blackworms - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 7 Old 04-10-2008, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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Can anyone tell me how to keep blackworms alive and how to make them breed? I just got a small culture from my lfs and would like to make it last. I have a spare 1G would this be suitable?
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post #2 of 7 Old 04-10-2008, 10:11 PM
I just throw a bunch in my tanks and let the fish munch and snack as they please. They will stay alive in your gravel.
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post #3 of 7 Old 04-10-2008, 10:14 PM Thread Starter
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Well I want to breed them for my puffers, not just throw the whole culture in a 5G and have it go to waste. The gravel vac would destroy them.
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post #4 of 7 Old 04-10-2008, 10:21 PM
Breaking up blackworms is how you regenerate them. RE:
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-11-2008, 01:28 PM Thread Starter
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ok thanks
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post #6 of 7 Old 04-11-2008, 04:28 PM
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Herefishy- I couldn't get that link to work, but I wanna read it. Could you repost please?
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-11-2008, 09:20 PM
They redid the site a few months ago and are having some problems getting it fixed to work. Goes to show, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.". I couldn't get the link to work either. However I found a better info guide.

Blackworm culture (Lumbriculus variegatus) for use as a live fish food for the Hobbyist
Al Sabetta January 1, 2002

This culture method is based on one that was kindly provided to me by Dr. Charles D. Drewes at Iowa State University for use in some of my science workshops. A variation of it is also recommended by Carolina Biological Supply Company for their cultures (the article is viewable at Carolina's website and was written by Dr. Drewes).

To set up the culture, brown paper towels are placed in a suitable container such as a fish tank. Clean water (De-ionized or Reverse osmosis water) is poured to a shallow depth of several inch over that. Black worms from a clean source are used to start the culture. These are added to the culture. Aeration with an air stone is recommended. This culture does not need to be refrigerated; it can be kept at room temperature. I have been keeping mine at 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit and they have been thriving.

The decomposing paper towels and associated micro flora/fauna will serve as food for the worms, additional food sources can also be added, such as flake fish food- use sparingly or it will foul the culture. The worms will reproduce many by asexual means- breaking along their segmented bodies into 2 or more parts and regenerating into individuals. They are capable of sexual reproduction but this is not usually the mode of reproduction in culture. As the culture grows wastes will accumulate and the water should be changed weekly or more frequently as needed, add additional paper towels as needed.

This is the basic culture design for blackworms used in science experiments and works very well. It has a few drawbacks for the aquarium hobbyist in that the paper towels start to breakdown pretty quick, and its tough to separate the worms from the mushy paper towels to give you enough clean worms to feed your fish. It requires multiple washes. I have found that this can be helped by pouring some of the culture thru a mesh screen (window screen) first to remove the larger pieces of paper. I have also taken a portion of the culture to be harvested and loosely wrapped it in cheese cloth the day before needed. This is placed in a separate container of water. The blackworms will make their way out of the cheese cloth and are easily collected in the clean water.

I have also started using heavier brown shopping bags in my cultures. I have found that they last much longer (up to a month as substrate), and are easier to separate the worms from than the brown paper towels. By far the most promising substrate I have found yet is brown burlap, availible at hardware stores. I am in week three of a trial (at the time of this writing) and the burlap is working great. The water is cleaner, the burlap cloth holds up much better even though it is biodegradable. It requires additional food being added to the culture since it breaks down slowly, but this is nutritionally better for the fish as you can control what the worms eat. Burlap allows for more oxygen in the water because it is not a solid material like the paper towels and paper bags. Finally it's extremely easy to separate out the worms from this substrate.

Do not use chlorinated water, even the de-chlorinated city water is not a good to use because of all the processing it has gone thru. Purchase a gallon of Bottled spring water if you have to. It will give you enough water to take care of a 10 Gallon fish tank culture for over a month. Do not make the water too deep, especially if you do not add aeration. I am using 1-3 inches in my current cultures. Remember.. Black worms require oxygen or they will die! Do not refrigerate this culture, they will not reproduce, refrigeration is good for storage of the live worms, but not culturing them. Do not use any processed, bleached papers as substrate.

Be sure to obtain you worms from a clean source. There are many organisms in the wild that eat these worms, including some leeches. You do not want these in your cultures.

Supplimental information
Okay, here's the deal. I would set at least one of your cultures up with the brown paper towels or shopping bags. Use one layer with an inch of water (if you are using an airstione you can use several inches of water). This is your backup culture, as it's a proven method. Though more difficult to get the worms from.

The burlap culture I am trying is only about a month old, but is doing very well. I have a single layer of burlap in a 10 gallon tank. Spread the burlap out flat. I am aerating it with a 6 inch air stone, but any airstone should work. Initially don't feed anything for about a week, remember there will be biological filtration isssues here just as with a tank. Worms also create waste -- I haven't tried it but I toyed with using mulm as a food source as it would also give the culture nitro bacteria. After a few days to a week, you can feed a small pinch of flake -- I use a meat lover's flake mixed in the water. I do this weekly, and if I see it hasn't been eaten in a few days I change the water. You'll lose some worms with the dead worms and debris when you pour it off. You can minimize this by filling the tub with water, stirring, and letting settle a minute. The live worms generally sink, then pour off.

At no time should the culture smell foul. If it does then there is too much food, not enough air, or bad bacteria is a problem. Some have said they use an antibiotic in their tubiflex culture -- I haven't used any but it may save a culture if there's a probelm. The key to the getting any of these cultures started is to use healthy starter material. When you get your blackworms they'll be on ice probably. Rinse them in ice cold water until the water is clear. Now put them in a tub, with just barely enough water to cover them and let them come to room temperature. Once they do you'll see them actively moving about. Now wait an hour or so, checking them periodically. You'll notice the really healthy ones clump up. Also you'll notice that they'll actually try to climb out of the containers at the corners. It looks like a sci-fi movie. These are your healthiest worms and are good for culture. Watch out for leeches, and worms that are clear (dead).

Cultures take time to establish. Only use a handful of healthy worms to get the culture started; too many and you'll foul the water. Their numbers will grow naturally as the burlap breaks down. Oxygen is key here, as well as monitoring it carefully in the beginning. If you can keep several cultures going, and try different parameters, experiment on the water depth and density of worms, and amount of aeration.

Supplimental information, part 2
Just an update: both the paper method and the burlap method work, but you need to really aerate it and change water a lot. I have not been able to get huge amounts of worms though. For a hobbyist wit a couple of fish, no problem. For a discus addict, Aquatic Foods is still a necessity. Sorry.

That said, I have a culture going with nothing in the tank but air and some fish food and they are doing very good.

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