Keep Your Baby Fish Alive with Microworms
A fry food recommended by the folks at Aqualand Pets Plus

 

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Microworm Factoids

Origin

Nematodes abound everywhere

Temp

Room temp

Foods

Any grain or cereal with yeast

Threat Fruit flies infesting media

Container

Small covered containers

Cleaning

Monthly minimum 

Species Who knows?

LA
Notice how microworms climb the sides.  Clear containers let you monitor your production.

If it Moves, Bite it.  Baby fishes operate on instinct.  Their instincts tell them to “taste” anything smaller than them that moves.

Picky Eaters.  Since commercial foods don’t wiggle, many of the smallest egglayer baby fishes just ignore them.  These would include:

  1. Bettas and gouramis,

  2. Angelfishes,

  3. Barbs and danios, and

  4. Tetras.

LA
At 0.1 inches long, you need a microscope to see microworms.

Survival Rates.  Unless you feed your egglayer fry live foods when young, you will lose at least 90%.  Some always survive because they find the little one-celled organisms already in your tank and eat them.  You’d get about the same results as if you ignored them entirely for two weeks.  In some cases you’d do better.  Ignoring them won’t foul your water.

Feed Infusoria First.  Many of these tiny egglayer fry need one-celled animals known as infusoria for their first food. After their first two weeks of life most have grown large enough to eat newly hatched brine shrimp or microworms.  (They’re still not large enough or willing to eat prepared foods.)

Non-Picky Eaters.  However, livebearer fry -- and these would include guppies, moons or platies, swordtails, and mollies -- will readily eat fine textured commercial foods from their date of birth.  But they grow larger and faster if given a wiggling food such as newly hatched brine shrimp (or microworms).

 

Great Guppy Food.  Guppies like microworms.  Microworms are the ideal size for baby guppies through adult guppies.  To raise great show guppies, you need to feed them five meals a day.  Because microworms live so long in your guppies’ tank, you don’t have to feed them as often.  Guppies can snack on microworms all day.  More suggestions on this at the end of these notes.

Feeding Schedule.  Baby livebearers (under a half inch in length) snack all day long on the tiny one-celled critters that live in your aquarium.  They’d starve if all they ate was that little dab of powdered food you give them once a day.  Their tiny stomachs can’t hold much, so they need frequent small meals.  Small egglayers (under half an inch) are on the same program.  They’re beyond instinct now and will grudgingly start eating the prepared foods you give them.  Microworms make an excellent addition to their menu at this point.

Add a Snail.  Right after your new fry start swimming, add a mystery snail or three.  The snails eat food that falls to the bottom and make it usable to the one-celled organisms.

Add Plants.  One-celled organisms live all over the plant leaves.  Many plants also eat up dissolved fish wastes (in well-lit tanks) and therefore help keep the water clean.

Brine Shrimp Comparison.  Newly hatched brine shrimp remain the premier baby fish food.  They do have some disadvantages:

bullet

Daily preparation

bullet

 Limited life span

bullet

Price keeps increasing, and increasing, and ...

Frozen Baby Brine Shrimp.  You can feed frozen nauplii to your fry.  They cost more this way, and they lose the instinctive appeal of wiggling live critters.  But frozen shrimps are certainly more convenient.  

LA
Today's betta cups make easy-to-use microworm cups.

LA
A bit of filter floss in the air hole keeps your microworms free of fruit flies and other pests.

LA
These brand new microworm cultures take up very little room.

LA
Second day.  The microworms are starting up the sides.

Media Recipes.  Well, finally we’re talking about the main subject -- microworms.  These little guys (and gals) multiply like crazy in small covered containers.  Feed them a gooey mixture of: oatmeal, yeast and water.

Start.  Introduce a glob of microworms from an existing culture.  The worms do the rest.  In one or two weeks they start swarming up the sides for you to harvest.

 

No Magic Formula.  This is not rocket science.  Nearly any proportions will work as long as you use the three ingredients.  The easiest way is to pour a ¼ inch of dry oatmeal in your container, sprinkle the surface with dry yeast, and add a little water.  You don’t even need to stir unless you want to.  Some microworm ranchers cook their media.  Waste of time unless you plan to eat part of it for breakfast. 

LA
Each little plastic cup yields enough microworms to feed a spawn.

Small Containers.  You can raise tremendous quantities of microworms in a plastic shoe box.  Or you can use those clear, shallow plastic drinking glasses.  Just make sure your container is shallow enough to get your finger into.  Petri dishes are too shallow.  The worms crawl completely out of the container.  Of course, all you need to do then is rinse the container top into your fry tank.  But the worms also crawl out onto your counter.

LA
Plugging their air hole with filter fiber keeps out fruit flies (and maggots).  Fish love these maggots.

LA
Rinse them thru a net to harvest them.  Move quick or they crawl thru your net.

LA
Uncontaminated cultures grow more successfully.


LA
Actually these fruit fly maggots make an excellent fish food.

Cover Your Containers.  Microworms need some sort of cover to keep them humid enough to crawl up the sides.  Covers also keep house flies and fruit flies out.  Even a piece of aluminum foil will work.  Snap on tops fit a little too tightly.  The carbon dioxide from the yeast can suffocate your worms.  Poke some small holes in your lid.

We Like Oatmeal.  Regular or instant oatmeal both work.  Ditto Pablum.  Instant oatmeal or baby cereal starts them off faster.  Regular oatmeal starts them growing slower but keeps them from spoiling much longer.  However, you can also use cornmeal, wheat flour, or even white bread.  Microworms, which thrive in most moist soils, are not picky eaters.

Add Water.  Water activates your microworm culture.  Pour in enough water to make a paste for best long term results.  If you make the mixture soupy, it starts faster but peters out quicker.  If you add too much water, put in enough oatmeal to thicken your mixture.  

We Like Dry Yeast.  Any kind of yeast will work.  Dry yeast is simply more convenient to keep.  Just sprinkle it on the surface.  If you live in San Francisco and make your own sourdough bread from scratch, just add microworms.

Starting Your Culture.  Start your microworms from a healthy existing culture.  By healthy, we mean a yeasty smelling culture.  As they “mature,” they turn dark colored and get skanky smelling.  You don’t want to continue a bad smelling culture unless you have no choice.  Most get skanky as time goes by.  Start your new cultures while you can still approach your old culture without a HazMat suit.

Add Clean Worms.  By adding worms only, you lessen your chances of continuing the nasties that accumulate in old microworm cultures.  The easiest way is to scrape worms off the side of your current culture dish and add them to your new culture dish.  

Smell?  Healthy cultures actually smell pretty good.  Growing yeast gives off carbon dioxide, water, and a pleasant aroma.  Dead yeast and dead microworms give off the skanky odor you associate with old cultures.

Rinse or Not?  Some microworm keepers go one step further.  They put their new starter worms in a container of water and rinse them off first.  They pour off the excess water and add the rinsed worms to their new culture.  But as we said earlier, this is not rocket science.  This step might pay off if you’re forced to work with an old culture that has gone bad (turned dark or started smelling bad).  But on average, they need no rinsing.

Recharging Cultures.  Since it’s so easy to start a new culture, few people want to fool around with jump-starting an old culture.  Some people even throw away their old culture containers.  (Outdoors, we expect.)  But if you’ve let your old culture run down by ignoring it too long, you may need to recharge it before you can get a new one started.  Just mix in some of your standard formula and re-cover the top.  If even two worms survived, they will replenish your culture.  Start new cultures from this re-juiced culture.

LA
Solid microworms off the side.  "Finger-lickin' good" as the Colonel says.

Harvesting Method #1.  The easiest way to harvest worms is to wipe them off the sides with your finger.  Or use a tiny rubber spatula, if you’re a weenie.  Then just feed them to your fry.  Rinse your finger in the fry tank.  Or rinse them into a container of water and feed them out with an eyedropper.

Harvesting Method #2.  Another trick is to add enough water to make the worms liquid and pour them off into another container.  Then use an eye-dropper to feed them out.  Tip:  Do not pour them directly into your aquarium.  If you ever accidentally pour a glop of culture medium into your tank, you will regret it.  This is one time you can learn from another’s mistake.  

LA Pic
Masses of tiny microworms make excellent fry food.

Worm Size.  Adult microworms range in size from 1/10 to 1/8 inches long.  The baby microworms are even tinier. So you get a real range of food sizes edible by the smallest fry.

Microworm Nutrition

Protein

48%

Lipids

21%

Glycogen

7%

Organic Acids

1%

Nucleic Acids

1%

Worms Sink.  Microworms wiggle like crazy, but they can’t swim.  They fall to the bottom fairly rapidly.  This means you should keep your fry in a tank devoid of gravel, so the worms don’t disappear into the muck on the bottom.  Their sinking tendency makes them an ideal food for baby corydoras.  Baby corys can find them easier in bare tanks.

LA
Since worms sink to the bottom and corys feed on the bottom ...

Worms Survive.  Since microworms live a long time in a water environment, they survive very well in an aquarium (unlike baby brine shrimp).  They won’t live for days, but they do live for 24 hours. This means you don’t have to re-feed every four hours.  But, watch out for overfeeding.

First Food?  Brine shrimp still take top honors as the first food for most fry.  They swim where the fry swim, so they are more likely to be eaten.  In fact, both are attracted to the light.  Since both swim in the same area, the fry bump into the shrimps and eat them.  Microworms are better for week-old fry -- those that have learned to “look around a bit” for their food.  

More First Food?  Adult microworms measure 1/10th to 1/8th inch.  However, their babies are much smaller.  This means you can feed microworms to some of the tiniest fry -- such as anabantids.  Betta fry especially find them tasty.  Shallower the water the better.  Sponge filters work best.  (Typical betta fry setup.) 
Put some snails on your clean up crew. 

Even More First Food?  You can lift microworms off your tank floor with an airstone.  Or you can McGyver a microworm feeding station with a piece of airline made into a floating ring.  Put a piece of plastic wrap on top with pin holes punched in it.  Put your worms into your feeding ring.  This will let the microworms descend into your tank over a longer time.

Microworms or Brine Shrimp.  As we said, nematodes abound everywhere.  Supposedly, microworms came from beer vats.  But you can find them under most garbage cans.  If you raise white worms, sooner or later you will get lots of microworms in there.  For most people, microworms take a back seat to live, newly hatched brine shrimp.  Still, they make a great supplemental food for fry and young fishes.  Add microworms to your live food menu.  LA
 

Lance, February 10, 2009
Hi, I raise Microworms, would you add my link to your site under your Microworm section? I can add your link to my site also.
If you would my link is www.microwormcultures.com  Thanks!

A:  Consider it added.  You can read it tomorrow.  LA

LA
Some different microworm containers.

LA
Short containers let your worms go all the way to the top.

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