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Re: blackworm culture questions

> Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 03:11:48 -0700
> From: ternay at dimensional_com
> Subject: blackworm culture questions

>         Now one suspicion I have is that I may have the wrong species.
> These worms are black,
> up to 1/4 inch long, have no visible segmentation.  They are sold by LFS'
> as california
> blackworms.  The care recommended for them is a daily rinsing in cold water
> and storage in
> the refrigerator.

California blackworms (called "tubifex" in our local stores) are a *lot*
longer than 1/4" and are segmented (not very obvious, tho). I would
guess an inch to an inch and a half is more the right size, if you
haven't broken them apart. They are thicker than tubifex, maybe to 1mm
thick? Color is brown, usually. Tubifex are bright red.

>         That last item is my second suspicion.  Is room temperature too hot
> for these animals?

Yes, for any amount reasonable for live food. They have to either get
their tail to the surface to get air, or the water must be very oxygen
rich (i.e., cold and unpopulated).

You could maintain 20-30 worms in the containers you mention, but I
would use an airstone to try to increase oxygen. Feed sparingly or not
at all at first. Gradually introduce a tiny amount of food (cheap fish
flake food is good) and be sure it is consumed before adding more.
Bacteria bloom will use up the oxygen and kill them quickly.

For growing enough for fish food, you need 7 10G tanks. A few inches of
very fine sand in the bottoms and heavy aereation with the finest
bubbles you can make. Harvest one side of each tank (one a day) for week
one, then the other side for week two. At the end of two weeks you can
start over on the first harvested side, as worms will have propagated
there for two weeks. Feed flake food daily, but careful not to overfeed
and create a bloom. Do in a shady place outside to keep cool in summer.

It's way too labor and equipment intensive for any reasonable fish
purposes. The guy I know who developed the above method (after trying a
lot of failed ones) did it because he was convinced they carry fish
pathogens (which they don't). He wanted "pure" worms. :-)

Neither tubifex nor blackworms can carry any known fish pathogens,
according to the head of the Vet. Pathology Dept. at Cornell. He's an
avid aquarist, BTW.

They are very rich foods and dramatically increase the fish-produced
ammonia. Unwashed worms also can have a thick cloud of bacteria around
them. These factors encourage opportunistic fish diseases, and give them
a reputation for carrying disease that they don't deserve.


Wright Huntley, Fremont CA, USA, 510 494-8679  huntley1 at home dot com
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