Culturing Tubifex and Blackworms
I was asked by another forum to write about how I cultured these worms. I didn't want it to be limited to just one forum so I hope this information can help someone here too.
I am sorry if this is not the right place to put it. But its was the closest I can get to inverts
Anyway I have been culturing blackworms and tubifex worms for years and its been a long journey to learn to culture them when I first started, there wasn't much information let alone on the web about culturing them at home. I guess it wasn't worth it.
And after all this, I don't think worth all the work to do. However, I have no local access anymore to blackworms or tubifex so I have no choice but to.
After I found out my LFS was closing down and it was the only one selling any live foods, I scrambled and tried so many methods to culture them. I only had a month to do so.
So I learned from trial and error. First step is to keep them alive. Lucky from years of buying, I learned the can be kept in the fridge. Blackworms longer than tubifex. As long as the water is clean and declorinated, it can surive for at least a week.
Blackworms much longer. My record was 1 month 2 weeks. Not sure if it could go any longer, my fish needed to eat.
So I got lots of worms from my LFS before the closed and I got to work. I couldn't culture any in the fridge so i kept them in a fish bowl.
Lesson 1: Do not let the temp reach higher than 80 or you may have a massive die off. It seems best around 75 degrees or so. In the summer time, find a cool area in the house. I like to place them in a bucket, and put it in my backyard underneth a tree. The shade keeps them cool.
Lesson 2: Only keep them in cycled containers. It doesn't matter if you are keeping them in a 10 gal tank or a rubbermaid but it must be cycled if it is placed in room temperture. I learned that the hard way many times over. Even in temporay holding trays.
So now that we know the general guide lines of keeping them alive, lets move on to housing and care.
Lesson 3: Always change the water. The water must be changed daily. at least once every 2 days. Every day to be better. I change about 30 percent for blackworms and 20 percent for tubifex. More if the water looks or smells bad. You will smell it if the culture goes bad. I found that the drip aclimator is the best for water changes and has become a permenent fixture in my worm tanks. Just let it siphon out the amount and pour in old aquarium water.
Lesson 4. Blackworms like the water to be shallow. They can live in deeper water but they always seem to do best in shallow water. No more than 5 inches. For tubifex it doesn't seem to matter. Also they can be kept in small containers but I find 5 gallon tanks to be the best. The water quality is more stable in there than a rubbermaid. Also I keep one major culture going and a few smaller ones for insurance.
Lesson 5. What is the medium to keep them in? That is a hard question to answer. It is all about how much labor you want to put in. At first, I put gravel on the bottom because I always saw that the tubifex always surived in there in my main tanks. Which always made me angry to see a carpet of worms in your main tanks. Although you can keep them like that, the method of harvesting becomes very very hard. Unless you let there be a huge out break, its going to be hard to seperate the gravel and the worms. The same goes for blackworms. I tried newspaper or other paper substrate but can you imgine the work to clean the worms? Not a good idea.
The best substrate so far for me, is a mixture of gravel and java moss. Yes thats right, java. It eats up the nitrates and helps keep the water quality good. Also the worms like to travel through it. I harvest them with a pipet. Its a great investment if you plan to do this for a while. I just put them in a brine shrimp net and rinse. I also use the pipet to feed them. My endlers go crazy for them and I get to see the health of each one closely.
Now the hard part is done. All you need now is to feed them.
Lesson 6: What to feed them? I use to keep fry in the worm tanks so that the left over food feeds the worm. Also they seem to like fish poop. I liked doing that so nothing is wasted and I always strive to be fully independant of all means. However, once in a while, I would have a massive die off and the water would be so bad my fry would die. Lately I haven't have that problem. I believe it may have been a chain reaction of one worm dieing and spiking the amonia to kill the rest of the population. Then I leaned something, THEY EAT DEAD FISHES! So they have become my recycling center, when ever I have a fish that died from old age, I throw it in there. However, if it was a sick fish, then I always flush. Never compermise the other fishes.
Over the years I learned that it is best to feed them sinking food. I have a ton of extra guppy pellets that turned out to be too large for my endlers. So I use that to feed my worms. I also sometimes throw in cucumbers and other vegetables that was going to be tossed out anyway. Basically they can eat just about anything thats organic as long it doesn't break up very much. This is to perseve the water quality.
Lesson 7: Have patience. You have to let the population grow to a good size before harvesting. This is because the population needs to be at a cetain age before having a stable amount of offspring and become self sustabable. It depends on the tempeture amoung other conditions but I say 3 weeks should be an average time. Then just harvest some for your fishes.
A few last things,
They don't need light and I only use sunshine for the java moss to grow.
There is concern about parasites and diseases from tubifex, I was lucky to have a clean culture from the LFS free of disease and hitchikers. So if you plan on feeding your fishes long term on tubifex or blackworms, it is a good idea to culture your own so you know its 100% safe.
2 years ago, I started seeing them in Petland. I was tempted to buy and stop culturing but my biggest reason is I don't know how good they are. Plus from culturing, I have some very healthy worms which is reflected on my fishes.
I feed my endlers tubifex regularly and they grow very fast with it. I chop it up and feed it to the fry. But they colors don't show up as fast on just tubifex. I have no confirmation on other fishes but I believe it is the same. So I feed them a combination of perpared foods with lots of plant and animal matter for coloration. The tubifex boost there size quickly.
Heathy blackworms are great for larger fishes. They always love a treat and their health becomes wounderful. They have never been more healthy since I have been feeding them live foods.
I learned all these from many years of mistakes. I hope this may help anyone out there thinking of starting there own worm cultures.
Last edited by dr.tran; 05-08-2008 at 04:05 PM.