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RE: Culturing Microworms V3 #269
Here is an article I wrote several years ago. I haven't found anything
better since, but I'm still looking! As far as the smell goes, when it
changes from pleasant yeasty fermentation to something unpleasant it's
simply time to re-culture.
Culturing Microworms Kim J. Kubasek
Microworms (most common species: Panagrellus silusiae) are tiny worms
(nematodes) about 1/16 inch long which live in fermenting cereal. They are
easily cultured and can be offered as the first food to most fish fry.
Many of the techniques I use for culturing Microworms are adaptations from
those discussed in Encyclopedia of Live Foods by Charles O. Masters (TFH
The basic principle is that Microworms eat the yeast and other
micro-organisms that grow on the surface of fermenting cereal. They soon
reach such dense population numbers that they begin to crawl up the sides of
the container. There they can be easily collected for feeding to fish.
Container(s) (e.g. 1 plastic shoe box, yogurt cups, etc) pipe cleaners or
plastic egg crate material cut to fit inside the shoe box.
12 Popsicle sticks.
plastic putty knife.
Recipe: (Almost any thickened and sweetened hot cereal recipe will do)
2 cups Water
3 cups Old Fashioned Quaker Oats
1/3 cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons Corn Meal
1 pinch Salt
1/8 teaspoon Active dry yeast (baker's is fine,
wine maker's is better)
worms from previous culture.
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon vitamin/mineral supplement or
For shipping add 2-3 teaspoons of agar.
1) Place water, sugar, cereal and salt (and agar) in a saucepan on medium
2) Cook until thickened.
3) Remove from heat.
4) Stir in vitamin/mineral supplement (if available).
5) Pour into container(s).
6) ALLOW TO COOL.
7) Sprinkle yeast on surface. (Note: this is usually the only time you need
to add yeast. It will continue to grow along with the worms. Sometimes you
can rejuvenate a culture by adding additional yeast.)
8) Spread worms from previous culture on surface.
1) Allow the worms to grow until they begin to climb the sides of the
container (5 to 14 days depending on conditions).
2) Scrape the worms from the side of the shoe box using a moistened pipe
cleaner or bamboo skewer.
3) Dip the worms into the fry tank.
4) Each culture should last about 3 weeks after the start-up period. This
means you should start a new culture every 3 weeks.
5) High-tech option: Place the egg crate on the surface. It will sink into
the culture medium, but the top should remain at least 1/8 inch above the
surface. Soak the Popsicle sticks in water a few minutes then place on top
of the egg crate. Allow time for the worms to crawl up the egg crate and
onto the sticks. This may take a day or two the first time.
To feed: Use a plastic putty knife to scrape up the sticks which are coated
with worms. Place them in a large fishnet and dip them into the fry tank.
A cloud of worms will be rinsed into tank.
If the egg crate sinks too deep, remove it and sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of
dry rolled oats on the surface. Allow this to sink and become covered with
worms (about a day). Then try again.
1) If you find that the culture medium is too wet, the next one can be
adjusted by using more rolled oats or less water.
2) If the worms sink too fast in the tank use a tubifex worm feeder lined
with a piece of cotton or cotton material (like an old sheet).
3) Start a new culture when the current one is at it's best. Do not wait
until the current one declines too far.
4) When you first start a culture the worms may not be visible. As they
increase in numbers, you can observe them by holding the culture at an angle
so that light reflects off the surface. The surface will shimmer due to the
movement of thousands of tiny worms.
5) The critical factor in raising microworms is the moisture content of the
medium. The ideal consistency is one that, when tipped, will flow very
slowly. The worms live in a thin layer (approx. 1/32 of an inch) of a more
fluid consistency that forms on the surface of a thicker base layer. If the
base layer (the 1/4 to 1/2 inch of oatmeal) is too thick/dry then the top
layer is not fluid enough for them to "swim" around. If the base layer is
too thin/wet then it will not support the surface layer and the worms sink.