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Discussion Starter #1
Alright, my fellow TPT members. I've been doing a ton of research on the most efficient ways to grow live food cultures to feed fish and came across a method called "soilless grindal worms". It's not a secret method, or anything; there is some good information out there if you're willing to dig for it. It just so happened that my grindal worm culture has recently become infested with the dreaded *bum bum BUM* mites! :eek5: So, since I had to undergo the process of making my culture soilless, and there was a camera near by, I decided to take a few shots and make it into a TPT tutorial. The search function doesn't offer much on actually culturing these guys, so I hope this helps someone!


Here's a shot of my old culture. The mite infestation isn't extensive, but they're there! In preparation, I put some pre-cut, plastic needlepoint canvas on top of their food to lure the worms into the perforated canvas. Works like a charm! They cannot resist the cat food tasties.

What you'll need:
Scour pads (preferably 3+ pads per container)
Storage containers (at least two)
A pipette of some type
A seperate container for water
Dechlorinator
Your worm culture


Above are my base supplies, plus a banana for scale.

Your first actual step is to rinse your scour pads and containers in dechlorinated water (I use Prime) to make sure there's no leftover debris from the store. Then you place the scour pads within the containers. I had to cut mine because they didn't fit properly. Easy peasy.

There are three pads within each container. Most people stack as many as they can reasonably fit within the container.

Your next step is to pour a small amount of water over the scour pads. You want the water level on the bottom to be no higher than where the first scour pads ends. Do this for all your containers.


This water will also need to be changed occasionally. Use your best judgement based on the color of the water and overall smell. It shouldn't smell foul.

Now for the fun part! (Kinda?) Get your pipette ready and fill up a small container with dechlorinated water.

I cut the end off of my pipette because the end was gradated.

Now grab your worms.

Can you hear them screaming?

And put them into the container with water. Au poil!

It's best to swirl them about occasionally and pour off the excess water from time to time. This ensures that no hitchhiking pests go in with your "clean" worm culture. Supposedly, the worms will all sink while the pests (like mites) will float. Keep doing this for upwards of an hour, or however long you're willing to do so. Can you hear them screaming now?

Whilst you are waiting for your worms to be cleansed, continue to set up your soilless culture containers. I rinsed off the needlepoint canvas with HOT water and set it on top of the 2nd scour pad. Then I put some more tasties on top of said needlepoint canvas as a peace offering for the worms. Do this for all containers.

I use Purina Chicken and Rice cat food that I also feed my hedgehog. In fact, he's the reason why I am making an effort to remove these mites. Hedgehogs are extremely prone to getting infected with mites which can cause damage to their sensitive skin and quill loss. No point in putting him at risk when there's an alternative method!

Now suck up all your terrified worms with your Pipette of Doom and place them onto your peace offerings. Keep doing this until you have the majority of them out and safely in their new containers.

Voila! Vous avez terminé !

Poke some holes into the tops and fit it snugly onto the containers. Easy as pie! The only maintenance that is required is a daily misting of the pads, adding/removing food, and an occasional water change. The water can be easily sucked out with a pipette, or even drained out by holding the scour pads and tipping the container until the water runs out.


The soilless method is supposed to be the best method of culturing grindal worms without the worriment of an infestation from pests like mites or spingtails. While these bugs are not a direct danger to the worms, they may or may not out compete the worms for resources. And they're just nasty lil' buggers. Continually remove the grindal worms from the soiled cultures and place them into the soilless containers. Once there is a good sized population within the soilless cultures, toss out the soiled cultures. Some people also place cotton, or filter floss into the poked holes to ensure no flies get into the culture.

If anyone has an suggestions or comments to add, feel free! Or show me your cultures (soiled or soilless)! I intend on updating this when their is a change in my culture; a worm journal, so to speak. Make it a great day, everyone!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Also, I hope this sub-forum was a reasonable place to put this since it is *technically* fish related. If not, my apologies to the moderators!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I use coco fiber substrate. It works too.
I'd plug up the lid holes with filter floss to keep out bugs.
The original culture I received was in coco fiber, I believe. Silly me mixed that mite-free culture into potting mix that I had baked, assuming that baking it would kill potential pests. It didn't. Lesson learned! I'm pretty sure that I have a springtail infestation as well. Have you been successfully pest-free with all your grindal culture in coco fiber?

Also, +1 on the filter floss. I need to get some myself!
 

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Thanks for posting your thoughts and techniques! I have tried soilless--really wanted it to work. But it just didn't work for me. The worms did not take off like they do on soil, and the water under the pads starts to stink quickly (and badly). I am contemplating trying again with some sort of drip system to flush the water through, just haven't gotten around to it yet.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for posting your thoughts and techniques! I have tried soilless--really wanted it to work. But it just didn't work for me. The worms did not take off like they do on soil, and the water under the pads starts to stink quickly (and badly). I am contemplating trying again with some sort of drip system to flush the water through, just haven't gotten around to it yet.
You're right about that - the worms definitely love the soil above all other substrates. I've had my cultures brimming over the top with worms using soil. Unfortunately, I did not do the necessary precautions this time around with my new cultures and they're now infested.

This is definitely going to be a learning experience for me as I have only kept soiled cultures. Some people report great success with it, so I figured it was worth a shot. I'll definitely heed your warnings about changing the water. They can't possibly stink worse than microworms, can they? :D Even in instant potatoes, microworms can still have an offensive odor!

I've still kept my infested culture as a contingency plan in case it doesn't work out >.< Perhaps I'll grab some coco fiber from the LFS and make a comparative study.
 

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Nice write up. I'm in the process of restarting my grindal worm cultures because of mites as well. In my experience with coconut coir, the mites would still show up. I think it's because I mixed contaminated coir from my original purchased culture or they snuck in through the small holes on the cover. Either way, I'm gonna try both the scour pad method and the coconut coir method. This time however, I'm gonna plug the air holes with filter floss.
 

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I've resigned to live to the springtails and mites. They're in my whiteworm culture and for some reason not in the grindal. All you can do is control their population through washing them off the container lid and removing the food while they're attacking it.

They're harmless when you think about it.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've accepted that pest infestation may be inevitable with certain worm cultures. If it wasn't for my hedgehog, I wouldn't be too concerned with them. Hedgehogs has specific needs due to their sensitive skin. Mites can wreck havoc on their skin and cause detrimental quill loss. I feel like I owe it to my hedgehog to find an alternative way to culture these guys so I don't risk his health. I'd feel terrible if I accidentally infested him with mites!
 

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I've accepted that pest infestation may be inevitable with certain worm cultures. If it wasn't for my hedgehog, I wouldn't be too concerned with them. Hedgehogs has specific needs due to their sensitive skin. Mites can wreck havoc on their skin and cause detrimental quill loss. I feel like I owe it to my hedgehog to find an alternative way to culture these guys so I don't risk his health. I'd feel terrible if I accidentally infested him with mites!
Oh, interesting. The best thing is what you're doing by soaking the worms. Worms will sink and bundle together and mite/springtails will float. You can suck out the worms leaving the mites behind.

I have to deal with mold in my old batches. I'm slowing repopulating new batches.
 

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A little bit of an update on my soilless culture:

After day two, I noticed a bit of a stench just like TheDrake had mentioned. It wasn't terrible, but it was noticeable once the top was taken off. It was on par with what rotting food in a damp container should smell like. I did an immediate water change and I have since decreased the amount of water in that I have within the cultures. The water level is now just enough to cover the bottom (about 1mm deep). This has seemed to help with the stench. Also, I spray the scour pads daily to ensure moisture.

Despite the mild odor, the culture has progressed nicely. In fact, my soilless culture consumes more food faster than my soiled culture. Maybe it's because they have no competition now, or less medium to travel to get to the food. If I stick a piece of cat food on a scour pad, I can have a sizable swarm of worms in a matter of minutes.

Time will tell if soilless will become my preferred method, or a viable method for supporting an entire colony of fish.
 

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I would like to know how this is working. I'm thinking I can do something similiar with whiteworms.
 

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I have actually recently started doing this with a culture from MonsterFish who gave me a starter culture with the soil less method. I've never kept them before but they're doing very well.
 

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Great write up. I recently had my culture of worms infested with mites also. Was contemplating on going soil less. Keep us updated on how your culture progresses.
 

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My apologies for bringing a dead thread back to life but a common theme in this thread is a foul odour. I'm thinking about getting a culture of grindal worms but I really don't want a smell coming from it. How bad are we talking, how stron strong is it?
 

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My experience with several years of culturing Grindal worms;

I have never had any problems or issues with odors keeping them on coco fiber. If you are doing it right, you will get a mild, earthy smell when opening the containers, and that's about it. I keep mine in the kitchen cabinet beneath the sink. It's a good, dark, temp stable location for them.

Several years back, I gave the soil free method two good tries. I found these cultures to be much more finicky, as well as prone to crashing and odors...

Having said that, others seem to have done well with this method. I would recommend getting a good culture going on coco fiber. Then, if you want to go soil free, keep the coco culture going as a backup. Either way, smell should not be a factor unless you are doing something else wrong...
 

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My experience with several years of culturing Grindal worms;

Keeping them on coco fiber I have never had any problems or issues with odors. If you are doing it right, you will get a mild, earthy smell when opening the containers, and that's about it. I keep mine in the kitchen cabinet beneath the sink. It's a good, dark, temp stable location for them.

Several years back, I gave the soil free method two good tries. I found these cultures to be much more finicky, as well as prone to crashing and odors...

Having said that, others seem to have done well with this method. I would recommend getting a good culture going on coco fiber. Then, if you want to go soil free, keep the coco culture going as a backup. Either way, smell should not be a factor unless you are doing something else wrong...
+1 my experience exactly.
 

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My experience with several years of culturing Grindal worms;

I have never had any problems or issues with odors keeping them on coco fiber. If you are doing it right, you will get a mild, earthy smell when opening the containers, and that's about it. I keep mine in the kitchen cabinet beneath the sink. It's a good, dark, temp stable location for them.

Several years back, I gave the soil free method two good tries. I found these cultures to be much more finicky, as well as prone to crashing and odors...

Having said that, others seem to have done well with this method. I would recommend getting a good culture going on coco fiber. Then, if you want to go soil free, keep the coco culture going as a backup. Either way, smell should not be a factor unless you are doing something else wrong...
Yeah thats what I figured. If it smells, something is wrong. I where would I get the coconut fiber from? The reason for at least starting it there is so that the culture will mature faster and grow better before possible going soilless?
 
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