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Fortifying the Food

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The Bug Farm
San Rafael, CA 94903  USA

2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, J.Atchison

The Bug Farm grows Grindal worms, Fruit Flies, Microworms and more!

Use these for:

Betta from 1/2 inch to adult
Corydoras from 1/2 inch through adults
Newts
Salamanders
Some Frogs
Apistogramma 1/2 inch through adult
Killifish from 1/2 inch through adult
Gourami from 1/2 inch through adult
Guppy 1/2 inch through adult
Angelfish from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch...and discus too.

Ask us more about Grindal worms

A friend taught us how to grow these miniature worms. The method he showed us was so easy and nearly fool proof. There are more complicated techniques but this method worked for us for a long time. We only switched from the technique when the number of fish in the hatchery required us to grow larger numbers of worms.

We started growing the Grindal worms when we got into Killifish. We found that the smaller adult fish did great on them and because most of the fish we were working with at the time were small, we used these worm on nearly all of our fish that were greater than 1/4 inches long. This first culture method yielded some peat moss as a by-product and this small amount of peat moss was simply added to the tanks with the fish. With several fish, the peat moss with actually have an added value as a pH suppressor. As our species within the hatchery grew, the peat moss became a small liability and we switched our harvesting methods.

There seems to be a need to transition fish from one food size to another, particularly from baby brine shrimp and microworms into the sizes of say, whiteworms. As our fish interests grew, we started working with greater number of species and types of fishes and noticed that universally the fry would take the Grindal worms when the fry grew to about 1/4 inch. It didn't matter what kind of fry, they all loved the Grindals. With the Grindals, the fry get more into their mouths in a shorter period of time...spending less energy for more food value. What a deal.wpe623.jpg (12317 bytes)

For a few tanks of Killifish or for a tank or two of fry, a small butter/margarine tub will be large enough to feed all of your fish every other day. If you think about it for a bit, that means that with two culture you will have a near continuos supply of Grindals. Our smaller Grindal worm culturing system, you should be able to feed a tank or two of fry or the few tanks in a smaller fishroom. The medium culture system should be able to yield upwards of a teaspoon of worms every other or every third day.

We use about two inches of damp coconut fiber or peat moss as bedding for the worms. Any less and the culture has a tendency to dry out too quickly. If more than a couple of inches are added to the container will have to be fairly deep and the bottom of the peat might become become anaerobic...not a good thing for worms.

Any medium you chose will have to be wetted to start with. Wetting peat moss is a little tricky. We like to use a large pot on the stove top, adding enough peat to fill the container to about 1/2 of it's volume and then adding enough hot water to bring the top of the peat moss up to the top of the container. We put the heat on to about 1/2 or the capacity of the stove, set a timer for about an hour and watch some TV. When the buzzer goes off, we turn off the stove and let the peat moss steam in the pot as it cools to the room temperature.

If you have chosen to use straight peat moss and notice that the worms do not seem to be moving through the peat or that they tend to crawl up the sides of the container, it is usually because the peat is too acidic. If that is the case, mix the peat with plain potting soil in a 50/50 ratio. You can also add a well rounded tablespoon of garden lime to two gallons of peat moss to bring the acidity of the soil a little more close to neutral pH.

The moisture is squeezed from the medium leaving it damp, not sloppy wet but definitely not on the dry side. To this medium, we add a starter of Grindal worms and then a little food.

We have started using plastic containers such as shoe boxes and sweater boxes for culturing the worms. The sweater boxes are about twice the size of a shoe box. We like to use plastic because we can clean the boxes between culturing and can poke air holes through the plastic with simple tools. The air holes are very important, especially in warmer weather. A good culture grows very quickly and with all worms, a moist, aerated culture is important. A lack of air is also a common reason for worms trying to leave the culture medium, crawling up the sides and dying.
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When we start a new culture we add some food. Simply sprinkling it on top of the new culture. While we have found that Gerber's baby cereal works well, we have found that a multi-grained food to be a little better. You can come up with your own mix with a little experimentation or use our special Grindal Worm Food. We sprinkle a little cereal (a light dusting) onto the surface of the peat and add a few drops of water. The worms don't like to eat dry food and repeatedly adding cereal without water will dry out the culture. If you keep your culture in a cool and dark place you will not need to cover the peat moss. Of course, the container is covered so moisture is kept inside the container. Remember, these worms like a cool and damp environment. Seventy to seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit is great. When the outside temperature gets hot we keep our cultures on the floor of the hatchery. Most of the time the floor is a perfect temperature.
wpe62B.jpg (9186 bytes)Unlike whiteworms which will start to die as the temperature heads towards 80 F, Grindal worms will do well in the mid-80 range and in the mid-90s simply stop reproducing but will bounce back as soon as the temperature drops again.

In extremely hot weather (in the upper 90s and low 100s F) you might try placing the culture in a old fish shipping styrofoam box with a bottle of frozen water. By rotating the bottle with a fresh frozen one each morning, you can keep the temperature inside the insulated and covered box cool enough for the worms even in the hottest of days. If you live in an area that routinely sees temperatures in the low 100s, you might find that you need to change the water bottles twice a day, but the process is simple and cheap.

As the worms finish up their food they hang around the area where the food was and are ready for harvest. We feed an amount of food that the worms will eat in a single day. Too much food and the food starts to mold before the worms get to it. Too little food and the worms can't grow and duplicate. You will quickly develop an "eye" for how much food to feed, but aim for the amount that they will finish off in a single day. There are times when we want to feed a tank of fish and just drop a wad of worms directly from the tub into the tank.Since we raise so many killifish and the Bettas we raise are species types, this quick method of harvest is actually an advantage and improves our water conditions.

When the worms are finished eating, the worm mass with look rather gray. P0000670.JPG (804173 bytes)Take a pinch or two of the worm cluster and drop them into a cup. With a baster, add water to the cup and pump the water in and out of the baster, making a worm soup-like thing. Don't try to damage the worms, you are simply breaking up the worm and peat mixture. Feed the mixture directly into the tanks. The peat left in the tank will be removed with future tank vacuum cleanings and worms...well if they hit bottom, you fed too many. Even so, if you are using bare bottomed tanks they will probably be eaten before any damage occurs. the worms live a number of hours before dying and then decaying. A couple of extra worms will usually be eaten before damage can occur.

Another method of harvest involved using a glass sheet. By gently wetting the bottom of the glass and sprinkling some food on top of the water you are creating an attractive gathering spot for worms.
wpe622.jpg (5744 bytes)The worms will congregate on the bottom of the glass over where the food has been placed. When the worms are about done eating the food, you can lift the glass up and wipe the worms off with a finger. We glue large marbles onto the glass to function as a handle. We are finding this glass over peat method to be more and more valuable for us as the amount of Grindals we need increases. wpe624.jpg (22738 bytes)The worms form a spider webbing on the underside of the glass and are easily wiped off with a finger and either rinsed into a beaker of water or feed directly into the tanks. After harvesting from our collection of containers we rinse the worms from the coconut/peat and oatmeal using cold water. The worms will sink in a cup of water and by decanting several times you can separate them from any extraneous matter fairly easily. We then use a plastic eye dropper with the tip cut a little ( to make the opening a little larger) to feed the Grindal worms to the fish.

As soon as our fish are able to take Grindal worms, we start them on an every day to third day cycle. The growth of the little fish seems to explode once they are put into the worm cycle.

"We grow food not bait"


 

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