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Article about live foods for the NFC website

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 bigger.

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 cuture 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 

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