I have been asked several times how I propagate my Black worms for live fish food. So, I thought I would write a quick how to...
1st, I keep my black worms in a well cycled tank with gravel and a HOB filter.
♣ (I know that several sources on the internet will say don't use HOB filters but I have never had an issue. The difference is I cut the intake hose to pick up water from mid tank instead of close to the bottom where the worms would get sucked in. What ever you choose you need to break the waters surface to keep the bio-film churning to allow for gas exchange.)
2nd, I do keep snails and some scuds in this tank. No fish that will eat my culture before I am ready to harvest...
♣(The biggest problem I have had with my black worms is PLANARIA. This little buggers will actually eat and kill your culture over time. I have no way of eradicating them once you have them in your tank, the meds I have found to kill the planaria will also kill your black worms.)
3rd, The tank must be well cycled and you want to introduce the worms slowly. Buying a pound and dumping them in will cause a huge crash and you will loose 3/4 of your culture right off the bat. A small amount at a time 1/4lb or less is a good starting point.
4th, I keep my tank temp at 78°F. I keep them this temp as it speeds up there breeding and keeps me in food for longer periods of time...
♣(As a side note I did try over 80°F and I did not seem to have great success. These warms can actually live in your refrigerator for a few weeks with water changes every couple of days!)
5th, When I need to get my culture kick started again I do add an air stone to bump up the O2 in the tank. I also keep floating plants in the tank as the warms don't really appreciate high light. The plants also help keep any unwanted nitrates to a minimum...
I had someone suggest tossing flake food into the tank that they are more then happy.... I do not suggest this. It seems when I use flake food that my tank is cloudy the next day. (I hate it when it happens) I feed my worms 2 or 3 times a week and that is all. No need to feed them everyday.
I feed algae tabs because they sink to the bottom and they also do not "rot" in the tank. I will also throw in some sinking shrimp pellets but only do this every other week and maybe 4 or 5 pellets. It does not take much to feed them well. Twice a month I take a small hunk of whole wheat vitamin enriched bread about 2inch by 2inch square and use a plant anchor to help it sink to the bottom of the tank. The worms absolutely love this. They burrow through and can eat the entire thing in a day. After feeding the wheat bread I usually don't feed again for 5+ days to let everything in the tank calm down. I do the bread technique to make sure they are geting vitamins and minerals that keep my fish happy.
I have had my culture going now for over a year and am happy that I don't have to drive and hour and a half and spend $4 an once for them...
Feel free to ask questions and I will try to help!
Here are a few pictures of my "food tank"
You can see they are nice and healthy...
***Added Comments and Questions***
- Q: Do you use paper bags or burlap. A: No, I am not really sure why to use the bags other then providing another food source. If you don't mind the look of the bags by all means try it.
- Q: Can I keep fish with them. A: I do not suggest fish as they will eat till the explode and can wreck your culture as they do not reproduce that quickly.
- Q: Are these California Black worms. A: Yes, These are classified as California Black Worms even though they may be in OHIO!
- Q: What is the average cost of Black Worms. A: It depends on location. I have seen people pay $16 a lb. Around me they run $26 a lb. I got my original batch through a local private pet shop.
- Q: Do they really need a cycled tank. A: Absolutely, They can not handle any ammonia or nitrate/nitrite in there water. They are actually pretty fragile when it comes to huge swings in the aquarium.
- Q: Are they good for a planted tank. A: I swear by them in my planted aquarium. They are the earth worm for the planted tank. They keep my mulm churned up and they actually process it more into a soil for my tank. My Puffers also enjoy hunting for them they are always scouting around the base of plants for one that may be poking out.
- Q: Do you think shrimps like CRS would enjoy these? A: I have seen my ghost shrimp go after these but I have never seen any of my others even try them. Maybe others have had different experience but that is what I have seen.
- Q:* filter: are the filters primary for surface agitation? would an airstone do the same job? Something that should have been stated earlier but if you do not try to "turn" the tank water over then it will get stagnate rather quickly. The worms secret a slim that loads sponge filters and renders them useless in my experience. I chose the HOB because I could control the filter intake and it was simple to change out the cartridge when it got fouled. At first I was washing it out every other day as the worms became familiar with the tank. Now I just wash it out maybe every other month.
- Q: what is their bioload - you mentioned a tank dedicated to them (aka, no fish), yet they are sensitive to ammonia, nitrate, nitrite. could i just have a tank with maybe a heater and an airs tone or do they need more filtration? A: see the comment above ↑.
- Q: what is the higher temperature they will tolerate before dying? A: I did try over 80°F and I did not seem to have great success. That would be my limit.
- Q: what is the lowest temp (for winter time in my basement) A: Please read the intial write up carefully. You can keep these worms in your refrigerator with no problems. As long as they don't freeze solid you will have no issue.
- Q: do they need light? A: I keep light on them just to watch them crawl around and keep the algae going in the tank. I have no idea if an actual light is required.
- Q: how much can be bred in a 10g? A: I have sustained my colony in a 10 gal for over year. I only feed the worms that are not able to hide in the rocks. If I see no worms on top of my gravel then I know I need to feed more and inject more O2.
- Q: once it exceed it would the system crash or they will self regulate their population? A: I have never really had an excess of these worms. My puffers do a great job at keeping them in check.
- Q:any tricks other than 78F to get them to breed faster? A: Other then what I have already wrote (Please reread carefully) I have nothing more to add.
- Q:May I buy some? A: I will do random RAOK's for my worms as I get them. I would prefer not selling them outright cause I can not provide everyone that has asked me for them. If you have a nice local pet store that you do business with they can usually order them for you if you ask.
- Q:How large is your tank? I keep my worms in a 10 gallon and that is more then enough to feed 9 dwarf puffers and tons of other fish regularly.
- Q:When you say 'culture', do you mean the worms themselves? A: Yes, All you need are a few and over enough time and care they will fill your tank. Now it won't happen in a few hours or even days but if you take care of them they will multiply.
- Q:would a 5g tank work as a breeder tank for them? A: I see no reason why a 5gal wouldn't work except to say the larger the tank the less likely of any swings with the parameters.
- Q: Should I use prime in my water? A: Um, Yeah, I always forget about you guys that have chlorine in your city water. I live in the country and have great well water. If you have chlorine in your water take the necessary precautions because it will kill your worms.
Keep the questions coming and I will do my best to answer any and all questions.
This is not a guaranteed breeding technique for everyone. This is only my findings over the last few years as I tried to culture my own worms. If you don't like something that I suggest then by all means don't do it. This is just what works for me!