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Not only do the clerks in half the CA LFSs call blackworms, "Tubifex,"
they pronounce it with an extra "L" as tubiflex! [Sounds like a new
exercise machine! :-)]
This is a crying shame, as both worms have a place in the scheme of
things. We have done a rotten job of educating the stores that we want
one or the other for their particular benefits.
Here is my semi-educated cut on what the deal is.
Back in the '50s, I could get tubifex that were imported from Mexico.
They came from there, because there were very few open, warm sewage
ditches in CA. The distributors purged them in slowly-running water for
a week and passed them on to the stores. Although cholera and amoebic
dysentery were rampant in Mexico, I never heard of a single case, here,
caused by tubifex worms.
The stores who stopped stocking them told me that the state had outlawed
their import. I now doubt that. The ready available supply of blackworms
from the central valley made it possible to cut out the distributors and
the purge problem. Dairy farms and vegetable-packing plants had big
settling ponds to avoid polluting nearby rivers, and blackworms loved
the nutrient-rich shallow waters. Fish farms outflows in the cold rivers
of the Stanislaus foothills also provided a good source. Blackworms were
just plain cheaper. As long as they insisted on still calling them
tubifex, they could charge just as much, but for a far cheaper product!
[I paid $8/lb *retail* for them at my LFS in Modesto! They were
collected right above there, from the Stanislaus R. for half that.]
In recent years, Kordon has been importing tubifex worms from eastern
Europe, and selling them in their little "breathable" sachets (for
well-above the price of gold?). [Enough to feed a fishroom would break
you in a big hurry.]
Why do I want tubifex worms? Foods high in hemoglobin, like tubifex and
bloodworms, have a lot of extra iron in their system. It seems to me
that high iron correlates with both stimulated and successful breeding.
The boodworms (midge-fly larvae, similar to mosquito wrigglers) are a
powerful allergen that is unsafe for many aquarists, so tubifex are much
better. Live bloodworms are impossible for most of us.
Tubifex are less than half the diameter of blackworms, hence usable by
far smaller fish. They are about as long and bright red, so bigger fish
see and eat them too.
The bright red color, from hemoglobin, allows them to live in warmer,
more stagnant water. Submerge a wad of blackworms and they will quickly
drown if they can't spread out or reach the surface with their tails. I
used to put a few ounces of tubifex in a quart jar standing in the
toilet tank, and they lasted as long as I needed them. They even got
water changes, that way, without any extra effort (automation at its
best)*. Don't try this with the "tubifex" from your LFS.
The above is mostly my conjecture, but I think it's worth an effort to
re-establish an economical source of safe tubifex to the hobby. If those
who know more than I will please correct any misstatements I made above,
or supplement with other info, I'll do what I can to check into the
legal problems of using tubifex.
Maybe Mexican sewers are all covered and modernized (deep doubt**), so
they will have to be flown in from Europe. It is probable that we will
have to pay more for them, but the benefits may still be worth it.
* As we say in Bishop: "Flush the toilet, LA needs the water."
** I just toured eastern Tijuana and Otay in Oct. Didn't smell much like it!
Wright Huntley -- 760 872-3995 -- Rt. 001 Box K36, Bishop CA 93514
"If the majority of Americans didn’t receive their educations at the
hand of government, these clowns couldn’t get enough votes to carry a
fraternity election" Neal Boortz
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