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NFC: ez live foods

Easy Live Foods
by Dwight Moody
This article discusses several easily cultured live foods: daphnia,
microwoms, fruit flies, grindal worms and white worms. Live foods are a
great way to put fish in spawning condition and are a necessity for many
species which will not accept either flake or frozen foods but which are
not consumers of other fish. Live foods will keep all native fish and
tropical fish hale and hearty and provide nutrition which flake foods

Daphnia, also known as water fleas due to their jerky swimming movements,
are simplicity itself to culture, as most daphnia are females and produce
live young regularly if adequate food is present. Two species are
generally available, Daphnia magna and Daphnia pulex. Daphnia pulex are
smaller and do not do well in high temperatures. If exposed to higher
temperatures or a lack of food, some of the daphnia will become males and
mate with the females, producing resting eggs, which can resist drying
and freezing. Once the eggs are being produced (they look like specks of
pepper that float on the surface of the water), the culture is proably
going to die out soon unless conditions improve. Daphnia magna, on the
other hand, are more tolerant of higher temperatures, but are a bit

Glass aquaria, plastic buckets or a chilld's wading pool can be used to
culture daphnia. Simply fill one or more containers with green water. The
grunge siphoned out of existing tanks during water changes is an
excellent starter media for green water - just add a few days in the sun.
Daphnia are very sensitive to metals, so don't use water fresh from the
tap, either pond water or aged water from tanks. Adding some green water
from a tank with suspended algae almost gurantees a good green water
culture when mixed with some bottom grunge. When the water is good and
green, add a few daphnia to the green water and watch for explosive
population growth. When the water clears, most of the algae is gone and a
new culture should be started, leaving a good batch of fish food. Daphnia
can be maintained on a yeast and water solution, but do not show the
reproduction levels of green water, which is the best food for them.

Microworms (about 1/16th inch) are another easily cultured fish food,
being very small free-living nematodes, that make great fry food. They
are also tolerant of heat (80's) so no special conditions are needed to
raise microworms. I use Gerber's Mixed Baby Cereal as a culture medium -
the nutritional value of the worms is dependent on what they eat and the
Gerber's Mixed Cereal has a lot of vitamins and protein. Add just enough
dechlorinated water to create a wet cereal (moist, not runny) in a
container with a lid that has a hole in it, stuffed with cotton to allow
air exchange but keep fruit flies out, and add a starter amount of
microworms. Add a bit more water if it starts to dry out. In just a few
days, microworms will be climbing up the sides of the container, where
they can be harvested with a Q-tip or finger, suspended in water and fed
to baby fish.

DIY Fruit Fly culture: Take a tall jar, like a spagetti sauce jar, add
about an inch or so of Gerber's Mixed Baby Cereal. Take the lid, cut a
hole in it and stuff the hole with cotton or filter floss. Mix up a
solution of one package of yeast in warm water. Once the yeast is
dissolved, use it to mix up the cereal. You should end up with a wet
cereal that has a strong yeast odor. Set outside. Within a day or so, you
should have a small swarm of fruit flies inside the jar. Simply place the
cover on the jar, capturing the flies, which will breed and lay eggs in
the culture media. The larvae will climb up the sides of the jar to
pupate, creating more flies. Harvest by placing the jar in the fridge
until the flies get groggy from the cold. Then open the jar and tap it,
allowing the cold fruit flies to fall on the surface of your aquaria.
They will warm up in a few minutes of exposure to warmer temperatures, so
only feed the amount of flies that will be immediately consumed.
Wingless/flightless fruit fly cultures can also be obtained from various
sources. They cannot fly but they can still crawl, so only feed them so
that they will be immediately consumed or you will have fruit flies
crawling around your fish room.

Grindal worms (1/4 - 1/2" free-living nematodes) are another great fish
food that is easily cultured. Simply use a quanity of moistened Magic
Worm Bedding (available at Wal-Mart) in a handy container - remember to
use dechlorinated water. I use a Bait Canteen as a container, but plastic
shoe boxes work also. Simply place the starter culture of grindal worms
on moist bedding material in the container and feed moistened Gerber's
Mixed Baby Cereal. The worms will slowly consume the cereal and
reproduce. Add more cereal as needed. Grindal worms are heat tolerant
(80's) but the container should not receive direct sun.

White worms (1 - 1 1/2 inch) are the extra large economy size nematode
that can be fed either whole (to larger fish) or chopped (for smaller
fish). Among tropical fish enthusiasts, white worms are known as "fish
candy" due to the gusto with which they are consumed, once fish learn
that they are a food item. White worms tend to be somewhat fatty, so
should not be fed as a sole food. White worms can be cultured in the same
way as grindal worms, but are less tolerant of heat. They do best in
lower temperatures, around 60-70 degrees F. Some people culture them in
an old refrigerator, which helps to maintain a constant temperature. It
is NOT suggested to store your white worm culture in the refrigerator
that contains people food unless you get the green light from the better
half - people generally do not appreciate finding a white worm culture
when they are looking for something to eat in the fridge.

Sources of starter cultures may be found in the classified ad section of
most aquarium magazines and generally run about $2 -$5, depending on
quantity. Starter cultures generally provide only a few of the organisms
which can be used to grow a sufficient quantity of organisms for fish
food, although it may take a while. Larger cutures, which contain more
organisms, are also available, but expect to pay $15 - $20 per culture.
Live food cultures, along with a whole lot of other supplies, are also
available from Daleco, which has a web page located at
http://miraclemile.com/dalecombp/ and has helpful information about how
to culture various organisms, including mealworms (suitable for large
fish such as cichlids, along with various culturing supplies. They also
have cultures of red ramshorn snails, brown ramshorn snails for those
with a liking for these organisms. The Viviparous web site also has quite
a bit of information on how to culture live foods, located at