaper ones are not as easy to work with. Your choice.
When you get all this stuff together, take your oatmeal and grind it to a fine powder. Put this in a container, a Ziploc bag or what ever you have on hand to store it. I usually grind up the entire container so it is done. It will last a while. If you don’t want to do it all at first.. do a few cups of ground to have on hand.
When the cultures arrive, remove the paper towel that was taped over the air hole and sprinkle a little yeast on the top of the culture. Then set them aside to settle. In a few hours you will see the worms starting to climb the sides. By the next day the sides should be covered with a gazillion worms. They are now ready to harvest.
The worms can be harvested in several different ways. Do what ever works for your particular situation. I have some inexpensive stainless steel condiment cups that I got from Wal-Mart. [These are a great addition to a fish room.. I use them in various ways every day.] I fill them half way with treated water [treated for chlorine] and harvest worms into the cups. I use a craft stick or Popsicle stick to scrape the worms off the sides and swish them into the cup. I have all 3 cultures and harvest each one into the same cup. The worms are different sizes so it makes a nice first food ‘cocktail’ for fry.. a size for everybody. Make sure if you do harvest from different cultures you clean the stick to avoid cross contamination of the cultures. After scraping the sides, sprinkle a little yeast on top and put the culture aside. I swirl the worms in the cup to get them in suspension and suck them up with a small eye dropper. Then they are squirted throughout the fry tank to feed.
Another method for harvesting is to still use the stick but rinse directly into the fry tank. Others have used a Q-Tip or their finger to remove the worms from the container. Again, there is no right or wrong way to harvest the worms and feed to your fry. Use what ever works for you. After harvesting, sprinkle some yeast on top and set aside for the next day.
To keep your cultures producing their best they will need to be worked, at least, every few days. Even if you have no need to feed fry, scrape out the worms and sprinkle some yeast on top. If you do not keep them harvested, you will find the dying worms will make the culture produce less and get funky on you. I have snails that love these things so I just add them to their container. If you have no need for them just rinse them down the sink.
When the culture declines in production and the bedding starts to look dark and yucky.. it is time to redo the bedding or culture medium. Take a spoon and scrape a thin layer of the top with the worms off to the side of their container. Then, with the spoon, remove the bedding that is left uncovered. Take the oatmeal you ground up and add some to the container. Then add enough water to make a slightly runny mixture. Stir in the worms you left in the container and sprinkle some yeast on top. In 24 hours that culture should be producing a ton of worms. I have found that you do not need a deep bed as the worms live on the top and feed on the yeast. A depth of about ¼” to ½” is fine for the worms to live on. You can also mix your oatmeal in another bowl and then add to your culture container and mix into the worms. Again, whatever works for you
If you have white worms or grindles, the bedding you removed can be added to them for food and there is no waste. However, if you do not have them just dispose of the removed bedding.
Starting another culture for backup or to give a fish friend is very easy. Just get a container that has been washed out and put a small hole in the lid. The easiest way to do that is to get a pair of pliers, a small nail and a heat source.. I use a candle. Hold the nail with the pliers and heat. Then push a hole through the lid. One hole is just fine. Then add some oatmeal, add water to get the slightly soupy mix and put some worms you scraped off the top of another culture on the top. Sprinkle with yeast and in a day or two you will have a thriving new culture.
Well that’s it! Pretty easy to have a thriving source of first foods for your fry. Even cultures that seem to get destroyed can often be brought back with new bedding and a bit of yeast. To do that check out THIS ARTICLE.